Here is my “post-birth plan”! I actually wrote this out when preparing for the arrival of my second baby (you can read her birth story here if you like). I had a really challenging time with my first baby so was at times dreading going through the newborn phase again. As much as I wanted to enjoy my beautiful baby I felt overwhelmed, anxious and incredibly sleep deprived. She just cried all the time and I felt helpless with no idea how to help her. The following tips helped make my newborn experience so much more enjoyable the second time around. I have thoroughly loved the newborn phase this time – give me five more babies haha! So here is a collation of advice that resonated with me from books (mainly Save our Sleep by Tizzy Hall), friends, midwifes and my own personal experience. No two babies are alike and no two mums are alike so remember what works for me and matches my values won’t necessarily be right for you.
The First Week After Birth
- Spend the first 7 days in bed resting – labour and birth are the hardest physical experience you will ever go through and you need to recover! No tidying up or chores! Turn phone off for half the day. Have a nap every day. Lie on your side as much as possible.
- Be ready for the baby blues to hit on day 4. It is due to exhaustion and hormonal changes as your milk comes in. Plan something nice for this day which you will enjoy (e.g. your favourite chocolate and a movie) and perhaps plan to have no visitors.
- Try record all details of labour in your pregnancy journal so you don’t forget them.
- You will bleed for up to 21 days post-birth so have plenty of maternity pads available and cheap large black undies.
- Aim to always drink at least 250 ml of water every time you breastfeed, and a minimum of 3L in total per day.
- Wear recovery shorts under your clothes for the 6 weeks after birth (I actually didn’t do this because I found it uncomfortable wearing something so tight, however physios do recommend them and lots of people say they like the feeling of support).
- Submit proof of birth for your parental leave claim.
- SWELLING, SORENESS AND BRUISING: Arnica can be taken after birth to help soft tissue heal and to ease pain. You can also take ibuprofen and use chilled witch hazel pads.
- TEARS AND CUTS: Apply medihoney and keep clean by showering twice a day.
- AVOID CONSTIPATION: To prevent constipation walk daily, eat plenty of vegetables and fruit, drink lots of water and eat prunes and dried figs and drink prune or apricot juice. If experiencing constipation take a stool softener like coloxyl, lactulose or movicol (all recommended by my midwife).
- HAEMORRHOIDS: To treat haemorrhoids apply witch hazel cream or spray, ice and haemorrhoid relief creams (I have tried five and found proctosedyl the most effective). Take warm baths. Take a painkiller such as panadol or ibuprofen. Wear loose fitting cotton underwear and clothes to keep the area cool and aired out. Always sit on a cushion not a hard surface.
- BREASTFEEDING: Drink one cup of fennel tea a day to help boost milk supply and settle baby’s tummy. Avoid peppermint tea as it can dry up your milk.
- Take a birth announcement photo.
- 24 hours after birth take 1 day old flat lay. Style photo with white rug background, a fresh flower or branch, timber milestone card and a toy for size comparison (obviously you don’t have to do this one, it’s just something I have loved doing for both babies each week and then each month)
- Always dress baby in one extra layer than what you are wearing.
- Expect your newborn to be a little unsettled a couple of times each day. Pick them up when they’re crying and soothe them with cuddles. Your newborn needs you to be close to feel safe and reassured.
- Regularly take baby’s temperature, it should be 36.5 – 37C.
- Normal breathing rate is 40 – 60 breaths per minute.
- To prevent nappy rash allow baby to be without a nappy for half an hour each day and change nappy regularly (about 6 times in a 24 hour period for a disposable nappy and always after a poo as poo can burn the skin).
- Optimal temperature for nursery is cooled to 22 degrees in Summer or warmed to 18-20 degrees in winter (this is if you are following the bedding guide in Save Our Sleep, otherwise it might be too cold).
- If having any feeding issues see a lactation consultant.
- Ensure your baby gets 20 minutes of sunlight (through a window) on skin every day.
- To check baby’s temperature feel the back of her neck or tummy.
- Never let baby sleep with a hat on as it is an overheating risk.
- Turn over the top of the nappy so the umbilical cord is exposed to help it dry out.
- DUMMY USE: try to only use dummy to stretch baby out until her next routine feed time, or if she just wants to suck but doesn’t actually need milk, or if she is crying badly and won’t settle (especially good if this happens in the car). Don’t use dummy as a sleep aid.
- Start to establish a night time SLEEP ROUTINE:
We have done this exact sleep routine almost every night since birth always starting at 6pm with the aim to finish it by 7pm. We all eat dinner as a family first at 5:30pm (Tess sits in her bouncer on the table).
- Check temperature in nursery and use the SOS bedding guide to help decide what clothing and bedding is needed.
- Bath (only need to do this once or twice a week for the first few weeks).
- Turn bedroom light off and have lamp light only.
- Put on nappy and onesie.
- Feed and burp.
- Turn the white noise on. I use this one.
- Swaddle. I use love to dream swaddles – so much easier than a wrap!
- Cuddle so she feels calm and secure and quietly sing a song (I usually do Jesus Love Me, Hush Little Baby or Twinkle Twinkle).
- Lay down in moses basket or cot with feet nearly touching one end (so baby can’t wriggle under blanket).
- Lay blanket/s on top of her and tuck in around her.
- Stroke head and say “Goodnight Tess, have a nice sleep, I love you” (say whatever script you would like but keep it constant).
- Exit the room and leave to cry for a minimum of 2 minutes to allow baby to attempt an independent settle.
Note: When baby starts to roll I stop swaddling her and add in a story and placing a comforter next to her cheek to the bedtime routine.
If she is crying an emotional cry (no pauses, real tears and an intensity greater than a whinge) fix what is wrong: wind (give a big burp in a few different positions), poo (change nappy) or needing more milk (feed and burp again). After fixing what is wrong give a nice cuddle and put back down again.
Otherwise if just a protesting cry (short pauses, it will cycle upwards and back down in both volume and intensity) begin hands on settling. To do this calmly move baby onto her side and rub or pat the baby’s back. Then once asleep roll her back on to her back. Or for a more specific settling technique try the ‘Masada pat pat technique’ (there are lots of Youtube videos showing what this is).
- RESETTLING DURING THE DAY:
Option 1 – If baby wakes after only one sleep cycle during the day first leave her for one minute per month old (e.g. one minute for a one month old baby, two minutes for a two month old) to give her the opportunity to resettle. If she doesn’t resettle either get her up and allow her to sleep in the swing, car, pram or baby carrier for the remainder of her scheduled sleep time.
Option 2 – Attempt to resettle her by using a hands on settling technique as described above.
Option 3 – Leave for 5-10 mins to give her the opportunity to resettle. Then go in, pick up baby, give her a quick soothe until she calms down, and then put her back to bed to try again. This time leave to cry for 10-15 mins, then give another soothe and another go at resettling for 10-15 mins.
- RESETTLING DURING THE NIGHT:
First leave her for one minute per month old to give her the opportunity to resettle. If it has been more than 3 hours from her last feed feed and burp and put back to bed. If it has been less than 3 hours from her last feed resettle her using the hands on settling technique above.
- Feeding guide day 1: wake baby for a feed every 3 hours in the day and 4-5 hours at night. Aim for at least 6 mins from each breast.
- Feeding guide day 2: wake baby for a feed every 3 hours in the day and 5 hours at night. Aim for at least 9 mins from each breast.
- Feeding guide day 3: wake baby for a feed every 3 hours in the day and 5 hours at night. Aim for at least 12 mins from each breast.
- Once milk is in (usually day 3 or 4) follow the SOS 1 – 2 week routine. I only follow it roughly, mainly just focusing on teaching baby to self settle for all sleeps, feeding every 3 hours and using the age appropriate awake times – babies settle so much better when not over-tired!
- Aim to not feed any closer than 2.5 hours between feeds.
- Don’t let baby sleep more than 5 hours between feeds at night. The first night 6 hours is fine as she may be recovering the exhausting experience of being born!
- Aim to feed her for a minimum of 10 mins before letting her stop.
- Aim to always fully empty one breast before offering the other. Start with the second next feed.
- If baby is crying during and after feeds it is worth checking for reflux. Try gripe water or Padbury pharmacy colic mix and see if that makes a difference.
- Wind is air that is taken in while feeding and accumulates in the tummy. It will make your baby very unsettled.
- Stop to wind baby every 3 minutes while feeding, or if you don’t have a very windy baby just whenever she naturally takes a break from feeding is fine. Do not keep feeding until you have got a burp up. Do an extra long burp at the end of a feed. It can take up to 15 minutes to get a burp up – persist! Burping is a great job to share with hubby so your sore muscles can get a break.
- To get the air bubbles up have your baby’s back as straight as possible. Either hold baby in your lap with one hand supporting her chin and under her arms, and pat and rub her back. Or lay her head and arms over your shoulder and again pat and rub her back.
- If you can’t get a burp up lay the baby down for a minute on her back to kick a bit then lift her up again. With the assistance of gravity the burp often comes up.
- Also try carry her around with her tummy on your arm to help get wind out like in the picture below. As well as helping to get wind out of your baby’s tummy this position also counts as ‘tummy time’ – win win!
- Apply wind/colic oil onto tummy after feeding (I didn’t need to do this because my second baby was not windy at all but I had this tip written down just in case).
I feel quite panicky and distressed when my babies cry and hence I can’t think straight, so I have this list to go through to save me having to think.
- Stay calm.
- Hold baby close to heart (skin to skin).
- Change nappy.
- Hunger? If it is within 20 mins of a feed it could be hunger. Try to stretch her out until the feed time (or within 10 minutes of it) with a dummy. If this doesn’t work feed early.
- Tired? If it is within 20 minutes of her next sleep time she may be tired so put her to bed early.
- Wind? If baby seems stiff and when I lie her down and brings both knees up to her tummy it could be wind. (see wind tips above)
- Thirsty? If older than 4 months old try a small drink of water.
- Hot or cold?
- Wrap baby. This can calm an unsettled baby.
- Reduce stimulation.
- Movement (rocking, walking around with).
- Bored? Try reading a book, playing with a toy, singing to, changing his position or changing the scenery.
- Bath (If all else failed with my first baby a bath would always snap her out of an inconsolable crying spell).
- Give baby to someone else.
- Leave in cot for a few minutes so you can calm down then start from beginning.
The Second Week
- Move baby out of your room and into the nursery this week so you can sleep better and give baby the opportunity to resettle if only gently stirring.
- Take 1 week old flat lay photo.
- Call private health insurance to add baby onto your cover.
- Do a newborn photoshoot.
- Before you go to bed always add an extra blanket layer to baby since the room temperature tends to drop over night.
- If any problems or concerns go see a pediatrician.
- Add a bath to the start of the bedtime routine a couple nights a week. Use moistened cotton wool balls to wash her face. Make sure the water is no hotter than 38C and the room is nice and warm.
- Start a post natal recovery program.
- Mantras are not just necessary for getting you through labour, they are super helpful for getting you through new-mum life too. Here are some which I had stuck to my bathroom mirror, “Just take it one day at a time.”, “I accept that my baby will wake many times throughout the night. It’s inevitable. I will appreciate whatever sleep I can get rather than resent the situation.”, “With God’s help I will be a calm, relaxed and confident Mum” and “The only clean stable is an empty one” Proverbs 14:4. If I want the joy and reward of family there will also be plenty of mess and work.
The Third week
- See a women’s health specialist physio to assess diastasis rectus muscle separation and treat haemorrhoids (if you have them) with ultrasound.
- Start to give baby one bottle of expressed milk every day at the same time so she gets used to it. Ideally hubby will give it to her as a night feed so you can sleep longer. Use a newborn teat with a slow flow for the bottle so baby doesn’t splutter and choke. Store breastmilk at room temperature for 4 hours, in the fridge for 3 – 5 days and in the freezer for up to 3 months. Don’t introduce the bottle any earlier so baby has the best chance of learning to latch on to the nipple, and doesn’t prefer the bottle.
- Start to give baby an infant probiotic once a day to optimise her gut health and digestive system.
- Take 2 week old flat lay photo.
The Sixth Week
- Go for an appointment with your doctor and women’s health physio to get the all clear to return to exercise.
- Baby’s 6 week old injections are due.
The Eighth Week
- Cat napping may start. If baby wakes up before the end of a nap allow to resettle on me, pram or in swing. As long as she learns to self settle she will eventually start to resettle herself between sleep cycles. It’s just a matter of waiting.
- Baby should be able to handle awake periods of 60-90 minutes now.
- Around the 8-10 week mark start to increase the time between feeds from 3 to 3 ½ hours.
- Around 8 weeks of age baby has the ability to sleep more deeply. This deeper sleep also means that her bedding needs to be increased to ensure she is warm enough. Introduce a baby sleep bag now under the wrap.
If you enjoyed reading this blog you may also like a similar post on more general advice about becoming a Mum and looking after a baby called ‘Practical Tips for Soon-to-be-Mums’.