First Thirty Days After Childbirth: What New Parents Need To Know
Have you just stepped into the world of parenthood? Unless you are prepared, the initial days can seem quite overwhelming. Here is what you need to do in the first month after childbirth.
By Ashika Anne Kumar
There aren’t enough books or friendly advice in the world that can prepare you for the enormity of parenthood. To help you on this exhilarating and exhausting journey, we talk to experts to bring you the lowdown on the first 30 days post-partum.
For the newborn
In the first month, your newborn will master the art of breastfeeding. His vaccinations and screening will also start during this time.
Vaccinations and screenings:
- One of the first tasks for new parents is to make sure their newborns are vaccinated.
- OPV (Oral polio vaccine), BCG (protection against TB) and Hepatitis B vaccines are administered within the first week of life or before discharge from hospitals.
- Apart from this, newborns in India are screened for conditions such as hearing loss, congenital hypothyroidism, congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH) and glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD) deficiency.
“Early detection and treatment of common, metabolic and genetic disorders can help prevent intellectual and physical defects as well as life-threatening illnesses in children,” says Dr G Vimal Kumar, a Chennai-based paediatrician.
- Paediatricians often strongly advice against certain traditional practices. So, applying kajal on a newborn's eyes and face, feeding the baby anything other than breast milk or formula (formula to be given after consultation with the doctor) are strictly prohibited. Sugar, jaggery and even water, are off-limits for a newborn until the age of six months.
- Considering the delicate nature of a newborn’s immune system, paediatricians suggest that the number of people handling him be kept to a bare minimum. To minimise the risk of infection, it’s best to ensure that anyone who handles the baby is clean, maintains hygiene and uses a hand sanitiser.
For new mothers
It’s true that motherhood is going to be the hardest thing you will ever do, but it will also be the greatest. While the first few days in your baby's life will be challenging, it can also be extremely fulfilling.
Postpartum checks and self-care:
Gynaecologists suggest that mothers who have had uncomplicated deliveries return for a check-up within a week and again, in another six weeks. For C-sections and deliveries that have had complications, a check-up before discharge is mandatory. Keep in mind that subsequent visits need to be scheduled with your doctor.
Consultant gynaecologist Dr Vidya warns that mothers who have had C-section deliveries should avoid intra-abdominal pressure. This includes not lifting heavy weights or even, straining when constipated, as doing so, can cause hernias. She also advises new mothers to wear an abdominal belt in order to keep the abdomen in place and help the sutures to heal faster.
Postpartum depression: Close family members and new fathers need to be alert to any symptoms of postpartum depression that new mothers might exhibit. “Women who have experienced severe mood swings during their pregnancy are more likely to have postpartum depression,” explains Dr Vidya.
If you are lethargic, experience unexplained rage and feel unable to care for your baby — including feeding her properly — please reach out to a trusted family member and a professional for help. It will be the best thing you do for yourself and your baby.
Breastfeeding: The beginning is always tough, but keep at it. “Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended during the first six months of life; the more baby feeds from the breast, the more milk is secreted,” observes Dr G Vimal Kumar.
Though your baby is born with the rooting and sucking reflexes, she will have to be taught to latch on. ‘Latching on’ is the process by which the newborn’s mouth attaches to the breast (lower lip covering the entire areola, upper lip covering most of the areola). Milk begins to flow as she begins sucking. However, if you feel overwhelmed by the process of breastfeeding, a lactation consultant can help you further and also identify or resolve any other issues you might face. For new mothers unable to breastfeed because of medical reasons, Dr G Vimal Kumar advises that they try formula after consulting their paediatrician.
Exercise: The first month is a time of rest and bonding. As a new mother whose body has just been through the arduous journey of birth, coupled with sleepless nights, you need all the rest you can get. Exercise can come later — after two months for non-complicated deliveries, and five months postpartum, for complicated or C-section deliveries.
For both parents
Birth Registration: As new parents, getting the birth of your child registered will now become a top priority. Registration has to be done within 21 days from the date of birth. If you do not know how to go about this, check with the hospital administration regarding the registration process.
Readying the house: Have you cleaned your house before the arrival of your baby girl? If you haven’t already, baby-proof your house right away! Wash all the baby clothes in water that contains a capful of antiseptic liquid. Have a designated space for her clothes and other baby products. Make sure that you keep all the things you may need for your child, at hand. Ensure that the house is as dust-free as possible. It is a good idea to enlist household help (if you don't already have, that is) in readying the house for the arrival of your baby. Though it might seem like ages before your baby is going to be crawling, exploring and poking her pudgy fingers through wall sockets or popping dust bunnies in her mouth, your exhaustion and sleeplessness will make the work seem more demanding, if done later.
Naming ceremony: Birth ceremonies, celebrated as naming ceremonies or christenings, are a great way for new parents to celebrate the arrival of their little miracle with the rest of the family.
Here is a checklist for the ceremony:
- Book halls, caterers, decorators
- Confirm dates with the church or auspicious times and days with priests, well in advance
- Prepare the invites or send e-invites
- Decide on your clothes and baby’s clothes well before the big day
- Arrange a professional photographer or videographer (or enlist a trusted friend or cousin who is handy with a camera)
- Keep a diaper bag ready. Don't forget to put burp cloths, diapers, wipes and, hand fan, as well as snacks and water for mommy in the diaper bag
- When you are dealing with guests, delays are inevitable, so are emergency diaper changes — keep your cool
For first-time parents, this is new terrain. So, don't forget you are teammates. Don’t sweat the small stuff with each other. Instead, take the time to savour the little moments — melting over your child's first sneeze or gazing at her as she yawns, cherishing her gap-toothed grins and gurgles. Trust us, the feeling of being a parent will sink in slowly on this beautiful journey.
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