In hospital: Sleeping can be difficult in a hospital setting. At National Women’s Health we endeavour to give women and their babies a single room, however this isn’t always possible. You may need to share with one other woman. Take every opportunity to rest when you can; this normally means resting when your baby does. Visitors will always wait or come back later if you explain you need to rest.
At home: Once you’re home from hospital, it’s very important in the first few weeks to get as much rest and sleep as possible. You need to continue to sleep when your baby sleeps. Encourage visitors to come at the same time, rather than have a steady stream of well-wishers throughout the day.
In hospital: meals are provided on the wards and at Birthcare. While every effort is made to meet your individual needs, if you have specific special dietary requirements it may be better for you if a relative can provide some of your meals and/or snacks.
At home: It’s important to maintain your strength by getting enough to eat and drink. Your body is trying to heal and you have a baby to breastfeed and care for. Focus on good nutrition – 5+ fruit and vege, calcium foods, lean protein and carbohydrates (bread, pasta, rice). Ideally you will need breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as snacks in between. You also need 5-8 glasses of water per day.
In hospital: National Women’s is a ‘baby friendly’ hospital, which means that breastfeeding is fully supported on the wards. The health and emotional benefits of breastfeeding are significant for you and your baby, and the best preparation is information.
At home: Your LMC will continue to give you advice and support with your choice of feeding. If you are returning to work, you are entitled (by law) to a safe place in your workplace to breastfeed or express milk for your baby
Depending on the type of birth you had, hospital midwives will encourage early mobilisation. If you’ve had a caesarean section this means within the first 6- 12 hours. Short walks followed by rest will help to prevent complications of bed rest, such as chest infections and the formation of blood clots.
We ask that you help to keep the hospital environment as peaceful and safe as possible, especially if you’re sharing a room with another mother and baby. Please don’t leave valuable personal items (wallets and cell phones, for example) unattended in your room.
In hospital you can expect to feel tired and exhausted - having a baby is hard work (but it’s also very rewarding!). Learn to snatch sleep whenever your baby is sleeping. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from the hospital or Birthcare staff; they are there to assist and support you.
When you go home, ask family and friends to help you. Ideally your partner and family need to treat you as ‘Queen’, at least for the first two weeks. This means providing nourishing food and allowing you to sleep whenever baby sleeps. The family should take over all the household duties for the first few weeks, so that you can focus on establishing breastfeeding and making a quick recovery.
Bonding with your baby
We encourage and support ‘rooming in’ (sharing a room with your baby) at National Women’s Health. Rooming in gives you more opportunity to bond with your baby, helping to set the foundations for a happy lifelong relationship.
The majority of women who have just given birth feel emotionally and physically tender. Your body is likely to be sore and tired, but your heart is open to the tiny individual who was so recently part of you. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed, especially when you’re receiving differing advice from family, friends and health professionals, all of whom think that their advice is correct! Remember, you will probably know instinctively what will suit you and your baby.
If your baby needs special attention in the neonatal unit (NICU), our staff will support and help you to visit your baby as much as possible. Sometimes you are ready for discharge before your baby, and this will mean that you will have to visit the hospital daily for feeding, cuddles and advice on caring for your new baby.
It’s very common for women to feel down and tearful after the birth of their baby, especially around day 3 or 4 (‘the baby blues’). Try not to worry; allow yourself to cry and get as much rest as possible. These feelings are caused by normal hormonal changes and will pass.
If you continue to feel down, talk to your LMC or GP. You can be referred for additional care should you need it. Also talk about how you’re feeling with your family and friends - they know you best and can help you to get assistance.
Some mothers will have more support than others. Some families are more prepared for the new baby, both physically and emotionally, than others. Talk to your LMC about how you are feeling and coping; he/she will talk to you about support groups and networks in the community that can help you to adjust to parenthood.
Locate and visit your local Plunket Family Centre. Also try to find play groups and coffee groups in your area, so that you can meet other new mothers.
A great deal of parenting is instinctive, but help is essential to survive long nights and challenging times with your new baby. Take advantage of genuine offers from friends or family to help with housework and cooking. Remember the saying ‘It takes a village to raise a child’.
While you’re in hospital, you can ask for help any time of the day or night. The midwives are there to help. Once you’re at home, your visiting midwife will provide you with a list of phone numbers for round-the-clock help.
For free 24 hour advice within NZ you can call PlunketLine - 0800 933 922 or Healthline 0800 611 116
Your LMC will discuss ongoing contraception choices with you and provide information, so that you and your partner know the pros and cons of each method.
If you haven’t had a smear test within the last three years, your LMC will encourage you to make an appointment to have a test approximately three months after the birth of your baby. Usually this will be done by your GP or primary care doctor.
Even when things are progressing normally, pregnancy and new parenthood can put stresses on you, your partner and your immediate family. Patience, understanding and a positive attitude are essential for your support crew; they should be listening to your needs and giving you time to adapt to motherhood.
Physically a woman’s sexuality may change during the antenatal and postnatal period, due to hormonal changes and the way she feels about her body. Partners can help to reduce issues affecting the relationship by being patient and understanding.
Farewell to your LMC
At your final meeting with your LMC, he/she will talk to you about:
- your GP as your ‘go to’ person if you have any problems
- keeping fit and active
- local community support groups available to you
- referral to other health professionals if necessary