The 9 months of baby’s development in the womb are now over and you as a new mom are about to give birth. Baby, in the last few weeks in mom’s tummy, will move right down to the birthing canal; he will have pressure from your body to deliver him and he will release stress hormones, making him wonderfully alert in his very first hour of his arrival into the world. And as a new parent, you might not have a clue of what your first meeting will be like and even how you will feel. You probably have wondered exactly just what takes place in those next critical minutes and hours as the baby makes his momentous appearance into the world!
Table of Contents
- What Your Precious Newborn Will Look Like
- What Happens to You and Baby in The Minutes and Hours Immediately after Birth
What Your Precious Newborn Will Look Like
You might have envisioned a bouncing bonny baby in your mind, but in actual fact, most newborns are wet and tiny as they emerge into the world. Sometimes the head even looks a little bit pointed but this is normal and is caused by the baby passing through the birth canal. Don’t worry, it’s just temporary and the head will take on a beautiful round appearance in a couple of days. Sometimes new moms think their baby’s head is big compared to the rest of his body! Take a quick look at those minutes after birth if you can; you will notice the baby’s legs and sometimes his arms looked all scrunched up. But can you remember those pictures you looked at of your baby in the womb, tightly packed and scrunched up? That too, all straightens out as baby grows.
What Happens to You and Baby in The Minutes and Hours Immediately after Birth
1. The first five minutes
As Baby is delivered, the doctors and team will clear away any of the remaining amniotic fluid and mucus from his mouth and nose so that he can take his first breath; a critical and profound moment all parents wait for, and the first thing doctors check in the minutes after birth. Once that is completed, the umbilical cord will get clamped and cut so that the baby can have his Apgar test done. Apgar? This is what APGAR stands for:
A – Appearance of the baby’s skin
P – Pulse, which is his heart rate
G – Grimace, which is his reflex irritability
A – Activity (i.e. baby’s muscle tone)
R – Respiration of the baby or breathing pattern
With the APGAR test, a baby’s score can vary from 0-10 – usually anything above 7 is considered healthy. Don’t be worried though if your baby scores under 7. The doctor will advise you, and in any case, most of these babies go on to be healthy and happy babies. This Apgar test happens 1 minute after birth and then repeated 5 minutes later after birth. If the doctor is not satisfied, it will be checked again at 10 minutes. While you are finally delivering the placenta (the afterbirth), the baby is being measured and weighed, cleaned and wrapped in a blanket to maintain his body temperature. Once the placenta is delivered, the birthing process of your baby is then completed.
Some moms watch these activities taking place, whilst other moms might be getting stitches after the birth – the doctor will have inspected your vaginal wall and perineum to see if you have any tears which would need stitching. Your pulse, blood pressure and your uterus will also be checked thoroughly.
2. What happens in that very first hour
- While you are still in the delivery room, your baby will also receive antibiotic eye cream to prevent infections to his eyes while he passed through the birth canal.
- He will also receive a vitamin K injection so as not to prevent any clotting.
- If you had a natural birth and all is in order, it will be in this hour that your baby will be brought to you to encourage you to breastfeed. Your breasts might not feel full on the day of giving birth, but Nature has provided for that beautifully with enough colostrum that will nourish the baby. In fact, your body goes on producing colostrum for a couple of days until your milk comes in and increases. If you had a C-section, you can still begin feeding as long as there were no complications with the birth. By providing these breast-feeding nutrients to your baby, you are giving him the perfect foundation for fighting off diseases and infections. The skin-to-skin contact is a wonderful opportunity you get to bond with your baby while he suckles. Suckling establishes the milk supply and also signals your uterus to start contracting.
- You will also lose some blood during delivery and after delivery. This is known as ‘lochia. You might also experience more ‘birthing-type’ pains because your uterus is already starting to contract after the birth. The doctor or midwife might give you a pain tablet or a hot water bottle to soothe that area.
- While you are breast-feeding your baby, this is the ideal time to check out in wonder those tiny fingers and toes. Look at his skin. It might be quite red or even purple in the beginning. Some babies look like they have a whitish coating on their skin. This too is normal. – It’s called vernix caseosa. It was there in the womb protecting the baby’s skin from the amniotic fluids in the womb. But you’ll see – it washes off when baby gets bathed.
- And you, mom, don’t feel stressed and panicky if you feel exhausted, even emotionally drained. This is possible, because your body has performed a wondrous miracle – big changes have taken place in your body.
- Before leaving the delivery room, your baby will have an identification band placed around his wrist or ankle, with his name and sometimes numbers which are checked when Baby comes or goes from your hospital room.
3. From hours 2-3
- You are no doubt going to love these next couple of hours in your hospital room bonding with your precious bundle of joy. The nurse might come along at this time to examine the baby and see if he is comfortable and adjusting to his first hour of life outside the womb. No doubt she will check baby’s pulse, feel the abdomen and also check the genitals to check that everything is properly formed. She will check those 10 little fingers and toes. She might also keep a record of what your baby’s head circumference, his chest circumference, and his length.
- If Baby was born prematurely, he will probably remain in the nursery with the other premature babies so that his heart and breathing rates are closely monitored. If you are not able to be with your preemie baby, it will be important to hand-express milk or use a breast pump during these first 24 hours. The nurses will also show you how to do this.
4. From hour 4 to 24
- In these few hours, you will be learning more about your baby and be falling more in love with him than ever – you might even give him his first bath and change his diaper. You will learn how to hold the baby correctly and the nurse will show you how to look after and clean the umbilical cord stump.
- If you are breastfeeding, you will nurse the baby every 2-3 hours. In these hours, the pediatrician would have evaluated the baby, checking again for infections and generally ensuring that your baby is feeding well and breathing well. Every 4-8 hours or so your baby will be thoroughly checked out by the nurses.
- Babies also get checked for jaundice (yellow skin) and also the soft little heel will get pierced so that the doctors can screen the baby for any of 50 types of metabolic diseases. This also will depend on the area you live in but the evaluations are all important to give a baby a clean bill of health when you and the baby are discharged from the hospital.
5. From hour 24 and just before leaving the hospital
If you had a routine delivery you probably will be in the hospital for about 24-48 hours, sometimes shorter. Just before leaving, the baby will also receive a test to check his hearing. An audiologist will check his brain waves as he responds to sound. He’ll be weighed again. Don’t worry if your baby has lost a bit of weight. From his urinating the excess fluids, he no doubts lost some weight, but he will gain it back in a couple of days again.
6. Something to remember, Mom
- The staff will check that your car has a car seat which is a requirement in all States.
- Remember too, that when you were in the hospital, it felt easy and comforting with nurses around all the time, but now that you are all on your own, you might feel a bit overwhelmed. But don’t panic. You will be caring for your baby what comes to you naturally and you will be assisting baby like a pro in a couple of days!
- Your uterus would be shrinking after the delivery but it can take about 6 weeks to get to its original size. All the fluid in your body during pregnancy will also take time to leave your body. During this time it is essential to eat a balanced diet for you and for baby! You could even start doing certain exercises already, not be forgetting that it took 9 months to get that belly-bump there. Drink plenty of fluids too.
- It is possible that as a new mom, you might even be constipated after the delivery or that your bowel movements feel hard and painful. You might even still be feeling the pain of the stitches. Drink your fluids and have plenty of fiber to keep your stools soft.
Take care of yourself by:
- resting when Baby sleeps
- not pandering to the demands of others all the time
- accepting offers of help
- taking time to do things that help relax you
- eating healthy fluids and food regularly
- talking to someone when and if you feel overwhelmed
“Babies are exactly that. Miraculous, sweet little pieces of Heaven” (Anon). Make the most of those special, most profound first 24 hours of your baby’s life. That precious foundation is your first gift of love that will serve Baby well as you watch him grow and develop over the next 24 years or so of his life – and that priceless gift of a solid foundation starts the first minute of his miracle birth!