The First Few Weeks
Bonding with your baby and resting should be your only priorities during the first few days at home. Leave the housework and cooking to family and friends for a little while. Babies typically are only awake long enough to feed during the first couple of weeks so this is an excellent time for you to rest up and regain your energy.
After a week or so you should be able to return to normal activity but avoid strenuous work and exercise. Walking is recommended and encouraged to speed up recovery. Make sure you are eating a well-balanced diet, especially if you are breastfeeding. Drink plenty of water and continue taking your prenatal vitamins as recommended by your healthcare provider.
Episiotomy/Tear Care: Depending on the type of delivery you had you may experience perineal discomfort. This is normal and may last for a few weeks. There are some things you can do at home to minimize the discomfort;
- Sitz Bath: Sit in a tub of several inches of plain warm water for 15 minutes, two to three times a day.
- Apply Tucks pads to the perineum for soothing relief. Some women place the jar in the freezer for added relief.
- Be sure to wipe front to back, especially after a bowel movement. It is important to keep the perineum clean by either rinsing with a peri-bottle following a bowel movement or by taking a sitz bath.
- Keep your stools soft by taking an over the counter stool softener as directed on the bottle.
You will experience a bloody vaginal discharge (lochia) following delivery. Please do not use tampons until directed by your provider. The discharge will gradually decrease over time and may change to pink, brown, and then yellow, lasting for as long as six weeks. This should not deter you from keeping your six week post-partum appointment with our office. Your first period may occur before your six week check-up, especially if you are not breastfeeding. It is important that you contact our office if you are experiencing heavy, bright red bleeding that requires you to change a maxi pad every hour or more.
Breastfeeding and Breast Care
During pregnancy your breasts prepare for lactation (milk production), and after birth, hormonal changes and infant sucking stimulates an increase in milk supply. Nursing 15-20 minutes on each breast every one to three hours should empty the breasts and provide plenty of nutrition for your infant. Sore nipples and engorgement are very common in the early stages of breastfeeding and are the most common causes for women to discontinue and transition to formula. Please note that the first week of breastfeeding is the most difficult and most women that make it past the first week will be very successful. Please be sure to meet with a lactation specialist before leaving the hospital and obtain contact information for reaching them once you are at home. Do not hesitate to call them with questions or concerns.
It is recommended that infants be breastfed for the first six months to provide optimal nutrition and protection against illness and infections. Although one of the benefits of breastfeeding is weight loss in the nursing mother, it is very important to eat a well-balanced diet and drink plenty of water (64 oz per day). Nursing mothers actually need to consume more calories while breast feeding than during pregnancy.
Non-Breastfeeding Breast Care
Although you have chosen to formula feed your baby, your breasts will still produce milk in the first few days following delivery. Your breasts will most likely become engorged, which could be painful. To allow the milk to “dry up” it is important to avoid any stimulation to the breast. Pumping to release milk or taking hot showers will only stimulate milk production. Wear a supportive, form-fitting bra during this time and even while you sleep. Tylenol or Ibuprofen may be taken every three to four hours for discomfort. Symptoms should reside within a few days, although your breasts may leak milk for several days or weeks.
You may begin light exercise 2-3 weeks after birth if you had an uncomplicated delivery. Light walking for 20-30 minutes is a good activity. Swimming is also a good form of exercise but only in a clean, well chlorinated pool; No lakes or rivers! And remember, no tampon use until your six week post-partum visit. Please do not run or engage in strenuous exercise until following up with your physician.
You may begin Kegel exercises a few weeks after delivery also to help strengthen your pelvic muscles.
It is normal to have some swelling in your feet or legs. Elevating your legs higher than your heart several times a day should improve swelling.
The following link will provide you with detailed guidelines on safe exercising after childbirth: http://www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/Exercise-After-Pregnancy#muscle