You’ve been planning for the birth of your baby for the last nine months and you can’t wait for the day you can take your new baby home. But the reality of giving birth during COVID-19 means that issues like engorged breasts, cracked nipples, bleeding, and feeling blue will not be considered “emergencies.” But these are still major concerns for new moms trying to get to grips with life with a newborn.
Here are some tips to help you best prepare for this:
Stock up your first-aid kit
Besides wearing a mask in public, washing your hands after you’ve been out and social distancing, preparing the nursery and packing your hospital bag, you’ll need a well-stocked first-aid kit and a few extra’s for those unexpected oopsies you’ll have to cope with in isolation.
Reach out for advice
Remember that feeling exhausted, insecure and unsure is all part of becoming a first-time parent. Whether you have natural birth or a C-section, your body will ache all over, your breasts will feel uncomfortable, and you’ll be bleeding. Regular visits to the clinic or doctor will be shorter and less often. This means that you’re going to have to be practical and pro-active, and rely on your instincts. Having your mom, best friend or sister to help you, answer your questions or give advice is a big plus. Midwives and lactation consultants, in private practice, are available to help you online.
Stock up on essentials
Be sure to come home from hospital armed with pain-killers and stock-up with natural stress relievers like ‘rescue remedy’ and ‘stress away’, multivitamins, breast-pads and sanitary pads. Have herbal teas, nutritional snacks and ready-made meals on stand-by because you’re going to be pretty house-bound.
Stay connected with friends and colleagues via social media
You’ll also have to minimise mixing with people. This could make you feel pretty isolated, so put some measures in place – like social media and Whats-app contacts who can help you feel connected with the world. ‘Baby-blues’ happen – no matter how ecstatic you are about having a baby.
Keep your stitches clean and dry
The type of birth you have will affect your recovery. More women (in private health care) are having C-sections during COVID-19. Doctors argue that admission time can be minimised and the birth planned. Women are also going home sooner after the birth. Your partner will have to step in to help you during those early difficult days. You’ll need to take meticulous care of your abdominal stitches to prevent an infection. It’s recommended that you only shower or hand-wash (not bath) while your cut heals. Keep the stitches clean and dry. Water-based mercurochrome is an old-fashioned, but dependable antiseptic. If you have a natural birth, you’ll go home even earlier. If you have perineal (vaginal) stitches, these will be self-dissolving. They’re usually painful and uncomfortable for at least 10 days. Warm baths with bicarb or salt helps to ease this discomfort and prevent infections. Keep this area clean and dry (you can apply mercurochrome or a recommended antiseptic) and change your pad often.
Keep one file for all your paperwork
There will be a myriad of documents like medical aid forms, prescriptions, appointments, baby documents (registration, immunisation and medical aid), maternity benefits and UIF documents. You and your partner will also have to make arrangements to have a COVID-19 test before you go into hospital.
If you plan to breastfeed, follow these tips:
During uncertain times, and if this is your first baby, I would suggest having at least one bottle and some formula on stand-by for ‘emergency’ feeding. Stress, insecurity and anxiousness can affect your milk supply. Luckily, most babies ‘latch’ instinctively and this releases a flood of hormones that not only helps breastfeeding to get started, they’re natural stress relievers, an antidote for pain and help with bonding.
Wear a well-fitting bra that gives you good support and breast pads to keep your nipples dry. Have a nipple and thrush cream on standby. Keep a cabbage in the fridge for full and engorged breasts – or buy re-usable gel breast-pads.
…and If you plan to formula feed
Your breasts will have colostrum and it would be a pity to waste this essential ‘first milk’ for your baby. It’s full of immunity cells that help to protect your baby from infections, and it also clears your baby’s gut of meconium (baby’s first poo) and helps to reduce the risk of ‘baby jaundice’.
Feeding your baby less often minimises milk production, and it’s then that you can slowly introduce formula feeds. Losing your milk naturally helps to prevent breast engorgement that, in severe cases, can lead to ‘milk fever’. You can also ask your doctor or pharmacist for tablets to take your milk away.
You will need at least six bottles and teats, a bottle brush and sterilising unit and a regular supply of formula. Mix the formula EXACTLY as instructed on the tin. It is dangerous for your baby if you don’t.
Game plan for avoiding newborn niggles:
Above all else, remember that your newborn needs to be fed, kept warm, loved and protected.
Stock-up a first-aid kit for your baby with the help of your pharmacist or clinic nurse.
You’ll need the following:
- A paediatric anti-pyrexia like Panado or Calpol syrup
- Colic drops
- Teething gel or powders
- Carval or Vicks vapour-rub for blocked noses
- A digital thermometer
- Nappy rash or zinc and castor oil barrier cream
- Anti-fungal and anti-septic cream (mercurochrome and gentian violet are a good stand-by)
- Alcohol or spirits (to clean baby’s cord)
- Ear buds
- Cotton wool
- Crepe bandages and plasters.
To keep your baby clean you’ll need a basin and baby soap, a warm room, towels and a little baby hair brush.
Wash baby’s hair with baby shampoo only twice a week. If your baby gets ‘cradle-cap’ or a dry scalp, rub coconut oil over the dry crust, leave this for a few hours, and after washing the hair, brush the flakes out.
Bonding with baby
Lockdown restrictions has meant isolation for families, and difficult as this is, it’s also a great bonding opportunity. For families with a new baby, the bonus is that during this time when family matters, and partners can feel left out, there are no interruptions from well-meaning friends and family who can unintentionally over-stay their welcome.
Getting to know baby
There’s no need to keep the household quiet while baby sleeps, and if you watch your baby closely, you’ll soon begin to understand his/her body language, grimaces, smiles, yawns, stretches and cries. In turn, your baby will quickly learn about this new world through touch, taste, smell, sight, sound and perception – their sixth sense. Learning from and about each other is the first step towards bonding and understanding each other’s needs. When you can anticipate your baby’s needs, and see to these needs, baby niggles can be minimised.
Burgie Ireland, registered nurse and midwife, is married to John. She is a mom to four grown children and grandmom to a brood of six grandchildren (so far). Currently a blogger and freelance writer, Burgie has enjoyed a career of nursing, writing and public speaking over the last forty years – specifically relating to reproductive and women’s health, babies and children. She also enjoys creative writing, handcrafting, calligraphy and music. Read her blog here.