Congratulations! After 9 months, you’ve finally met your little angel. You may not previously have considered a hospital a haven of peace and safety, but that’s precisely what the doctors and nurses around you are offering right now: a buffer against the sometimes scary world you’ll inhabit from the moment you take your baby home. Now’s the time to take advantage of their knowledge and expertise. Here’s how.
Pump your doctor or nurse for information
No mom has all the answers, not even those who have significantly more experience than you do right now. There’s probably a whole lot of stuff you’ve been wondering about, or maybe some new questions popped into your mind the moment you were handed your baby. Lucky for you, you have walking encyclopaedias right next to you. Dr J M Ndekwe, director for the The Birthing Team at Netcare Femina Hospital in Pretoria, says it’s a good idea to write down all your queries and concerns during your pregnancy. Don’t rely on your overwhelmed brain to remember them all. And don’t rely on it to recall the team’s responses, either. Rather ask your partner to make a note of everything you’re told. And remember, no question is too “silly”!
Begin your breastfeeding routine
“If you’ve decided to breastfeed, it’s best to begin this process in hospital,” Dr Ndekwe advises. You’ll have access to a midwife who can help you position your newborn and show you the correct way to get your baby to latch.
Take care of yourself
There’s a lot happening inside your body right now. Your uterus is contracting, and you’ll experience bleeding for some time – although this will slow down a few hours after birth. Luckily, you’re in the best place to receive care. “Your doctor and midwives will ensure you heal properly after delivery. Ask for pain relief medication if you feel you need it, as well as cold compresses to sooth the perineal area, which may be inflamed after birth,” says Dr Ndekwe.
Do your paperwork
It might seem like a particularly tedious chore after the excitement of the birth, but it’s critical that both you and your husband fill out your child’s birth certificate before you are discharged from hospital. Do it now, and you won’t have to worry about it later, when you’re juggling naps and feeds. Now is also the best time to book your newborn’s follow up appointment with midwives and doctors, usually three to five days after birth.
Keep visitors to a minimum
Of course your entire family and all your friends will want to meet the new arrival, but this moment isn’t about them. It’s about you – and right now, you need all your energy to recover from a major event, not entertaining people. Keep your stress levels (and exhaustion) down by getting enough rest before you start seeing people.
More about the expert:
Dr J M Ndekwe is director for The Birthing Team at Netcare Femina Hospital in Pretoria.
In her 16 years as journalist, Lisa Witepski’s work has appeared in most of South Africa’s leading publications, including the Mail & Guardian, Sunday Times, Entrepreneur and Financial Mail. She has written for a number of women’s magazines, including Living & Loving, Essentials and many others, across topics from lifestyle to travel, wellness, business and finance. She is a former acting Johannesburg Bureau Chief for Cosmopolitan, and former Features Editor at Travel News Weekly, but, above all, a besotted mom to Leya and Jessica. Lisa blogs at whydoialwayscravecake.blogspot.com and lisa.witepski.blogspot.com, and tweets at @LisaWitepski.