So, your little bundle has arrived, safe and well…what next?
Lisa Clegg, author of the author of ‘The Blissful Baby Expert‘ summarises below the first five things to expect:
The APGAR score is a quick test performed on a baby by a midwife or doctor at 1 and 5 minutes after birth. The 1 minute score determines how the baby tolerated the birthing process and the 5 minute score tells the doctors how well the baby is doing outside of the womb. It is sometimes repeated at 10 minutes if the baby’s initial scores weren’t good. Breathing effort, skin colour, heart rate, muscle tone and reflexes are all examined and your baby is given a score of 0, 1 or 2 depending on their condition. The APGAR rating is based on an overall score of 1 to 10. The higher the score, the better the baby is doing. A score of 7, 8 or 9 is normal and a sign that your baby is in good health. A score of 10 is very unusual as almost all newborns lose a point for blue hands and feet-completely normal after birth. Any score lower than 7 is a sign that the baby needs medical attention, and she may receive oxygen and need to have her airway cleared to help her breathe or physical stimulation to get her heart beating at a healthy rate. Most of the time a low score at 1 minute is near normal by 5 minutes. A lower APGAR score does not mean a child will have serious or long term health problems and is not designed to predict the future health of the child. It is generally just caused by a difficult birth, a C-section or fluid in the baby’s airway.
This is the first bowel movement that your baby will pass. It is a greeny black substance composed of materials ingested while your baby is inside you-cells, mucus, bile and water. It is very sticky and tar like, which makes it very difficult to clean off your babies bottom even with wet wipes! It has usually completely passed through their system after a couple of days, when their poo will begin to change to yellow in colour. This is a good indication that your milk is beginning to come through if you are breastfeeding.
Usually this substance is not released in your babies’ bowel movements until after the birth. Occasionally though some babies will pass meconium while you are in labour. This will show itself in your waters as they break, as they will be stained green instead of clear. If meconium is found to be present in your waters, then you will be monitored more closely, to monitor for fetal distress, and action taken if there is a problem. More often than not, babies who pass a small amount of meconium whilst the mother is in labour are born without any health issues-my eldest was one of these. My waters were stained green when they broke. I was put on a fetal monitor for the rest of my 14-hour labour, but luckily my baby boy was born healthy. In rare occasions a baby can ingest the meconium into their lungs while still in the womb, and this is a problem requiring medical attention.
Most women don’t generally feel these after their fist pregnancy and birth, but will experience them with any subsequent children. After pains are caused by your uterus contracting as it attempts to shrink back to its pre-pregnancy size. It does this more efficiently after your 1st pregnancy, but your uterus loses muscle tone during subsequent pregnancies and it has to contract more, which is why it is felt more. The pain is very similar to period pain and you will feel cramping in your abdomen. If you decide to breast-feed you will feel the cramps more strongly as your baby latches on to feed. This is because your babies’ sucking releases a hormone called Oxytocin, which stimulates your Uterus to contract more. If you do experience after pains mention them to your Midwife, and she will advise you on safe pain relief medications. They will be most intense for the first 8 hours after delivery and only usually last 3-4 days.
The NHS new-born hearing screening programme (NHSP) offers all new parents the opportunity to have their baby’s hearing screened within the first few weeks of life. Today, many babies will have their hearing tested before leaving the hospital. The tests are simple and painless and only take a few minutes. The new hearing screening tests use sophisticated technology, can be carried out almost immediately after birth and are much better at identifying a possible hearing impairment than the previous Health Visitor distraction test done at 8 months.
The first night in hospital or at home…
The first full night that you spend either in the hospital or at home is usually pretty rough. If you have had pain relief such as Pethadine or an Epidural then your baby may be sleepy for the first day or so and your ‘rough night’ will be delayed, but it will arrive.
Your baby has been used to being nice and cosy inside the womb for the last 9 months. She has been reassured by the noises inside your tummy- your blood rushing around, your heart beating, and noises vibrating from the outside world. When your baby is born and then just expected to go in a Moses basket or cot to sleep in a dark quiet house, she can be very unsettled. She will crave the closeness of being held and you will probably find that she will cry each time you try to put her down for any length of time. Swaddling and using rolled up towels will help her get used to the crib, as they will help her feel cuddled and cosy. This and other sleeping positions are explained in more detail in the sleep chapter. In the first couple of days, however, you need to allow her the comfort of being held and sleeping close to you while she gets used to being in the world and all the new challenges that brings. This will reassure her and give her the confidence to be more settled in the long term.