When I prepared for the birth of my first child, I never imagined I would have to spend the first night of his life being monitored for heart complications on a completely different floor. My situation was very rare, but birth can be complicated. There is a chance you or your baby may need medical care beyond the standard postpartum care; care that requires specialized doctors and medical equipment. Whether it is you or your baby who needs medical care, there are a few ways to cope with being away from your newborn those first few days of life (or beyond).
1. Packing Your Bag
When packing your hospital bag, include one or two activities that can keep your hands and mind busy for that “just in case” situation. If you have a portable hobby be sure to bring it with you. As an avid knitter, I packed an easy knitting project in my hospital bag. I didn’t really think I would ever pull it out, realizing I would be too busy caring for my new baby. During that first night, I was ever thankful to have something to keep me from going crazy when I just couldn’t sleep or started worrying about my health. For additional ideas on how to back for the hospital check out Chaunie Brusie’s blog post on 5 Things You Need for the Perfectly Packed Hospital Bag.
If you plan on breastfeeding, request a breast pump and a lactation consult. Chances are if you are being cared for on a floor other than labor and delivery the last thing that is on your caregivers mind is breastfeeding. You will need to be a strong advocate for yourself. I asked several different nurses and a few of my doctors to put in a consult for a lactation specialist, before I actually saw a specialist the morning after my cesarean section. Thankfully I was brought a breast pump the same evening, but I had no idea how to use it. After fumbling my way through the directions I managed to figure it out on my own. Looking back, it would have been helpful to ask a close friend or my doctor about tips for pumping, prior to birth.
Early breast stimulation is important for future breast milk production. According to KellyMom.com, you should start pumping within 6 hours of the baby’s birth postpartum if your baby is not nursing. Before your milk comes in, hand expression is the best way to express colostrum. Once your milk comes in, lactation consultants recommend pumping for at least 30 minutes, or 2-5 minutes after the last drop of milk is expressed.