More questions about the postnatal period answered

Here, Tommy’s midwife Kate answers some of the most popular questions about the postnatal period.

Will midwives pressure me into breastfeeding?

No, you should not be pressured into breastfeeding. As midwives and other health professionals, our role is to support you with feeding your baby safely. Part of that is making sure that all pregnant women and new mothers have the right information to make the right decision for them. There are many factors that can influence how someone choses to feed their baby, so we are here to support all parents in their choices. 

Do you have any coping strategies for when my partner goes back to work? I’m dreading it.

This is a common feeling, so you’re not alone. Instead of focusing on the fact that your partner isn’t there, try to think of this time as an opportunity to bond with your baby and get to know their cues (when they want to be fed, sleep or just have a cuddle with mummy). 

It may help to try and break the day down into small chunks. For example, perhaps you could aim to take baby for a walk in the morning and another in the afternoon. Or you could arrange a time to call or Facetime a friend or family member for a chat – it can really help to talk to someone who understands what being a new mum is like. Your health visitor can also support you if you are feeling worried and anxious. 

Some days will be better than others. Try to accept the fact that you won’t be able to do everything you want to do every day. There will be times when your baby will cry for no apparent reason and days when you don’t make it out of your pyjamas. Try not to put any pressure on yourself and go with the flow.

It may sometimes seem that the days go on forever, but it won’t be like this for very long. So try to sit back, relax and try enjoy this time as best you can.

How do I look after the cord and how do I know if there?

The best thing to do is nothing. The cord normally separates and falls off about a week or so after the birth (although it can take longer than this). If the area does get dirty, clean it with cooled boiled water and a cotton pad, and leave it to dry naturally. When putting a nappy on, fold down the front so the cord is exposed, which helps to dry it out. 

The cord will turn black and dry and there can also be a mild smell to it just before it separates. Infections are rare but do happen. Call your midwife, health visitor or GP if you notice any redness around the base of the cord, oozing fluid or a strong smell, so they can review it.

Should I stay up watching the baby on the first night he is home? I’m scared he might stop breathing. 

Having some anxieties, especially on the first night at home, is common and natural. But you need to sleep as best you can. Staying up can make you sleep deprived and more anxious, which is not good for your recovery and being able to cope and look after your baby. The most important thing is to follow safe sleeping guidance. If you are feeling anxious and worried, then do speak with your midwife or health visitor for support.

Visit The Lullaby Trust for more infomation on safe sleep for babies.

What is your vagina supposed to look like afterwards? Are there problems to look out for?

Injuries to your perineum (the skin between vagina and anus) the labia and vagina, are common during a vaginal birth (it happens to about 90% of first-time mums). This area is assessed by the midwife when you have your baby, and if needed, stitches are put in to bring the skin together. You may have some grazes or areas where the stitches have brought together the wound. The area needs to be kept clean and dry, with regular pad changes. Let your midwife know if there is any oozing, a strong smell or swelling, or you are worried about any gaps. Your midwife or health visitor can also check the area for you during your postnatal appointments if you would like them to.

How long do stitches take to heal?

As long as the area is kept clean and dry, many women start to notice some itching and tightening after the first week or so. This means the stitches are healing.  Generally, it can take up to about 4 weeks for the area to feel healed.  When you feel ready, it is then important to be doing your pelvic floor exercises.

Why aren’t newborn babies routinely weighed when you go home?

You should have contact with a midwife the day after you come home, and they will let you know the care to expect as it can vary a little depending on where you live. If you do not hear from a midwife, call the hospital and they can arrange this for you. 

Usually your baby is weighed around day 5 and again at about day 10-14. By 2 weeks old, your baby is expected to have regained weight and returned to their birth weight (roughly).  If this has not happened, your midwife or health visitor will need to see your baby again for another weight check.  After this the guidance is to weigh your baby monthly for the first 6 months. This is usually done in a clinic, which your health visitor will give you details for. 

If you are worried about your baby’s weight, or need support for feeding, then you can make a care plan with your health visitor. This may include more regular weight checks. Your baby’s weight gain is only one sign of their wellbeing. Your midwife and health visitor will also ask you bout how the feeding is going, what your baby’s nappies are like and ask you questions about their general behavior.