Your questions about the postnatal period answered

Recently we asked our followers on Instagram what they wanted to know about the postnatal period. Here, Tommy’s midwife Kate answers some of the most popular questions.

How tough can breastfeeding be?

Breastfeeding is not always straightforward. Both you and your baby are learning and getting to know each other, so it can take time and practice. You can talk to your midwife or your antenatal class leader about what to expect before your baby is born. When your baby arrives, your health visitor or infant feeding specialist are there to support you. There is lots of support available online, too. Take a look at The Breastfeeding Companion, the Breastfeeding Network or the Association of Breastfeeding Mothers.

Importantly, be kind to yourself. You are doing great!

Find out more about breastfeeding and breastfeeding after a caesarean section

How sore will my breasts be when my milk comes in?

The first milk is called colostrum. This is very rich in everything that your baby needs, so you only need to produce a small amount. About 3 days after your baby is born, your milk will come in. Instead of colostrum, you will start to produce higher volumes of breastmilk, so your breast can suddenly feel very full, firm and sore. This will soon settle as long as you feed your baby regularly from the breast or express. The supply will adjust according to your baby’s needs. If you have any lumps, hot patches on your breast, or feel unwell then speak with your midwife, health visitor or GP for advice.

Is fluid retention normal after pregnancy?

During pregnancy, it is common to develop swelling due to the extra fluid in your body.  This can take time to resolve after you have had your baby. It helps to keep drinking water and stay hydrated, elevate swollen parts of your body, wear loose fitting clothes and do some light exercise. If you develop sudden swelling after your baby is born, call your midwife or GP for advice.

Why am I getting night sweats after having my baby?

After having a baby, you will experience some hormonal changes as your body adjusts back to not being pregnant.  Sweating is a way of your body getting rid of extra fluid you were carrying. Night sweats can also be due to anxiety, so if you feel this may be the case then speak with your midwife, health visitor or GP for support. 

How will I function on such little sleep?

Every baby is different, but most new parents have some sleepless nights. This can have a huge impact on how you feel and your ability to function. But, as a lot of parents will tell you, it is amazing how you can adapt and change as needed to care for your baby. You may be used to multi-tasking and achieving a lot every day, but you may need to lower your expectations for a while. Many parents adjust to muddling through for a while and sometimes that’s enough.

Talk to your midwife, health visitor or GP if you are finding it difficult to sleep, feeling restless or anxious.

Find out more about coping with sleepless nights

No one warned me about bleeding after birth. How long does this go on for?

No matter how you have your baby (vaginally or by caesarean section) you will bleed for a few weeks afterwards. This can be quite heavy at first, but it should reduce will gradually turn a brownish colour and decrease until it finally stops. If you have a busier day, this can increase your blood loss.

Use sanitary towels, not tampons for the first 6 weeks after birth because tampons can increase your chance of getting an infection.

Tell your midwife or health visitor if you feel unwell, in pain or you’re losing blood in large clots. You may need some treatment.

Find out more about your body after the birth and bleeding after a c-section.

I think I had the baby blues. I feel better now, but is this common?

Yes, the baby blues are very common and it can take many women by surprise. After all, you’re probably expecting to feel nothing but happiness after having a baby. But this period can be overwhelming and full of many emotions. You may cry at anything and everything! This is OK and will generally pass after a few days as things settle down.

Speak to your midwife, health visitor or GP if these feelings continue or get worse. No one will judge you for how you feel. The most important thing is that you get the support you need to take care of yourself and your baby.

Find out more about feeling low after childbirth.

My friend had haemorrhoids after giving birth. Why is that?

This is normally a result of extended pushing to give birth to your baby.  They can be sore and itchy, but they do normally resolve without a problem. Try to increase your fibre intake by eating fresh fruit and vegetables, and wholemeal or wholegrain breads and cereals. Also try to drink plenty of water – we recommend around 6 to 8 glasses a day. This will help avoid constipation and make it easier to go to the toilet.

You can also get haemorrhoid cream to help, and some women find sitting on a blow up rubber ring or cushion more comfortable until they resolve.

Will it sting when I wee after giving birth?

Some women find it difficult to wee after giving birth and it may sting slightly or feel a little sore at first. It really helps to stay hydrated to avoid concentrated urine. If you are worried, it can help to have a shower to help reduce any stinging.

Is it normal to feel so guilty that my labour didn’t go as planned?

Many women make a birth plan as a way to tell their healthcare team what kind of labour they’d like. But sometimes things don’t go according to plan. Some women take this in their stride, but for others it can be more difficult, even traumatic. It’s important to know that it’s OK to grieve for the experience you didn’t have. Feeling guilty or disappointed does not make you a bad person or mother.

Don’t treat your feelings as if they are not allowed. You are entitled to them and you should feel free to talk about them. Tell someone how you feel. This could be your midwife, health visitor, family or friends – whoever you feel comfortable with. This may be all you need to feel you can move on. But there is support available if your feelings are affecting your mental health.