Warning: This is an unfiltered post about body fluids and functions after birth.
In Part Three of our Postpartum Series, we’re headed up north and talking about what you can expect from the upper part of your body during the first 72 hours post-delivery. This area tends to be the hub for a lot of “firsts” for new moms.
Meghan Markle’s pregnancy became a worldwide debate on many levels, and the frequency of touching her belly in public was front and center. She was relentlessly ridiculed for cradling her bump in public- some people called her disgusting and found the act of touching her belly to be inappropriate. Shaming a pregnant person for behaving instinctually is sad. There’s science behind moms wanting/needing to caress their baby on the outside while they’re growing on the inside- and Meghan Markle isn’t alone.
Humans have an instinctual fight or flight in response to stressors. It can be triggered by something as simple as a loud noise or internal anxiety. When you’re pregnant, it’s a completely normal reaction to be protective of your unborn child. You might find yourself cradling your bump when you’re unsure of a situation, you’re surrounded by people you’re not comfortable with, or you’re generally feeling unsettled. Even though your baby is safe on the inside, your instinct is to also protect them on the outside. You don’t have to be a “Princess of the United Kingdom” to feel the urge to cradle your bump!
Parents-to-be also use external bump touching as a way to bond with their growing baby. Physical connection is a vital piece of human interaction. Touching sparks all the feels on many levels, depending on the relationship. Placing your hand on your bump is the closest you’ll get to feeling your baby until they’re born…it’s like little hugs to tide you over until you can fully embrace your newborn after birth.
So why is this baby bump info important? Well friends, the first time you instinctually reach down to sweetly nuzzle your once hard, baby-filled belly, and all you feel is squishy skin and a swollen uterus, it can be a shock to your system. Have you ever heard stories of women crying in the shower after birth? One thing that stimulates postpartum emotions is feeling their empty womb. Yes, you’re happy your baby is here! But physically feeling the recently vacated place where they used to be tucked in safe and sound inside you makes the reality of being someone’s mom VERY REAL.
Missing pregnancy doesn’t make you a bad parent, and it’s not a precursor for postpartum depression…it just means reality is setting in. Give yourself the space to grieve the end of your pregnancy if you need it. And if you find yourself in the hospital shower crying after running your hands over your newly squishy belly, just remember you're not alone.
Okay- time to really pay attention! Your uterus started out the size of a small upside-down pear and grew to the size of a watermelon over 9 months. IT WILL NOT GO BACK TO NORMAL OVERNIGHT! Expect to still look pregnant after delivery. As your uterus shrinks over the next few weeks, you’ll see the difference on the outside too. Be kind and understanding to your postpartum body. It’s been through a miraculous transformation…and it’s extremely worn out.
Kangaroo Care (aka skin-to-skin) is a technique where baby is placed partially or fully naked, belly down, directly onto a bare chest. Skin-to-skin has been used in NICUs for decades to help stabilize premature babies. It’s been proven to help regulate blood pressure, heart rate, blood sugar, and temperature.
The drastic differences in NICU babies with Kangaroo Care included in their treatment plan, compared to babies without it, caught the eye of mainstream labor and delivery care. Today, skin-to-skin is standard protocol for most hospitals.
So, what does this mean for parents right after delivery? Well, it means your medical team will work quickly to initiate skin-to-skin after birth. This will happen immediately with an uncomplicated vaginal birth. If baby needs some additional support after birth- by the NICU team in the delivery room with you or in the NICU unit without you- the team will work hard to get your baby skin-to-skin as soon as possible. In a cesarean birth, you’ll either start skin-to-skin before leaving the operating room or while you’re in the recovery area. Your medical team wants your baby to be close to you as badly as you do, and they will do everything in their power to make it happen as soon as possible!
Is skin-to-skin only beneficial to your baby? NOPE! Regardless of how your baby came out, the moment it happens, you will feel a rush of feelings and emotions. The sooner your fresh babe is placed on your chest, the better things are for you, too. Touching and feeling your brand-new baby pressed into you in this intimate way helps your body regulate and adjust to the hormones coursing through it post-delivery. If you have complications after delivery, then your partner or support person can participate in skin-to-skin until you’re able to.
As doulas, we often remind new parents that skin-to-skin isn’t only meant for the first hours after delivery. Babies and parents benefit from skin-to-skin many months after birth- even if the first initial skin contact is delayed hours, days, weeks, or longer.
So, here’s the deal. We’ve lightly touched on all types of feeding in our social media posts. Feeding a baby is all-encompassing, complicated, exhilarating, satisfying…we could go on forever. Feeding a baby also progresses and evolves differently for every family. Today, we’re narrowing things down and going over what it's like for a fresh postpartum mom to breastfeed.
Here at Indiana Birth & Parenting, we support all feeding choices and we have extensive experience with breast, formula, pumping and combination feeding. Regardless of how you choose to feed your baby, your body will automatically trigger lactation after birth- so it’s important for women to know what to expect from their breasts no matter how their baby is fed.
Breast changes are some women’s first clue that they’re pregnant. The major hormone shift causes tissue swelling, breast tenderness, nipple color changes, and blue veins due to the increased blood supply. Bra sizes likely go up, too.
During pregnancy, your body begins to create colostrum. In the months leading up to delivery, you might notice some pre-baby leaking in the form of yellowish drainage coming from your breasts. Since mature milk production won’t begin for 3-5+ days post-delivery, your body produces this nutrient dense power packed colostrum to kick start your baby’s feeding journey. Colostrum has been coined “liquid gold” for a reason…it’s amazing stuff.
Your First Latch
Your body put a lot into growing your baby, and it worked hard during the labor and delivery process to birth your baby. Internally your body has worked harder than it ever has before. Once your baby is here, and the adrenaline begins to fade away, you’ll start to feel like your job is done and you can finally rest. SPOILER- you just started a new job. Internally growing a baby is hard work. But externally growing a baby is the hardest job you will ever do no matter how your baby is fed. We don’t tell you this to frighten or discourage you. We’re all about honest preparation over here!
While you’re in the hospital, your baby will be getting the low-volume, nutrient dense colostrum from your breasts. Your newborn’s stomach is the size of a small cherry and it can’t hold as much as it will in the days and weeks to come. It will feel like you’re not producing anything which might be discouraging. Try not to panic when you don’t get that fullness sensation before feeding, or that emptiness feeling from your breasts after feeding for the first couple of days. You’ll experience these sensations once your milk comes in.
Look for your baby’s feeding cues- licking/smacking lips, sticking tongue out, opening and closing mouth, sucking on hands. Your doula and/or nurse can help you spot these cues, too. They will also help you get comfortable in bed and assist you with ways to hold your baby making the first latch easier.
Some babies come out ready to latch like a sucker fish. Others show no interest right away. When that first latch happens, it might hurt…and it might not. NOTE- it’s completely normal to feel your uterus contracting/cramping while you’re breastfeeding. Your body is working on quickly switching over from supporting a baby on the inside, to supporting a baby on the outside. When you breastfeed, your body releases oxytocin- the same hormone involved in telling your uterus to contract during labor.
Be sure to tell your doula or nurse (or IBCLC if she’s available) if you’re feeling nipple pain during the first few breastfeeding sessions. They will help your baby unlatch and try again. If you’re experiencing sharp pain, or notice blistering on your nipples during your hospital stay, don’t be afraid to speak up. The lactation team will want to pop into your room to evaluate the situation sooner rather than later.
It’s normal to feel clumsy and unsure while breastfeeding, especially for first-time moms. You’ve never breastfed a baby before and it takes practice! Expect to breastfeed every couple of hours around the clock- every feeding session in the hospital is one step closer to your milk coming in!
Last week we talked about the placenta, and how it acts like an air traffic controller for your hormones. After the placenta is delivered, your brain is triggered to stop producing the hormones needed to support your pregnancy. Estrogen, progesterone, and adrenaline return to their pre-pregnancy levels, while oxytocin and prolactin begin to work overtime. All the physiological changes your body goes through, coupled with everything that goes along with delivering a baby, is why you’ll find yourself crying or laughing for “no reason” postpartum. There’s actually a reason!
If you find yourself sobbing because you can’t find your socks, or laughing hysterically because your boobs are leaking, just go with it! Surrender to your feelings while you're in the moment. Swinging between baby blues and emotional highs is normal- and not a precursor for postpartum depression later down the road. We encourage you to remember everything you and your body went through to bring your baby into the world. This is the most transformative time of your life. It’s okay to let the happy tears AND the sad tears flow freely while you’re getting to know the new you.
That’s a wrap on the first 72 hours after a typical birth! This time for you will be filled with a steady flow of bodily fluids- blood, urine, stool, colostrum, tears, and snot. It’s a glorious leaky mess fest! There are many scenarios and circumstances that can change how the first couple of days of your postpartum period will look for you. What we shared here is what most moms- not every mom- experience after delivery.
This week on the blog, Instagram and Facebook, we’ve been sharing healthy tips to prepare you for pregnancy. You can’t stop the physical changes that will happen before or after birth. But you CAN take the steps to get your body and mind ready for what you’re about to go through. Knowledge is power!
Next week we're moving into what you can expect the first weeks at home with your baby, along with ways to help make the transition softer. Join us!