Monday, November 18, 2013

Tips for Your Postpartum Hospital Stay

If you choose to give birth in a hospital, which is the norm in the United States, I think it's important to distinguish your postpartum hospital stay from being hospitalized for illness, injury, or surgery. Obviously, if you've had a c-section, you are recovering from surgery as well as having a postpartum stay, but some of this will still apply. If you had an uncomplicated vaginal birth and you and your baby are healthy, the hospital stay can actually make recovery more difficult by making you feel like you're in a sick environment when you are not, in fact, sick. I hope some of these tips help you make the most of your postpartum hospital stay.

The Hospital Bag
I'm in favor of "less is more" when it comes to packing for the hospital. Here's what I recommend you bring:
- Some comfortable clothes - pajamas or sweats, for example, and maybe a bathrobe - to wear in place of the hospital gown
- The outfit you want to wear home. You'll be able to fit into clothes that fit you at about mid-pregnancy, but you won't have your pre-pregnancy shape back at one or two days postpartum. Wear something comfortable.
- Something for the baby to wear home. Most people pick out a "going home" outfit for the baby.
- Bring a blanket for the baby if the weather is cool, in case the hospital doesn't let you take any receiving blankets with you.
- Bring something to occupy your time but doesn't take much brainpower - my phone was really the only entertainment I needed (for Facebook, Reddit, and games). Most hospitals have Wi-Fi and will allow you to use your phone whenever you want. Don't forget your charger! A book to read, some puzzles maybe, music to listen to if you find that relaxing. But you'll be groggy, and busy with the baby, and trying to rest, and you probably won't be as alert as you're used to being.
- Toothbrush, toothpaste, and any toiletries you can't do without. The hospital can provide most toiletries, but they'll be cheap "all-in-one" items, so if you need your certain body wash, lotion, etc., be sure to bring it with you.
- Deodorant/antiperspirant - You'll sweat a lot. Postpartum hormones make your body do crazy things. Bring deodorant.
- Glasses, contact lenses, contact lens solution. If you wear contacts, don't forget this stuff. Really.
- Hairbrush, hair ties, other basic hair care products you can't live without. You probably won't need to be styling your hair or going through your whole morning routine, but no one wants to go two or three days without brushing her hair. At least, I don't.
- Food. You'll be hungry, and the food the hospital provides may just not be enough. Bring some snacks.

Personal Hygiene
As soon as you feel strong enough - and this may take 24 hours for some of you (it did for me), take a shower and get out of the hospital gown and into a comfortable outfit you brought. I like wearing the gown and using the hospital-provided pads and such the first day, because you'll be bleeding a lot, and this way you don't have to worry about staining your own clothes. However, by day two, unless you have some complications, your bleeding should be more controlled and the smaller pads will suffice. At that point, getting into a pair of sweatpants or pajamas will feel great and make you feel less like you're convalescing. I do like to continue to use the disposable mesh underwear the hospital will give you, just to keep the staining potential to a minimum. Also, take an opportunity to brush your teeth, apply deodorant, and do anything else that makes you feel more human.

Baby Care
Do as much of the baby care yourself as you can. Take care of the diaper changes, feed the baby yourself (whether breast or bottle), and be present for any tests, checkups, and procedures the nurses and doctors perform. If possible, request that these procedures take place in your room. Keep the baby with you at night (unless you are not ambulatory or cannot care for the baby appropriately for any other reason) so you can feed and tend to her yourself. Hold the baby a lot.

As soon as you can walk farther than from your bed to the bathroom, get out of your room. Get out of your room. You'll probably be advised to take your baby out in the bassinet and walk the halls. Do that. It's not exciting, but it's nice to be reminded that there's a world outside your room. You might even get to meet other new moms or dads out there. Walking will also help to rebuild your strength.

Limit Visitors
Everyone's going to want to meet your new baby, but for your sake, limit visitors. Spend as much time as possible alone with your baby and your partner, or even just alone with your baby. If you constantly have people in and out of your room (and you'll have plenty of hospital staff barging in at all hours), it's hard to find an opportunity to simply rest. Also, you may find it awkward to breastfeed with visitors around. When you're first learning to breastfeed, it's difficult to do discreetly, and you may not be willing to expose your breasts to all manner of relatives and friends. Tell family and friends that you'll be happy to see them in the coming weeks, but that right now you just need to spend time with your baby and rest.

Doesn't matter what time it is, if you've got an hour to sleep, take it. It's very hard to get enough sleep when you're in the hospital, so when you can, do.

The hospital will likely provide some kind of big ol' cup for you to drink from. Drain it and have it refilled, then drain it again. Drink, drink, drink.

What other tips do you have for new moms in the hospital? What do you wish someone had told you? Was there anything your hospital did that you felt was particularly helpful or unhelpful?

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