After Birth Issues
Pregnancy and birthing is just the beginning of motherhood. Caring for yourself and your newborn continues and there are many issues that need to be considered after birth.
Breastfeeding provides a newborn baby with the nutrients required for healthy development and growth. For the first one or two days after birth, a yellowish sticky secretion called colostrum is produced from your breasts, rich in antibodies, which help fight against disease-causing bacteria and viruses. Breast milk contains carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, and minerals. It is, therefore, the perfect food for your newborn and is highly recommended. Breastfeeding should be initiated within the first hour of birth and continued for at least 6 months up to 2 years and beyond, along with suitable complementary foods.
Benefits of breastfeeding for your baby
- Breast milk is in the most digestible form of food and has a perfect mix of nutrients required for your baby’s overall growth.
- Antibodies present in breast milk improve your baby’s immunity and help fight against viruses, bacteria, and allergies.
- Infants who are breastfed for 6 months have fewer ear infections, diarrhea, respiratory illnesses, and hospital visits.
- Breastfed infants usually have higher IQ scores later in childhood.
- Breastfed infants may have a lower risk of obesity, diabetes, certain cancers, and sudden infant death syndrome.
- Breastfeeding helps in building a physical and emotional bond between you and your baby and improves the feeling of security in your child.
Benefits of breastfeeding for you
- Breastfeeding helps you burn extra calories and lose weight faster.
- The oxytocin hormone released during breastfeeding helps in returning the uterus to its original size and reduces post-delivery uterine bleeding.
- It lowers your risk of osteoporosis, and ovarian and breast cancer.
- Breastfeeding saves time and money on baby formulas, etc., and helps you build a strong bond with your infant.
Because of its benefits, breastfeeding has been endorsed by many government initiatives.
Since you will be breastfeeding many times a day, you should choose a position that will keep you and your baby relaxed and comfortable during feeding. Some common positions for breastfeeding include:
- Cradle position: Place your baby’s head in the fold of your elbow while the body faces you. Support your baby by positioning his or her belly against your body and wrap your free arm around to support your baby’s head and neck.
- Football position: Your baby’s back can be placed along your forearm while you use your palm to support the head and neck. This position is best for newborns and if you are recovering from a cesarean as it protects your stomach from excessive pressure.
- Side-lying position: This is the best position for feeding during nights or during an episiotomy recovery (vaginal incision during delivery). You can lift your breast and place the nipple into your baby’s mouth by using your free hand. After proper latching, you can support your baby’s neck and head to avoid twisting or straining during feeding.
The process to ‘latch on’
It is important that your baby latches onto your nipple correctly before feeding. This prevents sore nipples. The process includes:
- Place your baby in a comfortable position facing you so that he/she does not have to twist his or her neck to breastfeed.
- Gently stroke your baby’s lower lip with your nipple. Your baby will instinctively open his or her mouth wide.
- Bring your baby’s mouth closer to your nipple and center the nipple above the tongue.
- Your baby’s lips should cover the nipple and a part of the areola (darker skin around your nipple) to ensure correct latching. You may feel a slight painless tingling sensation during breastfeeding indicating the flow of milk.
- If your baby hasn’t latched on correctly, release the suction by placing your finger in your baby’s mouth, remove the nipple and try again.
ABC’s of Breastfeeding
The basic instructions for breastfeeding include:
- A=Awareness: You should watch out for signs of hunger and breastfeed when your baby is hungry. Avoid waiting until your baby becomes cranky or shows signs of frustration when he/she is too hungry. In the first few weeks, you will be nursing your newborn 8 to 12 times a day.
- B=Being patient: Avoid hurrying your baby while breastfeeding. Be patient and take as long as your infant wants to be nursed. Typically, infants nurse on each breast for about 10 to 20 minutes.
- C=Comfort: You should be comfortable while you breastfeed to allow easy flow of milk. Use pillows to support your head, neck, arms, and feet before you start to feed your infant.
Postnatal Blues and Depression
Delivering a baby is an exhausting and emotional experience. Various physiological and hormonal changes take place in your body after giving birth. Apart from excitement and joy, some new mothers also experience postnatal blues and postpartum depression.
Postnatal blues or baby blues are a mild form of depression, characterized by sadness, mood swings, crying, irritability, anxiety and troubled sleep, which usually subside in 2 weeks once your hormones settle. Many new mothers experience postnatal blues from the 2nd or 3rd day for the first 2 weeks after childbirth. You can minimize the ill-effects by taking care of yourself, getting help with your daily tasks, getting ample rest, trying to sleep when your baby sleeps and making time for yourself.
Postpartum depression is a more serious medical condition, characterized by moderate to severe depression and can start soon after delivery or after several months. Symptoms may range from feeling hopeless and finding it difficult to concentrate or make decisions, to losing interest in your baby and having thoughts of suicide or death. Apart from hormonal changes, other factors such as changes in your daily schedule and social relationships, lack of sleep and getting less time for yourself can lead to this kind of depression. In addition, you are at a higher risk of postpartum depression if you are a current substance abuser, under the age of 20 years, have a personal or family history of depression, or have personal and financial problems.
Postpartum depression not only affects you, but also your baby: you may be unable to care for or show interest towards your baby, and may sometimes even have unavoidable negative feels of harming your baby.
Coming forward with your problems and getting medical help early helps protect you and your baby from harm. Your doctor may run several tests and questionnaires to determine the level of depression. Blood tests may also be ordered to rule out other causes of depression.
Extreme cases of depression may require medications and talk therapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and interpersonal therapy (IPT).
Urinary Symptoms after Birth
Tissues supporting your bowel and bladder can swell or bruise with childbirth, leading to pain or stinging as the urine passes along the tender perineal region. You may also suffer from urinary tract infections, characterized by a strong and persistent urge to urinate, burning sensation and tendency to pass small amounts of urine, frequently. The tissue at the base of the bladder may stretch during pregnancy, weakening the pelvic floor muscles and damaging nerves around the region, leading to stress incontinence, a condition where urine leaks when you cough, sneeze or laugh. With Kegel exercises to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles, this usually resolves on its own.
Driving after Caesarean Section
You are advised to avoid driving after a Caesarean section until your wound has healed. Your doctor will let you know when you can resume driving, usually after about six weeks.