Rest after the Home Birth What You Should Know

Rest after the Home Birth What You Should Know

There is a disadvantage to having a baby at home — namely the expectation that, because you have not been in hospital, you are able to continue an active life without a rest. If you are at home you are available to solve any housekeeping or childcare problem. You are also available to visitors, who are unrestricted by visiting hours.

You may feet wonderfully fit after having a baby at home. You are less likely to have had drugs or an episiotomy, or for your labor to have been induced or accelerated. You may not have had syntometrine and your labor may have been shorter than if it had been in hospital. All these things can contribute to your feeling as if you can carry on just where you left off. However this does not mean that you should. Your body has undergone huge physiological changes, and you need time and space to establish feeding, to get to know your new baby as an individual and to rest and recover. After an initial period of sleepiness, the baby is likely to want frequent feeding, both day and night. This lasts at least for several weeks, if not months, and you will feel better if you get a chance to rest in the earliest days.

There is currently no great respect in our society for the postnatal period. In other cultures it is seen as a special time, when a mother should be freed from the obligations of work and domestic routine in order to recover quietly and learn to love and look after her new baby. This period varies from three or four days to 90, with nine or ten apparently being common. It used to be common practice in this country for a woman to ‘tie in’ (in bed) for a month following her confinement (this was so well-recognised that in the seventeenth century parishes paid for unmarried mothers to lie in, even though they were very reluctant to accept the collective responsibility for the care of fatherless children). Nowadays the length of stay in hospital, even following Caesarean section, which is a major operation, may only be three days. The consequence of financial cuts in the National Health Service can mean a maximum hospital stay of one or two days, even with a first baby. This leads women to feel that it is expected of them that they are up and active soon after the birth, regardless of the fact that the baby now has to be fed externally rather than internally and that the amount of milk you can offer a baby depends on your having enough energy to produce it.

There is a Chinese medical belief that a woman should spend ten days in bed following the birth of her child. This means that the risk of her getting postnatal depression is greatly reduced. This distressing illness is in any case less common in women having their babies at home, but it does seem to make sense to stay in bed for that period of time and have things done for you. For many women it is the only time that they do get a break from domestic routine. If you have only recently given up work it may be even more important to take time over the transition to motherhood. There is also evidence to suggest that failure to rest while your uterus returns to its pre-pregnancy size and shape will predispose you to uterine prolapse in later life. This may seem too remote to worry about, but is something you will certainly regret if it does occur. You really don’t get any marks for going running the day that your baby is born.

How you can help yourself
It is vital that you have someone with you in your home to prepare meals, do the washing, answer the door and phone, take the children to school or entertain them while you are asleep, and take the baby off your hands while you rest. This might be your partner, mother or mother-in-law, sister or friend, but it is important that they are prepared to do the job and will not be combining it with work, or only popping in occasionally.

— Have as many prepared meals in the freezer as possible, for the days following the postnatal period.
— Make sure that you eat and drink well.
— Make sure that you have the midwives’ number in case you or the baby need help. They are on call 24 hours a day if you need them.
— The midwife will bath your baby initially if you choose. If you have not done it before, wait until you feel strong before starting. Babies don’t need bathing every day.
— Enjoy the postpartum period and try and relax and rest — ideally with you both in bed — the baby just in a nappy and you just in pants and pad. It really is a very short time and there will be plenty of time for everything else later.
Visitors may be welcome, provided you see them while you are in bed and they or your helper make the tea. If they are staying too long, or expect you to look after them, you will have to insist on restricted visiting hours.

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