What to Expect During the First Weeks Home with Your Newborn
by Laura Roe Stevens
Expect to get blind-sided with myriad of parenting skills to master while battling sleep deprivation during your first few weeks home with your newborn. It will be a whirlwind of new activities, but it was surprising to me just how obsessed my life became with caca. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself, like I was, charting the numbers of poopy and wet diapers in a log! There are other matters to face too: such as swaddling, C-section or episiotomy pain, engorgement, jaundice, etc. Suffice it to say, you are entering a world that you are likely completely unprepared for. This story will hit the highlights to help ease you into this new period in your life.
The Scoop on Poop.
“Who knew the little fella had it in him?” my husband said in between gulps of laughter (that did follow an initial screech) as we watched a stream of green goo slide down the nursery wall. Our one-week-old son exploded this projectile poop after his father took off his little diaper. (Note to self: always cover the area before removing a diaper.) My husband will never forget that moment. You have to laugh and roll with it. Here’s the poop on your infant’s first bowel movements:
- Meconium will be the first bowel movement, usually within the first twenty-four hours of birth. You may miss this because nurses in the hospital are helping.
- Once home, if breastfeeding, expect mustard yellow, grainy, runny poops. Formula-fed first poops are tan and smooth, but not hard. If you see hard poops, call the doctor.
- Your pediatrician may ask/suggest that you log the number of poops and/or diaper changes, especially if you are breastfeeding, as it helps you determine if your baby is getting enough. Typically, expect many poops a day if exclusively breastfeeding for the first month. After that, it slows down a bit. In the first weeks, it is totally normal to have a poopy diaper after each breastfeed.
OUCH: Should I feel like this?
First of all, take it easy, especially after a C-section.
“C-sections definitely hurt. It can hurt more than you think. I didn’t exercise for a while afterwards. And I mourned the last Percocet! I loved them! … The only advice I can give is to try not to overcompensate for the pain. I walked hunched over for a while—trying to alleviate some of the pain. In the end, my back was hurting me. I’ll definitely be aware of it next time,” advises Caroline Wilbert, a mom of two and DivineCaroline’s Career & Money Editor.
“I was so exhausted and sick from the pain medications for my emergency C-section that I could barely take care of Miles (my first son) and was unable to see visitors,” says Julie Warner-Miccichi, a mother of three. If you have an emergency C-section, as Julie did after twenty-four hours of labor and one hour of pushing, your body needs extra TLC. Try to find help—whether you hire a doula (See: A Mother’s Helper) or rely on family and friends.
Another mom of two from California admits to going back to work too soon after a C-section because she didn’t realize how painful the healing process was while she was on painkillers. After going back, she busted a stitch by being too active. Another mom says she dealt with an infection at the site of her cesarean incision because she wasn’t taking better care of herself. It’s easy to do—being sleep deprived and caring for a newborn is taxing. (See: Finding Time for Yourself in the Infant Haze)
These stories aren’t meant to scare you—just to help you realize that C-sections are not light procedures, but surgery. If possible, take the time you need to heal.
Mellow Yellow—Signs of Jaundice.
If your infant has a yellowish tint, chances are, she has jaundice. My son had jaundice within the first week and we had to go back to the hospital so he could rest in an ultra-violet light incubator. Another indicator of jaundice is green poop.
Jaundice is caused by excess bilirubin in the blood. Bilirubin is a chemical produced by the normal breakdown of red blood cells. Normally bilirubin passes through the liver and is excreted as bile through the intestines. Jaundice occurs when bilirubin builds up faster than a newborn’s relatively sluggish liver can break it down and pass it from the body.
Jaundice occurs in healthy newborns and is usually at its highest when a baby is three-to-five days old, according to Dr. Mitchell Rubin, Vice President for Ambulatory Care and Community Medicine for Nassau Health Care Corporation in Long Island, New York.
“Most infants actually have a mild degree of jaundice that is harmless. The best way to see jaundice is in good light, such as under fluorescent lights or in front of an open window. It usually appears first in the face, and then, as levels increase, is visible on the chest, abdomen, arms, and then legs. The whites of the eyes may also be involved,” Rubin explains.
High levels of bilirubin and severe jaundice may cause brain damage, so call your doctor if:
- Your baby’s skin turns more yellow.
- The abdomen, arms, or legs are yellow.
- The whites of the eyes are yellow.
- In the presence of any level of jaundice, your baby is feeding poorly or is unusually fussy or sleepy.
Dolly Parton Breasts for All!
I’m sure you’ve read about engorgement, but man, it’s rough. I remember feeling like a cow whose utters needed to be milked urgently. It’s not fun. The best advice I received from lactation consultants and nurses at UCLA-Santa Monica Hospital is to use a bag of frozen peas. They work wonders! So when yours start the painful swelling, make sure you have several bags in the freezer and then rotate placing them against your breasts in between feedings.
Mastering the Latch.
I remember when I had just given birth to my son, a childless friend said to me, “It’s so cute watching him breastfeed, it’s just like a little kitten—it’s so natural.” I smiled, and bit my tongue remembering my battle scars as my little barracuda wreaked havoc on my breasts. I didn’t mention the late afternoon panicked race to the lactation consultant when my six-day-old son refused to latch on correctly all day and my breasts were so engorged I thought they’d explode. Breastfeeding may be natural, but it ain’t easy. See if your hospital has lactation consultants on staff. Mine did and I received a visit five days in a row—and *still* had trouble at home. They are life-savers and can watch and assist you as you get your little one latched on correctly. I advise you to take the phone number of a lactation consultant who does house calls while you’re in the hospital, just in case you need help at home. (See: Yes, Breast is Best: So Why Is It So Hard?)
The Late-Night Burrito—It’s Not Like It Used to Be.
Swaddling is something you may be practicing in a parenting class. I found it really helpful and it seemed to comfort my son tremendously in his first month. Basically you wrap your baby up like a burrito. Lay the blanket in a diamond shape, with your baby at the point with another point at her feet and two points angling out from each shoulder. Fold the bottom one in over her body, wrap one side in and tuck it beneath her little bottom. Wrap the other side all the way around her and pick her up snugly in your arms. This is to simulate how snug and secure she felt inside your womb.
Hot Potato—When to Worry over Fever.
Fevers are of great concern with newborns. Call your physician immediately upon any sign of fever in the first few months. If your child is wrapped tightly or is in a warm sleeping gown, remove them first before taking her temperature. The easiest way to determine at this age if she has a fever is by touch. So put your cheek to hers or touch her forehead. To be sure, you can also take her temperature with a thermometer in her anus. Most experts agree that if your baby is under three months old and the temperature is at 100.4º F or higher, call the doctor immediately.