9 Tips on What To Expect at the Hospital After Delivery by a Postpartum Nurse

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If you’re expecting, congratulations! If you are wondering what to expect at the hospital after delivery, you have come to the right place. I am a postpartum mother/baby nurse. This means I take care of both mom and baby after delivery. I absolutely love my job and I would love nothing more than to walk you through what to expect in those first hours and a couple of days after birth.

This is a very smart question to ask. Most expectant mothers only think about the birthing process when they think about going to the hospital. The after part often comes as a complete shock.

Having some idea of what to expect is not only going to help calm your nerves, but it will also help you make some important decisions. For example, what you really need to pack in your hospital bag, and the topic of visitors, etc.

Now, we are going to keep this on the lighter side and more basic. Every delivery is different, and every family is different. Different with their health needs, emotional needs, spiritual beliefs, etc. So we will keep this basic and you can keep your own unique circumstances in the back of your mind as you go through these tips.

1. Mom and baby will both be assessed by your nurse (or nurses)

Most hospitals have moved to “couplet care” where one nurse takes care of you and your baby. However, there are still many hospitals that have a postpartum department and a nursery department. If that is the case, mom and baby will have different nurses.

I personally get to take care of both mom and baby, which I love. I love that I get to be in the know on all things mom and all things baby. Either way, you and your baby will each be looked after by a nurse, or nurses.

For mom, we are checking uterus placement with gentle palpation, and we monitor your bleeding after delivery as well. We will administer any medications your doctor prescribes, and keep your bathroom toiletries stocked. You will go through a lot of those by the way.

For baby, we grab a set of vitals to get a baseline, and we look the baby over “head to toe”, making sure everything looks like it’s within normal range. Your baby will also get a full assessment from either the hospital neonatologist and/or their pediatrician.

what to expect at the hospital after delivery

2. Feeding your baby becomes the priority pretty much immediately after birth

I think it is important for you to know that feeding your baby is going to become your full-time job pretty much immediately after delivery. When it comes to what to expect at the hospital after delivery, this one oftentimes shocks first-time moms.

The baby was used to being constantly nourished in the womb by your blood supply, and now that they are out, they are completely dependent on an outside source of nourishment.

So, you can either breastfeed or formula feed. You can even do a combination of both. Either way, the baby will need to eat every 2-3 hours around the clock to prevent their blood sugars from dropping. Here is an article by medlineplus.com that discusses hypoglycemia in the newborn in more detail.

Most hospitals have protocols in place and will check babies at risk for hypoglycemia in the immediate post-delivery stage, and before the first few feedings. Thankfully these things are caught earlier now.

Feeding gaps can also cause hypoglycemia and this is obviously preventable. So your nurses will likely stay on top of how often your baby is eating and for how long. If your baby is formula-fed, we will monitor how much they eat in ounces or milliliters.

Babies are very sleepy for the first 24-48 hours after delivery and are not very good at waking themselves up to eat. So it’s recommended to set alarms on your phone, even in the hospital. Nurses can get busy with other patients, and won’t be there for every feed.

3. Your pain control is a priority

There’s no other way to say it other than birth is painful. Sometimes there are tears to the mother’s perineum after birth. Even if you don’t tear, you are going to use muscles you didn’t know you had to push your baby out. So expect to be very sore for a few days to a week.

As a postpartum nurse, my priority is keeping you comfortable so you feel good enough to walk around your room. Your baby is going to need a lot from you so I want you to feel good enough to do that. Your physician will likely prescribe a couple of different pain medications after birth we can alternate between. They are normally nothing very strong, usually just a Motrin and Tylenol. But they do help a lot.

There are also non-pharmacological methods we can use. For example, if your hospital room has a bathtub, we recommend getting in there 3-4 times daily. Don’t add salts or bubbles, just a comfortable hot water temperature for you. This helps soothe the cramps and the perineum. It’s a great pain control method if the pain is starting to creep back up, especially when you can’t have medicine for a few more hours.

Ask your doctor about Dermoplast spray and Witchhazel pads. I would call your hospital and see if they have those available, and if not, you might want to bring them with you. They help a lot as well.

4. Everyone you know is going to want to come to the hospital to visit you and your baby

I get it. This is such an exciting time. The people in your life have waited a long time to meet your baby too.

However, just keep in mind you are likely going to be exhausted, and in pain. Also, if you’re breastfeeding, your chest is going to be exposed… Like, a lot. Pretty much all day long.

Breastfeeding does not come easy for most first-time moms. Babies are very uncoordinated, and sleepy, and can get very frustrated because they are hungry. These first few days can be very stressful for mom and baby. There is nothing wrong with setting boundaries right now with visitors in advance. If breastfeeding is an important goal to you, this is something you should seriously consider.

Only allow visitors at the hospital who you don’t mind seeing the twins… and I don’t mean baby twins.

Having uncles, sisters’ husbands, friends’ boyfriends, etc… You get the picture. It adds another element of stress to the whole experience. You are going to want to be able to put baby to breast on demand, and that is hard with a room full of visitors coming in and out all day.

Most hospitals are discharging healthy moms and babies around 24 hours after delivery. So think about who really needs to see you in those vulnerable first hours in the hospital, and who will be okay to wait until you get home shortly after.

what to expect at the hospital after delivery

5. There are going to be a lot of diaper changes, so save the cute complicated clothes for home

In the first hours after birth, the baby will start passing a stool called meconium. It is a very sticky substance. I like to tell parents that once the first little bit comes the floodgates are now open.

You will probably want to change the baby’s diaper before every feed, which remember, is every 2-3 hours. And if you hear them pass meconium, wait until you haven’t heard it anymore after about 5 minutes, then change it. You don’t want that sitting in their diaper too long or it gets really stuck to their bottom.

So as you can probably see, it’s not the best time to put them in onesies with 20 buttons, or complicated sleep sacks, etc. Bring clothes that are super easy for diaper changes.

6. Your sleep needs to be a priority

Labor is an exhausting experience. Many moms don’t sleep well the night before either. The anticipation of an induction, or scheduled C-section. Or contractions all through the night. Most moms are not set up for success. Mother nature can be so cruel.

If the hospital you deliver at has a nursery, don’t feel guilty for using that service. The nursery is staffed with nursery nurses who literally specialize in caring for babies. They are the best babysitters you are ever going to have.

So ask your nurses for help. Get those naps in between feeds. Try to go home as rested as possible.

I didn’t do this when I had my daughter and I will always regret that. My first few days home I had the worst brain fog ever and I was not able to enjoy those first few days of bringing my daughter home. I don’t want that for my patients, so I prioritize their sleep.

7. Your food and drink choices matter after delivery

You will likely be NPO before delivery. This means nothing by mouth. This is usually standard in most hospitals for if there were ever a situation where you need to go back for a C-section.

If you have a long labor, that is a long time without food. This goes for planned C-sections as well.

For your first meal keep it on the lighter side, high in protein, and something you enjoy. Some examples would be your favorite grilled chicken sandwich or a Subway sandwich. Even fresh sushi could be a good choice. These are filling, balanced, and high in protein which you will need to promote healing.

Some foods immediately after birth I don’t recommend are greasy cheeseburgers, pizza, hot wings, or Mexican food.

I have seen moms feel very yucky after eating these as their first meal after delivery. Especially my C-section mamas. These foods are hard to digest and can cause heartburn which is no fun when you are already in pain and exhausted.

So have a meal plan in place before you go to the hospital. Have a set person who is going to pick up your food. Hospitals have food too but sometimes it’s nice to eat something familiar, especially for your first meal after birth. Food is also a celebration, so it should be a treat for you as well.

8. There is a lot of education after delivery from many different people

Expect a lot of people coming into your room to talk to you about the next steps. Doctors, nurses, birth certificates, lactation, hearing screen, etc.

You will get a lot of education from your nurses especially. This is another reason to make sure you are getting plenty of rest when and where you can. There is a lot of information to remember, and you don’t want the brain fog to let you forget to make important appointments.

Before you have your baby, this is a great time to write down a list of questions you have. Bring them to the hospital and get them answered. That way you can go home set up for even more success.

Putting in the search of what to expect at the hospital after delivery is an important first step in your education, so kudos for getting ahead.

9. You will want to bring your baby’s car seat to the hospital room

Now that baby can’t be carried by your body, they will need a car seat. Most hospitals won’t discharge you without the baby being walked down in a car seat. After all, it would be irresponsible for hospitals not to ensure there is adequately safe transportation home.

Additionally, most hospitals have certified car seat educators. This is a great opportunity to make sure your car seat is safe for your baby and that the baby is secured properly.

I have been seeing more parents bring the car seat up right away. That way when it’s discharge day, Dad doesn’t have to tear himself away and take a long walk to and back from the car. He could potentially miss some important information. So just get it over with and get it to your room as soon as possible.

What to expect at the hospital after delivery: Conclusion

As we said in our introduction, this is a generalized idea of what to expect. Every hospital is different, and every family is different. However, you will likely have a very similar experience to what we laid out in this article.

Take advantage of the hospital tours in your area. Also, tour ALL of your hospital options. I didn’t do that, and I regret it to this day. I always wondered if I had toured the other hospital, would I have made a different choice, and had a better experience?

Explore all of your options, and go with the hospital that aligns with your birth plan the most.

Please comment below if you agree or if you have anything to add. To learn more about the creator of Midlife Nursing, read here.

Jackie Jimenez BSN, RN
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