A mother’s ability to adjust to a home situation that includes other children will be greatly improved if the other children are allowed to visit her in the hospital. Visiting their mother will reduce any separation anxieties the children may be experiencing. Many hospitals allow children to visit their mother and new brother or sister. A number also allow children to be present for their sibling’s birth. Early involvement by all family members enhances family bonding.
Note: Have all visitors wash their hands well before handling the baby.
The length of the hospital stay will be determined by the mother’s health insurance, the health of the mother and baby, the needs of the other children at home, and monetary concerns.
Some mothers choose to be discharged hours after birth, while others prefer to stay the full 2 days. In many areas of the country, discharge within 24 hours after birth is common. A federal law that went into effect in 1997 mandates insurance companies to pay for no less than a 48-hour stay for women following a vaginal delivery and for no less than 96 hours following a cesarean. Most birth centers allow mothers to go home 4 to 6 hours after delivery, but provide daily phone consultations and a follow-up visit within 3 days after birth.
The new law grew out of a great concern over the decreasing amount of time women stayed in the hospital. A primary concern was that many breastfeeding women did not recognize the signs indicating that an infant is not receiving enough milk. The National Association of Childbearing Centers, whose members have had over 20 years of early discharge experience, has issued a statement saying that early discharge should be determined by the mother and her caregiver. Early discharge is appropriate only as part of a comprehensive program of care that includes intensive prenatal education and close postpartum and newborn follow-up. One benefit of early discharge is the avoidance of hospital-induced infections. The problems of early discharge are most likely related to lack of education and follow-up, rather than to the time of discharge.
During the hospital stay, the nursing staff will provide medical care for both you and your baby. You will be taught perineal care to prevent infection and to promote healing of the vagina and perineum. If you had an episiotomy or laceration, or if you have hemorrhoids, you will be offered medicated pads, an anesthetic spray, or a warm soaking called a sitz bath. In the first 24 to 48 hours after delivery, the body begins to eliminate the fluid that was retained during pregnancy. The nursing staff may ask you to urinate into a container several times to ensure that you are emptying your bladder adequately.
- Room-in with the mother and baby.
- Bring in a cake with a 0 candle and have a party.
- Bring your mate her favorite snacks and other foods.
- Learn how to change diapers.
- Encourage your mate to empty her bladder and do a super Kegel every 2 hours.
Because your abdominal muscles will be relaxed, your perineum will be sore, and perhaps you will have hemorrhoids, you may have difficulty moving your bowels. If a proper diet (fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and sufficient water) does not help, you can ask to have a stool softener prescribed. When cleaning yourself, make sure that you wipe from front to back to avoid fecal contamination and infection.
The nursing staff will monitor your vital signs along with observing the height and tone of your fundus, type and amount of lochia, and condition of your perineum. You can expect a daily visit from your caregiver and the baby’s pediatrician.
If you are an Rh-negative mother who gave birth to an Rh-positive infant, you will be given an injection of Rh-immune globulin (RhoGAM) within 72 hours after birth. This injection will prevent your body from producing antibodies that could endanger subsequent babies during pregnancy.
Hopefully, you can utilize the first few days of your baby’s life to the fullest in establishing a close family bond. Most hospitals have policies that promote mother-father-baby-sibling contact. If your hospital allows family involvement, make sure you take full advantage of it. If your hospital does not allow the options that are important to you, request them anyway. You need to make your wishes known. Perhaps the hospital will make allowances to accommodate your desires. Interaction and bonding of the family members during the first days after birth will help to promote a loving, thriving family.