What Happens in the Hours After Birth?
If you are preparing to welcome a baby (or multiples!), congrats! You may be wondering what you should expect after your baby is born. You may have heard all about how to make a birth plan and prep for labor and what to pack in your hospital bag and all that kind of good stuff, but perhaps you could use a little more information on what exactly will happen to your baby — and what kind of hospital care he or she will receive.
After working several years as a labor and delivery nurse, I can give you a few clues as to what you can expect from those first hours and even days at the hospital with your little one.
Here's what you can expect:
Right after your baby is born, your hospital care should include delayed cord clamping, in keeping with the most recent recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics. Anywhere from 30-60 seconds is preferred for all babies and especially any baby born before 37 weeks. After that, or even while that is happening, your baby should be placed on your chest for immediate skin-to-skin care, providing your baby does not need any medical intervention. Your nurse can do all of your baby's first routine care, such as taking her temperature and counting her heart rate, and it can all be done while your baby is right on your chest.
After birth is usually a pretty calm time for most babies that don't need any special intervention. Your nurse will monitor both you and the baby at regular intervals, and then most babies go into a period of deep sleep after birth — this is why it's important to nurse right away if you will be breastfeeding before your baby is too tired! If your baby is either larger-than-average or smaller-than-average, he or she will also get blood sugar testing as part of the hospital care, which is just a small prick on the heel to measure the amount of sugar in the bloodstream.
What your baby needs at birth
Sometime in the few minutes birth, your baby will receive a Vitamin K shot and get erythromycin ointment in her eyes. The Vitamin K shot is mandatory hospital care for newborns in most states because it can save a baby's life by helping his blood clot. So, if you have any opposition to it, you will want to talk to your doctor about the shot in advance.
The ointment, on the other hand, is pretty optional, although it's highly recommended because it doesn't hurt your baby in any way and can prevent any potential eye infections that could cause blindness. If you've had any type of sexually-transmitted infection during your pregnancy, for example, you will want to make sure your baby has the ointment.
The amount of testing that is done in the first few hours after birth is pretty minimal. It is helpful to know what to expect, as well as to be aware of the most important thing you and your baby need to do after delivery — which is plenty of cuddling and getting lots of rest. You've both earned it.