10 Things You Should Know About the First Few Hours After Birth

Image adapted via Flickr/ MIKI Yoshihito (´・ω・)

When I had my first baby over eight years ago, I had never even seen a newborn, let alone held one before. I asked my mom all kinds of questions about what labor and delivery was going to be like and what to expect when I had a baby in my arms. She was a great help, and I was thankful she was in the room with me the entire time for support because I didn't realize just how many more questions I was going to have about my body and my newborn right after birth.

If you haven't given birth before, there are some things that may surprise you immediately after your baby is born. I was surprised by more than a few things that happened, so here are 10 things you should know about the first few hours after you give birth:

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You will feel tired.

Being tired makes sense if you've had a long drawn-out labor or if you've been up for hours and hours before, but even if you had a fast labor or a c-section, you will feel very tired and sore. You're going to use strength and muscles you didn't even know existed, and they will all hurt.

You may not feel immediately bonded.

I had always been told that the moment you see your baby for the first time, it will be magic. But for me, it wasn't. And that's OK. You're tired and hormonal, and you're getting to know this new human, but sometimes, that immediate bond doesn't happen. It will over time, so don't worry.

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After-birth pains hurt.

If you're expecting the labor contractions to be gone once the baby comes out of your body, you will be surprised. After-birth discomfort can be due to uterine contractions, just like labor, and you know what? It can hurt just as much. According to About.com, these “contractions after the birth help [the uterus to] shrink back down in about four to six weeks.” My mom warned me that the pain was going to be worse with the more children I had, and she was so, so right about that. Be sure to ask for extra pain management if you're finding it to be a big cause of discomfort, and check out these tips for handling the pain.

Image via Flickr/ mrplough

Even after a c-section you will bleed vaginally.

I just had my first c-section for my last child, and I was surprised that even after that I was bleeding. It made sense to me after my vaginal birth, but if you have a c-section, you will need to wear pads for 4-6 weeks postpartum as well. While I found the bleeding to be less than with a vaginal birth, I was still surprised with how much there was immediately after birth.


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It's normal if your baby wants to eat all the time.

Your milk won't come in for a few days, and while you're not starving your baby, the more they latch, the more that tells your body to start producing milk. It's not unusual or bad if it feels like your baby wants to eat all the time–it's totally normal. For tips on what to expect and how to breastfeed right after birth, read Tips on Breastfeeding After Birth by Dr. Sears and check out our Breastfeeding 101 course.

You'll probably be sweaty.

And you will probably sweat more than you thought possible. Due to the hormones and extra fluid you had through an IV during your labor, you might want to pack a few extra nightgowns in case.

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You'll still look pregnant.

If you expect to walk out of the hospital with a flat belly and fitting comfortably into your pre-pregnancy jeans, you'll probably be surprised to find your belly is still there. I noticed that right after birth I looked like I was still about five months pregnant, and the area was a lot softer than I had expected. It will slowly shrink as your uterus shrinks and your skin will start to tighten back up.

Image via Flickr/ gregoryrallen

You may gain weight, not lose weight.

If you step on the scale, don't be surprised if you gain weight. It's likely all due to extra fluid from drinking, the IV in the hospital, and some postpartum swelling. You'll see it slowly fall off with all that sweating you're about to do.

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Your baby's head may look weird.

If you've never seen the head of a brand new baby, don't worry–your baby is not destined to be a cast member in the remake of Coneheads. It can be shocking to see the results of the time spent in the birth canal, but the strange shape won't last forever. According to the doctors at Web MD, “not only will the head shape change (usually within 48 hours or less) that cone shape you see at birth is quite normal.”

No matter how tired you are, you'll stay up and stare at your baby.

After birth, you'll spend countless hours staring at all the features of your baby. You'll touch the curves on his ears, the little hairs on his forehead, and re-count all his fingers. You'll talk about his eye color, how much hair he has, and you'll compare his features to your partner and yourself, no matter how little sleep you've had or how tired you are.


Been there, done that mamas: What surprised you after giving birth?

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What do you think?

10 Things You Should Know About the First Few Hours After Birth

Devan McGuinness is the founder of the online resource Unspoken Grief, which is dedicated to breaking the silence of perinatal grief for those directly and indirectly affected by miscarriage, stillbirth and neonatal death. Using her own experience of surviving 12 miscarriages, Devan has been actively supporting and encouraging others who are wading through the challenges associated with perinatal and neonatal loss. Winner of the 2012 Bloganthropy Award and named one of Babble's “25 bloggers wh ... More

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  1. Katie says:

    Wow you really were naive about birth…..

  2. Reo says:

    We lucked out with our hospital and the staff there, they were amazing. I would recommend though that before the contractions really kick in make sure all your paper work is signed. I’d planned to have an epidural, but for me they had to induce labor because my water broke but I never had any contractions on my own. Hours later after they’d induced the anesthesiologist comes in to ask questions and have me sign more paper work. There were hours in which I was perfectly coherent that this should have been done. I was also surprised getting the epidural hurt almost as much as a contraction. Another thing that surprised/scared me enough to panic (which isn’t difficult to do to a woman who’s just given birth) was that it takes several days for your milk to come in, no body told me about that super milk colestrom and I thought I wasn’t producing enough. My girl was an eater (like her mama) from the get go and I honestly couldn’t keep up in the beginning as she was taking everything I had and was still hungry. Needless to say now it’s only a matter of hours before my breast become painfully hard and it feels like someone put rocks in there (which come to think about it was another surprise) along with the fact that some women don’t respond to the breast pump well.

  3. Mare says:

    Baby will have black poop in hospital..a girl may have blood in her diaper for your hormones…perfectly normal but a first time mother will call 911, if not informed.

  4. Marge says:

    The main thing I wasn’t told or didn’t realize is that labor contractions do not feel like menstrual cramps. For me, the intense pain was just above the pubic bone where the cervix is located. That makes sense since it’s the cervix that has to open so baby can come out. I just wish I had known exactly where the pain was going to be before it started since it rather surprised me.

  5. Johanna says:

    I was surprised how inconsistent all the information I got was, and how many people claimed to be authoritative,but offered completely contradictory information about nearly every topic in childbirth and rearing! Translation: do what works for you! As long as you love your baby, keep baby clean and fed and protected, you are doing what you need to. I was surprised how much I missed my mom. Nuf said. I was floored by how bad my highly rated hospital experience was! Neither my Dr. nor any of my 5 (sequential, not all at once) nurses apparently read my birth plan, (what was the point of the class I took at their hospital??). They wouldn’t let me push until I was dilated, even though I couldn’t stop my body from doing it. My nurse tried to force me into the bed because ‘it was dangerous for me to be standing during labor’, as if pushing hard on a laboring woman isn’t?! I was surprised that after the epidural, it didn’t really ease the pain until hours later, and it completely blocked my ability to feel myself push- not like I’d heard at all. What’s so great about something that eases the pain that you Need to feel, just to create more pain when you need to be feeling better? Help me out here!? I was surprised how far I tore, and how hard it was to go to the bathroom without feeling like I was tearing more. I could not believe that in our exhausted state after 15 hours of labor that started at 2 a.m., we were required to watch a bunch of horrifying videos about abuse to infants before they’d let us leave. I was emotional already. I had nightmares from those for weeks and still have not had the courage to let anyone babysit, 9 months later. They never let us or the baby sleep. Every hour they came in with some new annoying requirement. I was surprised how long my normally rock like abs were worthless and sore. I actually gave myself a hernia doing mild ab exercises over 2 months later, because my muscles just weren’t ready, despite what the doctor said. I was surprised I didn’t have any stretch marks on my stomach. I was amazed how kind and helpful the over-worked nurses were in the post-delivery area, and how great the baby was at nursing, despite my having no idea what to do. Leave it to a boy to find boobs with his eyes closed! My experience basically told me that no one’s experience is like any other, and the reason nobody answers your thousands of questions is because there are no real, correct answers for everyone. Nothing works for every person or every baby. You will make it anyway, no matter how clueless. Preparing for birth was largely unnecessary, because I couldn’t wear the clothes I brought since the dr needed to access the nethers, and the baby needed to access the uppers! Just prepare your mind to be unprepared, have the car seat installed wayyyy early, and find out before you can’t fit into the back seat that 90 some percent of all car seats are installed incorrectly, down to the tiniest details that aren’t in the instruction booklet. If you’ve never had a baby, and the last thing you want is other people around when you’re tired and can’t get dressed easily, do these things anyway!!!!! I would now have a house cleaner hired and ready, have a person to help with the baby, even if your husband will be home a while, and sign up for grocery delivery. You will both be so tired that you can’t be trusted to not walk into walls. And make sure you don’t have a tall or short bed. Getting in and out made me cry. So did how much I loved my kid! Holy cow! And so did the prayers I made for my husband and son to find a woman that loved them both at least as much as I did, because I was sure I wasn’t going to make it! Sigh, I wish I was joking. It sounds so over-dramatic now. I can’t figure out what everyone means by free time. WHAT FREE TIME!? I was also very surprised that You Do Not forget the pain!!! I will not give birth to another child if i can help it!! There are kids that need homes. That’s dumb. Kids should have homes, and if I want another lil Sweety, I will give them one, issues and all. Oh, and ‘sleeping like a baby’ means not sleeping. It means teeny little catnaps able to be interrupted by the smallest sounds, and the inability to sleep without being held. Good luck. You may or may not be about to be pushed past every limit you know. This is my contribution to your life, small as it is. Depend on Jesus, and try to believe you will make it. And don’t get mad. There’s no point. You’ll just feel bad about it, and the attention you need will be less forthcoming.

  6. Lolita says:

    I believe after-birth pain is not present with a very “first” baby.

  7. Angela says:

    The amount I bled after having my baby shocked me. I felt so bad that I kept leaking. I also was surprised at how little my son slept that first night. I think it was just the two of us getting to know each other and the fact that the bassinet he was in was uncomfortable for him.

  8. Maria says:

    I was surprised with how much I saw my body change after birth. I guess I wasn’t ready for what my body would look like. After my c-section, when they took the bandage off and I was able to shower, I looked at my body in the mirror and cried. I REALLY cried. I never thought about body after birth, I never had body issues, but looking in the mirror was such a shock I was not ready for.

  9. Ashleigh says:

    It freaked me out with my first child that she didn’t immediately cry when she was born. I had always thought that they pretty much come out screaming. lol.

  10. Rhonda says:

    After my c-section with my twins, I got to see them, but after I was all stitched up, I had to sit in recovery for an hour. It was the longest hour of my life. I had my Husband take pictures of all that I missed while in recovery. Things like There first footprints, my Daughter had to get a bottle and oxygen as her blood sugar was low, and them getting all washed u, Getting warmed up under the lights and weighed and measured. The new hospital is supposed to have in room recovery, so I look forward to getting to be with my baby for the first hour of life this time.
    Also, on checkout they filled several circles with babies blood for testing before we could leave. This was something I was not aware of, and ended up being traumatic for us as my baby girls foot wouldn’t bleed and not wanting to keep poking her she squeezed her foot until she was crying very hard and we had to ask her too please stop and try again. Was later informed that if anything like that is done we can ask them to stop and find someone else to do it.

    • Jessica says:

      When I had my 1st 3 I was unaware you can refuse all that happen to you and your babies. I don’t know about the recovery part. But I would have demanded my babies be in room with me. The first hours after birth are so important. And this go around, with my 5th, I am going to refuse ANY and ALL exams and testing for my baby. I will let her pediatrician do all that when I bring her in a day or two after her birth. With my 4th they “pricked” my daughter’s heel so deep. The hole was there for like a month or longer. I was beyond upset.

  11. sheena says:

    i remember each and every birth of my children my first 1 was vaginal 2nd 3rd 4th 5th all cesection i swear dont let anyone ever tell you that a cesection is the easy way out cause thats a BIG DAM LIE after having my first 1 my hips popped out of place and i wouldnt diliet for my 2nd kid i laid in labor 3 days water done broke with bad contractions but i wouldnt diliet and my hips wouldnt spread for the baby to come down so since my 2nd birth i have to have cesections cause my body want do what it sopost to when i had my first baby vaginal i was up and walking around after 4 days in labor in the first hour after my birth of my 2nd and so on with cesction your not aloud to get up for 12 hours are more and when your ready to get up and walk you dont want to cause for one it hurts like hell and 2nd every part of your body is sore and hurts and you walk like a old women it even hurts to pee poo cough everything but what kept me going even when i didnt want to was looking at the tiny little life i just brought in this world that is what kept me going cause i new all my kids needed me es the new baby i just had so labor is painful but ce section is the worst but some of us have no choose but to have a cesection

  12. Tabitha says:

    I remember every moment of my daughters birth. Except the pain. Thank Goodness! but the major thing that i DEFINITELY remember is that when she arrived… she was PURPLE! PLUS her umbilical cord was around her neck so of course my husband and i panicked when she didn’t cry in the first 5mins (actually 3seconds but thats how it feels when you panic during labor!) But apparently the purple color… totally natural! i really wish someone would have warned us! lol

    • diana says:

      i don’t think so… my fourth baby was also born BRIGHT purple, almost like barney, and he too had the cord wrapped around his neck, so I think that is what causes the coloring, because that is NOT normal…

      • meggan says:

        Newborns are purplish when born, they don’t pink up until they breath and get oxygen to their tissues.

        • Marissa says:

          I was told by my midwife it’s also normal for the cord to wrap around the baby’s neck. Sometimes several times around. Just depends on the length of the cord. It’s usually totally harmless.

          • Jessica says:

            The cord was wrapped around my daughter’s neck and my midwife just very calmly slipped it from around her neck like a necklace. It is very common for the cord to be around the neck. Seeing how much baby twist and turns in there. And for the most part is harmless. Seeing how they don’t actually breath till they are born. They get blood and oxygen from the placenta. I’m sure if it’s really tight then that could cause danger and problems cuz it can restrict blood flow.

          • Amanda says:

            As an OB nurse I can tell you that the cord being wrapped around is absolutely NOT normal and it is extremely dangerous, it is more common in longer cords but there are several other determining factors.

  13. Wendy says:

    I had a c-section and ended up with excruciating pain in my neck and shoulder. I thought I had pulled a muscle or something. A friend of mine said she had the same problem and a nurse said it was from the surgery and touching or irritating your diaphragm or something. That was something I never expected. What is with that c-section picture, how odd that not all the people are wearing masks, that is usually mandatory for everyone in an operating room.

  14. Amanda says:

    I don’t remember seeing my daughter right after birth. I was listening for her to cry. My husband said I held her for awhile but I just remember falling asleep for a few hours.

    • Leslie says:

      Mother Nature helps you out by letting you forget a lot about the birth, like pain. It takes a lot out of you having a baby and you were tired, so don’t stress about not remembering everything.

  15. Kristina says:

    Peeing hurts! This shocked me and I cried out the first time I had to tinkle after giving birth. Yeah, they give you that Peri-bottle thing for a reason. Be sure to use it because it does really help!

  16. Elaine says:

    I am surprised that the author was surprised to experience bleeding after a c-section. The doctor did not remove her uterus, I assume. That is where the bleeding was coming from.

    • Cara says:

      A lot of people might think that soon after giving birth you would stop bleeding. SImply because it isn’t always discussed and not really what a lot of people are thinking about as they approach labor. If you aren’t thinking about it, it can be surprising.
      I have heard a lot of women mention they were surprised to be bleeding after natural birth too – in the immediate you expect to be bleeding, but many people don;t know that 5 – 6 – 7 weeks later you can still be bleeding!

      • I’m preparing for my first child and have been reading SOOO many post like this about what to expect. I had no clue about the bleeding, hurting during peeing, cramps, no baths for a while, and so many other things. I feel fairly informed now but it seems like the info is not so readily shared. I guess because it’s scary, gross, weird stuff that we don’t want to scare women with, but I’d rather know the possibilities than be surprised or getting all this info right after labor. I bought a few supplies just in case (hemorrhoid cream, nipple cream, nursing pads, comfy not embarrassing nursing pjs in case of visitors, hand sprayer for shower), things I never would have thought of getting if I hadn’t read these posts. Good thing we have the internet now!

        • Megan Klay says:

          I’m so glad you found this information helpful, Samantha. That’s exactly why we put it out there – to share the things most people don’t tell you so you can at least be prepared! Best wishes to you for a safe and smooth labor and delivery, congrats on your pregnancy!

      • Leslie says:

        Normal is about a month. If you’re still bleeding that long after giving birth (6-7 wks. or more) you need to consult your doctor! Something could be wrong!


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