Postpartum Care

Although tending to a newborn will require plenty of time and attention, it is equally important for a new mother to take care of herself.  There are guidelines that should be followed during the first few weeks after delivery regarding diet, activity, breast care, and healing.  Proper postpartum care will be discussed with the patient, both before and after delivery.

Because patients are expected to be seen for their postpartum visit six weeks after delivering, they are encouraged to schedule these appointments as soon as possible. Patients who deliver via cesarian section are asked to schedule both their delivery and postpartum appointments at the same time, ensuring that the six week followup date is met. The postpartum visit is a good opportunity for new mothers to discuss any concerns with their provider.

Diet:

Maintaining a nutritious diet after pregnancy is very important, especially for breastfeeding mothers.  Remember that everything the mother eats will end up in the breast milk within two to four hours after consumption.  This will not only affect the taste of the milk, but can also affect the baby’s health.  It is also recommended to intake plenty of fluids throughout the day, to help produce an ample supply of milk.

Additionally, women who had episiotomies, or experienced perineal tearing during delivery, may notice some pain or discomfort during bowel movements.  Drinking plenty of water and maintaining a high fiber diet will help to keep stools soft.

Activity:

The first couple of days after returning home from the hospital may still be a bit challenging, but by gradually increasing activity each day, your body should feel back to normal within approximately six weeks.  Implementing a light exercise routine is appropriate after about two or three weeks after delivering.  However, abdominal exercises should be avoided until approved by a healthcare provider.

Breast Care:

The most important consideration for breastfeeding mothers should be whether or not the baby is appropriately latching on.  If not latching on properly, the baby may not be feeding well, and it may cause excessive tenderness to the nipples.  To help coax your baby into the proper latching position, make sure you are bringing your baby to your nipple, and not leaning down to reach the baby; try putting a pillow on your lap – resting the baby on this elevated surface will help put the baby at breast level.  Gently stroke your nipple across the baby’s cheek, until the mouth opens to receive the nipple.  Let your baby take your nipple, and most of your areola, about an inch deep into his/her mouth.

It is also recommended that you eat a healthy snack, and drink juice or water while breastfeeding.

Whether or not women decide to breastfeed, it is recommended to wear a firm and supportive bra, to help alleviate tenderness.

If you experience any complications while breastfeeding, please contact your provider.  While cracked or bleeding nipples are somewhat common for breastfeeding mothers, localized tenderness, hardening, or redness of the breast, associated with a fever or flu-like symptoms, may suggest signs of mastitis.

Healing:

During delivery, the body undergoes a lot of stress.  Proper postpartum care should be taken for approximately six weeks, until wounds are healed, and the body is back to normal.  Vaginal bleeding is normal for about two to six weeks after delivery.  The flow should gradually lessen and become darker in color.  Avoid using tampons, and stick with sanitary napkins, instead.  If persistent bleeding continues, and you are changing pads every hour, contact a healthcare provider.  A provider should also be contacted if there is a foul smelling vaginal discharge, or passing of golf ball-sized blood clots.

Women who undergo episiotomies, or perineal tearing, during delivery, will experience different levels of vaginal soreness.   To alleviate this pain or tenderness, try placing an ice pack, or a chilled witch hazel pad between a sanitary napkin and the wound.  The wound should always be kept clean.  After urination or bowel movements, the area should be rinsed clean, and patted dry; pouring warm water over the wound during urination may also help soothe the pain.