"Can I Hold My Baby Yet?"- Postpartum Care and Your Baby

I have been wanting to write more often but it has been a little tougher after having number three- so forgive me for not offering more references to back up my opinions. Here goes-

My First Birth-

I have always wanted to have my babies naturally and so I got ready for the first by taking a Bradley Method childbirth class. It was wonderful, and along with the other studying I did it was great preparation for a natural birth. One thing that I did not think about much though was postpartum care. I was so wrapped up in accomplishing this natural birth that I hardly considered what came after.

I was able through some knowledge and some luck to have a natural birth in a hospital setting with the help of a wonderful midwife and my husband. I knew that the baby would be taken for a while after the birth to be checked but I felt fine about that as long as my husband was with him.

After the birth I tried to nurse immediately but with the noise, 10 people in the room, and all the bright lights, not to mention me laying flat on my back so I could get stitched up, it just did not work out.

When I was wheeled up to the recovery room, as soon as I got there a nurse came to take my baby so that he could be cleaned and "checked". I was not too worried about it since hubby went along to watch out for him.

I had had a very long labor and second stage so I was exhausted. Everybody told me to get some sleep. I tried but- was totally wired and could not sleep for even a minute. I just lay in my hospital bed wondering when he would be brought back to me.

Finally he did come back, by now it had been over an hour and he was clean but fast asleep. Thus began a few weeks of jaundice, overly tired baby, and a frustrated mom trying desperately to breastfeed her first child but fighting an uphill battle.

What Happened?

As it turns out, both baby and mother are programed to be alert for a short time immediately after the birth. This is natures way of having an awake mother and baby even after a long and tiring ordeal so that they can not just nurse but get to know each other.

If we take the baby from the mother almost immediately after the birth what happens? We get an mother full of endorphins and oxytocin (love hormones) sitting alone in her room with no baby to bond with or nurse. We also get a baby spending the first few hours of its life surrounded by strangers in a bright room who incessantly poke, prod, and clean it.

What we do not get is an easy transition into motherhood or a smooth start to the breastfeeding relationship.

My Second Birth

Though happy with my hospital experience overall, by the time I had my second I was ready to try an out of hospital birth, for two reasons. One, I was in Texas where it was difficult to find a natural childbirth friendly hospital, and second, I was not pleased with the common hospital practice of removing the baby from its mother right after birth.

My daughter was born in a dimly lit room. Besides my husband there were only three other people there, my midwife, her assistant, and a prospective midwife. It was quiet, dark and peaceful. She was not breathing immediately so was checked out briefly and then handed to me rather quickly. I was holding her probably within 15 minutes of the birth.

I was amazed how easy it was to nurse her. I was half expecting the same battle that had occurred before, but it never came. Naturally born babies are born wanting to nurse and suck, and if mom knows some basic things about breastfeeding and is given the proper help and encouragement, breastfeeding is much easier.

I was so much happier with this experience and in particular with the postpartum care that I was in love with the out of hospital birth experience.

My Third

I recently had the blessing of having my third baby at home. I thought that the experience in the birth center was wonderful but this was even better and less inter feared with.

My baby was handed to me immediately after the birth. I held her until the placenta delivered. The cord was not even cut until after the delivery of the placenta. Nobody took her (though my mom tried!) except for family that I let hold her.

Babies do need to be checked over a little after they are born and she was- about 2 hours later. My midwives policy was to not take a healthy baby for the first 2 hours of life.

She nursed easily within a few minutes after birth and it has been such a blessing to be the first to hold and talk to my baby. I had never felt such a strong bond.

Why This Matters

Babies need their mothers- but mothers also need their babies. We need to hold them, love and nurse them for as long as needed after birth. Not only does it help with things like postpartum hemorrhage, but it causes our body to release oxytocin, which in turn, helps us form a fierce and protective bond with our baby.

How many women have you met who experience severe postpartum depression? How many have trouble with nursing, with feeling connected to their baby, their body and their birth? Maybe you are one of them. I know that I was after my first birth. I had accomplished what I had set out to, but the time away from my baby at such a special and sensitive moment was difficult. Looking back I realize what a big difference that separation made in my bonding with him. I spent many hours crying and feeling sad over trouble nursing that was not necessary.

SO MANY WOMEN GO THROUGH THIS- and so often is is just a matter of poor, outdated hospital policy to take a baby than any need. When you pick your birth place check on their postpartum policies. Many hospitals now can do any checks in your room with you there. This is something that is totally worth looking into and demanding. When we make our voices heard we create change.


Excellent post, as usual! Your descriptions of your three different birth experiences is eye-opening.
Janae said…
I LOVE this post. Thanks for sharing.