If you and your baby are released early from hospital, when you get home you are bound to be excited, but also tired, overwhelmed and probably wondering ‘what do I do now?’
The reality of bringing a baby home from the hospital or birth centre, especially if you are first-time parents, can be an overwhelming experience. You have probably done your best to prepare for life with a newborn – going to antenatal classes and setting up the nursery, for example – but nothing can really prepare you for what it’s actually like when you first get home.
Surviving without round-the-clock care
Many women usually spend a couple of days in hospital where the midwives and hospital staff can help you with feeding, settling, bathing and nappy changing. This also gives you a chance to get some sleep to help in your recovery.
But if you are discharged early from the hospital – in some cases on the same day you have your baby – you will find yourself at home having to do all these things by yourselves.
If you have a partner, make sure you rely on and support each other as much as possible. Mum will need some time to recover from giving birth, and will be sore and tired. Partners can help out as much as possible by doing nappy changes and preparing meals.
Don’t worry if the house is a mess! It’s best in the first few days that you limit the amount of family and friends that come over to meet the new addition to the family.
If you don’t have a partner, ask a close relative or friend to spend a few days with you to help out while you find your feet.
Your baby will also be adapting to their new environment and this is sometimes referred to as the ‘fourth trimester‘. Remember that you and your baby are in this together and will learn along the way.
Your baby will eventually start to develop a routine. Newborn babies mostly sleep, eat, cry and poo and you’ll probably soon learn the difference between an “I’m hungry” cry and “I need my nappy changed” cry.
Before you leave the hospital, your midwife may organise a time to come and visit you at home to check on how you and your baby are going. You will also have your first appointment with your local child health nurse at home after about a week. They will also check on the health and wellbeing of you and your baby and you should use this time to ask lots of questions.
Looking after yourself
As hard as it may sound, you need to make sure to look after your own health and mental wellbeing when you get home from the hospital with your baby. Getting some sleep, eating healthily and, when you are ready, doing some gentle exercise, will all help your body and mind recover from giving birth.
The best time for you to try to catch up on sleep is when your baby is sleeping. Ask your partner, a close family member or a friend to look after your baby for a couple of hours if you need a break or some rest.
Some parents prepare and freeze a few meals in advance before the baby is due, so you have some quick meals ready to go – or ask a friend to make some freezer-friendly meals for you.
Where can I go for help?
If you find yourself home from hospital early and not sure what to do, there are a number of online and phone services to give you advice and support.
- Your doctor, midwife or child health nurse.
- Pregnancy, Birth and Baby – speak to a maternal child and health nurse on: 1800 882 436
- Australian Breastfeeding Association on: 1800 686 268
- PANDA – speak to a counsellor on: 1300 726 306 if you or your partner are struggling with depression
- www.cope.com.au : online support for new parents
Pregnancy, Birth and Baby is a trusted government service that is providing answers for mums in this time of uncertainty. The service has a dedicated online COVID-19 hub, (www.pregnancybirthbaby.org.au/covid-19-information-for-pregnancy-and-parents), that has received 85,000 visits in its first month after going live. The website has also seen a spike in people looking for information on home births, with traffic to these pages rising by as much as 200 per cent compared to this time last year.