You and your baby On this page: Feeding your newborn Before you go home Going home Getting to know your baby Your Recovery Feeding your newborn It’s never too early to start thinking about how you’re going to feed your baby. But you do not have to make up your mind until your baby is born. How you feed your newborn is your choice. Breastfeeding In the first few days, you and your baby will be getting to know each other. It may take time for both of you to get the hang of breastfeeding. This happens more quickly for some women than others. But nearly all women produce enough milk for their baby. It’s good to find out as much as you can about breastfeeding before you have your baby. It will help you feel more confident when you start breastfeeding your baby. Read more here. Bottle feeding One of the advantages of bottle feeding is that your partner can enjoy this precious time too. It’s such a lovely moment to connect, look into your baby’s eyes, and enjoy the cuddle. You are able to bottle feed your baby with expressed breast milk or infant formula Expressed breast milk Expressing milk means squeezing milk out of your breast so you can store it and feed it to your baby later. You can express milk by hand or with a breast pump. How often you express your milk, and how much you express, will depend on why you are doing it. If you’re expressing breast milk because your baby is premature or sick, ask the hospital staff caring for your baby for advice. You can learn more about expressing breast milk by visiting the NHS website here Infant formula milk Formula milk, also known as baby formula or infant formula, is usually made from cows’ milk that has been treated to make it more suitable for babies. There’s a wide range of different formula brands and types in the shops. Always check labels carefully to make sure you’re buying a suitable milk for your baby. Formula milk provides babies with the nutrients they need to grow and develop. However, it doesn’t have the same health benefits as breast milk for you and your baby, for example, it can’t protect your baby from infections. Before you go home After you have had your baby and depending on your birth experience you may need to stay in hospital for a period of time. You will move from the place where you gave birth to either the Maternity Ward at Gloucestershire Royal Hospital, The Women’s Centre. Here midwives will give you any support you may need with your recovery, feeding and looking after your baby. You can read more about the Maternity Ward on the Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation trust website here. Partners staying overnight Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust now offers partners the opportunity to stay overnight with new mothers and their babies in the bedside chairs that are provided. Find out more about partners staying overnight here. Going home Once you and your baby are ready to go home, you will be given your hand-held notes and the ‘Red book’. This is your baby’s personal health record and contains information and growth charts to keep track of their weight, their immunisation records and development records. Remember to take this book with you whenever you take your baby to see your midwife, health visitor or GP. You will also be given some leaflets before you leave the hospital. These will include information about postnatal exercises, where you can find support with feeding your baby, and registering your baby’s birth. For more information about registering your baby’s birth or to book your appointment click here. Car seat safety Unless you are walking home from hospital, you will need a car seat for your baby that is suitable for a newborn. It is a good idea to practice attaching the car seat properly in your car before your baby arrives so that you can quickly make the journey home Going home can seem daunting – there is lots to know about your new baby. If you notice anything that worries you, however small, speak to your midwife. Getting to know your baby Going home can seem daunting – there is lots to know about your new baby. Many new parents worry about whether their baby is getting enough milk, for example. Your midwife will ask about the colour of your baby’s poo and this is because what’s in a nappy can tell us a lot about baby’s wellbeing. Read more about nappy care on the NHS Choices webpage here. If you notice anything that worries you, however small, speak to your midwife. You’ll probably spend a large part of the first few days after birth looking at your baby. Coping with a crying baby It is normal for babies to cry. Crying begins to gradually increase from two weeks. In the first month, periods of crying will become longer, reaching a peak when your baby is around two months old. Persistent crying in babies can be very stressful for new parents. Remember you can cope! There are several methods of comforting your baby that can help, but if the crying is getting to you and the baby is safe, it is ok to walk away. Never, ever shake a baby. It can cause lasting brain damage or death. Speak to someone if you need support, such as your family, friends, midwife, GP or Health Visitor. Visit www.iconcope.org for more information. You can download and edit a support resource here. Umbilical cord care Shortly after birth, the midwife will clamp your baby’s umbilical cord with a plastic clip, close to the belly button. The midwife or your birth partner will then cut the cord – leaving a small part, with the clamp attached. The cord takes about a week to dry out and drop off. Keep it clean and dry until it does. If you notice any bleeding or discharge, tell your midwife, health visitor or GP. Fontanelles (soft spots) On the top of your baby’s head, near the front, is a diamond-shaped patch where the skull bones haven’t fused together yet. There is another, smaller, soft spot towards the back of their head. These are called the fontanelles. It will probably be a year or more before the bones close over. There’s no need to worry about touching or washing the fontanelles because they are covered by a tough protective membrane. Your baby's breasts and genitals Quite often, a newborn baby’s breasts are a little swollen and ooze some milk, whether they are a boy or a girl. Both boys’ and girls’ genitals often appear swollen initially but will look normal within a few weeks. Baby girls also sometimes bleed a bit or have a white, cloudy discharge from the vagina. All this is caused by hormones passing from you to your baby before birth. There’s no need to be concerned. Boys’ testicles develop inside their body and sometimes take a while to descend into the scrotum. A health professional will check whether they have descended as part of the newborn physical examination. Your baby's skin At birth, the top layer of your baby’s skin is very thin and easily damaged. Over the first month, or longer for premature babies, your baby’s skin matures and develops its own natural protective barrier. Vernix , the white sticky substance that covers your baby’s skin while in the womb, should always be left to absorb naturally. It’s a natural moisturiser that also protects your baby against infection in the first few days. If your baby is overdue, their skin may be dry and cracked. This is because all the protective vernix has been absorbed before they were born. It’s best to bath your baby with plain water only for at least the first month. If you need to, you can also use some mild, non-perfumed soap. Avoid skin lotions, medicated wipes or adding cleansers to your baby’s bath water. Don’t use any creams or lotions, as they may do more harm than good. The top layer of your baby’s skin will peel off over the next few days, leaving perfect skin underneath. If your baby has been cared for in the neonatal unit, staff will advise you on skincare. Jaundice in newborns When they’re about 3 days old, some babies develop mild jaundice. This will make their skin and the whites of their eyes look a bit yellow. It’s caused by pigments released during the breakdown of old red blood cells. It’s more common in babies delivered by forceps or ventouse. It usually fades on its own within about 10 days, but more severe jaundice may need treatment. If you are worried, please contact your midwife. To find how newborn jaundice is treated please visit the NHS Choices website here. If your baby develops jaundice in their first 24 hours, they should be checked by a health professional straight away. Birthmarks The most common birthmarks in newborns are the little pink or red V-shaped marks on the forehead, upper eyelids or neck that some people call “stork marks” or “salmon patches”. They gradually fade, but it may be a few months before they disappear completely. Dark red and slightly raised “strawberry marks” (infantile haemangioma) are quite common. They sometimes appear a few days after birth and gradually get bigger. They may take a while to go away, but they usually disappear gradually. You can read more about birthmarks on the NHS Choices website here Newborn spots and rashes Spots and rashes are very common in newborn babies. They may come and go, but if you also notice a change in your baby’s behaviour – for example, if your baby isn’t feeding well, or is very sleepy or very irritable – tell your midwife or GP immediately. Bumps and bruises It’s common for a newborn baby to have some swelling and bruises on their head, and perhaps bloodshot eyes. This is caused by squeezing and pushing during birth, and is particularly common in babies who have been delivered by forceps or ventouse. It will soon disappear but, if you’re worried, you can ask your midwife about it. Your baby's eyes Your newborn’s eyes will be checked shortly after birth as part of their newborn physical examination. New babies can see, but their vision isn’t very focused. Their eyesight develops gradually over the first few months. By the time your baby is 2 weeks old, you’ll probably notice their eyes following your face or a colourful object held about 20cm away. If they don’t seem to be doing this, mention it to your health visitor or GP. Your recovery Having a baby changes your body. Some things may never be quite the same again, but other changes don’t need to be permanent.You can tighten your tummy with exercise, for example, and any weight you’ve gained will gradually drop off if you eat healthily and exercise.It won’t happen overnight. It took nine months to make a baby, and it could take at least that long to get back into shape again. Your body after giving birth Recovering from giving birth vaginally can take anything from a few days up to a few months. Many women feel back to normal around 6-8 weeks after the birth. You can find advice about stitches, piles, bleeding and other physical changes after birth, plus tips to help you make a healthy recovery, on the NHS website here. Recovering from a caesarean birth may take longer. You may be in hospital for a few days after a caesarean section, and may need to take things easy for several weeks. Read more about recovering from a caesarean section here. Warning signs for mum after birth Very occasionally, women can develop signs and symptoms of more serious problems following baby’s birth. If you experience any of the following you should seek help immediately: Sudden and heavy blood loss or persistent increasing blood loss Fever, raised temperature, shivering, abdominal pain and/or offensive vaginal loss. Headaches accompanied by one or more of the following symptoms within the first 72 hours of birth: Visual disturbance Nausea, vomiting Calf pain, redness or swelling Shortness of breath or chest pain Emotional wellbeing Many women feel down, tearful or anxious in the first few days after giving birth. This is often called the “baby blues” and is so common it’s considered normal – it doesn’t last for more than 2 weeks after the birth.If your symptoms last longer or start later, you could have postnatal depression. The earlier it’s diagnosed and treated, the quicker you’ll recover. Read more about postnatal depression, including how to spot the signs or symptoms on the NHS website here. If you think your partner may be struggling with their emotional wellbeing, find out what support is available via ‘You and Your Partner’ here. Exercise Gentle exercises to support your back and pelvic floor are important after birth. You can read more here Sex and contraception after birth There are no rules about when to start having sex again after you have given birth. It might be some time before you want to have sex and this is perfectly normal. If you or your partner have any worries, talk about them together. You can talk with your health visitor or GP if you need some more help. It is important to be aware that you can get pregnant as little as 3 weeks after the birth of a baby, even if you’re breastfeeding and your periods haven’t started again. It is therefore important to use some kind of contraception every time you have sex after giving birth. Many methods of contraception can be started straight after the birth of your baby so that you’re prepared. Don’t wait for your periods to return or until you have your postnatal check before you use contraception as you could get pregnant again before then. You’ll usually have a chance to discuss contraception before you leave hospital after your baby is born, and again at your postnatal check. Read more about sex and contraception after birth here. If you are under 25 you can access routine contraception from Hope House, for further information please visit their website here. Alternatively, you can make an appointment at your GP surgery if you would prefer. If you are over 25 then you will need to make an appointment at your GP surgery.