Hello, Baby! What to expect the first 48 hours after birth

By Colleen McTiernan

After 40 weeks of waiting, you have finally gone into labor. You know that when you are done pushing or when your C-section is over, the end result will be that beautiful baby boy or girl you have been so anxious to meet. But what happens within the first 48 hours after you give birth? With this helpful guide, you will know exactly what to expect after you are done expecting!

For mommy

Once your baby arrives, you may think that you are finally done with pushing, but don’t forget about that nutrient-rich placenta that sustained your baby for those nine months! It can actually take 30 minutes to an hour after the birth of your baby to deliver the placenta, said Dr. Kathleen Green, an OB-GYN with UF Health. Once the placenta has been delivered, the nurses will administer a fundal massage (basically a very vigorous belly rub) every 30 minutes for three to four hours after delivery to ensure that bleeding is at a minimum. “That can be a little bit painful, but that’s just to make sure that that uterus clamps down,” said Dr. Green.

If the birth of your child has resulted in any lacerations, that will be taken care of immediately after delivery. You may also be anemic after delivery, so your provider may give you medication to build your iron stores back up. Do not be too concerned if you are experiencing bleeding. Dr. Green said that after delivery, mothers can expect bleeding akin to the worst menses of their life and some vaginal soreness.

If you have had a C-section, you will be moved to a postoperative room to monitor bleeding, both vaginal and from your incision site. So long as there are no complications, you will be moved to a postpartum recovery room after just a few hours. You will not be able to walk around as soon as with natural birth, but do so as soon as possible to prevent muscle cramping.

Depending on whether this is your first child or not, you can expect to stay in the hospital from 24–48 hours, providing there are no complications. If you have had a C-section, expect to stay in the hospital for closer to 48–72 hours.

For baby

After delivery, your baby’s activity, pulse, grimace, appearance and respiration will be assessed to come up with what is called an Apgar score. This will determine whether or not your baby requires medical assistance. If your baby does not require any medical intervention, then she will likely be placed right on your chest for skin-to-skin contact.

After delivery, you will also begin breastfeeding (if you have chosen to do so), which can definitely be painful to begin with. “I think there is a big misconception that breastfeeding, if you’re doing it correctly, doesn’t hurt,” said Dr. Green. “But it really does hurt because you’re still trying to figure it out and baby is still trying to figure it out.” Baby will feed every 30 minutes to an hour in the first couple of weeks of life, so if you are experiencing pain, consider seeing a lactation consultant while you are in the hospital to help teach you about different latching techniques.

When it comes time to change baby’s diaper, expect her first bowl movement to resemble sticky black tar. This is called meconium and is totally normal. Your baby is just disposing of what she ingested while in the womb, such as water and amniotic fluid.

Your baby will also undergo a few tests in her first 48 hours. Under the Florida Newborn Screening Program, newborns are tested for 53 conditions. Once your baby reaches 24 hours, her blood will be drawn for these tests, which screen for cystic fibrosis and sickle cell anemia among many others. Your newborn will also have her hearing tested before leaving the hospital, per the Florida Newborn Hearing Screening Statute. If you have decided to have your baby circumcised, that can also be done before leaving the hospital.

There are so many things that happen after your baby is born, but with a little preparation, you will know what to expect so that you can truly enjoy your first hours with your precious little one. Always talk to your doctor or pediatrician about any medical questions you may have!