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What to Expect at Hospital After Labor

You were admitted to the hospital, went through labor and delivery, and now you are sitting in your room awaiting your shiny, new baby. Now for the fun part; life with your little one!

What happens to your baby during your hospital stay?

Your baby will go through a lot after making the passage into this world.

  • Baby will be weighed and measured
  • Foot prints and sometimes finger prints will be taken
  • Baby will be bathed and put in a warmer
  • Baby’s umbilical cord stump will be cleaned and treated
  • Baby will undergo hearing test
  • Baby will be pricked on the heel to be tested for diseases including PKU (inability to digest protein), Galactosemia (inability to digest milk sugar properly), Hypothyroidism (defect in thyroid gland), Hemoglobinopathy (red blood cell diseases), Adrenal Hyperplasia (defect in adrenal gland).
  • Baby will be diapered and swaddled and brought to mom
  • Baby will be regularly visited by his pediatrician for checkups
  • If you have a boy, he may be circumcised, if you so desire. This is usually performed by your OB/GYN. Ask your doctor if she uses a local anesthetic. Your doctor will not perform this procedure without written consent from you.

What about your recovery?

Nurses will be visiting you around the clock to check you and your baby’s vital signs. They are not shy about waking you up either. If you had a cesarean section, you will most likely have a catheter for the rest of the day or until your anesthesia wears off. The nurses will then remove your catheter and have you up and walking in no time.

When you are ready, the nurse will guide you to the bathroom where you will take the best shower of your life. She will then provide you with maxi pads, since you cannot use tampons. You will have some heavy bleeding for several days, so be sure to have extra pads on hand at home. If you are passing clots after the first two days, be sure to let your doctor know.

You may experience afterbirth contractions as your uterus begins to return to its normal size. These contractions are occurring to minimize bleeding. Other pains you may be dealing with include an episiotomy incision, cesarean incision and muscular pain, hemorrhoids, or back pain. It is important that you take advantage of your time in the hospital to rest and recover. Eat and drink plenty of liquids to build up your immune system and promote quick healing.

After hours of labor, one thing you may look forward to is food. Unfortunately, if you do have a cesarean section, you will be on a liquid diet for 12-24 hours. They will give you some sort of broth, Jell-O, juice, and maybe some frozen Italian water ice. Don’t worry, you’ll get fed soon.

Your doctor will make at least one visit post labor to check on your progress. Only your doctor can authorize your release. If you had a vaginal delivery, you will probably stay in the hospital for 48 hours. If you had a cesarean, it may be 72 hours.


When choosing your hospital, be sure that they have a good security policy. All hospital staff should have viewable ID badges and there should be a security guard placed at the entrance of the Birth Center. In addition, the hospital should put matching ID bracelets on baby, mom, and dad at the time of birth.

Caring For Your Little One

When the nurse presents you with your clean, swaddled baby, you may be feeling overwhelmed. Now is your chance to ask questions. Diapers and wipes will be provided by the hospital, along with bottles and formula if you are not going to breastfeed. Keep your baby in your room with you all day and most of the night if you can. This will help you learn your baby’s cues, and will prompt you to ask more questions if you are unsure of yourself.

Most hospitals will allow you to keep your baby in your room the whole time you are there. If you need some more sleep, they will also take him to the nursery for you. You can request they bring your baby to you at any time. Don’t feel guilty if you need them to take your baby to the nursery for a while. You’ve just been through a lot and now is your chance to recover before you go home and there is nobody to help you with your newborn.

Breast Issues

Nursing? Your milk may not come in for a day or so after you give birth. Until then, your baby will be drinking colostrum, which is a clear, sweet substance that is high in nutrients. Don’t worry if it takes a while to produce milk. It will come. If it does take a while for your milk to come in, you may want to supplement with a bottle. Just be sure to let your baby nurse several times a day to stimulate milk production. 

Learning to nurse can be easy AND it can be quite difficult. Some babies take to nursing right away, while others need more help. If you are nursing, most hospitals will send a nurse or a representative from La Leche League to give you some personal guidance while you are in the hospital. Ask as many questions as you can, since the service is usually free.

Not Nursing? If you decide that breastfeeding is not for you, you will also have some issues of your own. Whether you want it or not, your milk will come in. Be sure to wear a very supportive bra day and night for the first week or until your swelling goes down. If your breasts are painful and engorged, place ice packs or bags of frozen peas on your breasts to decrease swelling. Avoid any stimulation of the breast, such as pumping or even letting the water hit your breasts in the shower. This will increase your milk supply even more and cause further engorgement.

Some Housekeeping Details

Be sure to get a copy of your baby’s application for birth certificate. You can get a registered copy at your county’s health department after it is filed. You will also receive an application to apply for your baby’s social security card. Be sure to fill this out and give it to your nurse before you leave. The government will mail this card out to you within a few weeks.

Your hospital may offer newborn picture packages too, in which they will come to your room and take a picture of your baby. You then have the option to purchase extra pictures for your family. These pictures are usually pretty funny, because your baby is all wrinkly with that newborn look. It may be worth purchasing some to embarrass her when she brings her boyfriend over to meet you in 18 years.

Find out how your baby is developing every week. Sign up for our FREE Weekly Fetal Development Newsletter. Click here!

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