Updated: Mar 13
Many of us are focused on pregnancy and hyperfocused on the labor and birth of our baby throughout our pregnancies. There is a hazy idea of the actual parenting to come, but often we don't know many of the details of what the first days with a newborn might be like. Today I'm going to share a bit about what to expect in the first 24 hours with your newborn.
As soon as you return to the room you'll be staying in for your hospital stay after your baby is born, you may be hit with waves of emotion - all mixed with exhaustion in most cases. After labor, which can be emotionally and physically demanding of both you and your partner, you're now in charge of your little human. So what's this little one going to need and do the next day?
Whether you're breastfeeding or bottle-feeding, your baby will need to eat often. Babies should eat at least every 3 hours, if not more often, (and that time is counted from the beginning of one feed to the beginning of the next), even at night. If baby is sleepy, you'll have to wake baby to eat. If you're breastfeeding, having baby at the breast often is great for your milk supply and for baby to practice latching - remember, you're both going to be brand new to it all.
Newborns have a stomach the size of a marble on day 1 so they fill up quickly (on colostrum or formula) and will then be hungry again quite soon after each feed. While baby shouldn't go longer than 3 hours between feeds, it's extremely common, normal, and healthy for babies to be hungry much more often than that. If you're breastfeeding, this does not mean you have a low supply or aren't producing enough - in fact, having baby at the breast often and removing milk often are the ways milk production is stimulated so the more often your baby is at the breast, the better. Breastfeeding moms typically practice responsive feeding (also called feeding on demand) which means you pay close attention to your baby's feeding cues and place them at the breast anytime they demonstrate these feeding cues. You can learn more about feeding cues here.
The hospital will likely have midwives and/or nurses who are able to assist with breastfeeding. It's also handy to have a phone number of a lactation counselor before giving birth so you know exactly where to turn if you find you need extra support on your breastfeeding journey.
Most hospitals in Madrid practice "rooming in" with your baby. This means you and baby share a room the entire time - some hospitals don't even have an option of a nursery. However, if this is important to you - some private hospitals may have that option.
Usually, there is a clear, plastic crib for baby and mom will have the hospital bed. Your partner may have a fold out bed or sofa for sleep in the same room. You may find your baby doesn't want to sleep alone and prefers to sleep in someone's arms. This is a normal response to being brand new to the world and being a mammal. These early days it's okay to hold baby for all their sleep, but of course you need some sleep too! Some parents find it easiest to alternate who holds baby and who sleeps. The first days are usually a matter of survival mode.
That said, your baby may be pretty sleepy the first couple days - in fact, with some babies it seems like all they want to do is sleep! Birth is a traumatic event for babies and they're also usually pretty exhausted. It can take a few days for some babies to adjust and be more wakeful. Some babies are extra sleepy and hard to wake for feeds and it's very important that they wake and eat. If your baby is extra sleepy and hard to wake, here are a few things you can try:
Tickle baby's feet
Remove baby's clothes and put them skin to skin
Place a wet, cool (or lukewarm) cloth on baby's forehead or feet
Pat baby's back
Change baby's diaper
Sometimes your baby may seem inconsolable. A crying baby is uncomfortable for some reason so it can help to cross of all physical possibilities first. You can see if baby needs:
a diaper change (this is a surprisingly easy one to overlook as new, exhausted parents!)
more or less clothing
If you have gone through the checklist above, you can move on to other soothing techniques like gently bouncing baby in your arms as you step side to side, shushing sounds or white noise (apps on the phone can provide this), and trying different positions to hold baby and see what they prefer.
If you're not sure what's wrong and feel you'd benefit from help, you can always call the nurses to come and help!
Your baby will be expected to pass meconium in the first 24 hours after birth. This is baby's first bowel movement. It's a blackish, sticky, tar-like substance that may come as a surprise if you didn't know to expect it. This may be tricky to wipe clean so you may need to team up for this particular diaper change.
Baby's cord clamp
If you've given birth in a hospital, your baby will have a large clamp where the cord was clamped when baby was born. This will be a part of your baby's life until the cord falls off sometime in the coming weeks. Until then, you can fold the front of the diaper down to avoid it covering the cord clamp. This can help keep the area dry and may be more comfortable for baby. You can ask the nurses for more help with caring for this if you have questions.
Other things that will happen during your hospital stay:
Heel Prick Test
Between the first 48 and 72 hours of baby's life, your baby will have a test called the heel prick test (prueba del talón in Spanish) which is often done in the same room as mom. You can also ask to have the test performed while baby is in mom's arms breastfeeding which will provide immediate comfort for baby after the blood sample is taken. In this test, the heel is pricked and small samples of baby's blood are pressed onto a thick paper which is then taken away for testing. The results of this test will typically be returned to you after you've already left the hospital.
A hearing test is usually done in the first days. This may or may not be done in the room where you're staying. If it's done in another room, you can typically request to accompany your baby.
If you're an expecting mom or dad living in Madrid (or anywhere in Spain) and you're wondering what giving birth in Spain is going to be like, Madison from Madoula can support you on that journey! As a doula, Madison's goal is to help every family feel confident and have peace of mind as the birth of their baby abroad approaches. She mainly works with intercultural couples and English-speaking couples to help them understand the process here in Spain compared to their home culture, to have hands-on support during the birth itself, to feel confident breast or bottle-feeding, and to lend practical and emotional support during the postpartum period.
Madoula Services include:
All services are available online or in-person (in Madrid and surroundings).
Giving birth in Spain, far from your home country, can be an empowering experience you approach feeling totally at peace and ready!