Week 1

C-Section recovery

Sure, your perineum muscles are well and working, but you have an abdominal surgery to recover from while dealing with all the other postpartum pains. In other words – take it easy and enlist as much help as possible.

After surgery, you might feel:

  • Pain. After all, you have an abdominal wound along with other extreme body aches from labor. The doctor will most likely give you pain meds that won’t pass into the colostrum and that won’t be needed when your milk comes in. If the pain persists, talk to your doctor about safe over-the-counter meds, especially if you’re planning on breastfeeding.
  • Be careful not to put pressure on your incision, and you might want to use a pillow for support when you laugh, cough or sneeze.
  • Speaking of coughing, the doctor or nurse will teach you how to expand your lungs and remove any excess fluid that can cause pneumonia.
  • Nauseous, woozy, out of it. This might be attributed to the drugs – and last up to two days. You might also be nauseous (and vomiting) as an aftermath of the surgery, which can be relieved with anti-nausea medication.
  • If your anesthesiologist added morphine to your epidural, you might not feel as much pain until the next day.
  • If you went under general anesthesia, or if no morphine was added to your epidural, then you’ll most likely be given a narcotic to handle the pain, causing side effects like dizziness or nausea.
  • The doctor will either administer the drugs every three to four hours, or you’ll be hooked up to an IV where you simply press a button when you’re in pain.
  • Once your IV and urinary catheter are removed, you can slowly start to eat solid foods – if you’re up to it.
  • Constipation. A typical side effect of the narcotics. Ask your doctor about taking a stool softener.
  • Breastfeeding can be a bit more challenging while recovering from a C-section, so here’s what you need to know:
  • Even though there are safe pain medication options for breastfeeding, try to take only as much as you need so you and your baby don’t become too sleepy to nurse.
  • Starting early and often is the best insurance for breastfeeding success. Ideally, try and nurse your baby within the first hour (as soon as the room stops spinning and you stop vomiting, perhaps), but try not to wait longer than four hours for the initial nursing session.
  • If you had an epidural, you’ll probably have to feed while lying on your back – with one arm hooked up to a machine. Yes, this can be tricky, so we strongly suggest having a lactation consultant on hand to help.
  • Once you can move, the easiest way to nurse is while lying on your side. You might need to enlist the help of your partner to position the baby. (This is where a co-ed pre-natal breastfeeding class comes in handy. If not, include your partner in on conversations with a lactation consultant.) If this position doesn’t work well, find whichever one works best – such as the football hold.
  • Whichever way you nurse, extra pillows – some are made especially for nursing – are helpful. If you’re lying on your side, put one across your abdomen to prevent the baby from kicking and one between your legs to ease the strain on your stomach muscles. You’ll also want to support your back with pillows.
  • Your milk might come in slightly later than those who had a vaginal delivery, but other than that, follow the advice in our breastfeeding section.

Your symptoms should start to ease throughout the week, but you might still feel:

  • Pain at the incision site. While the initial pain should be mostly or completely gone by the end of the week (with some still needing heavy-duty pain killers) taking acetaminophen will help. The scar will still be sore for a few weeks still, so continue to wear loose shirts that won’t irritate the area.
  • Itchiness. Ask your doctor for a safe anti-itch ointment to relieve the discomfort.
  • Exhaustion. Surgery is surgery, whether or not you have a baby to take care of. The need to get up and conquer the mounting responsibilities of new motherhood is universal, but those recovering from a C-section will need more help than others. Remember, the more you rest now, the easier your recoup will be.
  • Gassy and bloated. Surgery can cause your intestines to move slower than normal, building gas and making you feel quite uncomfortable. Talk to your doctor about what’s safe to take and make sure to drink plenty of fluids.

Other things to know about your recovery:

  • Around day three or four, your sutures or staples will be removed, which is a fast and generally painless process.
  • You should be getting as much sleep as possible (meaning as much help as possible), while still getting up and walking around every once in awhile to prevent blood clots. But still, take it easy.
  • Avoid picking up anything heavier than your baby for the first eight weeks.
  • With your doctor’s green light, you might be able to resume moderate exercise – including sex – at around six weeks.
  • Believe it or not, your dark, puffy scar will eventually shrink and fade and will often be hidden by your underwear or bikini bottom.

Because there’s always a risk of infection with a surgery wound. Call your doctor if:

  • The incision site becomes warm, red or extremely swollen.
  • Your wound starts to ooze.
  • You start running a fever, even if you feel fine otherwise.

« Go back to Baby

12 thoughts on “Caring for Your Newborn: A complete guide to the first week with your new baby

  1. says:

    If you plan on breast feeding, having formula in the house is an invitation to failure. Pleas consider NOT having “back up” formula. Instead have good breast feeding books (like The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding) & the number of a good lactation consultant.

  2. says:

    I agree entirely on not keeping formula in your house. Breastfeeding can take awhile to get a hang of, and that’s okay for the baby. That first week is such a vulnerable time, it’s easy to give in. If you need formula, your doctor will tell you at your one week appointment, or you can see a lactation consultant, and pick it up on the way home. It’s not that hard to stop by a drug store or get someone to stop for you if it’s needed.

  3. says:

    If you’ve decided to cloth diaper, I’d still use disposables for the first month or so. For one thing, it’s not particularly cost effective over disposables to buy that tiny size in addition to the bigger sizes or one size diapers. Also, figuring out a laundry routine for cloth diapers can take some experimentation and troubleshooting, which I think is better left for a little later on.

  4. says:

    This is a really well thought-out and written piece. Week one is so overwhelming, I’m glad it’s acknowledged and supported.

  5. says:

    I completely agree with the cloth diaper comment – and I’m glad this article pointed that out as well. While I’m a big fan of cloth diapers LATER, trying to use them in the beginning is a set-up for failure and a HUGE waste of what should have been an investment. I’d try them in a few months.

  6. says:

    Give yourself complete permission to do nothing that isn’t crucial to your infant’s (and your) survival in those early weeks. This probably means feeding the baby and yourself, changing the baby, and getting as much rest as possible. I am one of those people who can’t easily fall asleep, no matter how exhausted I am, so napping while my newborn took 30-minute “naps” just was not possible (and the people who cheerfully told me “just sleep when the baby sleeps!” became very irritating). Between that and breastfeeding every 90-120 minutes, exhaustion got me quickly and probably set me up for a few very rough months. So rest if you can, even if you can’t sleep, and ignore the guilt that might come along with seeing the laundry stack up.

  7. says:

    I breastfed my infant for over a year, but those early weeks were tougher than I ever expected. As much as I agree with not “caving in” by giving the baby formula early on, recognize that for some people, this *may* be a much-needed bridge to full-blown breastfeeding. In my case my milk didn’t come in for 6 full days and my lactation consultant from La Leche League didn’t get back to me for almost 36 hours, which is a lifetime when your baby is hungry and crying constantly and no one is sleeping. At day 5 we decided to use some formula and this covered us until my milk arrived. I beat myself up over this repeatedly (as did so-called “friends” who viewed using formula as practically the equivalent of giving the baby red Kool-Aid). Formula isn’t poison; try not to add guilt to everything else you’re probably feeling in those weeks.

  8. says:

    Excellent article Babble – bravo! I am mixed with the formula in the house debate. I only have one can and one bottle that someone gave me – low and behold a month later and I’m being rushed to the ER with a serious intra-uterine infection. My neighbors took our daughter and gave her her first bottle. They kept asking him how much she took and we were like “we have no idea!” we went right back to BFing when I got home from the hospital. but if we hadn’t had that one little can and lone bottle we would have really been up a creek and inconvienced our neighbors.

    I totally agree with the comment of don’t do anything that you don’t HAVE to. I am about as earthy as the come….but the first two weeks solid..we used paper plates and cups. It’s just a “pass” I gave myself. I threw all the laundry into the machine together and went to bed at 7 when the baby went “down for the night”

    DON”T FEEL GUILTY and DON”T LET ANYONE ELSE MAKE YOU FEEL GUILTY for doing whatever you need (within reason obviously!!!) to get by! This is even more true with subsequent babies

  9. says:

    I was so relieved at how easy it was to switch back and forth between breastfeeding and formula. I had been told that my baby, given a bottle, would never go back to the breast and that was absolutely not the case. It saved my health and sanity for my husband to be able to feed the baby overnight — and gave him (and my parental visitors) a chance to bond with her as well. If you must use breastmilk only, you can always pump, but I highly recommend getting used to not being the sole feeder early on. You will be grateful for the rest and your partner will be grateful to share such an important role.

  10. says:

    I agree with most of the advice in this article, however breastfeeding mothers should NOT keep formula in the house “just in case”. Breastfeeding can be hard in the beginning and having an easy out right under your nose is counter-productive. If the baby isn’t gaining well and you need to supplement, it can be easy enough to pick some up on the way home from the pediatrician’s office, as someone already pointed out. Also, pumping a little milk from engorged breasts will not make your body produce even more milk. It’s *emptying* the breast that signals the brain to produce more milk. Pumping or hand expressing a little to soften the breasts and allow the baby to latch easier, relieve the mother’s discomfort and prevent a plugged duct is absolutely fine.

  11. Jane says:

    I disagree with many of these comments. You should absolutely have a good formula on hand (organic!) even if you plan on exclusively breastfeeding. I had to go to the ER for postpartum hemmorhage when my son was just 10 days old, and I was there for 18 hours (had to have a D&C). I didn’t have time to pump before I went (obviously) and if I hadn’t had formula on hand at home, it would have been a lot more difficult for my sister to deal with at 3am in the middle of the night. And I’d rather have the best formula on hand than have someone run out and buy the crappy stuff, not to mention having a screaming hungry newborn who has to wait for them to go to the store and back and then make a bottle. Anyway, I believe in having formula on hand for other emergency situations (storms, earthquakes, etc). Be prepared! If you really want to breastfeed, you can do it and a bottle of formula in your pantry won’t deter you.

  12. Hi,

    Thanks for your valuable tips about Parenting. I am also a mother of 2 year old daughter and I know how naughty she is. Your tips is really helpful to calm in irritating situations as well

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *.