A Guide to Making the Most of Your Hospital Stay After Birth

Published by 
Jess Miller
Last updated: 
March 24, 2023

Is your due date right around the corner? Or maybe you’re looking ahead at the details surrounding birth?

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One important time frame I don’t want you to forget about, is the hospital stay after birth. With so much focus on the actual labor and delivery (rightfully so!), I want to make sure you’re also in the know about how to make the most of your hospital stay after birth.

What exactly happens in the time frame after labor and delivery? How long is the hospital stay after birth? What can I do during my hospital stay after birth to ensure breastfeeding success?

Below you’ll find the answers to those questions, as well as my top 10 tips for getting the most out of your hospital stay after birth. This is yet another set of tools to add to your birth toolbox and that will help you approach labor and delivery with confidence.

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What happens after labor and delivery?

Opt for immediate skin-to-skin care after baby is born

If you have a vaginal birth, once baby is delivered it will be important to get them warm and dry. I highly recommend opting for immediate, uninterrupted skin-to-skin contact for the first hour, and breastfeeding within this time frame as well. Reiterate these wishes if they are not being adhered to.

Having baby placed on your body will help baby regulate their body temperature and allow for immediate bonding. If medically safe and possible, most birth centers will delay all newborn care procedures for the first hour to allow you this precious bonding time.

Breastfeeding in the first hour

Ask the nurses in the room for support with getting your first latch. I suspect you’ll be surprised at how eager baby will be to latch. They instinctively look for mama’s milk using their rooting reflex. Learn more about breastfeeding in the first week before baby comes so you know what to look for. Remember that by breastfeeding within the first hour, infant mortality rates drop by 33% compared to breastfeeding 2-23 hours after birth.

Enroll in our FREE breastfeeding course designed just for expecting moms to learn as much as you can before your breastfeeding journey begins

Cord Clamping

While baby is on you, your providers will be able to dry them off, monitor their temperature and heart rate. Baby will also be evaluated using the APGAR test, and the umbilical cord will need to be cut. Ask your provider about delayed cord clamping, and see if your partner might be able to do the honors. You can read more about the benefits of delayed cord clamping, breastfeeding in the first hour, and other crucial newborn care decisions you’ll need to make in Trina’s birth plan article.

Include all of these important decision in your birth and aftercare plan!

You can get even more support with the task of creating a birth plan and preparing for birth in the Nesting Planner. There are 65+ pages of planning sheets, checklists and activity sheets devoted to birth alone.

Deliver the Placenta and get stitched up

While you are hopefully indulging it the amazing skin-to-skin bonding with your newborn, you will deliver the placenta. You will also get stitched up during this time if there was any tearing during birth. I was in such wonder and awe of my new baby that I barely even remember any of that happening, but my husband assures me it did 🙂

Move to a recovery/postpartum room for your hospital stay after birth

After your first hour or so of skin-to-skin, you will most likely move rooms. Typically, in a hospital setting, the postpartum/recovery rooms are different than the labor and delivery rooms.

Family-centered care

Family-centered care is becoming more and more popular, and even the norm, in hospitals and birth centers across the US. Basically this means a postpartum/recovery room that will include comforts for dad and promotes rooming in with your baby. The hospital that I delivered at actually had a double bed and in-room bassinets making it the perfect place to learn how to care for a newborn as a team.

How long do you bleed after giving birth?

The other things that can’t be left out when answering the question, What happens after labor and delivery? Is talking about the bleeding. You should expect to bleed quite a bit and feel rather uncomfortable from pushing and delivering. The bleeding comes from the area where your placenta was attached.

Bleeding in the first three to five days will be like very heavy period bleeding. You will want to have large overnight pads, or even special maternity pads and large underwear to accommodate these.

Bleeding will slow down but continue through the first 10 days postpartum and may not stop completely until 4-6 weeks after birth. It is SO important to take it easy in this time frame to allow your body to heal and stop bleeding. Usually if bleeding suddenly increases or turns very red again, it is a sign you are overdoing it.

Your nurse will help you get cleaned up

Before we moved to the postpartum room, the nurse came into the bathroom with me and helped me get cleaned up. She will teach you how to use a squirt bottle to clean yourself with water instead of painful wiping. She also showed me how to set up a (giant) pad with a ‘padsicle’ and witch-hazel wipes to maximize comfort from painful labor and delivery hemorrhoids.

I seriously cannot emphasize enough the need to pack granny panties or maternity underwear to accommodate all of these necessary comfort measures.

Hopefully, your nurse will hook you up with lots of freebies like witch hazel wipes, pads, and padsicles, but it is always an idea to include these things in your hospital bag just in case!

How long do you stay in the hospital after birth?

Average hospital stay after birth

The typical vaginal delivery will have ~48 hour hospital stay. Usually insurance includes two nights and three days of hospital care. In my experience, we were so ready to go. Of course, I feel so blessed that things were going well with breastfeeding and recovery, and realize that some may need more time.

You will have various members of hospital staff checking in on you and baby throughout your stay. If you have a c-section, the stay will be 4 or 5 days.

Check your hospital’s policy

Your hospital may have their own policy on how long you are required or are even allowed to stay. This is a great question to ask as you research places to give birth. It’s also a great thing to discuss during a hospital tour.

Try to take a hospital tour in the month before birth if possible, even if you already took one. Having the details and visualization fresh in your mind before labor and delivery will really ease your anxiety.

Understand your insurance coverage for your hospital stay after birth ahead of time

During your third trimester, it is important to check in with your insurance company if you haven’t already to understand your coverage. You may need to notify your insurance company when you head to the hospital (great job for dad!) and you want to know exactly how many days and nights you are covered for. The amount of time covered will be different depending on the type of birth you have (vaginal or c-section).

How soon after baby is born can you take them home?

This will vary from hospital to hospital, but if you are planning to leave before 24 hours, it is best to discuss this ahead of time.  If you and baby are doing well it may be possible to leave before 24 hours under the contingency that baby will be brought to their own pediatrician within the next day or so.

This is one that warrants a call to your hospital and a discussion with your provider to work out all of the details.

10 Things to do to make the most of your hospital stay after birth

1. Commit to figuring out Breastfeeding and utilize the Lactation Consultants

This is listed as tip number one for good reason. If you do nothing else during your hospital stay, do this! Your hospital stay will be filled with visits from various providers for you and baby, but aside from that, you should be resting and breastfeeding.

Utilize the lactation consultants on staff and ask them to come check-in as often as they can. If you have doubts about anything regarding breastfeeding, as it’s happening, jot down questions and ask away.

Try to track baby’s feeding and what sides you are using throughout your hospital stay. You can find tracker sheets as well as essential nursing info in the Breastfeeding Handbook.

What will help with the task of figuring out breastfeeding during my hospital stay after birth?

Pack your nursing pillow, like a boppy, and have it in the car. Chances are, the hospital will have one you can use, but if they don’t you’ll be glad to learn with it. You should also pack nipple cream in your hospital bag. Again, the hospital likely has freebies you can use, but better to be safe than sorry.

I also recommend having nursing camis and bras with you. During your hospital stay after birth you’ll want to be comfy and have easy access to nursing. I know I appreciated my nursing camis because they provided some coverage while so many nurses, doctors, and hospital staff were coming in and out the room.

2. Learn about newborn care and skills

Suddenly having a tiny baby to care for will hit you hard, not matter how much reading and preparation you do. Take advantage of the nurses and other hospital staff.

  • Learn how to do a super-tight swaddle.
  • Ask about all those newborn noises to find out what’s normal and not.
  • Have a nurse watch you change a diaper and learn some tips from watching them.
  • See how to apply cream to baby’s bottom if necessary
  • Ask how to use the nasal aspirator
  • Learn how to take baby’s temperature: Newsflash to me was that you do it rectally and when I had to do it for the first time when N was around 8 weeks I was so nervous!
  • Get tips on the best way to burp a baby
  • Find out your nurse’s go to tips on holding or positioning to calm a crying baby

What will help me with the task of learning newborn care and skills?

My hospital provided swaddles, blankets, clothes and diapers. I do wish I had brought a few pretty swaddles of my own for photos. I also would have benefited from see the nurse swaddle N in the swaddles I had and was planning to use. YouTube did wind up saving me though.

Ask loads of questions and don’t be shy! The more you ask, the more you will learn.

3. Connect with your nurses

On the note of learning newborn care tips from your nurses, it is so important to connect with them. Be kind and empathetic and I assure you your care will be superior. At the end of the day, we are all human, and chances are you are going to get more attentive care if you are kind and grateful. Of course you should be firm and make sure your needs are being met, but be aware of how you are going about it.

Our nurse hooked us up with at least 10 pillows for our bed. The hospital where we delivered had the flimsiest pillows you can imagine. I was also sent home with a garbage bag FULL of more freebies than I could have ever used (I literally had to donate some). So do not underestimate the power of a thank you.

What can help me best connect with my nurses during my hospital stay after birth?

Above all, kindness and manners while still being firm is your ticket to a great relationship with your nurse. If you want to go above and beyond, I have seen some really cute ideas on Pinterest. Some mamas bake a treat to bring to the hospital as a thank you to the nurses. Baking can actually be a great early labor activity, so why not? I’ve also seen little thank you goodie bags, and candy bar boxes too.

4. REST whenever possible

Your body is recovering from a major and traumatic event. It will take 6 to 8 weeks to be fully recovered from all of the swelling, bruising, sore muscles and possible tearing. The recovery in the days right after birth are crucial. After this life changing event occurs, you are propelled immediately into newborn life. It won’t exactly follow the sleep schedule you’re used to and want for recovery. For this reason, it is absolutely essential that you be in bed for the majority of your hospital stay and sleep when baby is sleeping.

I know, I know, sleep when the baby is sleeping often falls upon deaf ears. It may not even be realistic once you’re back home for this or the other reason. But while you are in the hospital, please try to catch up on as much sleep as you can.

What can help me rest as much as possible during my hospital stay after birth?

Limit hospital visitors and ask to delay non-essential procedures or check-ins if baby is not awake and eating.

5. Be open, honest and ask for help and support

Recovery from birth is not the time to be shy or modest. You need to be upfront and honest about any discomforts you are feeling. Best case, they have a comfort measure that will help ease the pain. Or at the very least they tell you it’s normal. Worst case, it is something more serious, but you can get attention right away. Labor and Delivery units in hospitals are busy places. Prepare to advocate for yourself and make sure you are heard.

I have also read the advice of grouping requests when you use the care-call button. This is a great way to put in a bunch of requests at once and a higher likelihood of things being taken care of. Of course I am not talking about emergency questions or needs here. More things like, extra pillows, a swaddle lesson, more diapers, or for your meal to be brought early.

How can I make sure I am receiving the help, care and support I need during my hospital stay after birth?

It is worthwhile to jot down notes and keep track of any medications or ointments you are applying to keep yourself on a schedule. Things may fall through the cracks due to the busy nature of the floor, so keeping things organized yourself (great job for dad!) will make sure nothing gets lost in communication.

6. Score some free baby and postpartum supplies

I mentioned above getting totally hooked up in the postpartum supply department. Honestly, I don’t think this is too unusual, just don’t be afraid to ask. Let the nurses know you need supplies for home and you will probably get extra pads, witch hazel wipes, ice pads, and more.

For newborn baby stuff, you will most definitely be given diapers for during your stay. Any opened pack will be sent home with you. You’ll also likely get other freebies to care for baby like plain petroleum jelly for baby’s bum, baby wash, wet wipes that are plain water, a nasal aspirator, and possibly even a nail clipper and comb.

What can you bring home from the hospital after birth?

This will vary from hospital to hospital, but in general you can expect to get:

  • Maternity Pads
  • Squirt Bottle for cleaning yourself
  • Padsicles
  • Witch Hazel Wipes
  • Nipple Cream
  • Disposable Underwear
  • Newborn Diapers
  • Comb
  • Nasal Aspirator
  • Plain petroleum jelly
  • Baby wash
  • Wet water wipes
  • Burb cloths, swaddles, kimonos

How can I score some free baby and postpartum supplies during my hospital stay after birth?

First of all, don’t be afraid to just ask! Additionally, I may or may not have packed some burp cloths, swaddle blankets, and baby shirts that our room was stocked with into our bag before we left… and you may or may not want to do the same 😉

7. Get lots of photos at the hospital

DO THIS! Okay, to put it more eloquently, in the moment you will be so caught up in your new baby. This is totally understandable and you should be present in the moment. But I totally regret that we didn’t get more photos of this special time. Sure, we have a few photos of me doing skin to skin with N right after delivery and Pat holding her for the first time. I want you to make sure you really capture this memory.

Consider booking a photographer for in the hospital, or at the very least assigning this job to someone (could be dad or another visitor you plan on having). Utilize Trina’s photography guide, and Pinterest to create a board with all of the hospital photos you want to get.

How can I make sure I get great photos during my hospital stay after birth?

Some hospital photos to consider:

  • Labor Photos
  • Doctor holding up baby after delivered
  • Baby on mama for the first time
  • First feed
  • Dad holding baby for the first time
  • Cutting the cord
  • Baby on scale
  • First family photo in first hour of life

In addition to these, be sure to take lots of photos during your hospital stay after birth. Get photos of baby swaddled and sleeping. Doing skin to skin on dad and mom. Make sure to have photos with you in them! We have so many photos of N with Pat and my parents but so few with me during the hospital stay. Don’t make my mistake.

8. Put in your meal requests early

Pretty straight forward advice, but one of those things that will make your hospital stay after birth that much more comfortable and enjoyable. By putting in your meal requests ahead of time you’ll get what you really want to eat. It’s so important to be getting adequate calories while breastfeeding, so start on the right foot!

9. Think twice about visitors, and be firm about your wishes

Visitors in the hospital is a very personal choice, but one that is essential to think through before you give birth. We had only my immediate family come visit. They kept visits very short, and my mom was able to support me when Pat had to leave to check on our dogs.

Above all, remember that this is not a time to entertain! Do not have anyone visit that you won’t be totally comfortable in front of. You will likely be feeling uncomfortable and will need to be breastfeeding very often.

How can I make a plan for handling visitors during my hospital stay after birth?

Learn exactly how plan for visitors after birth and get your partner involved with the process. Decide who you want to come and when. Decide on who will get labor and delivery updates and be clear about any sharing on social media.

10. Start the discharge process at least 3 hours before you think you want to leave

Once you feel that you are ready to leave, start letting everyone know and keep in mind that it will take a few hours to actually get out the door. You will need to check in with you and baby’s providers. Paperwork will need to be filed including info for baby’s birth certificate and social security number.

What is the discharge process to leave the hospital after birth?

You’ll need to go over a discharge plan with your provider for after care at home. He/she will let you know when to call and what will not be considered normal.

You’ll also need to go over a discharge plan with the pediatrician on staff, and usually they want to know that you have an appointment scheduled with your chosen pediatrician before you go. They will transfer records to them.

It is a good idea to have your partner or any visitors bring any luggage, flowers, balloons, etc. down to your car so that when you are leaving it is just you two and baby.

Are you feeling more prepared for your hospital stay after birth?

In short, the hospital stay after birth is a time for you to recover and for baby to be monitored in their first 48 hours of life. You should prioritize rest and breastfeeding during your stay and utilize the 10 tips above to get the most out of your hospital time.

This is a time to be present with your baby, focus on recovering, and try to get sleep. You need to heal and rest to be the best mom possible. You should try to learn as much as you can about breastfeeding and newborn care while these professionals are at your fingertips.

If your due date is around the corner, or you’re looking ahead, enroll in our FREE Nest Smart course today. This crash course in nesting will have you, your home, relationship and more completely ready for baby in just 7 days. You’ll feel confident transitioning from your hospital stay after birth back to your home.

Your learning curve will continue, but I can assure you that doing it in the comfort of your own home, without a million different (well-intentioned) medical staff interrupting, will feel like bliss.

Thanks for reading! If you found this article helpful, please share it on Pinterest and Facebook

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