Childbirth brings a lot of joy both to the mother and her family because of the arrival of a new human being. But this joy may not last long enough if very important life-saving steps are not taken by the mother to safeguard her health and that of her newborn baby. Once a woman gives birth to a baby, there are things she needs to do keep the baby from getting sick (which can lead to death) and ensure she is physically and mentally strong enough to nurse and nurture the baby.
After giving birth, every mother should
- Ensure the baby gets all the stipulated immunisation
Starting from the day of delivery, mothers should ensure that their babies are vaccinated. The first schedule of immunisation is the day the baby is born, and every health care centre is expected to vaccinate newborns against polio, hepatitis B virus and tuberculosis with oral polio (OPV), HBV and BCG vaccines. If the health centre where you gave birth does not have the vaccines, make sure you go to any centre that does that same day or within 1 week of delivery to get them. This first immunisation schedule is the beginning of series of immunisation that your baby must receive to be safe from diseases like poliomyelitis (polio), TB, tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis, haemophilus influenza type B and hepatitis B virus infection.
After receiving the immunisation on the day of delivery, your doctor will counsel and inform you on the subsequent schedules and the specific vaccines for those dates. The subsequent immunisation dates are at 6 weeks, 10 weeks, 14 weeks, 6 months and 9 months.
- Exclusive breastfeeding
After delivery and before the mother is discharged from the hospital, the doctor counsels her on the importance of breastfeeding the baby, especially exclusively for the first six months before adding water and complementary baby foods. This can be very challenging for working mothers, but giving your baby breast milk only for the first six months has a lot of benefits. Breast milk contains all the nutrients your baby needs in the first six months; it also contains the mother’s antibodies which protect the baby against childhood illnesses like pneumonia and infections that cause diarrhoea in children. It has been found that breastfeeding is linked to higher intelligence quotient (IQ) in children. In addition, exclusive breastfeeding is a form of natural contraception that suppresses ovulation, preventing the woman from getting pregnant from sex within those six months.
After six months, water and complementary foods are added while still breastfeeding the baby. It is advised that mothers breastfeed their babies for up to 2 years.
- Family planning
Mothers are advised to wait for at least 6 weeks after delivery to start having sex again with their partners. Moreover, they and their husbands are also counseled to adopt a contraceptive method to prevent pregnancy such as the man using a condom, the woman breastfeeding exclusively for the first six months (prevents ovulation so the woman will not get pregnant), an intrauterine contraceptive device (IUCD) or other methods depending on how long the couple has agreed on couple before their next pregnancy.
Family planning prevents pregnancy in the nursing mother and this allows the woman’s body time to fully recover to the non-pregnant state among other benefits. It is also advisable the woman waits for two years before another pregnancy.
- Postnatal clinic visit
The last thing your doctor will counsel you on as a nursing mother is coming back for a follow-up appointment after delivery. This is usually between 4 and 6 weeks after delivery. Coming to the postnatal clinic gives the mother the opportunity to tell the doctor her progress with nursing her baby and the challenges she may be facing. It also allows the doctor perform a full physical examination on the baby and the mother, and identify any health problems if there are any for appropriate treatment. Also, the nursing mother can ask the doctor any other questions as regards taking care of her baby.
There are other things you will be counselled on as a nursing mother after delivery and before being discharged from the hospital. An example is what is known as kangaroo mother care (KMC) which involves putting your baby on your bare chest for about an hour once a day or in two days. This helps to improve the bonding between mother and child and also helps in regulating the baby’s body temperature. Therefore, it is very beneficial to adhere to these instructions for optimal growth and development of your baby and for the healthy recovery of your body.
For more advice and help, feel free to ask a Doctor via The Reliance Care App