How to Prepare for Childbirth

Newborn Care Plan

Your birth plan should also include a newborn care plan. Many mothers wish to hold their baby skin-to-skin immediately after birth. Skin-to-skin contact provides warmth for the baby and satisfaction for the mother. Some parents want their baby to have a relaxing float in a Leboyer bath soon after birth. The baby might be placed in a heated unit in the nursery if the mother prefers or if the baby is chilled.

What about feeding your baby? Do you prefer to breast-feed or bottle-feed? Do you want to provide all the feedings for your baby (which would mean that the baby should receive no water or glucose water from a bottle)? Do you want to feed on demand (that is, whenever and for as long as the baby seems to want to nurse)? Many nurseries restrict demand feedings unless the mother states that demand feeding is her preference.

How much contact do you want with your baby? Some hospitals provide a private postpartum room, allowing the baby to stay with you and even allowing the father to rent a cot and stay all night. This enables you to begin caring for your baby immediately.

When you feel you need a brief respite from caring for the baby, staff will take the baby to the nursery for a few hours to allow you to rest. Other options are to have the baby with you during the day only or for feedings only. State in your birth plan if you want to feed the baby yourself and if you want to spend as much time as possible with your baby.

Remember, the amount of time you spend with your baby depends on several factors. The most important of these are your health and the health of your baby. For example, it may be medically necessary for a premature infant to be placed in the hospital nursery, where the baby's condition can be carefully and continually monitored.

What about circumcision of your baby boy? This surgical procedure involves removing the foreskin of the penis. Since the procedure is optional, it deserves your consideration.

When will you and your baby leave the hospital? Depending on your health and your insurance coverage, you may stay from a few hours to a few days after the birth. An early discharge, or short stay, means that you leave within 6 to 24 hours after the birth. One obvious advantage is the financial savings involved. Hospitalization costs are calculated by the day or fraction of a day; obviously, the longer you spend in the hospital, the more it costs. Find out how the billing is done so you won't inadvertently stay longer than you can afford.

Other considerations besides costs, however, are your need for rest, your need for medical care, and your desire for instruction in care for your baby and medical supervision for the first couple of days. Find out if your hospital sends a nurse to visit all women who have had a short stay, or if they at least make a phone call to check on them. Is instruction available for those wishing a short stay, so you know what observations to make to be sure everything is going well for both of you?

Another factor in your decision is whether you will have help at home. Sometimes the father can take time off from work, or a relative or friend can come in and help extensively; sometimes parents hire helpers to come in daily for a week or two after the birth. In the absence of any help, you might prefer to spend a couple of days in the hospital before going home to all that responsibility.

A baby who is premature or ill and needs extensive medical care either stays in the nursery or is transferred to a different hospital with more sophisticated facilities for newborns. Time with the baby and breast-feeding may be postponed until the baby recovers or becomes strong enough to suckle.

Choosing Freely

As prospective parents, you must make many choices regarding maternity care. These choices require thought and discussion and careful planning. They can make a great difference in your ultimate sense of satisfaction and fulfillment in giving birth. The emotional and physical quality of the experience will impact you and your family for a very long time to come.

Your choices regarding the birth of your baby are numerous. And to date, no studies indicate conclusively that one place of birth or one type of caregiver has a better safety record than another as long as women are well cared for throughout pregnancy and have access to hospital facilities and obstetric care when needed. That still leaves a lot of room for parents to freely choose the type of care that seems best for them. It is well worth the time and trouble to choose carefully.


Dr. Elizabeth Eden, M.D. is a practicing obstetrician with her own private practice in New York City. She serves as an attending physician at the Tisch Hospital of the New York University Medical Center, as well as a Clinical Assistant Professor at the New York University School of Medicine.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.


Related HowStuffWorks Articles

More Great Links