After the drama of delivery, you're ready to bundle up baby and head to the comfort of home. But wait! Your hospital stay is costing you (or, hopefully, your insurance company) a big chunk of change - more than in any country in the world, actually - so make sure you've made the most of it by doing these four things before leaving the hospital:
1. Ask Lots of Questions
Delivery and Recovery nurses see new moms and babies All. Day. Long. They are a fount of new-parenting wisdom better than any book or blog, and their experience gives them the kind of measured perspective your own mother or mother-in-law is too emotionally invested to provide. If you have ANY questions about your body, breastfeeding, diapering, what is normal and not normal...now is the time to ask!
You might feel compelled to keep your baby by your bedside from the moment he's born, and that is an admirable and very natural impulse. Particularly if you've had a long/painful delivery, however, consider letting the nurses watch over your baby at night so that you can catch up on much needed sleep and regain some strength for the physically demanding days to come. And lest you feel guilty for indulging in too much rest, don't worry - they'll wheel baby in to your room at least every three hours for a feeding session, so you're in no danger of getting too comfortable!
3. Horde the Hygiene Products
I'm not just talking about the baby's diapers - you should grab a stash of the adult diapers, too. (Actually, it's more of a ginormous-pad-and-disposable-underwear combo. See Ali Wong's hilarious and graphic post-partum comedy special for deets). If you delivered vaginally, you will likely continue to bleed over the course of a few days, and regular period products don't quite have the, erm, absorption capacity that you may need. As an additional safeguard against leaks, try to snag some absorbent bed pads - they look like doggy training pads, but without the chemical smell - to sleep on during your first few nights back home. And if you don't need them, you can still use them as an absorbent layer under baby's fitted sheet. The last thing you need while nursing a newborn is a dirty mattress to deal with. Your hospital might also offer numbing spray, a perineal squirt bottle, and sitz bath for rinsing your tender nether regions. Consider these the hotel toiletries of new motherhood - take it all!
4. Thank Your Nurses
When a baby enters the world, mommy and her OB tend to get all of the credit, but I found that the hospital nurses were the true, unsung heroes of the whole operation. From coaching me through labor, to discreetly whisking away whatever messes my lower half served up throughout delivery, to attending to my every postpartum question and need, the nurses buzzed around the hospital like a 24-hr corps of angels. I loved my OB, and was grateful that she was available to deliver my son, but her involvement lasted about 10 minutes - she swooped in, coaxed him out, stitched me up and went on her way. The nurses were there before, during, and after, and I was probably doubly thankful for their care since I didn't have a mom or sister around to help. While in the hospital, I started to make a point of jotting my nurses' names as they changed shifts, and returned a couple weeks later with a birth announcement, thank you card, and gift - a small token of gratitude for their invaluable role in the ordeal of giving birth!