What to Expect in the First 24 Hours After Birth

July 24, 2019
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Oh, postpartum! So many hormones, so many changes.

Knowing what to expect in the first 24 hours after birth is really something that should be talked about more often.

We prepare so much for childbirth (grab my free birth plan template!) but we fall short when it comes to postpartum.

That doesn’t mean that it isn’t just as important though. You need to know what to expect so that you can take care of yourself, and by default, your baby.

As a first time mom, there were several things that I was surprised by and I feel as though I did my research!

Now I have three children and my postpartum experience has been a little different with each.

Hopefully, this post can prepare you for what might happen. Take note of the word might. Every woman is different.

My motto is to prepare for the worst and hope for the best!

mom and baby in the first 24 hours after birth

#1 After Pains

Did you know that after labor ends, you still have contractions?

I mean…ugh! Right?!

They happen for good reason (to shrink your uterus back down) but they’re awful. And fun fact…they get worse with each child you have.


I only breastfed my youngest for a day or so before moving exclusively to formula. One day during the first week postpartum, I went to pump a little in order to ease the engorgement.

Well, the stimulation brought on after birth pains and OH. MY. GOSH. it was like I was in labor again.

Needless to say, I put up with the engorgement from then on in.

But here’s the thing, don’t let it scare you. Knowing about it will help you to prepare.

After pains will typically happen right after giving birth. They aren’t nearly intense as labor contractions, but they hurt nonetheless. They’re kind of between period cramps and early labor.

Breastfeeding stimulates them, which is actually very clever.

Knowing all that, you can prepare by making sure you stay on top of your pain by using regular pain-killers.

I also used my wheat sack regularly because the heat really helped to ease the cramping.

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Pinterest image about self care after birth

#2 Heavy Bleeding

The amount that every woman bleeds postpartum is individual and your health care provider should educate you on what is and is not normal.

However, you should expect heavy bleeding. It isn’t fun, but it also shouldn’t last overly long.

One of the best things I did was invest in some adult diapers.

If you’re worried about the lack of dignity that wearing one of those involves, trust me…you won’t care.

Besides, it gives you much more security when it comes to leaks and you’ll likely be wearing track pants or some other kind of loose loungewear.

Witch Hazel
Peri Bottle
Maternity Pads
Adult Diapers
Witch Hazel
Peri Bottle
Maternity Pads
Adult Diapers
Witch Hazel
Peri Bottle
Maternity Pads
Adult Diapers

#3 Light-Headedness

Being a bit light-headed after having given birth is not uncommon, but don’t ignore it.

Always let your health care provider know so that they can monitor you.

Because it is common, make sure that you are careful when you go from sitting to standing. Take your time.

Drink lots of water and rest as much as possible. (I recommend investing in a good water bottle like this one to have with you all the time)

Also, when you go for that first shower after having given birth, make sure not to have the water too hot. You don’t want that adding to things and making you feel even worse.

#4 Sore Muscles

When you are in labor all of your effort will be on that. You forget about everything else happening and chances are, you don’t realise all of the muscles that you are using in the process.

In the first 24 hours after birth, you may have really sore muscles. If your baby was posterior, your back may ache.

It is also common for your jaw to be sore because we often clench it when bracing ourselves against the pain.

Your body just went through a marathon and will need time to recover.

I liked to continue using my pregnancy pillow for the first week or so postpartum, just so that my body had support as it healed.

mom sitting on toilet postpartum

#5 Lack of Bladder Control

Having a lack of bladder control is not going to affect every woman. In fact, it was only an issue for me after birthing my firstborn.

I didn’t experience it at all with my following two babies.

However, be aware that it can happen.

And it wasn’t that I couldn’t hold it…I literally didn’t know that I was going.

So yeah…that was fun.

Thankfully, it was only for the first 12 or so hours and then things were back to normal. If you find it happening to you, let your health care provider know and also be sure to make regular bathroom trips.

#6 Night Sweats

You may experience night sweat right away, a few days later, or not at all.

However, it is common and normal to experience them in the first 24 hours after birth.

Remember, your body has been carrying excess fluid and it is also on a mission to get rid of certain hormones.

Sweating is a very natural way for your body to do just that.

Just be sure to have plenty of clean pj’s so that you can change whenever you feel necessary.

Honestly, with postpartum bleeding and your milk coming in, you’ll be wanting to change a lot anyway.

Two Piece Long
Two Piece
Short Sleeve Nightie
Postpartum Gown
Long Sleeve Nightie
Two Piece Long
Two Piece
Short Sleeve Nightie
Postpartum Gown
Long Sleeve Nightie

#7 Adrenaline

This is weird. You would think that after having given birth you’d want to just crash and sleep it off.

However, it is not at all uncommon to feel alert and awake for some time afterwards, thanks to adrenaline.

Don’t feel as though there is anything wrong with you if that is NOT how you feel, but don’t be surprised if instead of sleeping, you just want to snuggle your brand new baby for hours on end.

Don’t worry, the adrenaline will wear off and the exhaustion will hit (and you’ll get through that too).

#8 Sore Nipples

I know, I know…all the breastfeeding experts out there insist that if there is pain baby isn’t latched correctly.

And I get it, I do. But here’s the thing…your nipples aren’t used to having something suck on them for hours on end.

And yes, that is often what it is like when your baby is firstborn. They want to nurse frequently so that they can get the colostrum they need and encourage your milk to come in.

Do your very best to make sure you’re getting them latched on correctly (as for help!) so that you can minimize any discomfort. However, don’t be surprised if there is at least a little pain.

You can help reduce it by using coconut oil or lanolin cream after every feed.

mom and baby 24 hours postpartum

#9 Fear

You pushed a baby out (or underwent MAJOR surgery!)…you can do ANYTHING!

Or at least that is how it feels for those first few hours.

But then reality sinks in and you come to terms with the fact that this little person that you just brought into the world is yours to love, nurture, and raise.

It is all on you.

And the first time you experience that reality can be really scary.

Don’t worry, just about all of us have felt that at some point or another. You’re not abnormal and there is nothing wrong with you.

Acknowledge that fear and then face it head-on. You are more than capable of taking care of your baby, but the only way that you’ll realize that is by doing it day by day.

The confidence will come and the fear will lessen with time. I promise.

#10 Bliss

Oh my gosh…those first 24 hours with your brand new baby are absolutely priceless.

There is nothing that compares with it and it is just one of the most special things on the face of the earth.

Prepare to feel blissful. Enjoy your sweet baby.

I remember the first time I was alone in the room with my baby. Everyone had gone home for the night.

I memorized every little detail of his tiny body and felt in awe that he was mine. I made him!

Enjoy the hazy bliss that you feel in those first 24 hours. You are every bit entitled to it.

And just a note before I end this post. I also want to point out that no one gets to tell you how you should be feeling postpartum.

Every woman’s journey is unique. We don’t all bond with our babies straight away and we don’t all embrace motherhood with open arms (even if we pursued it with passion!).

Give yourself grace and take each moment as it comes. You’re going to do great.

Pinterest image about the first 24 hours after birth
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