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Postnatal care

If you have an uncomplicated birth and all is well, you will go home as soon as your condition allows. Most women do not need to stay overnight.

You will only be transferred to the postnatal ward if there is a clinical need. Otherwise, you and your baby will stay in the delivery suite to rest before going home.

During this time, your midwife will:

  • ensure you and your baby are both doing well
  • give you and your partner time together with your baby
  • advise and support you with feeding and caring for your baby

The following people may be involved in your postnatal care:

  • midwife
  • maternity support worker / healthcare assistant
  • doctor / obstetrician
  • newborn hearing screener
  • physiotherapist
  • neonatologist
  • bedside hygiene staff
  • social worker
  • clinical psychologist
  • administrative support staff
  • chaplains

For more details, please download the Public Health Agency book Birth to five.

  • Skin to skin contact

    During your pregnancy, a midwife will explain the benefits of skin to skin contact with your baby.

    The main benefits are:

    • it keeps your baby warm
    • it calms you and your baby and helps your baby feel secure
    • it helps regulate your baby’s heart rate and breathing
    • it encourages a close and loving relationship between you and your baby
    • it reduces the risk of low blood sugar as your baby is warmer and tends to feed earlier
    • it helps protect your baby by colonising him/her with your bacteria
    • it boosts your confidence in handling your baby


    After the birth, your baby will be dried and placed on your tummy. It may be a good idea to wear an open shirt or remove your clothing so it is easier to have skin to skin contact.

    Your baby can then be covered with a warm, dry towel. This will keep your baby warm and avoid you feeling exposed. A woolly hat will also be put on your baby’s head for the first six hours. This prevents the loss of excess body heat while your baby adjusts to life outside your body.

    Skin to skin contact should continue for as long as you wish. It should continue at least until your baby demonstrates feeding cues and has had a first feed. You can choose when to end this contact.

    Skin to skin contact is fantastic for dads too. It promotes bonding and development. Make the most of this special time with your new baby.

    At no other time will you or your baby have such high levels of hormones and natural mothering and nurturing instincts. You will be able to talk to your baby, check all the fingers and toes, and reassure yourself that all is well.

    After a period of time, your baby will show signs of being ready to feed. These feeding cues may include:

    • rooting
    • salivating
    • lifting or turning their head in search of your breast


    Your midwife in the delivery suite will offer support to start a breastfeed. She will help position you and your baby to ensure successful attachment at your breast.

    Skin to skin contact and breastfeeding
    • It ensures your milk supply is not delayed. The sooner you start breastfeeding, the better your milk supply will be. This improves your breastfeeding experience.
    • Your baby will be colonised with your friendly bacteria, which helps your baby’s immune system.
    • It increases the hormone oxytocin. This makes your uterus contract, which helps reduce the risk of heavy bleeding following delivery.
    • The hormones that circulate in your body after a breastfeed counteract the post-delivery adrenaline. This helps you sleep.


    If you are planning to formula feed your baby, a formula of your choice will be given in the labour suite during skin to skin contact. You and your baby will still have all the benefits of this precious time together immediately after delivery.

    Points to remember
    • Skin to skin contact may not be possible for everyone, for example if your baby is unwell or very premature. However, skin to skin contact can be introduced gradually as your baby gets better. Premature babies can benefit a lot from skin to skin contact.
    • Don’t panic if skin to skin contact is not possible immediately after delivery. You can take the opportunity as soon as it comes along.
    • Skin to skin contact can help raise the temperature of your baby very quickly.
    • If you need a caesarean section to deliver your baby, we will ensure skin to skin contact happens as soon as possible following your operation. As long as your baby is in good health, you will not be separated at any time.
    • Skin to skin contact is useful at any time in the postnatal period, for example if your baby is unsettled. The close contact, warmth, breathing and heartbeat will comfort your baby and help brain development.
    • Skin to skin contact can also encourage your baby to feed. Your natural scent and the feel of the contact can bring on the feeding cues.
  • Feeding your baby
  • Newborn screening

    In the hospital, your midwife will ask you some screening questions and record the answers in part one of the Personal Child Health Record (red book).

    The midwife will also complete a detailed examination of your baby and record her findings in part two of the Personal Child Health Record. This examination will be repeated by the health visitor in six to eight weeks.

    Newborn hearing screening

    With your consent, we will perform a hearing test on your baby to detect any problems. The screening takes a few minutes and is performed at your bedside or in an adjacent quiet area. The results are recorded in the Personal Child Health Record.

    If you are transferred home before the hearing test, we will arrange an appointment by phone or letter within two weeks.

    Download the Public Health Agency leaflet on newborn hearing screening. Translations are also available.


    Immunisation is available for babies who are at risk of developing hepatitis B or tuberculosis (TB). Please inform your midwife if these vaccines are required.

    Blood spot screening

    With your consent, we will carry out an important blood test when your baby is five days old. A small amount of blood is taken from your baby’s heel and tested for:


    Download the Public Health Agency leaflet on newborn blood spot screening. Translations are also available.

  • Community midwife

    The maternity unit will organise your postnatal care with a community midwife in the area you are going home to. If you are going home to a different address from your usual home address, please inform the midwife before you leave the hospital.

    The community midwife will visit you and your baby the day after you go home. After that, postnatal visits will be arranged to suit you and your baby’s needs.

    If you are recovering normally and your baby is well, the community midwife will transfer you and your baby’s care to a health visitor at around 10 to 14 days after the birth. This timescale can be extended if the community midwife feels it is necessary.

    If you have not received a visit from the community midwife by 3pm the day after you returned home from the maternity unit, please contact one of the following:

    • community midwives office in the Maternity Hospital: 028 9063 3802 (please leave a message if necessary)
    • ward or department you were in before returning home:
      E ward: 028 9063 2044
      Johnstone House: 028 9063 8154
      delivery suite: 028 9063 3412 / 2003 / 3546