After the baby is born

At a glance

  • The first six to eight weeks after giving birth are referred to as the postnatal period.
  • The mother’s hormones readjust during this time.
  • The body changes caused by the pregnancy start to disappear and any injuries caused by the birth begin to heal.
  • The parents and child get to know each other and create a bond.
  • In Germany, families are entitled to be supported by a midwife for the first twelve weeks.
  • The child has a number of medical examinations.


Photo of a couple with their baby

During the postnatal period, the mother and child recover from the birth. The mother’s body starts to change. Her womb shrinks back to its normal size and any injuries caused by the birth begin to heal. Her move from pregnancy mode to breastfeeding mode.

The parents and the child get to know each other, adjust to the new situation, and create a special bond. Many fathers or co-mothers take time off work to enjoy this time and support their partner.

But the postnatal period is a challenging time too – especially if it’s the first child and everything’s completely new. A midwife can provide support during this phase. Help from family and friends is also very valuable – particularly if it’s hard for the mother to look after herself and get rest because of things like having to look after other children or relatives.

The first few days

In Germany, most women give birth in a hospital. They typically stay there for around three days, or longer if they had a Cesarean section (C-section). Nurses and midwives help the new mother with things like breastfeeding tips or how to bottle-feed. The baby can stay with the mother most of the time.

Doctors examine the child regularly. If the mother has had a C-section, a nurse or midwife will care for the wound. The mother’s partner can spend a lot of time in the hospital too and help to look after the baby.

Some women decide to take their baby home a few hours after giving birth (outpatient birth). It is possible to do that if there were no complications and mother and child are both well. Births at birthing centers are always outpatient births. It is important that women who give birth as an outpatient or at home have a midwife who checks on them and the child regularly at home.

Support from the midwife

In Germany, statutory health insurers cover the costs of help and support from a midwife until the baby is twelve weeks old. This support is vital for many mothers and their families. On the first few days after the birth or after the mother and child leave hospital, the midwife usually visits them at home daily. Once they’ve started to settle into a routine, she just comes as and when they need her.

The midwife provides advice on how to breastfeed or bottle-feed and look after the child. She looks after the baby’s umbilical cord and checks how the mother’s birth injuries are healing. These can be things like a perineal tear (between the vagina and ) or a C-section wound. She checks whether the child is healthy, whether it’s drinking properly, and what its poo looks like. She also gives tips on day-to-day life with the child and other forms of support available.


After the birth, the mother’s body gradually recovers and the changes the pregnancy caused to her body start to disappear. Immediately after giving birth, she begins to bleed from her vagina. This bleeding (lochia) lasts around six weeks and can be quite heavy, especially in the first ten days. The mother might also have afterpains – contractions that happen after the birth and feel like bad period pain. These contractions help the womb return to its normal size.

It takes some time for a new mother’s body to recover so healthcare providers recommend that mothers don’t do anything physically strenuous (like lifting or carrying heavy objects, or sports that put pressure on the pelvic floor) in the first few weeks after the birth. Light physical exercise is possible though. The midwife is a good person to ask about this. Around six to eight weeks after the birth, the mother can start postnatal exercise classes. These involve special exercises to strengthen the pelvic, back, and stomach muscles. These classes are free of charge for women who have statutory health insurance.

For some time after childbirth, a lot of women weigh more than they did before becoming pregnant. But right after giving birth isn't a good time to try to lose weight. It takes most women about half a year to get back to somewhere near their original weight.

Caring for the child

A baby needs to be looked after around the clock. It has to be breastfed or given formula, have its diaper changed, be bathed, and soothed. Babies sleep a lot in the first few months but they also wake up a lot. It takes some time for them to develop a sense of day and night. How long differs greatly from child to child.

The mother’s milk gives the child everything it needs to grow. It can sometimes take a little while for mother and child to get the hang of breastfeeding. Midwifes and breastfeeding counselors can provide support by helping the mother find a good position for breastfeeding, for instance. They can also give advice on problems like swollen breasts (engorgement) or sore nipples.

If the mother can’t or doesn’t want to breastfeed, the alternative is to feed the baby formula. This contains all the nutrients the baby needs too. But breastfeeding and bottle-feeding aren’t just about food-they’re about being close to each other. That helps mother and child get to know each other better.

Bonding with the child

Apart from food and clean diapers, the main thing a newborn needs is to feel safe and secure. Cuddles, skin contact, being held, breastfed, or bathed – all these things make it easier for the baby to get used to its new life outside of the womb. They also help promote the special bond between the parents and the baby. As time goes by, the parents increasingly get to know their child better. That helps them understand the baby’s signals and react the right way.

This bonding usually starts right after the birth when the newborn is placed on the mother’s stomach or chest. The partner can welcome the baby to the world too. If the mother had a general anesthetic or the child had to have medical treatment, their first intensive skin-to-skin contact might not be possible until later on. But they can start the bonding process at a later stage.

Baby blues and postpartum depression

Despite all the joy women may feel about their new baby, the hormonal changes following childbirth, the lack of sleep and adapting to their new life can take a real toll: There is a thin line between happiness and stress. Things can easily start to feel overwhelming if women don't get enough help. Some women get the “baby blues,” a short phase of severe mood swings and inexplicable sadness after giving birth. This usually only lasts a few days. If the sadness lasts longer than two weeks, it may be a sign of postnatal . Then help from outside is usually needed.

Newborn screening

A number of standard medical check-ups (paid for by health insurers) are available in the first few weeks of a baby’s life: straight after the birth (U1), between the third and tenth day after the birth (U2), and in the fourth to fifth week after the birth (U3). During these check-ups, the healthcare provider listens to the baby’s heart and checks its reflexes and breathing. They measure and weigh the baby, and take blood for testing as well. The baby is also given vitamin K to prevent bleeding.

Finding support

During the postnatal period, the mother’s partner is usually the person they turn to most. Other family members and close friends can provide important emotional and practical support during this phase too. Lots of parents are happy if someone else takes care of everyday chores like shopping, cooking, or cleaning. They’re also usually glad of help looking after their older children.

Doctors and midwives are on hand to help out with any problems or questions about the health of the mother and child, breastfeeding, and caring for the baby.

If the mother has health problems after giving birth, she can apply to her statutory health insurer for household help. Early prevention services (Frühe Hilfen) are also available free of charge for families with children up to the age of three. They are particularly aimed at parents who are feeling overwhelmed and want support. They’re also there for families that need special help because, for example, their baby is ill or has a disability.

Further information

More detailed information on the postnatal period can be obtained from the Federal Centre for Health Education (BZgA).

Germany’s Federal Centre for Nutrition (Bundeszentrum für Ernährung) also has a list of resources for babies’ first year on its “Gesund ins Leben” website.

Bundeszentrale für gesundheitliche Aufklärung (BZgA).

Deutsche Gesellschaft für Gynäkologie und Geburtshilfe (DGGG), Deutsche Gesellschaft für Hebammenwissenschaft (DGHW). Die vaginale Geburt am Termin (S3-Leitlinie). AWMF-Registernr.: 015-083. 2020.

Gemeinsamer Bundesausschuss (G-BA). Mutterschafts-Richtlinien.

IQWiG health information is written with the aim of helping people understand the advantages and disadvantages of the main treatment options and health care services.

Because IQWiG is a German institute, some of the information provided here is specific to the German health care system. The suitability of any of the described options in an individual case can be determined by talking to a doctor. can provide support for talks with doctors and other medical professionals, but cannot replace them. We do not offer individual consultations.

Our information is based on the results of good-quality studies. It is written by a team of health care professionals, scientists and editors, and reviewed by external experts. You can find a detailed description of how our health information is produced and updated in our methods.

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Created on October 4, 2023

Next planned update: 2026


Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG, Germany)

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