Top 10 Ways to Become Buddies with your Postpartum Nurse

Me with my favorite patient: my nephew!
I spent over six years as a postpartum (aka mother/baby) nurse at a big hospital in New York City. And, let me tell you, I've learned some things about how you can best develop a good relationship with the postpartum nurses in your hospital. Why would you want to? Because you'll be spending the majority of your hospital stay with them. And you'll need their expertise and help.

Some tips:
  1. Be organized. Whether you want to know about breastfeeding or swaddling or medications, prepare a list of specific questions for your nurse. If possible, write them down and ask your nurse when would be the best time to go over your list. Nurses prioritize and plan their days. If the nurse can carve out some time in her schedule to sit down with you and review specific issues it will make the conversation feel less rushed and get your questions answered more thoroughly.
  2. Do for yourself when you can. Getting up and moving around is better for your recovery, whether you've had a vaginal or c-section delivery. You may be bone tired (in fact, you most assuredly will), but walking around will boost your mood and improve your gastrointestinal function. So, if your nurse tells you it's time to walk up and down the hallway, trust her.
  3. Make use of your visitors. If you have healthy family members in your room, asking one of them to crawl under your bed to get that Chapstick you dropped is a good idea. Asking your nurse to do it is not. She has important medical needs to attend to for you and for other patients in need; the under-the-bed crawl is simply not the best use of her limited time (and it feels sort of ridiculous, if I'm being honest). Family members can also refill your water pitcher, bring you your slippers, etc.
  4. Remember that the nurse is there to help manage your health care. I'm a nurse not the cable guy. If you want to watch Glee but the tv's not working, try asking your nurse, "I know this isn't your job, so who should I call to get this fixed?" That bit of acknowledgement will be greatly appreciated; your nurse may even make it a point to track down the hospital cable guy for you. While your postpartum nurse wants to make your stay super comfortable, there are, in fact, things that are not in her control and shouldn't be expected of her.
  5. Bring only the bare necessities to the hospital with you. Hospital rooms, for the most part, are not spacious. Some toiletries and jammies are all you'll need. Enormous suitcases that your nurse needs to navigate to do her work are disruptive and unnecessary, plus they make the room less comfortable for you and your visitors.
  6. Speak for yourself. Having your husband or mom speak for you is awkward. Remember the game of telephone? Things get lost in translation; nobody will describe your needs better than you.
  7. Nurses are professionals and should be treated as such. Speak to your nurse as you would to your doctor. You'll certainly see us more than you'll see your doc! We'll help you with everything from getting your baby to latch onto your breast to helping you on the toilet. Let that intimacy breed respect for us and our jobs.
  8. Bringing food to thank your nurses is really lovely - giving the nurses your leftovers is really yucky. Someone else's leftovers don't make us feel good; if food is either going to the nurses or the garbage can, what does that say about the nurses? Order us a pizza or bring bagels and cream cheese to the nursing station and we will be thrilled; a small basket of fruit or a tin of cookies is equally appreciated. We work 12-hour shifts with only a half-hour lunch break…we love snacks!
  9. Pain management is paramount to the postpartum patient. Describing specific sensations makes it easier for your nurse to get you the most effective medicine. Do you have burning incisional pain? Pressure in your perineum (bottom)? Cramping in the uterus? Or general soreness from pushing? Different medicines treat different things. Communicate effectively with us and we can more easily ensure your comfort.
  10. Hospital hierarchy means doctors manage and nurses care. Please remember that a nurse can do nothing -- other than greet you warmly -- without a doctor's order. When it comes to medications, procedures or discharging you and your newborn, it is most likely not the nurse withholding treatment or being unresponsive. We are simply waiting for an order to carry out the necessary task.
  11. BONUS TIP: Enjoy your baby and be patient with yourself. This is a new and exciting time. Cherish it. You're as new to mothering your new baby as your baby is to the world. It's a process and, if given the opportunity, we mother/ baby nurses would love to support you, encourage you, and walk you through the first few days of your baby's life.


  1. What a great blog! This is such a special time in a woman's life! We nurses are so blessed to be able to be a part of this experience! Be kind to your nurses! :)

  2. Be kind to the nurses! You interact with the nurses more than the doctors.

  3.  I totally bought the nurses cookies (mandel bread, actually!), after Stella was born. Are all nurses that work on a maternity ward postpartum nurses, or is that a speciality? 

  4.  There are places where the nurses rotate between labor and delivery, nursery and postpartum. Mother/baby units are postpartum units where the nurses are assigned to care for both mother and baby as a unit instead of thinking of them as separate entities. It's all basically OB nursing.

  5.  So are you saying you want patients to give you BAGELS? Ha. Totally appreciate the nurses perspective. I think when your hormones and body are doing all those funny things post-baby it can be difficult to make all requests come out right. 

  6. Bagel deliveries are not needed, but they are far more desirable than 3/4 of a bagel in tin foil. Not an exaggeration. Ew!

  7. Don't forget that RNs are advocates for their patients to their doctors. Good nurses will listen to specific issues and suggest a plan of care. Poor nurses may need to be asked to contact the dr for orders. And that is their job and it is ok to ask her to do so! As a postpartum nurse I was dismayed at the poor care I received at another hospital after having my baby. I wish all nurses were as concientious as you Flannery.

  8. I was so grateful for our nurses when we were at the hospital. I think they have a special place in heaven for all they do!


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