The 4th Trimester – have you ever heard that term before? It’s a real thing. The process of giving birth is not just about the newborn. When a baby is born, a mother is also born. A father is born. Big brothers and sisters are born. The family dynamics change each time a newborn enters the world. The period of time after a baby is born is called postpartum – but it’s also called the Fourth Trimester. If you google “postpartum” you will find mainly articles about postpartum depression, but if you google “fourth trimester” you will find helpful articles on what you need and baby needs for the 4th trimester, plus what to expect during this time of adjustment for baby and Momma!
It’s SO IMPORTANT for both the new mom and baby to rest. Many times either others are putting pressure on new moms to get back into the normal routine, or new moms (and their partners) just have to return to work sooner than they would wish. If you are a pregnant first-time mama, I just want to encourage you to set yourself up for success. Plan your babymoon out. Talk to your husband or your best friend. Figure out how you can get the support and rest you need!!
What Baby Needs
During these first three months after baby is born, the baby has a lot of adjusting to do – living outside the uterus for the first time is a big deal!!
- Baby needs to be kept close to Momma: The feel of the mom’s body and the smell of mom’s skin is HOME to the newborn – he/she feels safe there. Take the time to be resting, laying in with your newborn – learn his/her cries. Watch for the cues of what your newborn needs. You won’t have this special time of bonding with your newborn again.
- Hibernate (be home) and slowly build rhythms, following baby’s cues: It may take some time to figure out what your new “normal” will be with a new baby, but work towards a rhythm or routine (not a schedule). Of course, in the early months baby will definitely not be nursing at regular intervals, but you can set rituals in place. For example – humming your baby to sleep, playing games while you change a diaper, nursing in the same comfy spot, etc.
TIP: keep baby close by wearing your baby in a wrap or sling, holding your baby skin to skin, sleep with or near your baby (whichever you are more comfortable with), breathe in your baby and take time to really look at him/her. If you want to read more about babywearing, check out my post on the 7 Great Benefits of Babywearing.
What You Need
This second point is what people, for the most part are NOT taking the time to talk about or address, and that is a big mistake. New moms have a lot of healing to do, hormones raging, and NEED REST.
- To rest and heal for several days: You need someone at home with you for at least the first several days. That way you can focus on healing and rest. It’s going to take more than normal effort to do just simple things (like getting up from the couch, much less going up a flight of stairs)! So, think about staying in ONE room (close to a bathroom) and resting. You can also focus on the newborn and getting the breastfeeding relationship established.
- Someone to arrange meals to be brought to your home: And don’t think you’ll be up for asking when the baby comes – do it in advance.)
- To wear your baby: Not only is it great for baby to be this close to you, but wearing your baby will make it easier for you to care for your baby AND go about gradually adding things to your life.
- Someone to ready to listen to you and lovingly encourage you: For the first two days after birth, you will be on a hormonal high, but then a huge hormonal transition happens on day three or four. You may go from being in a maternal state of bliss to sometimes deep depression or unexplained crying, sadness, or worry. Most new moms worry that they are not doing enough for their baby. This is normal. You are not going crazy and this stage will come to an end.
- Someone to answer questions without judgment: The more a mother feels provided for, loved, safe, protected, comforted and reassured the quicker she will heal and get through severe emotional ups and downs. Plus you probably have LOT of questions just on breastfeeding alone. Is baby eating enough? Are you producing enough? Find someone who will listen and help you. Someone who is willing to listen to you again and research and have lots of ideas to try. (Do you have more questions about breastfeeding? Check out my articles on breastfeeding.)
If you are reading this, having already gone through the 4th Trimester, I bet you can identify with much of what I’m saying. If so, then help out new moms as much as you can!! Send them notes of encouragement. Clean their kitchen. Be a listening ear.I have so enjoyed assisting
If you are reading this as a pregnant first-time mom – don’t be afraid to ask LOTS of questions of us who have gone before, and yes, even if it’s in the middle of the night – send that text. Arrange for help ahead of time if you can. Think through your 4th Trimester. I wish you the best! Don’t let me or other moms scare or intimidate you. Trust yourself, your instinct and do what feels right for YOUR family. (Feel free to email me at betsy the doula at gmail dot com.)
Other great articles to read on the 4th Trimester: