Is the 4th Trimester the Hardest?
While pregnant, many women don't realize there is the fourth trimester and many mothers consider it to be the hardest phase. Those early weeks are filled with a rollercoaster of emotions, meeting the baby's needs, and still trying to survive.
What Happens to Baby in the Fourth Trimester?
During the fourth trimester, your baby will be introduced to the outside world and will learn how to thrive and live. It takes some time, so be patient. You're both going through this for the first time together.
During the first three months of a baby's life, your baby will eat every 2 - 3 hours and will sleep approximately 14 to 17 hours each day. Their sleep most likely won't be very patterned yet, and you will have to help them learn to sleep. This might require skin-to-skin contact, wearing baby in a baby carrier, or getting outside for walks to help them feel relaxed. Make sure you have realistic expectations with your new baby. You won't have quite as much freedom as before, but with a little juggling, you can make it work.
Why Does the Fourth Trimester Matter?
The fourth trimester is a time for both baby and mother to adapt to the new changes. Your baby's brain will continue to develop as they take in the world around them. Their eyesight will get better, and they will form more neural pathways in the brain as they make connections each and every day. The fourth trimester is important for bonding and adapting. These first few months of life are very important to newborn babies and their mothers.
How to Prepare for the Fourth Trimester
Stock your bathrooms with recovery essentials
If you deliver at a hospital, the staff will most likely provide you with some of the essentials. These may include mesh underwear, perineal ice packs, and witch hazel pads. These all help soothe inflammation and pain after birth (especially if you tear). While these might be supplied, it's a great idea to stock your bathroom with your own essentials before delivery because you won't be able to make a grocery store trip quite as easily afterward.
Brands like Frida and Mother Mother offer fully stocked postpartum boxes for both vaginal and C-section births. These are simple ways to stock up on everything you need without thinking about what you might need. They make great baby shower gifts if you want something to bestow to a new mom.
Say yes when people offer to help
Before you give birth, consider who you want around to help out afterward. While caring for the new baby, you will also have to think about your physical recovery. Make a list of friends and loved ones you want to stop by or be around in those first few days. This may include your mother, your spouse, your best friend, or a lactation consultant.
Other important people may include a postpartum doula to help with your transition from pregnancy to parenthood. This is often covered by insurance, so look into it if it interests you. If you have helpers like this, post their contact information on the fridge for others to see in case of emergency.
Many new mothers set up a sign-up for meals. This is a helpful way for friends and family to bring food, meet the baby, and then be on their way. While recovering, you won't want to spend time cooking. Another helpful thing to do is create a chore list that you post on the fridge or counter. Any helpers that come around will know to peek at it and see what you might need.
Be ok setting boundaries
During the first week as new parents, you will have a lot going on. Of course, you'll want everyone to meet the new baby, especially close friends and family members, but recognize when you need a break. It's ok to tell loved ones that it isn't a good time. You will be experiencing sleep deprivation, emotional changes, and changes of your own body. Some moms are not comfortable breastfeeding in front of others, in which case you may ask for privacy or use a nursing cover.
Think about your limits and be ok setting them. Have a goal to only let one visitor come per day so you don't get overwhelmed and so you can get rest. Set ground rules about who is allowed to come to see the baby. This is especially important during heavy sick periods as you don't want the baby to get sick.
Also, let guests know what type of physical touch is ok. Ask that friends and family not kiss baby on the head or face. This is your newborn baby, so express your wants and wishes and expect others to listen.
Prepare yourself for postpartum emotions
The fourth trimester is a wild ride, a rollercoaster, if you will. Those first months of a baby can be filled with so much joy and so much grief all at the same time. You may find yourself crying for no reason, feeling unreasonably moody, struggling to sleep, or feeling lonely. While it's no fun, it's normal. Yes, this new life is amazing, and you love your baby, but you're also mourning the life you'll never have before the baby. You're accepting the changes your body is going through, and that's ok. Embrace it, recognize it, and seek help if you need someone to talk to.
Those baby blues are short-term, but if they continue, be sure to speak to your doctor so they can help you get through this postpartum period.
Learn where to find help when you need it
While a therapist is a fantastic way to get through postpartum depression and mood swings, there are other amazing resources out there. In today's age of technology, there are tons of apps and websites that offer first-time mommy support. Check out sites like Peanut, Expectful, Dear Sunday Motherhood, Union Square Play, ParentQuest from Lucie's List, and Dad's Only.
Through groups like these, you'll find tons of other parents going through exactly what you're going through.
Have fun before the baby comes
Before your baby arrives, spend some quality time with your partner. Get on the same page with them so you can enjoy life once the baby arrives. You will focus on the baby's needs for months and years to come, so focus on yourself and your partner for a bit longer.
Many couples go on a babymoon or vacation to celebrate the journey they are about to embark on. Find something you both love to do and enjoy.
As you head into your second and third trimester, think about what you can do beforehand to prepare for the fourth trimester. Hopefully some of the tips above will help. You will also love The Dairy Fairy Bras. They will make your breastfeeding journey easy with nursing and pumping bras of all kinds. Be sure to take a look.