The fourth trimester is the first magical (and intense!) 3 months of your baby’s life, where you get to know them as they transition to the outside world and your body changes and heals as you become a mama. You will have memorable and special moments in the fourth trimester, but the first 12 weeks with your baby can be the most challenging no matter what number baby it is for you. Your baby has a lot of adjusting to do in these first few months, so being aware of how you can mimic the warm safe environment of the womb, will be one way to help this transition for your little one. You also have a life changing adjustment to navigate as a new mother - both your body and mind go through a significant transition after giving birth and it's important to honour those changes within yourself.
Preparing for your fourth trimester is just as, if not more important than preparing for your labour and birth. Getting organised, knowing who your village is for support, and learning about topics such as how to feed, change and settle your baby before you give birth will assist your transition into parenthood.
Tips For Getting Organised:
Discussing with your partner a plan for visitors after bub is born and letting your village know what your preferences are beforehand. Always ask your visitors not to show up unannounced, not to visit if they are sick and if you have a preference regarding vaccinations for them to visit your baby.
Know your support people and delegate jobs for them. Support from your village around you will make the fourth trimester a little easier for you and your partner. Write a list of who will help you and what they can do for you. For example; housework, washing your clothes, looking after other children, cooking meals, holding your baby so you can shower. It might feel difficult to do, but most of the time family and friends genuinely love being able to help and support and direction is often valued.
Writing a list of easy-to-reach resources and numbers of your village and health professionals you may need in the fourth trimester. The list may include; close family and friends, GP, midwife or OB, Australian Breastfeeding Association hotline, Raising Children’s website, PANDA, Beyond Blue, paediatrician, child health clinic
Preparing by; paying bills in advance, organising a regular cleaner postnatally, preparing meals, and stocking up your freezer with quick meals. If you don’t have time to cook before your baby arrives, you can organise meals to be delivered to you or ask your family to set up a meal train so they can drop off meals in the fourth trimester
Stock up on basics for when bub is born; comfortable clothes, cheap black high-waisted underwear, nappies, pain relief
Pack your hospital bag and also prepare a nappy bag for when you’re out of the house in the fourth trimester. Another helpful thing to do is prepare a few nappy-changing stations around your home, especially if you have a two-story house so you can change bub wherever you are.
Prepare by purchasing practical products that will aid in your recovery like BodyICE Woman perineal ice packs, essential if you plan on a vaginal birth. Products to also support your feeding journey are important. If you plan to breastfeed, items such as BodyICE Woman breast pads (frozen and heated) are game changers for engorged breasts, clogged ducts, encouraging milk to come in or when you pump (warm) and are handy throughout your entire breastfeeding journey. Other practical breastfeeding products might include: burp cloths (milk everywhere), breast pads, maternity singlets, breastfeeding pillow, breastfeeding snacks and silverette’s / nipple balm.
The other recommendation for parents in preparing for the fourth trimester, is to attend antenatal classes or undertake your own research so you can develop realistic expectations for the first 12 weeks after your baby is born.
Some topics to explore:
Normal hormonal changes for you in the fourth trimester, including baby blues
Physical changes your body is going through and how you can support recovery and healing post birth (post vaginal birth and C-section)
Feeding options and what to expect (how much milk, techniques for breastfeeding, normal newborn behaviour etc.)
Settling techniques for your baby. Mimicking the womb through skin to skin, swaddling, white noise and babywearing, provides a smooth transition to the outside world
General newborn information; behaviour, daily care, growth, output, safe sleeping, development and play and learning
The final thing to remember for your fourth trimester, and probably the most important, is to always take care of yourself.
It can be stressful and overwhelming, this is normal as you and your baby are learning day by day. It might seem challenging as you have this new little person that fills in most of the day, but try and take care of yourself too. Go easy on yourself and your changing body, it took over 9 months to grow your baby, so it’s not going to return to its pre-pregnancy state just yet. Take it slow while your body is healing and your organs are returning to their normal place; take care of your breasts if you are breastfeeding to minimize damage and lumps.
Take moments to just breathe, put on a meditation soundtrack or read a book. Write a reminder on your fridge for you to do every day; stay hydrated, eat regular nutritious snacks and meals, have a shower, sit outside to get fresh air and sunshine, and rest when bub sleeps (forget about the housework at least once a day!). Let go of all expectations about sleep, schedules, advice and minimise commitments in the fourth trimester. Ask your village to visit you so you don’t have to go and visit them, and above all ask them for help and support.
Enjoy your fourth trimester, the first few months of getting to know your baby. Spend lots of time together, including with your partner and other children, ignore expectations and just go with what feels right for you and your baby as the first 12 weeks will come and go very quickly.
This blog is written by midwife Aliza Carr from Bumpnbub. This blog is general advice only and does not replace the need for medical advice.
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