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8 Things You Wish You Had Known About the 4th Trimester

What is the Fourth Trimester?

It's just as it sounds. Each trimester of your pregnancy was three months. The fourth trimester is the first 90 days after your baby is born. This can be a lovely and exciting time, but it can also be a time of overwhelming emotion and one of a fine balancing act.  Between the sleep deprivation, having a tiny human depend on you for everything, the emotional whirlwinds, and the constant flow of visitors, the fourth trimester can seem very intense. Having a game plan in place, or at least knowing what to expect, can be helpful. 

1. Ask for Help 

Society expects too much from new parents, especially birthing parents. There, I said it. It's too much. It's overwhelming. And it affects the way parents think about themselves as caregivers. 

Let go of this societal idea that a new mom has to do it all from day one. It is a slow ramp up. First and foremost, your body is healing and this requires you to rest, so let the laundry pile up (or at least have someone else do it for you). Second, there is no shame in asking others for help if they are offering. When visitors come over, don't be afraid to ask them to help you. Most people will offer by asking, "Is there anything I can do?" Instead of the obligatory "No thanks," say, "Yes, do you mind swapping the clothes from the washer to the dryer? That would be so helpful." Other things that visitors can help with is walking your dog, writing a list of needed items as you rattle them off from the top of your "baby-brain" head, load or unload the dishwasher, bring you something to eat or drink, hold the baby while you shower, fold the laundry, set out the frozen dinners you prepared beforehand so it is thawed when dinner time comes around, and the list goes on and on. People who are stopping by your home and offering to help truly care about you. Let them help. Allow them to help ease the weight of having a newborn. One suggestion is to keep a running list of things that need to be done around the house or errands that need to be run. When someone asks if they can help you, refer to your list! 

Part of asking for help is knowing your personal boundaries. This may look like saying "no" to visitors in the first few days or weeks to help your family adjust to life as it is now. That is okay. Having the first few days reserved for yourself, your baby, and your partner (or close friends/family of your choosing) is okay. Let them know that the first few days are boring and filled with constant breastfeeding, resting your body, and quiet time. Politely explain that all your baby does right now is feed, cry, sleep, and poop. They aren't missing anything earth-shattering. People will understand that your new family needs space to adjust. Plus, who wants all that unwanted advice in the first few days in combination with raging hormones anyway? 

2. It's Just as Uncomfortable as the Last Trimester 

While pregnancy is different for everyone, most birthing parents would agree that the end of pregnancy was quite uncomfortable. The end of pregnancy held physical discomfort as well as emotional feelings that you may or may not have been prepared for or expected to emerge. Once your baby gets here, it is common to still be physically and mentally uncomfortable. For the first few days or weeks after your birth experience, you will have to allow your body time to heal. This means that you won't be able to do certain things such as sex, exercise, use tampons, and lifting things. Sometimes, it is even recommended that you delay showering or bathing depending on the nature of your delivery. Sometimes you are sore in places you didn't even know you could be sore. Birthing a baby takes efforts from your entire body. Therefore, you entire body is subject to aches and being in need of restorative rest.

You will still worry during this time, too. You will be worried that you're doing everything "right." You will worry that your baby is safe. You will worry that your baby is getting enough to eat, enough sleep. You will worry when they are awake and you will worry when they are asleep. This is common in new parents, especially for first time parents. However, trust your instincts. Pregnancy has a funny way of instilling gut instincts in parents. You are the expert on your child. You know your child better than anyone else. You know when things are right and you know when things are wrong. Trust yourself.

3. Wear Your Baby 

Baby wearing has an infinite amount of positive outcomes associated with it. For starters, it helps to free up your hands to do other things such as drinking your coffee, brushing your teeth or warming up a bottle. Research also shows it helps your baby remain soothed and relaxed--a good state for a newborn to be in. It also helps your baby bond with you. Skin-to-skin (wearing your baby with only a diaper on and you without a shirt on) has been proven to increase milk production in breastfeeding and chestfeeding parents, improve the heart and lung function of your baby, stabilize your baby's temperature (Did you know your body will adjust its' temperature to accommodate your baby's temperature needs?! How cool is that!), provide you and your baby with pain relief due to the release of hormones initiated by skin-to-skin contact, and has even been shown to reduce the risk of postpartum depression.

4. Having a New Baby Can Be Isolating

Get out and about! There are many ways you can do this: join a new parents class, go on a daily stroll with your baby in the local park, reconnect with the parents you took Child Birth Education classes with, join an online forum (this one seems like cheating, but having interaction with other parents, no matter how you do it is a good thing!). In all major cities, there are meet-up groups for hundreds of groups of people: new moms, new dads, new non-binary parents, second time parents, parents of children born between this date and this date, crunchy parents, anti-vax parents, military parents, nervous parents, and free-range parents. Again, this list goes on and on. It helps to know that other parents are experiencing the same things you are going through. Being around other like-minded people will build your confidence in your skills as a parent. You will see what's happening with your baby is "normal." 

5. Create a Sleep Routine for Your Partner and Yourself 

You will have never been as tired in your life as you are after your baby is born. Communication between you and your partner (or any support person) is essential in the fourth trimester. Nailing down a sleep schedule for you (adults, not the newborn) can be challenging and it look different for each family. Some parents choose to sleep in shifts: 7pm-1am are managed by parent 1 and 1am-7am are managed by parent 2. Some families choose to alternate night feedings while other families alternate entire nights altogether.

Finding the right balance for you and your partner is crucial to mastering the fourth trimester. Play around with different strategies for a few nights and check-in with one another to see how you both feel. If something isn't working, tweak that aspect and keep what is working. There is no right or wrong. There is simply what works for you and your family's needs. It's important to note that as your child's sleep patterns change, your sleep routines will most likely need to be adjusted to accommodate this change. But that another quest for another day. 

6. Think Routines, Not Schedules 

We've all heard it before: "When can I put my baby on a schedule?" Research shows that newborns thrive best in an environment that is tailored to their needs. This means letting them sleep when they are tired, snuggling them when they are fussy, changing them when they are soiled, and feeding on demand. As adults, not having a structured schedule can be so challenging that some find it paralyzing. The thought of not having a schedule to follow can cause feelings of anxiety. Often times, parents fear that without a schedule, important things will be forgotten such as brushing their teeth or changing the baby's diaper. To this I say, create a routine. For example, everyday when you baby wakes up, you would change their diaper, feed them, burp them, put them in a wrap to baby-wear, and then proceed with taking care of yourself: brushing your teeth, going to the bathroom, eating, drinking your coffee, answering your emails; whatever taking care of yourself may look like for you. The beauty of a routine (versus a schedule) is that it may happen at 5:30am or 7am, but the routine is the same ensuring that your child is getting everything they need on their own time.  

7. Forget The Housework 

The housework can wait, but snuggles can not. The housework can wait, but your baby will only smile for the first time once. The housework can wait, but watching your baby peacefully sleep is not a moment you want to miss. Enough said.

This might mean communicating to your partner that the household responsibilities will need to be split. For some this looks like, one partner doing the housework and one partner with baby. For others, this looks like assigned responsibilities around the house. Some families, have designated parent 1 and parent 2 nights where that particular partner is in charge of taking care of baby and the house while the other partner enjoys some much needed time to him/herself.

If you have the means, it may also mean hiring some household help temporarily until you have mastered your new routine taking care of your baby and can begin to {slowly} take on housework. A postpartum doula may be a nice middle-ground to helping you care for your newborn and keeping your independence. 

8. Take Time for Yourself 

This is by far, hands down, the hardest one to accomplish...for many reasons. Mom guilt, it's real. The feeling of "nobody else will be able to get my baby to sleep." The exhaustion tricks you into thinking your needs aren't as important. Plus, the sheer lack of time--when is there ever 5 minutes you can take to yourself?

Estrogen plays a huge role in the after-effects of birth concerning the emotional ups and downs. This hormone peaks in the third trimester, yet in the 24-hours following birth, it drops jumping off a steep cliff. Between the hormonal changes and the sleep deprivation, taking care of yourself is imperative. It's like this... how well can you deal with a fussy baby, mood swings, constantly breastfeeding, and the everyday challenges of being a new parent if you don't take care of yourself? However, if you are able to carve out just a few minutes of "me-time" each day or an entire hour each month, you will be able to handle life stressors of being a parent much better. 

Washington Post just published an article discussing the importance of self-care in parenting. Click here to check it out.

Lasting Thought:

Embrace your new body! Your body created, grew, birthed, and is now caring for a tiny human. You earned those stripes! Those full, heavy breasts are nourishing you little one. That postpartum belly is just more of you to love. You are a beautiful, human-making own your new title! You earned it! 

This too Shall Pass

This brief moment in time (but what might seem like forever) will soon be behind you and your baby will be rolling over, sitting up, walking, and talking before you know it. Relax and embrace this chaotic time of parenthood. This transition is difficult for everyone. Learning how to care for a tiny human and reshape the family dynamics is tough. Let go of the expectations that you are supposed to be perfect. Instead, be perfect for yourself and your baby. The perfect parent doesn't spend time worrying about what society thinks, rather rests assured that their baby is loved and well taken care of. Things get easier as your baby gets older and as you get the hang of being a parent. Don't focus on your mistakes, but focus on all the great things you do and provide for your baby. Focus on the fact that you were chosen to be this child's parent and you made this baby wonderfully and beautifully with your own body. Take time to care for yourself and reflect on the fact that you are a wonderful parent.

Tranquility by HeHe, A Concierge Birthing and Doula Service in Boston, Massachusetts
"We can't wait to pamper you."


  1. The fourth trimester is the time when we are to reveal all our might as parents having a baby. Exhausted physically but when we have passed it, we will miss it again...

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