I’m currently six weeks into my fourth trimester- the magical three month period after having a new baby when you’re recovering from childbirth and caring for a new human that’s still on womb central time. This is baby #3 but I’m still finding the fourth trimester to be a challenge at times. This time around I have the benefit of experience with juggling more than one baby, but still suffer from sleep deprivation and hormonal changes (among other things) just like any new mom. I feel so blessed to have my three boys, but going through the postpartum period three years in a row hasn’t been an easy task and I’ve learned a lot (and I’m still learning) as a result. Here are my top tips for surviving the fourth trimester:
Manage Your Expectations– Having a new baby can be a wonderful experience at times, and at other times you might feel caught off guard by how challenging things like sleep deprivation, breastfeeding, or caring for a fussy baby can be. It’s important to know that these experiences are normal and temporary, and seek support if you’re struggling with anything. Lean on family and friends for advice when you need it.
If your hospital or another resource in your community offers a new mom support group consider joining. Read books about the postpartum period. Join POSITIVE and ENCOURAGING mom groups online. I personally love reading updates from Lucie’s List and I read and post to a few mom groups on Facebook. You can never have too much support during this period. Hearing from others about what’s normal helps you manage your expectations when things feel tough.
Many times hormonal changes and sleep deprivation are the main culprits when new moms feel irritable or “off” but if you feel like things are more serious than that and you may be suffering from postpartum depression then don’t be afraid to seek help. Many women experience that too and your pediatrician or OB can get you started with resources that will help.
Prioritize Your Needs– People tend to prioritize the baby’s needs (this starts from day 1 in the hospital) but your needs are important too. The saying that you can’t pour from an empty cup definitely applies here. Ask for as much help as you want. Say no to any activities or visitors that feel draining.
Even simple activities like taking a shower and drinking a cup of coffee can be important rituals for a new mom. Invest in a bouncer or swing if you can so that you can put that cute baby down and take care of yourself when you’re on your own. The baby will be okay while you take a quick shower.
Also don’t neglect your nutrition, especially if you’re nursing. A healthy, balanced diet and lots of water are necessary to replenish your body after childbirth. You have to be the one in charge of your self-care.
Get As Much Sleep As You Can– Unless you’re blessed with a baby who’s a great sleeper from the start (it happens, I got that lucky with baby #2) this one is usually easier said than done. But getting more sleep usually starts with getting help at night if you can. Make your partner take a shift at night if possible. Even if you’re not going into work like your partner, you still have the important job of caring for a baby during the day.
They say sleep when the baby sleeps during the day, but it can be tough to choose between napping, getting work done, and just enjoying some time to yourself. And if you have more than one child then this is especially difficult. But if sleeping is an option, take it. Cleaning, cooking, your Instagram feed etc all can wait.
Get Out of the House– Sometimes when things feel tough or you’re just exhausted, you need a change of scenery. Taking the baby for a walk so that you can get some fresh air can lift your mood. Try to schedule a few fun activities out of the house with your partner or friends as well, but don’t overwhelm yourself.
The fourth trimester might feel never ending during the challenging moments, but before you know it your baby will have outgrown the newborn stage. There’s nothing like those sweet newborn snuggles, so remember to pause and soak in the sweetness whenever you can. Those are my top tips for surviving the fourth trimester. I’d love to hear your thoughts/advice in the comments!