The Fourth Trimester
I am in the midst of the fourth trimester. I wish I had understood this concept earlier with my first baby. It is the idea that there is another three months of gestating after we give birth. I really think the fourth trimester gets overlooked because we focus so much on getting to the birth, but the real test comes after baby arrives. (Our book has a great chapter devoted to this concept that I hope you will read. Our website also has some information on the fourth trimester.)
What I wished I had known sooner:
- Think of the first 2-3 weeks as Baby Boot Camp. You are just thrust into a huge learning curve that you can’t completely prepare for but will make it through.
- How to nurse laying down. This makes nighttime feeding barely noticeable. Ask for lots of help breastfeeding if you need it. Go to an LLL (La Leche League) meeting in your area before and after baby comes.
- How to wear your baby in a sling or wrap. All they really want is to be near your heart and you are able to actually get something done at the same time. (Some communities even have a babywearing group like LLL but there are lots of resources online to help you learn how to wrap your baby too.)
- Accept all the help you are offered. If you get too much food all at once, freeze what you know won’t get eaten yet. You can freeze your own meals ahead of time too.
- Truly stay in bed or your comfy chair for the first three days. I’m really not good at this but I tried hard to do it this time and felt like I healed more rapidly.
- Lay a towel under you to catch any spit-up or overflow so you don’t have to wash your sheets everyday.
- Just bring the glider into the master bedroom. Keep your phone or a book available. Try to engage your other children in something before sitting down to the nurse the baby. This helps cut down on interruptions.
- Let your house be messy! Really. You can always do more housework but you need this time to just relax and recuperate. You should not be doing housework for about two weeks.
- HerbLax by Shaklee is my friend for the first 3-4 days.
- Lansinoh 100% lanolin cream is my other friend for the first week or two until my nipples adjust. (I actually lucked out and learned about this with my first baby.)
- I used an abdominal binder this time and I do think it helped with the afterbirth contractions. You would not have to buy one but could also do this with a lava lava or scarf. (If this is your first baby you are not likely to have noticeable afterbirth contractions.)
- Keep a gallon of drinking water and snacks in your room. (I hate bugging people for food.)
- A balanced diet is just as important while breastfeeding.
- Take lots of naps. Really. This is preventative for breast infections among other things. Your body needs it.
- Happiest Baby on the Block. Not every baby needs it but it teaches you how to recreate the womb atmosphere to calm and soothe baby.
- Muslin swaddling blankets are my favorites (adan and anais or other brand). Not all babies like to be swaddled but these blankets are my favorite anyway, especially for the summer months.
- A few gifts for your other children are a great idea and they don’t have to be expensive to keep them happy.
- Try to eliminate unnecessary activities for your other children or negotiate rides for them for the first few weeks after baby comes (or even longer if you can swing it).
- Just wait, someday you will have older siblings who are likely to be a BIG help. My 12 year old really stepped up to help our family.
- Write the birth story down before you forget the details. Even better, have your spouse write down his version too. Your child will treasure it.
- Enjoy your baby! This will not last forever. It may feel like you will be in this stage forever but before you know it you will be sending them off to middle school wondering where the time went.
I am amazed at my body and how it went from growing and caring for a baby on the inside to growing and caring for a baby on the outside. It is all pretty miraculous when you think about it. Instead of feeling disgusted by my stretched out mid-section, I am pretty darn impressed and proud of what it did. I wear my tiger stripes (stretch marks) with pride. (I love this post from Women in the Scriptures about loving your stretch marks.) I think my postpartum body is pretty cool. (I am looking forward to fitting into my pre-pregnancy size.) Childbirth, it’s worth it. And yes, I would do it again. I’m so in love with my little baby.
What helped you adjust during the fourth trimester? I would love for you to leave some comments here with suggestions for all those new mamas.