You have survived a long grueling 40 + weeks of pregnancy.
Three entire trimesters.
You made it through the birth of your child- whether that be an intensive labor, a major c- section surgery (or even a combination of both).
The time has finally came to meet your newborn for the very first time.
The moment that happens is the moment your (and your baby’s) fourth trimester begins.
The fourth trimester is a term coined for the first 12 weeks of your babies existence on this earth. The time of transition between being safely cocooned inside your womb for 9 entire months and being thrown into the world full force.
It is also a transition for mommy as for the past 9 months everyone has took care of you, focused on you and your needs and suddenly baby is here to take that place. This is a time of huge growth (for you and baby). It is a time for huge transitions, and also a time that should be enjoyed to the very last drop, but every second will not be a stroll in the park. There will be times you feel like running away, and an equal amount of time you will want to soak it all in. All of it is part of being a mother, and all of it is completely normal.
Below you will find my ultimate guide for surviving the fourth trimester. A compiled list of my own experience after 4 children as well as advice I have heard and gathered over the years.
1. Say NO
Just say no… to all of societies unrealistic and quite frankly damaging expectations. You should not be expected to look good, feel good, be happy, keep the baby happy, and be a super mom overnight (or ever at all!). The expectations of society, and often family and friends, is quite overwhelming. You just gave birth to a baby, a tiny helpless baby who needs you more than anything else in the world. It is OKAY to fill a bit overwhelmed. It is OKAY to be hormonal and a little sad. It is also OKAY if you don’t feel either of those things! Some people just step right into feeling the mother role, and some take some time to develop their own groove. Give yourself time. Give yourself grace. Say NO to expectations and just enjoy this time as it unfolds.
2. Say YES
Say yes… to help. To all kinds of help. Anyone who is willing to do anything- accept it, and accept it quickly and gratefully. They are offering out of love and genuine care. Most offering help have been there themselves and know what would have helped them. Accept it! You are not meant to be a martyr in parenthood. Someone offers to hold the baby- YES, please hold the baby while I take a shower, step outside for some air, close my eyes for five minutes, or just enjoy my 10 seconds of not being semi permanently attached to another human being. Someone offers to cook dinner- YES, please, here are some of the things we enjoy. If someone asks what they can do- tell them! Accept help. You will need all your energy and strength to survive this fourth trimester and if you don’t have to go through it alone- don’t.
3. Wear That Baby
It is no secret that the baby is happiest when he/she is attached to you, and while I don’t recommend starting any huge projects during the fourth trimester- if you are a human you will have a few things you have to accomplish throughout this period.(Everyone needs to brush their teeth, right?) Find a carrier that is most comfortable to you and baby and snuggle that baby close. Babies who feel safe and secure during this period will grow to be happier and more content as they go on. Don’t try to make things complicated by trying to create “independence” during this period. You can’t spoil a newborn. They are biologically programmed to rely on you until they start having more control.
4. Ditch the schedule
While you can maybe create some kind of resemblance of a schedule at some point. The easiest thing to do with a baby during the fourth trimester is to follow the babies cues. This means feeding on demand and not watching the clock. This means snuggling with baby and letting them nap when they want, and be alert for a few minutes in between. Whether breastfeeding or bottle feeding a baby led on demand schedule will keep you both happy and sane during this transition period. If you are watching the clock and only feeding when the clock tells you- this will create unneeded stress for both you and baby when he/she decides she is hungry before the clock agrees.
5. Get Sleep
The easiest way to do this during the fourth trimester is to practice safe bed sharing and/or co-sleeping habits. Your baby will sleep best when they feel close to you. Your scent is mesmerizing to them. They feel safe. Being near them also helps to regulate their breathing and heart rate. They have spent the last 9 months being perfectly content, it is a hard transition to be placed in a crib in another room all alone. Transitioning to their own room is something that should wait until the end of the trimester.
6. Remember to be YOU
Last but most definitely not least- remember that you are more than just a mother. You are more than just food for this baby. You are more than diaper changes and feeding times. You are more than day old spit up stains, and piles of laundry. You are still you. Make time to remember that daily. Get dressed everyday. Take a shower, brush your teeth and your hair. Put on some make up if you like. Listen to your favorite books, podcasts, or music while nursing. Make yourself your favorite cup of coffee or tea and sip on it throughout the day. Paint your nails. Walk outside and breathe in the fresh air. Read articles that entertain you and are not just parenting how to. Do whatever you can do to remember you are still a person with needs and wants and desires of your own. Indulge in them. Enjoy this fourth trimester. It won’t last forever. It may not seem that way now but when you look back- it will be but just a moment.
Jenna is a former Early Childhood Educator who now spends her days chasing after her four rambunctious children all while pursuing a freelance writing career, guest posting, writing for the website Mommyish, and running her own blog. As a writer, she is passionate about bringing charisma and color to everything she writes. You can find out more about Jenna by visiting her website or by clicking the social media buttons below.