Updated: May 30
How to survive the fourth trimester
Hey tired Mama, we see you! The fourth trimester is tough going - the learning curve is real. For the first 12 weeks postpartum, life as a new mother can be a bit of a whirlwind; it's unbelievably amazing yet totally exhausting all at the same time. You are undergoing a monumental change, learning a new role, recovering from birth, and discovering the little person you created. This new role is 24/7, and the weight of responsibility can be heavy.
What you should know about the fourth trimester
It will get easier (the days will be long, but the year will be short), and you will grow more confident each day. You will learn more new skills and abilities.
It takes a while for your baby to work out the difference between day and night (so be prepared for sleep deprivation, particularly in the first few weeks).
If you are breastfeeding, you will be feeding a lot. Your baby is learning to feed, and so are you (it can take time, hang in there, it's not always easy, and it can be painful). Prepare to feed 8-12 times a day or around every 2-3 hours. You may feed for up to an hour at a time initially, change a nappy and start again. Babies will go through growth spurts and cluster feed (frequent feeding). Breast milk takes less than an hour to digest, so ensure you have a comfortable place to feed your little one with good back support.
After-birth pains are real (every time you feed, your uterus will contact, and it can feel like an intense birth contraction. The more babies you have, the stronger the after-birth pains can be).
Baby blues are perfectly normal and happen to around 80% of Mamas (they come with a huge hormonal shift from being pregnant to giving birth. They generally start around day 2-3 and go away soon after, but sometimes can hang around for 14 days postpartum (symptoms can include feeling weepy, irritable, mood swings, feeling restless, can experience insomnia yet feeling exhausted).
Breastfeeding and recovering from birth make you ravenous. Have lots of healthy snacks in your fridge, pre-frozen dinners, ready to go as you will be time-poor.
You can be very sore after birth (particularly if you have had stitches or a c-section). Try to lie down as much as you can. You have a lot of soft tissue after giving birth, so laying down takes the pressure off your pelvic floor and can help to quicken your recovery time.
You will have postpartum blood loss for 4-6 weeks.
Ensure you don't get constipated, which can impact your pelvic floor.
There will be many nappies (be prepared to change around 8-12 nappies daily).
There can be lots of crying. Babies cry to communicate with us, and a healthy baby can cry for 3 hours a day (the witching hour is when your baby is unsettled and often happens in the evening around dinner time).
Your body will undergo weird changes (you will look 20 weeks pregnant while your uterus shrinks back into place. You will have hair loss and new hair growth (wispy bits of random hair).
Your hormone shift can cause acne and pigmentation.
You can have night sweats (wake up completely wet as your body removes excess fluid).
It's not important to 'bounce back' (now is not the time to take on a new exercise regime – it's a time to rest and repair).
Pelvic floor exercises will be the most important exercises you do (make sure you get an assessment from a pelvic floor physio, you can't always feel or see birth damage, but they can).
Please accept all offers of help (try and tell people how they can help. Can you go to the grocery shop for me? Can you drop off milk and bread? Can you bring me a coffee? Can you put a load of washing on for me?)
You will become a master of the Swaddle (babies have a startle reflex, and the swaddle helps babies feel calm and safe)
You will become very good at doing things one-handed.
Your days can be a blur (a mix of feeding, settling, swaddling, and changing nappies). Some days having enough time to shower can feel like a massive achievement.
The fourth trimester of pregnancy is a time for your baby to get used to being outside the womb and for you to get used to life as a Mama. Be prepared for an emotional rollercoaster. Becoming a new parent is full of emotions, the high of looking at the amazing miracle you created. You may feel inadequate, underqualified for the role the next moment and utterly exhausted. You may miss the freedoms of the life you had before.
If you want to learn more about newborn days, secure your sport at our Baby Basics Masterclass about Birth Recovery and Lactation and practical parenting tips on how to draw the perfect bath, change a nappy and perform the perfect swaddle by the best Experts in the business.
To all the gorgeous Mamas about to have your baby or embark on the fourth trimester of pregnancy, we want you to know that we are your Village; you are not alone. Parents, You've Got This is your place to belong, be supported and empowered on your parenting journey.
Be kind to yourself, Mama, you have got this!