Navigating the Fourth Trimester Postpartum

During pregnancy, you spend so much time preparing for your newborn, but what about your own postpartum experience? So many times moms feel unsupported and unprepared for all of the changes that come postpartum. Because this is such a vital time of change and growth for you and baby, the first three months postpartum are often referred to as the fourth trimester. You and your baby are adjusting to life outside the womb, all while your body is undergoing major physical, mental and emotional changes. 

By acknowledging this time period as a critical piece of recovery and educating yourself about you and your baby’s needs, you can go into parenthood with confidence. Let’s go over some of the areas where you’ll experience the most changes, and ways to combat them. It’s also helpful 

Physical and emotional changes

During the fourth trimester, you and your baby will be experiencing rapid mental and physical changes. Your hormones begin balancing out within the first two weeks postpartum. It’s normal to experience feelings of anxiety, exhaustion, and overwhelm. I recommend checking in with yourself regularly about your mental and emotional state, and note any changes you are noticing as time passes. This way you are able to evaluate what feels typical for your baseline mental state versus what may need extra attention. 

It’s essential to prioritize self-care during this time and seek support from family, friends, or healthcare providers if needed. Be sure to educate yourself on what healthy thoughts and behaviors look like to prevent signs of postpartum mood and anxiety disorders from going unnoticed. 

Your body is also recovering from your labor and finding a new equilibrium without your baby in the womb. Remember that it takes your body an average of to fully recover from an uncomplicated vaginal birth, so be gentle with yourself. There are other factors of your recovery that you may face as well, such as surgical birth recovery or breastfeeding challenges. By creating a postpartum plan, you can make sure your physical recovery is being tended to regularly. Things like pelvic floor therapy, chiropractic care, or postpartum doula care can help your physical recovery be a much smoother process.

Your baby has never experienced life outside of the womb, and they’ve never been responsible for communicating their needs or self-regulating things like breathing and body temperature. They are learning what it means to be hungry or full, and how to communicate that with you. This can be a very overstimulating process for a newborn. As a result, you may notice that your baby is fussy or cries more often during this period.

Bonding with your baby

One of the most important aspects of the fourth trimester is bonding with your baby. Skin-to-skin contact, feeding times, and spending time cuddling and talking to your baby are all ways you can bond with your baby regularly. It’s ok if you feel a sense of disconnection with your baby at first, it’s a major adjustment. Embracing these bonding moments and finding what works for you will help strengthen that relationship and promote healthy development. 

It’s also important to remember that every baby and parent-child relationship are different, so your methods of bonding will be too. Here are some other ways you may choose to bond with your baby: 

* Baby wearing 

* Taking walks with baby in stroller

* Snuggling

* Talk, read or sing to them

* Rocking in a chair or while walking 

Sleep and feeding

During the fourth trimester, your baby’s sleep and feeding patterns will be unpredictable and may not follow a typical schedule. Newborns need to eat about every two to three hours initially, so you can also expect to be awake multiple times through the night. If you’re breastfeeding, feedings may be even more frequent as your body is learning what your baby needs. This is referred to as “cluster feeding” and will likely slow down in frequency after the first few weeks, but you can expect it to happen multiple times throughout your breastfeeding journey. 

I know it feels like an impossible task to put yourself at the forefront as a new mom, but rest is one of the most helpful things you can do for yourself to prevent postpartum mood and anxiety disorders. Try to take naps when you’re able to and prioritize rest over productivity as you adjust. Remember your partner and support system is there to help you, lean on them to make sure you’re getting rest. 

Final thoughts

The fourth trimester is such a beautiful time for you and your family, but it also comes with a lot of challenges and it’s ok to acknowledge its difficulties. By prioritizing self-care, focusing on you and your baby’s needs, and asking for help when you need it, you can make it an easier transition. While I know it feels scary and unknown sometimes, give yourself grace. You are doing your best, and needing support is not a testament to your parenting abilities.

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