We know pregnancy is broken down into 3 trimesters. The first is full of excitement, exhaustion, newness, and often nausea. The second is typically more smooth sailing with a resurgence of energy. The third can be a mix of anxious nesting, bodily discomfort, and wild anticipation of meeting this new human you’ve created!
But what is this mysterious 4th trimester - the first few months after baby’s arrival? First time moms are left wondering - what happens in that labor & delivery room and afterwards? What goes on in those dark hours, when mothers are scrolling every forum looking for help for their colicy baby, or can’t understand why breastfeeding is so hard for her? While there has been much more information shared in recent years about the reality of postpartum, many moms still feel uninformed and unprepared for what they may face in the fourth trimester.
It’s easy to talk about the rainbows, butterflies - baby cuddles, sweet new smiles, total bliss. While we don’t want to scare you with talk of perineal tearing, cracked nipples, extreme exhaustion, hormonal swings that will shock even the most stable of us, we do want you to be prepared for whatever may, or may not, be thrown your way.
What an ideal fourth trimester comes down to is being prepared and having resources at the ready to help as needed. You may experience none, or all, of the wild and crazy symptoms we listed above (along with many more!), and we want to be sure you’re not pressured into believing you have to handle it all on your own. There are professionals, and friends, who can help you through these challenges so you and your family can come out on the other side feeling like the champions you are.
Our Top 6 Resources For The 4th Trimester:
Put together a list of the contact info for your chosen resources before baby arrives so all you need to do is make a phone call and set up an appointment when and if the time comes.
Our best advice: Don’t Wait. If you are struggling, make a call and get help ASAP.
1. IBCLC (Internationally Board Certified Lactation Consultant):
Clogged ducts or mastitis? Slow weight gain in baby? Painful latch? Baby with tongue or lip tie? Cracked/bleeding nipples? Pumping problems or discomfort? Gassy/colicy baby? Building up a milk supply for when you return to work? An IBCLC people will be your saving grace with any and all of these issues. They sit with you through feedings and help you pinpoint and solve any issues you may have related to feeding your babe comfortably and in a way that works for both of you. They often host free breastfeeding groups in your local area and can refer you to any other specialists (like a pediatric dentist for oral ties) if needed. They also tend to have an amazing network of mamas, and can likely facilitate milk donation if needed.
2. Physical Therapist:
Ever heard of diastasis recti? How about pelvic floor relapse? Bladder urgency or leaking? Baby with torticollis, head flattening, or tongue tie difficulties? A PT is your new best friend. A pelvic floor specialist can help your abdominal muscles and your interiors get back to full working order! A specialist in infant development can help your baby find comfort & ease in their big transition to the outside world!
After all that growth and disproportionate strain carrying your little one around in your belly for 9+ months - and sitting crumpled on the couch or in bed while you feed and tend to a newborn - your body needs some help relearning proper posture and correct biomechanics as it recovers and heals. For baby, that trip being compressed down the birth canal can cause quite a bit of strain and tension. Gentle chiropractic care can help newborns with discomfort related to their digestion, immune and nervous systems, torticollis, and improve latch & comfort with breastfeeding.
Baby blues and full blown postpartum depression, anxiety or psychosis are no joke. It’s one thing to be weepy all the time because you can’t understand how you created such a perfect little human. It’s an entirely different matter to feel detached from yourself, your baby, your family, and everything you thought would bring you so much joy. You never know when or if these intrusive thoughts will hit you. Our best advice is to be prepared. Interview a few therapists before you give birth to ensure you have one lined up you enjoy working with. If you already have a therapist, great! If not, and you find yourself in a position of feeling pretty unwell with postpartum life, tell a friend or family member how you’re feeling. You’re not alone. Help is available - all you need to do is let someone know you need it.
This can be your family, friends, other moms you can trade time with, or more traditional child care workers. Especially if you already have one or more kiddos running around when baby arrives, sooner or later you’re going to run out of gas and need a break. Make sure you have a list of a few willing babysitters on hand for when you just need a nap, some quiet time to yourself, or a brief date with your partner to remember you’re more than roommates trying to keep a small human alive.
6. Nutrition Support:
Your prenatal vitamins are not cut out for postpartum. Nutrition demands are at the highest point of your life in the postpartum period - especially if you are breastfeeding. Unless you have someone preparing well-balanced, nutritious meals and snacks for you daily, chances are your body is nutritionally depleted from pregnancy, leading to that run down, exhausted, drained feeling that seems to go hand-in-hand with motherhood. Do yourself a solid and give your body the nutrients it needs to get back to baseline and start feeling your best again.
By: Jeanne Reilly, Registered Dietitian, Mom, Co-Founder I Am Nurtured