Just when you thought you'd reached the finish line of pregnancy, you discover there’s one more "trimester" to get through. The period of time after giving birth is critical in and of itself and should be getting the same attention as the other three trimesters receive.
Health expert Hitaf Zwein, licensed dietitian and nutritionist, will share the best tips to keep in mind for the fourth trimester or the first three months of your baby’s life.
What is the fourth trimester?
The fourth trimester is the 12-week period immediately after you have had your baby. Not everyone has heard of it, but every mother and their newborn baby will go through it. It is a time of great physical and emotional change as your baby adjusts to being outside the womb, and you adjust to your new life as a mum.
For you as the mother, the fourth trimester is a time of great change. When the baby arrives, quite often the focus shifts to them and as a result, mums can overlook their own health and wellbeing. Newborns take up lots of time. It’s very easy for new mums to be overwhelmed in the first few weeks by the demands of feeding, sleeping (or lack of), crying, and looking after a baby. Combined with the physical recovery after giving birth and the changes to their hormones, it’s no wonder mums can feel exhausted!
How to survive the 4th trimester with the least amount of stress?
Hitaf shares her tips as a new mum and as a professional to help you navigate through these 12 weeks with as much success as possible:
1. Educate yourself
Childbirth education provides women with the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to prepare them for pregnancy, labor and delivery, and early postpartum days.
Childbirth education has been shown to reduce fear and anxiety while increasing confidence in expectant mothers. Learning about how to take care of yourself and your child as you prepare to give birth can help in a multitude of ways.
2. Ask for help
Don’t feel like you have to do everything yourself. Let your partner or a close friend or relative help take care of the baby. Even if you’re breastfeeding, they can take your little bundle at other times so you can sleep, as well as handle diaper and bathtime if you're comfortable delegating those baby care duties.
When someone comes to visit, give them something to do instead of feeling like you need to play host. Ask for them to bring groceries or a meal, do a load of laundry, empty the dishwasher or just hold the baby so you can take a shower.
3. Sleep when the baby sleeps
The first three months are often the roughest; recovery from a long labor and delivery, acute and dramatic hormonal shifts, and an often overwhelming sense of insecurity as a new parent. Add interrupted and irregular sleep patterns to the mix, and you’re a wreck. Nap when your baby does and greet well-meaning visitors in your bathrobe so they don’t stay too long. You need to focus on the basics: eat, sleep and feed your baby, then repeat. Entertaining, laundry and housekeeping will have to wait.
Sleep assists your physical recovery as well as your mental and emotional state. Tap into support resources: your partner, a night nurse, your mother, sister, or anyone else you trust to assist you in getting the sleep you need. Develop sleep schedules at night with your partner.
4. Eat well & hydrate
Remember that your body needs lots of fluid (about 6-10 glasses a day) especially if you are breastfeeding your baby. Drink mostly water, milk, and fruit juice.
Try to eat a balanced diet of fruit, vegetables, grains, protein foods, and dairy each day. If you are exclusively breastfeeding or using baby formula, it is important to eat well regardless of your method of choice.
Check out the Breastfeeding Friendly category on Mint Basil Market for a wide range of snacks that are yummy, healthy, and nutritious for breastfeeding mum or a mum in postnatal recovery.
5. Share how you feel
Most new moms experience postpartum "baby blues" after childbirth, which commonly include mood swings, crying spells, anxiety, and difficulty sleeping. Baby blues typically begin within the first two to three days after delivery and may last for up to two weeks.
Postpartum depression isn't a character flaw or a weakness. You are not alone. Statistics show that as many as 50 to 75% of new mothers experience the baby blues after delivery. Seek help. Share how you feel to your doctor or a therapist, they can help you with prompt treatment to manage your symptoms and bond with your baby.
6. Stay away from numbers
Stop counting how many times the baby is feeding, how many hours they slept, or how many tiny burps they had after eating. The first 3 months are known to be irregular because your baby is still adjusting to the outside world after being warm and cozy in your belly for so long.
Just like everything else, your newborn’s sleep isn’t mature yet. At first, it’s normal for a newborn to sleep much of the day, and be wide awake at night. You shouldn’t expect much in the way of a schedule yet. And while sleeping through the night may come in a few months, right now it’s perfectly normal for your baby to be up frequently at night.
Try to create a routine (babies love routines!) and stick to it as much as possible. Try to stay away from counting hours because your baby will sleep for as much as they need to before their little stomach starts demanding food.
7. Don’t compare
Babies vary widely when it comes to hitting milestones like sitting up, crawling, and walking, which makes this comparison trap a particularly easy one to fall into. Research shows that as long as your child is reaching milestones within the normal range, how quickly he reaches them has no bearing on his later skills. So beware of comparisons between your child and another because each one will hit their milestones at a different pace.
When it comes to you, as a new mum or an experienced one, negatively comparing yourself to a "super-mom" will only make you feel defeated and drained. Bloggers on social media show only the good and easy side of parenting, not the long nights of no sleep, the puke-stained shirts, and the frustration of not knowing why your sweet bundle of joy is crying after you’ve fed, changed, and swaddled it. The important thing is not to compare to others. Just make sure to keep an eye on your baby’s growth with the help of a pediatrician, your breastfeeding with the help of a lactation consultant, and your feelings with a therapist so you can feel at ease during this new part of your life and manage your emotions.
These were Hitaf’s top tips for the 4th trimester! If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask.