“The most difficult part of birth is the first year afterwards. It is the year of travail – when the soul of a woman must birth the mother inside her. The emotional labor pains of becoming a mother are far greater than the physical pangs of birth; these are the growing surges of your heart as it pushes out selfishness and fear and makes room for sacrifice and love. It is a private and silent birth of the soul, but it is no less holy than the event of childbirth, perhaps it is even more sacred.” – Joy Kusek
The 4th Trimester: The Newborn Season
Welcome to the wild world of parenthood! Your body has gone through (and is still going through) a whirlwind of physical and emotional changes! Know that you are amazing. This is a monumentally transformative time in your life. Let’s not sugar coat it… it’s tough. It might feel like it’s one big blur of long days that fade into long sleepless nights, but remember this is just a short season in your life. Things will not be like this forever. Hang in there mama!
The first 3 months after birth is referred to as the 4th trimester. Babies still depend on their mothers for basically everything. This an important period of healing and change. Becoming a mom is beautiful, but it’s also exhausting and overwhelming at times! Knowing what to expect and having realistic expectations for your postpartum period can help as you enter into your own wild journey of parenthood. It’s hard mama, but know that you’ve got this and know it won’t be this hard forever.
HEALING EMOTIONALLY AND PHYSICALLY
Birth is a whirlwind no matter how it happens! Whether you had a difficult birth or a straightforward one, the 4th trimester is a time to give yourself lots of patience and grace. Now’s the time to focus on healing and taking care of your baby, and little else.
Your body is healing inside and out and your hormones are shifting dramatically. Not taking the time to rest and nourish your body will only prolong your healing time. Keep yourself nourished with good nutritious food, just as in pregnancy, will make your recovery much easier.
This time is a period of immense change for a mother, baby, and the rest of the family. Your baby is now living in a whole new big world! You are learning and adjusting to being a new mother and baby is learning how to live life outside the comfort of your womb. The womb where all their needs were met at any given time.
Emotions can run high for both mom and baby as you both learn each other and adjust to your new realities.
LIFE WITH A NEWBORN
Oh goodness, one thing know is that all babies are different! Some babies have cool temperaments, are relatively “easy” and love to sleep! Others… are higher-need babies who are fussy often, and have very broken sleep. Know that both are normal! Don’t compare babies, just read YOUR baby and adjust accordingly.
There are so many reasons why a baby might be upset and calling out to you, day and night. Crying is their only way of communicating. Babies basically have a few needs, to be fed, kept clean, kept warm, to be comforted and held often but these can be all-consuming and intense.
Many new moms are caught off guard by how intense the newborn period can be. Take it one moment at a time and know this to shall pass.
Babies can’t help themselves so it’s our job as parents to help them. Parenting is an exhausting 24/7 job. It’s hard, but it won’t be this hard forever mama! If you feel like you might lose your cool or shake your baby, just put baby down in a safe place, take a breather, and call someone to help you. Feeling this way doesn’t make you a bad parent, it means you’re just overwhelmed and need break. Try to put yourself in baby’s shoes and know they are’t trying to give you a hard time, they are having a hard time.
Babies often do not like being put down during this time, they still want and need to be carried, hence the name “The 4th Trimester”. Babywearing can help immensely during this time.
Days and nights are filled with lots of nursing or feedings, diapers, and crying for both mom and baby. Your house will be messy, laundry might pile up, showers are a luxury, but know it will get easier mama!
Normal infant sleep is different than adult sleep. Know that broken sleep is completely normal. Longer stretches of sleep is developmental and cannot be forced, just as learning how to walk and talk cannot be forced. Baby will sleep on their own timeline when they are ready and know baby’s temperament makes a huge difference as well. Checkout The Wonder Weeks app to learn about normal infant milestones and when baby might be fussy.
The concept of “sleeping through the night” is technically only 5 hours straight. Getting rid of the unrealistic expectation that baby should be magically sleeping for 12 hours straight (without waking) within the first year or more can help you keep some mental sanity when times are tough. Many moms just say their babies sleep through the night at an early age just to avoid unsolicited advice. Some babies actually do, but know that is the exception, not the rule.
The main thing to remember when going through the newborn season is to trust your mama instinct, always. Life in general is really tough during this time as the demands of a newborn are intense. Know that you can do this and will get through it!
THINGS THAT HELP DURING THIS TIME
Throwing out ALL expectations of what this postpartum time “should” be like is #1.
Having unmet expectations can lead to unnecessary stress. Try to be flexible and take each challenge as it arises. Know it won’t last forever and you will get through this! It’s hard for all moms, even those seemingly perfect Instagram moms, even if they don’t show it publicly! This is a short season in the grand scheme of life and a huge time of transition. It won’t be this hard forever. Expecting it to be hard can help.
If you are breastfeeding, have dad get the baby when you’re resting (day or night) and bring them to you.
Having learned about breastfeeding before birth can help dad, your partner, or any other support person know what you’re going through and know how to help.
Birth Boot Camp has a fantastic breastfeeding video that goes over everything!
- Having a postpartum plan before baby gets here can help tremendously. Let others do the household chores, cook you food, and pay the bills.
- Try to conserve your energy as much humanly as possible by not doing too much and wearing yourself down further. Napping or resting when you can so you have enough reserves to take care of you and your baby.
- Getting out of the house to get some fresh air daily if possible.
- Showers to yourself. When someone visits have them watch the baby.
- Babywearing so you can get other things done.
- Have someone set up a meal train.
- Use paper plates and cups temporarily so you have fewer dishes.
- Hiring a postpartum doula can be an amazing investment in your wellbeing!
- Scheduling time (no matter how short) to take care of yourself in whatever way you feel might be helpful to YOU is important. If mama’s not good, nobody’s good!
ASKING FOR HELP
Everyone, no matter how you gave birth, needs support and compassion during the 4th trimester. Hiring a postpartum doula can help make this transition a little easier.
Having visitors bring meals, do a chore, hold baby so you can shower, and ask them to only stay for a short time, all helps. Don’t hesitate to ask for help. Most people are more than willing to help in lots of ways if you just ask!
If you’re having breastfeeding challenges or worries, reach out to an IBCLC right away! Know that cracked and bleeding nipples are common but NOT normal. Getting help early can make ALL the difference for your long-term breastfeeding goals.
If you’ve had a difficult or traumatic birth, talk about your birth often to help you process your birth. Write down your birth story so you can come back to it. Let it be raw. Let it be all that you’re feeling in that moment. There is no “right” way to feel about your birth no matter how it happened. You’ve been physically and emotionally stretched wide open to bring your baby into this world! Whether your baby came vaginally or surgically. What you’ve just done is incredible! Try to be gentle with yourself as you adjust from that major life event (birth) to the next event, parenthood.
If you need help processing your feelings, or think you might have postpartum depression, reach out to a professional who specializes in postpartum support. Getting help earlier than later can make a huge difference! Postpartum depression is so common mama!
Reaching out for help when you need it is an incredible act of love for you and your family. Your family and baby need you to be ok, you matter. You’ve got this mama and all the love sent to you during this time!
LIFE IS FOREVER CHANGED
You are incredible and have just done an amazing thing! You’ve grown and birthed a human being! If that’s not a superpower, I don’t know what is!
Your body and mind has been through a lot. Taking time to fully adjust to your new life takes a long time! Many mamas say they don’t start feeling like themselves again until a year or more!
The 4th Trimester is exhausting on a whole new level. Just know that you will get through this, you are a good mom! Trust your gut, reach out for help when you need it, and most of all take care of yourself and your baby.
The newborn season feels so long when you are in it, but after the fact, it will seem like it passed in a blink of an eye.
One thing’s for sure, being a parent is not for the faint of heart! It’s challenging and incredibly important work! You’re setting up the foundation for your child’s entire life.
Through the many sleepless nights and exhausting days, know it’s all worth it. You are the world, moon, and stars to your sweet little baby. Life is forever changed. It won’t always be this hard and will be over before you know it!
Know you’ve totally got this mama!
Did you know your birth can effect your postpartum time?!
How your birth goes, good or bad, can set the trajectory of your postpartum transition to parenthood. No matter how your birth unfolds, taking a comprehensive childbirth education class can put you at the best chance for a beautiful and empowering birth!
Learn about my childbirth preparation classes and workshops here.