Planning For Forth Trimester

Many of my clients are preparing for the births of their new babies. Parents spend months and months anticipating and planning for childbirth, and while doing so is important, it’s easy to forget to prepare for your “babymoon” – the time when baby actually gets here.

Postpartum – or as I like to call it “The fourth trimester” will likely be one of the most challenging times of your life. I mean, it only lasts the rest of your life!  The more prepared we are the less chance there is for struggle – and the best chance for a smoother transition to parenthood.

The fourth trimester is a where your old life intersects with your new life and you get to learn to work with them cohesively together.  This clearly doesn’t happen over night. The first several weeks of the fourth trimester are crucial. It’s a time where mom’s body needs to rest, heal and recover  It’s the time where mom’s hormones are changing drastically and readjusting to her non-pregnant version of herself.  This is the time to discover your new baby – while maintaining all the demands of baby and responsibility. Not to mention you are taking on a million new tasks you’ve never done before! It’s a lot of change all at once.

How you care for yourself as a mother and what you expect from yourself during this time will have a significant impact on this new stage in your life. I encourage you and your family to plan a restful “babymoon” for several weeks after your baby’s birth. Take your time rejoining the world and enjoy this precious and priceless stage. Please give yourself permission to nurture yourself and ask for support. And partners –  please nurture each other.

Here are some tips for a more restful Babymoon:

  • Hire a postpartum Doula! Oh c’mon don’t act surprised a doula writing a blog put this as number one on the list!  Seriously,  there is nothing better than having a non-judgmental support person at your side to help you transition to the fourth trimester.
  • Make a written postpartum plan. Include a list of your support network, arrangements for help with household duties, siblings, and pets. Include people to call for help and meals and etc.  There are several sample postpartum plans you can get for free on the internet. And if you’ve hired me as your doula we will do this together!
  • Stay home. Arrange ahead of time to have someone do your shopping for you or try some of the online shopping and grocery delivery options. There is no shame in putting your family first during this time and staying at home for awhile.  Take short walks to get out of the house but please don’t overdo it and drag yourself all over town.  Balance your needing to get out of the house with trying to do everything too fast.
  • Limit visitors. Your people will be so excited to see the new baby, but don’t feel like you need to have everyone over right away. It’s okay to ask people wait to visit. This is a time for rest, discovering your new baby and bonding.
  • Family coming from out of town. Make sure they understand their purpose for visiting; it’s to take care of you and the house while YOU take care of the baby. It’s unacceptable for you to be entertaining, making meals and cleaning while the visitors come for a baby vacation. And if you think they might cause more stress than help think about asking them to stay in a hotel so you can still get alone time with your baby and partner. You might also consider asking them to visit at a time when you actually need help. It may not be right after the baby is born, it could be a few weeks after the babymoon.
  • If you are breastfeeding, plan to be feeding an average of 40 hours a week. And sometimes more than that at first.  Yes I said 40 hours! Are you starting to see why you need your rest? A good rule of thumb is not to invite anyone over you don’t want to show your breasts too if you are breastfeeding.
  • Utilize postpartum resources. There are great books available on postpartum baby care and breastfeeding.  For quick reads checkout blogs (like this one) and get online support. Go to new parent groups, and breastfeeding groups or have the professionals come to you. Many local resources provide in home help with breastfeeding. Facebook has some very supportive closed groups where you can ask questions and get support.
  • Meal prep and freeze food in advance.  Pre-make some meals you know you will like to eat when you are too tired and busy to cook.  I know several moms who get together and meal prep on a regular basis. You could make this a fun night with the girls before baby gets here. Share in the cost and ingredients.
  • Make a list of items your support people can do to help out. Put the list on the fridge. When you are asked what they can do to help you can give them a specific task that will actually be valuable to you. Some items you can include (vacuum, dishes, hold baby while you take a bath, laundry, bring dinner over, and etc.) Make this list detailed. Include restaurants you like take out from so you don’t have to even think about what you might want someone to bring you for dinner. On a easy day it seems it’s hard for my husband and I to decide what’s for dinner. Avoid this dilemma whenever possible.
  • Explore the idea postpartum can be a time of postpartum expression, rather than postpartum depression. Feel your emotions, express your needs assertively, get comfortable asking for help, and be mindful your feelings change. (This is a concept from “Transformation through Birth” by Claudi Panuthos.) However, don’t underestimate PDD. Is it real and something to acknowledge when it happens. Please get support if you experience PDD.
  • Encourage your partner to take off as much time as possible.  When possible, taking saved up vacation time or unpaid family leave time can bring much benefit to your entire family and newborn.
  • Ask for help. It truly takes a village and for good reason. Get comfortable asking for help. No shame or guilt allowed.
  • Do nice things for yourself.  Self-care baby! Healthy and rested parents always brings more value to their family. Get a massage, take some alone time with your partner, take a bath, read your favorite book or magazine – do something self-nurturing that brings you pleasure.
  • Bond with Skin-to-Skin contact.  You will spend a significant amount of time meeting the basic needs of your baby during. Bonding is a crucial basic need. This is a priceless time you and your partner can nurture baby and each other. So many studies now show bonding as just one of the many benefits to skin-to-skin contact at birth and after.
  • Listen to your body. Your body will tell you when you are doing too much. Listen to it and repeat the suggestions in each of these steps.
  • Rest!!! You’ve all heard sleep when baby sleeps. Easier said than done but it really is great advice. If you don’t feel the need to sleep you can always just have quiet time. Rest is essential for reflection and restoration.
  • Eat. Sometimes new moms feel too busy or tired and maybe even forget to eat. Ask a friend to setup a meal train for your family. Request specific foods so that you don’t get sick of eating lasagna or stuck with foods your family is allergic too. If you are breastfeeding your nourishment is an important part of feeding the baby.
  • Have fun. Enjoy this time with your family. It’s hard. You will be tired.  But there is no other time as a parent like these moments. May you find joy and gratitude.