The fourth trimester is the 12 weeks immediately after you’ve had your baby. Not everyone has heard of this term, but every mother and their newborn baby will go through it. It is a time of significant physical and emotional change, as your baby adjusts to the outside world and you adjust to your new life as a mom.
Named by pediatrician Dr. Harvey Karp in 2002, the term ‘fourth trimester’ suggests that you should try to recreate the kind of environment your baby had in the womb.
Here are some ideas for how to do that while maintaining your mental health during this sensitive and emotional time:
Swaddling and swaying
Babies spend nine months in a confined and continuously moving environment. There are several ways you can re-create the sense of safety and security your baby felt before they were born. By swaddling your baby when you put them down to sleep, they will feel secure, and you might find they wake less frequently and sleep longer. ‘Wearing your baby’ in a sling across your chest can also feel familiar to them. But it’s essential to make sure you use the sling correctly, since they can cause injury if not correctly fitted. Movement is a great way to calm your baby. Gently swaying or rocking from side to side, walking while carrying them, or even taking a quick car trip can settle your baby.
Skin to skin contact
Cuddling your newborn on bare skin is a great comfort to them. Your smell and the sound of your heartbeat is warm and familiar. This is also something your partner can do.
Having a warm bath is often a relaxing and comforting experience for newborns. Floating in the water is like being in the womb. It’s also an excellent way for you to bond, talk, and sing to your baby.
What does the fourth trimester mean for you?
The fourth trimester is a time of significant change. When the baby arrives, the focus shifts to them, and quite often. As a result, many mothers can overlook their health and well-being.
Newborns take up lots of time. It’s perfectly normal to feel overwhelmed in the first few weeks from the demands of feeding, sleeping (or lack of), crying, and looking after a baby. Combined with the physical recovery after giving birth and hormonal changes, it’s no wonder many mothers feel exhausted!
Surround yourself with support
You shouldn’t feel alone during this time. As many new mothers have the support of their partner, and sometimes the help of close friends and family, it’s crucial to make sure that your mental wellbeing is also taken care of, along with your other needs.
At Circles, we have Circles of Support programs for new mothers, where you’ll be surrounded by women who are going through a similar challenges to yours.
Asking for help is not a sign of weakness but strength.
A few family and friends can help by:
Helping with household chores
Looking after your other children (if this isn’t your first child)
Looking after the baby while you rest
Accept help, and don’t be afraid to ask. Find your circle of support and join us.
Eat good, nutritious food.
You will need lots of energy in the first few months, so eating various healthy foods will help give you the boost you need. Some light exercise will also help with your recovery and energy levels. Make sure to give your body time to heal and take it at your own pace.
Sleep when you can
It might sound obvious, but you need to sleep. It’s going to take a while for your baby to settle into a routine, and even then, they will have you up at all hours of the night. If you can, try and sleep when your baby is sleeping or ask your partner or a family member to look after your baby while you get some rest.
Being a new mom – for the first or fifth time – is always exciting, as well as overwhelming. You are not alone, wherever you are. Find your circle of support.