At 9 months pregnant, most of my thoughts were on my upcoming birth. When would I go into labor? Would it all go according to plan? The rest of my thoughts were on not being pregnant anymore, especially when I got up to use the bathroom for the tenth time that night or when even maternity clothes no longer fit. Through a 90 degree heat wave, I was done being pregnant! Then, all of a sudden, ten days earlier than expected, my perfect baby boy arrived. I am completely enjoying this newborn phase, and maybe because he came early, or maybe because now I actually miss being pregnant, I feel like my baby is still connected to me.
I have entered what some people call “The Fourth Trimester.” This phrase has different meanings to different people, but to me, it’s a combination of the baby still needing a few months of connection with his mother and also the mother needing a few months of rest and relaxation. Acknowledging and embracing the fourth trimester has made this postpartum period so much easier than with my first born.
Last time, the only advice I got was to sleep when the baby sleeps, so here are my six unscientific, completely personal tips for easing into the fourth trimester with a newborn. Hopefully they can help you too!
6 Unscientific, Completely Personal Tips for Easing into the Fourth Trimester:
1. Hold that baby!
With my first born, I felt compelled to put him down. I would put him in his crib to sleep or in a bouncy chair while I ate dinner. He tended to fuss and then I would get frustrated that I had to pick him up to nurse again 10 minutes later. This time it feels like I never put him down, and he is completely content sleeping in my arms for hours. I am also content holding him, so it works. Sometimes I do need both hands and at those times, a baby carrier has been essential. My ring sling allows me to keep holding the baby and still help my older son build his train track throughout the living room.
2. Make meals ahead of time.
We haven’t had to cook yet. It is so nice to just grab a nutritious meal out of the freezer to heat up for dinner. Plus, less cleanup.
3. Come to terms with the fact that your house will be messy.
I admit that I have put some laundry away, but for the most part, I am choosing baby snuggles over a clean house every day. I get the rest I need and baby gets the comfort he needs right in my arms.
4. Try to get some sleep.
This may look different for every family, but finding a way to get some rest is crucial to your well being. It took me quite a few months last time to find what worked for me. I was exhausted from getting up to nurse my son every hour or less, and eventually we decided to attach our crib to our bed so that I could easily reach the baby. This time, we started off with the baby next to me, and I feel so much more rested in the morning. You need to find what works for you. Maybe you can have someone watch your toddler so you can nap during the day with your baby. Sometimes not even sleeping, but just laying down, can be a huge help. Once you feel comfortable, you can try side lying while nursing to give your body the rest it deserves.
5. Get some help at home.
Having people help watch your older children, make you meals, or just ask you how you are feeling can be invaluable. If you don’t have family or friends near by seek out help elsewhere. Women’s Wellness offers postpartum help through their program Care for Moms.
6. Stay connected to other moms.
When I had my first born, I was new to the area and didn’t know many other moms. Meeting and talking to moms has been pivotal to my mental health. This time I am not afraid to reach out and get out. Talking to others makes me feel normal. Through Women’s Wellness, everyone has access to free programs with other moms like Lactation Circle, Playgroup, and Mom’s Group. I am especially looking forward to Mother Care class which is where I started some of my best mom friendships three years ago.
The postpartum period can be really tough. Reach out for help if you need it, and know that so many other moms are in the same situation. This excerpt from Song for a Fifth Child by Ruth Gilbert Hamilton sums up my general postpartum philosophy:
“Oh, cleaning and scrubbing will wait for tomorrow,
But children grow up as I’ve learned to my sorrow,
So quiet down cobwebs. Dust, go to sleep.
I’m rocking my baby. Babies don’t keep.”
This blog was written by Alyssa Garner, our Saturday Playgroup Leader at Womens Wellness of New Jersey. Alyssa is a mom of two beautiful young boys and is also an Early Childhood Educator.