The "Fourth Trimester" Survival Guide: How to Survive the First Weeks
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The “Fourth Trimester” Survival Guide: How to Survive the First Weeks

The first three months after giving birth are a time of change, growth, and adaptation. Here is a "fourth trimester" survival guide to help.

Published November 30, 2021

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The postpartum period is often referred to as the fourth trimester. This period is a time of change, growth, and adapting. You are healing, learning how to be a mom, or learning how to mother multiple children. It is filled with segmented sleep, cluster feeding, exhaustion, and tapping into your survival skills. Having a new baby is hard work, no matter how you look at it, and those first three months are difficult.

Fourth Trimester Survival Guide

Thankfully, we have a fourth-trimester survival guide to help you prepare for this time! These tips will help you prepare for and get through this period. Having a plan for it will help you know what to expect and anticipate what you need. Once you’re in the baby fog, it can be hard to figure out anything. By preparing now, you can understand what’s coming.

Understand how you will feel physically.

Whether it’s for the first time or not, becoming a mom is taxing on your body. You should understand what your body is going through postpartum so you know what to expect before you give birth. You will be bleeding for a while, so it’s important to stock up on thicker pads. If you have stitches or other discomforts, you may be spraying water every time you pee so that it doesn’t sting. Witch hazel wipes are also given to help with the pain.

Going to the bathroom is an event in itself—this is why stool softeners can really help. I tore pretty badly with my first, so I was on pain medications and couldn’t even sit up in my bed to breastfeed because it hurt too much. You may need to modify where and how you sleep to account for discomfort and feed your baby throughout the night.

You will also be tired. Babies wake up multiple times a night to eat. While I was used to it by the time my second came, this segmented sleep was rough on me with my first. Taking naps when you can is excellent advice. You need to lean into survival mode and let your partner pick up the rest around the house because you won’t have the energy for it.

Understand how you will feel mentally.

The lack of sleep can get to you, not just physically but mentally as well. It can also be so taxing to have someone else wholly dependent on you. Make sure to take breaks when you can to help recharge. Even something small like a shower can help you feel more human.

You may also experience feelings of guilt. This feeling is entirely normal. You may have doubts about being a good mom or feel bad for not spending as much time with your partner. Remember that this is a new season and that it won’t last forever. Babies are constantly changing, but the fourth trimester can be rough. You will get through this.

Have a plan for who is going to take care of you.

I experienced both a tough recovery and an easy recovery. With my first, I was in labor for a long time and tore badly. I needed more help during those first few weeks. Thankfully, my husband was able to take off time while I was healing. Before you give birth, make sure you have a plan for someone who can help you. If your partner can’t take off that much time from work, consider asking another family member or friend who can help you or check on you.

Depending on the difficulties you’re facing, you could also consider hiring professional help in a postpartum doula, night nanny, physical therapist, or lactation consultant. These people can help if you’re having trouble recovering or breastfeeding after heading home from the hospital.

Make a daily routine plan that works for your family.

Finding your new routine will help as you adjust to your new normal. There are certain things that your newborn will need at certain times. Your day will be in two-hour increments of feeding, playing, and sleeping. If you have another child, figuring out how to merge their schedules will be vital in getting through the day.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Moms are notorious for trying to do all the things all the time. There will be plenty of time for that later, but it’s not during the fourth trimester. Let yourself focus solely on the baby and let some other things go. Make sure to ask for help when you need it. Chores can wait. If you need to take a nap, do that instead. If you just want to cuddle with your baby and watch a show, do that.

Whatever you need to do to get through your day is totally fine during this time, and other times too. The dishes will always be there. Ask your partner to help or if you need anything. Ask him to make your food while you’re breastfeeding. He’s there to support and help. Don’t forget that you don’t need to do everything yourself.

Make a visitor plan.

People will want to come to visit the baby, and who can blame them? They’re cute, little, and new. Think about how you want to handle this before you give birth. You can decide only to let certain people visit, or you can choose to delay visits until you’re ready.

Don’t be afraid to tell people no. Even if you make a plan and decide you’re not up for a visit, don’t be afraid to cancel. You dictate what you’re ready for, and you are always allowed to change your mind.

Give yourself grace.

Motherhood is hard. Newborns are exhausting. If things aren’t going great, it’s okay. Give yourself a break. Remember that you’re healing, and this is new for you. Becoming a new mom is the ultimate learn-on-the-job. You will adapt and learn how to do this. You just need to give yourself some time.

It takes time to adjust to a new normal. Breastfeeding can be challenging, and your body may be frustrating. Be patient with yourself as you work through this time.

Watch for warning signs.

It is essential to watch for signs of postpartum depression during this time. Be sure to attend your postpartum visit. As many as 40 percent of women don’t.1 This appointment is critical to check on your health and well-being.

We usually prepare and fixate on the birth itself, but planning for the fourth trimester is essential in helping you during recovery. It is so helpful to know what to expect and then prepare for those three months after birth. By doing this, you will be able to navigate this time with the support that you need.

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Kristen N. Winiarski spends much of her days battling her kids' hangry moods with bacon and Cookie Monster impressions. She also encourages dance parties as P.E. whenever possible. Kristen started… Read more

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