So what to expect in the first few months – often referred to as the fourth trimester? There’s so much information out there about this baby business these days! It can confuse the best of people. Try not to get caught up in it all, and stay true to your gut. In this post I am going to give you a simple approach in 5 simple steps to follow to make this period a little easier. There is no magic formula, but I have found when my families stick to these steps – the period becomes a little easier to manage.
What is the fourth Trimester?
Before we jump in you might be wondering what ‘the fourth trimester’ even means? Essentially its the first 3 months following birth of your baby which goes without saying is a significant period of adjustment for mother and baby. Your baby is adjusting to being outside the womb and you will likely be adjusting to life as a new parent.
As a mother myself, I truly remember this time as being overwhelming and mentally taxing but incredibly precious at the same time. A time to get to know your baby, spend time resting and recuperating from the birth, and a time to reach out for support from your partner or extended family if possible. Whether than be cooking meals or watching baby whilst you get some rest.
5 Steps To Make The 4th Trimester A Little Easier
As full on as the first few months or fourth trimester are with any new baby, I do believe there are a few simple steps you can take to set you up for a smooth transition into parenthood. Here they are:
Step 1: Be prepared
Going into parenthood, it really helps like any new job to go in prepared! This can start with the smallest thing like having the right clothes, products and equipment at home, but also making some time to find out a little bit about having a baby!
Getting to know your local ECHC (Early Childhood Health Centre) and gain a contact of a recommended GP is always helpful. Understanding what support groups may be out there and how to access them is also really useful.
Once your little one is born, days can easily move into days so including your partner in this so that they are aware, may also help if they need to prompt you to check in on one of them!
Step 2: Make use of support networks
Whether this means using your family, friends or your local health support there is no better time to call on this support than now during the fourth trimester!
Try to remember that reaching out for support is not a sign of weakness.
PANDA is an organisation that supports women and their families who are suffering from perinatal anxiety or depression.
Their Helpline provides a safe and confidential space for any new or expecting parent struggling with the challenges of becoming a new parent.
PANDA’s National Perinatal Mental Health Helpline
1300 726 306 9am – 7.30pm Mon – Sat(AEST/AEDT)
After having a baby, the best thing that you can do is just think about you and baby! If you have someone that can cook and help around the house for the first few weeks, then my advice is use this without a doubt!
You won’t regret it, and it will pay in dividends. If it allows you to rest, spend more time getting to know your baby and gives you some relaxation then call on that person.
Your ECHC should also be a great point of call to reach out to with questions, local breastfeeding clinics and the Australian Breast Feeding Association Helpline is also a great contact.
Step 3: Slow things down
At the same time as this fourth trimester being such a whirlwind for most, let us try not to forget that it is a precious moment in time, that you will often look back on and say “it went as quick as a flash”.
Slowing things down will help you develop an understanding of your baby, learn about their cues, interests and more. In these early days, trying to slow down not only helps our little ones but also can help you to ‘take a breath’ and respond to them appropriately. Of course, you may not always get it right, this is natural, it’s a learning process for all of you.
If you can ideally try and slow the pace of things during those key caregiving moments then that’s a wonderful start! Such as changing their nappy, feeding and settling for sleep. All these times are prime opportunities for interaction and bonding. This can be a time for getting to know each other and understand what your baby likes/dislikes.
I can’t overestimate the value of slowing down in infant care. It can help if we gently remind each other to do it too, as too often it’s completely normal, to be caught up in a busy moment!
This concept of slowing down is recognised and talked about in The Educaring Approach, one that I am very familiar with, having practiced concepts both as a professional and parent.
Slowing down really helps with “Sensitive Observation”, which in essence in learning to carefully observe your babies cues and his/her needs. The more you can observe, the deeper the level of understanding you will build about your baby and how rapidly they are developing.
Step 4: Be flexible
When it comes to hunger and sleep at this 4th trimester stage, your baby may change in their requirements for this day to day, and that is completely normal!
Although this may be alarming to hear for some, if we can try and normalise this going into parenthood then I believe we can set ourselves up in a much better space.
Infants for starters, are just adjusting to life outside the womb! This, as you can imagine is a huge shock to the system! And with this, they require our support, care and patience.
It can be disheartening when your baby has just had a great day sleeping but only to find on the next day, they are struggling to settle and just want to be held all the time.
Try not to put too much pressure on your baby or yourself!
Step 5: Self care
Have you ever heard the term “self care is not a luxury, it’s a necessity”? This has so much meaning to it as I am sure will go on to find in your parenting years.
My advice being, please look after you, to look after baby. If that means, having a coffee and a shower before getting your baby dressed for the day, then so be it! Or, if you haven’t been out of the house all day and you are craving some fresh air and endorphins then pop baby in a carrier or in the pram and head out for a short walk.
In these first few months, try to remember that looking after your wellbeing is paramount. Have a think about what’s really important to you going to into this and what is a non negotiable for you. Sometimes things may not go to plan but if you can try and keep to a happy medium for both you and baby then hopefully this will bode you well.
Need More Support?
As an experienced baby sleep consultant I regularly consult with expecting parents on what the first few months or fourth trimester look like. If you would like to learn more then please get in touch with me via my Contact Page here.