The weeks after bringing your squidgy newborn home from hospital is now being dubbed as the ‘fourth trimester’, and rightly so. Your body has undergone the mammoth task of growing and birthing a new life and now it needs some serious time to rest up.
The problem is that this sacred bonding time is often messed with. Newborns cry, a lot. Visitors pop in, a lot. New mums panic, a lot, spending more time googling solutions to newborn ‘problems’ than they do relaxing. If you also have other children at home, well that just makes the concept of giving yourself a ‘fourth trimester’ seem laughable!
But it doesn’t have to be. You can take steps now to make it happen – here’s eight tips to get you started.
1. Lower your expectations
One of the most important things you can do as a new mum is to follow your baby’s lead, but also relax about doing that. Your newborn may need feeding every two hours at first. He will cry a lot and he will be nocturnal, which means you will be too for a while.
The fourth trimester may also be your first journey into motherhood so it’s good to remember that all that screaming, lack of sleep and general fog you feel is completely normal in the newborn stage. Your baby doesn’t need to be in a routine, nor does he need sleep training just yet. He’s transitioning into this life and so he just needs you to go with his flow.
2. Be kind to yourself
This is the time to really put yourself and your new baby first. This means nurturing yourself so you can be the best mama you can be. If listening to a podcast while breastfeeding at 4am is comforting to you, then do that. Likewise, allow yourself to have a soak in the bath if your partner is home or your mum is visiting and your other kids are occupied. The message is, give yourself a little TLC. Be kind to YOU.
3. Keep bub calm and mimic the safety of the womb with a swaddle
As your little one gains more awareness of his new world, he’ll need reminding of the safety he felt in your womb. You made a very comfortable home for him! This is why he’ll need holding now and also why he will find being swaddled particularly soothing when you put him down for sleep.
4. Accept all offers of support
Say yes to freezer meals from loved ones, yes to someone offering to fold your washing and yes to a friend taking your other little ones to the park so you can have a nap with your newborn. Accept all offers of help and don’t be too proud not to. Also, think about what paid help you will need. Maybe a cleaner for the first few weeks would help or someone to mow the lawns so your partner can focus on taking care of you and your other little ones.
5. Wear him and give yourself a little hands-free time
As much as newborn babies love to be held all the time, it can be a challenge to get anything done, or to care for your other little mites when you don’t have hands free! This is where baby carriers are such a godsend. They’re perfect for holding your baby close, giving him skin-to-skin contact, access to his food source and being comforted by your heartbeat.
6. Spend time getting to know your new little person
The fourth trimester is not only a time for you to rest up and recover, it’s also a precious bonding time for you and your baby. Enjoy getting to know your little one by gazing into each other’s eyes, giving all the cuddles, talking to him in ‘motherverse’ – that instinctual high pitched voice you can’t help but use when you interact with him, singly softly to him, giving him relaxing massages and just spending as much time as you can resting up with him.
7. Stay in bed for as long as you can
Live the first part of your life as a new mum in your PJs, if you want to. You’ve just given birth, are exhausted and want to spend lots of quality time getting to know your new little person. If bed is where you feel the comfiest, then that’s where it should happen. Of course if you have other children, this might be hard to do, so you’ll need to plan for some occasional babysitting by loved ones or care days. These important recovery weeks will pass in the blink of a sleep-deprived eye, so plan to rest. You and your baby will need it.
8. Expect your body to look and feel different
After pregnancy and birth, your body will feel alien. Your tummy will turn to jelly and if you’re breastfeeding, your boobs will be rock hard and your nipples sore too. Don’t be too demanding on your poor body or have any expectations to ‘bounce back after baby’. Your body needs time to recover and this is where the fourth trimester is so important. It needs time to heal. Time to rest. Time to recoup. Give it and you the chance.