The 4th trimester is the first 12 weeks after baby is born. There can be so much focus on planning for birth itself that parents haven’t necessarily given enough thought to what happens after baby arrives. Suddenly, many of the people on whom parents depended for the first 3 trimesters could be nowhere to be found. This isn’t because they don’t care, it is because it isn’t necessarily their job or their concern. You might have an OB, doula, acupuncturist and have taken seemingly thousands of classes on birth in the first 3 trimesters, but the transition into baby care from baby planning can be shocking.
Who’s on Your Team?
A single class on how to change diapers and breastfeed simply isn’t enough. You need to know who your team is after baby is born. Who will help you make sure there is time for you to eat? Or how about your shower? Are you getting the proper nutrition and drinking enough water? Will you know whom to ask if you are concerned your baby isn’t getting enough milk or that your postpartum bleeding may be excessive? If you feel down, will you second-guess yourself and strive for Wonder Womian reserves?
A critical part of your birth plan is thinking through the 4th trimester. Your team will vary depending upon the model of care you choose. For example, midwives tend to stay involved after baby is born and through the 4th trimester. OBs typically don’t. Some doulas specialize in prenatal care. Others specialize in postnatal care. Consider whether or not you want to hire a doula or lactation consultant to support you through the 4th trimester.
Your Baby is Communicating
You don’t need to be Wonder Woman. You don’t need to be alone. To be present for your baby and yourself in any given moment is one of the greatest gifts you have to offer. From the first moment baby is born, she is communicating. It may not seem like babies are speaking our language, but they are. In fact, trained linguists can identify the natural language of baby’s parents by the way baby cries, from the first moment after birth.
Babies communicate amply. We just have to figure out what they are saying. Reading, understanding and responding to baby’s queues could be one of the biggest challenges new parents face, and the most important. Time is the critical factor in understanding what baby has to say. Time to listen. Time to adjust. Time to be. To create the time necessary to keep yourself and your baby healthy, think ahead about who will do chores that may have seemed trivial before baby arrived.
- Do laundry
- Grocery shop
- Make healthy food
- Dust the cabinets
- Vacuum and sweep
- Scrub the toilets
You may not have even realized you were cleaning as you zoomed by a pile of clothes and whisked it away to the washer on your way to do something else. Those moments when you do things around the house and don’t even realize it could become surprisingly few and far between. The extra 5 minutes you didn’t notice pre-baby could become the precious few 5 minutes it takes to brush your teeth.
Don’t try to do it alone. You can pay people to help you and you can ask friends and family to help. Invest. Make your wishes known. There are probably many people in your life more than willing to support you if given the chance and offered the request. Don’t feel you are imposing. You would likely do the same for them. Plan your help. Whether it is paid or not, think through who can help you and create a schedule for who will do what in those first weeks after baby is born.
Your own list of duties for the 4th trimester should include sleep, shower, eat, feed, change diapers, communicate with baby… and that is about it.