The fourth trimester… what is it and why does it matter?

The fourth trimester is classed as the first 12 weeks of your baby earth side, in your arms and no longer in your tummy. But actually, I believe the fourth trimester lasts forever. When your baby is born, you are born; and a tiny piece of your heart leaves your body with them, living forever outside of you – in them. A baby doesn’t know they’re separate from their mother for around the first 7 months of their life.

They believe you are still one – the mother-child dyad working together in perfect harmony – until society comes and tells you that you shouldn’t hold your baby so much or you’ll make a rod for your own back, and it’s not normal that they don’t sleep through yet, and you shouldn’t look like you’ve even given birth – (ARGH!)

It’s those early days when your new, sleepy babe just wants to feed and sleep, and everyone wants to come and meet them for a cuddle – the gorgeous new baby, with fluffy hair and tiny toes and that so-good-you-could-bottle-it new born baby smell.

But, what about the new Mummy? The exhausted, love-filled, milk-leaking, sore and swollen new Mummy – why does no one want to cuddle you? You may have heard of the phrase “hold the mother, not the baby”, and I believe this is so important for your recovery, mentally and physically. It really does take a village to raise a child, and many, many years ago, if you needed to leave your baby whilst you went out (to get water for example) the village would help you in taking care of them, including breastfeeding them. But the way our society is now, we no longer live in villages, and motherhood can feel very isolating. Finding your support system, your mum friends, your tribe, whatever you want to call it, can really help to take the weight off – you were never meant to do this alone.

So much work and time and effort goes into creating birth plans and preferences and making sure you’ve got the right pram and enough baby grows, and mind-numbing sings toys for your baby. But no one seems to plan for when birth ended with emergency intervention and now you can’t drive whilst you recover. Or feeding isn’t quite going to plan and you’re not sure who you need to contact for support. Or, despite the baby having everything they could possibly need, they just Will. Not. Settle. What then?

Preparing for postpartum is more than washing and ironing the baby clothes, and having a nursery fit for Instagram or Pinterest. It’s learning how you can support yourself, who your support system is and how they can help you.

Look to make or purchase meal preps during pregnancy and have them ready in the freezer – in those early days you might not feel up to cooking, but ensuring you are eating healthily is so important for your recovery. Many women find post birth that they suffer from constipation, so a healthy, varied diet will help to manage this. As well, if you are looking to breastfeed, you will be burning an additional 500-700 calories a day, and so you need to up your intake.

Set expectations with your partner, friends and family about who can visit and when – it’s okay to say no to having visitors, this is your postpartum, which means your rules. Your body will be healing and recovering from birth, you’ll be bleeding, sore, swollen and tired, and depending on how your birth went, you may still be processing it. It’s okay if you’re not up to people visiting, although, if you do allow visitors, a little trick I like to use is to have a chores list on the fridge so they can help you around the house before expecting to hold the baby!

Bringing a new baby into the world is a huge change and a brand new responsibility, one that you can’t quite comprehend until it happens. After birth, your hormones plummet (known as the baby blues) and this can take a few days to settle down. It’s important that you make yourself familiar with the difference of baby blues and postnatal depression, which one in ten women are diagnosed with, and other mental health conditions such as postnatal anxiety, which one in five women are diagnosed with postpartum. Mental health conditions can impact your bonding with your baby, but there is help available.

But really, the most important thing you can do postpartum, is look after yourself. Why? Because you can’t pour from an empty cup. You can’t give what you’ve not got. Remembering who you are is so important. What do you like? What are your hobbies? What are your interests? Do you take time for self-care daily? (Because you should be!) Schedule in some “me time” each day – it might be half an hour to read a book, or have an uninterrupted bath, or a catch up with friends that involves conversation other than the colour of baby poo and how long they’ve napped for. Invest in your recovery, have a Mummy MOT to support any weaknesses in your pelvic floor or separation in stomach muscles, go to yoga and learn to gently move your new postpartum body, get a massage and relax, meditate and journal all about your journey – not only is it healing to get thoughts out of your mind, but it is really good for your central nervous system to write left – right on paper.

These new born days (and nights) don’t last forever, and it really is true, that in a blink of an eye your tiny baby will be all grown up. Be kind to and look after yourself, ask for whatever type of help or support you need, hold your baby as much as you want to and tune into your instincts (Mums always know best!)

Before I go, I’ll let you in on a little secret… You’re doing amazing Mama and you’ve got this, even on the days when you feel like you don’t.

Kate Leonard
Kate Leonard
Director- Motherhub

Welcome to Motherhub

“Motherhub was a lightbulb moment at the back end of 2021 when i realised there was something missing for women on their motherhood journey and so, i set out on a mission to ensure every woman on their journey into motherhood is prepared and supported in every aspect.” – Kate, Founder of Motherhub.

Find out more about Motherhub here…

July 19, 2023 — Aimee Baker