The 4th trimester is known as the 12 week period following the birth of your baby. It is a time for rest, recovery, bonding and establishing breastfeeding (if you are planning to do so). Your priorities should include nourishing your body with nutritious food, sleep, rest, learning the skill of breastfeeding, and getting to know your baby.
It took 2 births for me to have real reverence for the slowness needed in the 4th trimester. And so I entered my 3rd postpartum with many lessons under my belt, surrendering to accept help and support from the wonderful circle of women around me, not feeling like I had to hold it all together, setting up firm boundaries around what I needed so that I could focus on rest, healing, and bonding with our baby.
Experiencing three 4th trimester's, here are a few of my suggestions to make this period a smoother transition for your new family (regardless if it's your first, or your multiplying your family):
Meal prep now!! Stock your freezer full of hearty nourishing meals for those postpartum days when it just feels too hard to even think about cooking.
When your baby arrives your family and friends will be looking for ways to show their love, in support of this new addition to your lives! Rather than gifting you with things you really don't need (toys, baby albums, flowers etc.) ask for practical help (especially meals!!):
Ask a trusted friend to set up a meal train for you where family and friends nominate a day to do a door drop. It's so easy to set up, and they will feel great being able to provide you with such loving support. Follow this link: https://www.mealtrain.com/
Ask a trusted friend to organise a food delivery service amongst your support circle. You might even organise this yourself! Here's a list of some companies offering nourishing meals (if you are Melbourne based):
Consider a postpartum doula, for practical and emotional support.
Consider a referral from your GP or obstetrician to a private midwife for postpartum care (medicare rebates available). They will visit you at home regularly for the first week post birth and then also at 2, 4, and 6 weeks postpartum. They tailor the visits to your needs and will also visit more regularly if you need. Plus they're only a phone call away for any questions or concerns for those first 6 weeks.
If you are feeling confident with feeding, consider early discharge. This may work really well for those families who feel better in the comfort of their own home, having their partner around for constant practical support so you can rest and focus on establishing feeding (you may also consider a postpartum doula or private midwife as extra support).
Make up a "feeding basket". Your newborn is going to feed somewhere between 8-12 times in a 24 hour period. It is not uncommon for most feeds in those early postpartum weeks to last up to an hour in duration. Newborns also often cluster feed (this means having lots of frequent feeds over a period of time – their way of establishing your milk supply!). That's ALOT of time spent breastfeeding!! So have a basket handy with your water bottle, snacks, remote, book, phone, nappies, wipes and anything else you might need on hand for those times you've found your comfortable spot under a feeding baby.
If you have older children, you might consider making up a special "toy box" to pull out for them to use during those feeding sessions.
You've heard it before, right? "Sleep when your baby sleeps". But REALLY - sleep when your baby sleeps! The reality is you ARE going to be spending a fair time of the night feeding. There's a reason why babies feed often at night - your milk production peaks in the late evening to early hours of the morning, which is why it is SO important to feed overnight in terms of establishing and maintaining a milk supply. Demand = supply. So to catch-up on the missed sleep during the night - take a nap with your baby during the day. Rest is SO vital for your postpartum wellbeing!
If you are having trouble with breastfeeding, seek help from an IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant). They are the experts on all things breastfeeding and will support you to help you achieve your breastfeeding goals.
Consider doing your shopping online, or via click and collect. More time for rest and recovery!
Once you are feeling ready, you may consider some gentle exercise. The focus should be on connecting with your breath, your core, and your pelvic floor. You may consider going for a short gentle walk, however remember this puts a lot of pressure of the pelvic floor. Postpartum women often have prams, carriers or other children in tow, which may be too much strain so early in your recovery. If there is any heaviness, or pain in your pelvic floor, or if walking just doesn't feel quite right - take it back a notch. Always listen to your body. As well as your 6 week GP check I would strongly suggest ALL women to have a postnatal assessment by a women's health physio. They can check your core and pelvic floor and design a strength and conditioning program to meet your individual physical activity goals.
Connect with a Mother's Group. It's a great way to meet other mums with babies of similar age, to share experiences with and provide support for one another.
You may like to create a WhatsApp group with the other couples from your Calmbirth course, to support one another for the remainder of your pregnancy and post birth.
I would highly encourage you to download Elly Taylor's "Nest Building Plan" and work through it together before your baby arrives. The transition into parenthood is going to be HUGE, and with some preparation, you can ensure you're connected and entering into parenthood on the same page. Just like your Labour and Birth Toolbox, it is designed to be a conversation starter to start thinking about what you can put in place, to make that transition smoother for all three of you: https://becomingusfamily.com/expecting-resources
And lastly, enjoy your baby! One of the positives that came out of parents birthing during COVID was
the forced slowness that occurred during the postpartum period. There was no where to be - other than with their baby! There was no expectations of making time to "share" their baby with family and friends. No pressure to "get on with it", with a baby in tow. As things are opening up, and we're re-socialising again, there's no reason why this can't continue. Spend lots of time together in skin-to-skin contact, getting to know one another without distractions, bonding and resting. Go easy on yourself. One day at a time. Say no to visitors if it doesn't feel right. Don't put too much pressure on yourself to get back into the swing of things so early. There’s a reason why many cultures do 40 days of confinement post birth…and COVID had in a way forced that onto us, in our busy western world. Enjoy your time at home with one another, soaking up those newborn cuddles. This time is precious and it passes far too quickly.