One of the most trying times for new moms is the “fourth trimester”. It’s the time when you’re trying to develop a bond with the most demanding, tiny person you’ve ever met while recovering physically and mentally from childbirth. You’re torn and bruised, and it feels like you’re leaking from every orifice. You’re functioning on minimal sleep, and you don’t recognize the person in the mirror anymore. You feel self-conscious about your new tiger stripes, and you may have a few extra love handles. Hang in there, mama. It gets better! These 4th trimester tips helped get me through the hardest times, and now they can help you.
Use Nipple Cream
Breastfeeding isn’t as pretty as the movies make it seem. If you decide on this route, your nipples will be cracked and bloody from your newborn’s attempts at latching. Nipple cream is a must-have during those first few weeks, and sometimes even during your entire breastfeeding career. Tender Care Lanolin is my top choice, and it’s safe for both mama and baby.
Lactation Consultants are Lifesavers
For those of you that decided to breastfeed, your lactation consultant is your new best friend. She will help you achieve what you thought was impossible. Plan on frequent visits to her during the first few months of your baby’s life.
There’s Nothing Wrong With Pumping
My nipples are inverted, and nursing was excruciating for both my daughter and me. She wasn’t getting enough food, and my nipples were begging me to stop. I decided to make the switch to exclusively pumping and bottle feeding and haven’t once regretted this decision. There’s no shame in not being able to nurse. If you have trouble with your milk supply, check out this tasty Lactation Bites recipe by Roots and Harbor. They really do work!
Using Formula Doesn’t Make You a Bad Mom
Sometimes, for various reasons, you can’t make breastfeeding or pumping work. Maybe you don’t produce enough milk. You might have to go directly back to work and don’t have enough time to breastfeed or pump. There’s nothing wrong with that. Your baby won’t care if you give her breastmilk or formula. She’ll still grow up a happy and healthy kid.
Bonding isn’t Always Automatic
You may have carried your baby for 9 months, but you’ve only just met her. It takes time to get to know someone, and the same applies to your newborn. One morning you’ll have a magical moment. It might be when your newborn looks at you like you’re her whole world or when she gives you that first gummy smile. But don’t worry, it will happen, whether gradually or in an instant.
You Can Look Pregnant During the 4th Trimester and Longer
Your grandma might have told you it takes “9 months to put it on, and 9 months to put it off.” This is 100% true. Your body needs time for your uterus to contract, and most women gain fat in their waistline during pregnancy. Don’t stress about your squishy, stretchy belly. Your body did an incredible feat. You deserve all the newborn cuddles and rest you can get.
Mesh Hospital Panties are Your New Best Friend
I lived in these for the first couple of weeks after giving birth! They are soft and comfy on your tender body. They keep pads in place and feels like a gentle hug over your swollen stomach. Most hospitals let you take a bunch home at no extra cost, so take advantage of this. Stockpile as many as you’re allowed. You’ll be happy you did in the weeks ahead!
When Your Baby Sleeps, You Sleep
Forget about doing the dishes or the laundry – this is the golden rule for all parents with newborns. Put your newborn in her crib when she falls asleep, and go get some much-needed rest. Your body will thank you.
Cry it Out
As I was checking out of the hospital, one of the nurses told me, “Your hormones will kick in, and you should have an ugly cry at least once a day”. I didn’t cry quite that often, but I had my moments. It helps to have a meltdown and cry your eyes out on your partner’s shoulder (or alone in the shower if that’s where you feel more comfortable).
Don’t be Afraid to Ask for Help
This is one of my biggest 4th trimester tips for new moms. Your husband, parents, siblings, and best friend all love you. I’m sure they’ve said to you, “Let me know if there’s anything I can do to help.” Take them up on it! They’re not saying that to hear themselves talk. Ask them to take care of the baby for a few hours or bring over a hot meal when they come for a visit.
It’s OK to Let Your Family Watch Your Newborn
I felt like I was the only one who could take care of my daughter when she was first born. I had to force myself to step back and let my husband take care of her and bond with her. It was the same thing with my family. My mom has 6 children. My head knew she was more than qualified to babysit for an hour or two, but my heart didn’t want to let my little one out of my sight. Let your family help. You don’t need to do everything on your own.
“Me Time” is a Must
Your emotional health is every bit as important as your physical health. Let dad take charge for a couple of hours while you go take a walk, go to the spa, go out with your girlfriends, whatever relaxes you. An emotionally healthy mom is a better mom.
Don’t Underestimate Yourself
Your body just brought a human into the world. That’s pretty freakin’ amazing. Don’t forget, if you can give birth, you can do anything. Motherhood will leave you feeling defeated many times, but you can push through (pun intended) and come out stronger on the other end.
Life Gets Easier
My daughter refused to sleep during my first week postpartum, and I was barely functioning on 2 hours of sleep a night after my 18-hour labor. I found myself thinking, “How do people do this? Why does anybody choose to be a parent? How will I stay sane? Will it be like this for the next 18 years?” No—it won’t be like this for 18 years. It won’t even be like this for 1 year. Every phase of childhood has its challenges, but you’ll start to get sleep again. Your little one won’t always cry for hours on end. Babies begin to adjust to life outside the womb, cry less, and sleep better between 6-12 weeks.
Don’t Feel Bad About Saying No
No one will take offense if you don’t feel like entertaining guests in your 4th trimester (and if they do, that’s their problem, not yours). You need to prioritize yourself and the baby, so don’t feel guilty about telling your family and friends you’re not up for visiting.
You’re an Amazing Mom
The only things newborns need is love, sleep, and food. If you’re giving them those, then you’re doing fine and dandy.
You are Beautiful
Your stretch marks are your tiger stripes. It doesn’t matter if there’s more of you to love after giving birth. Your body can do some bad*** things, and you should be proud of yourself. When you start exercising again, exercise for yourself. Do it because you want to feel energetic. Above all, do it because you want a strong, healthy body to play with your kids. Not because you’re ashamed of how you look. Your stomach might shrink to the size it was pre-pregnancy, or it might not, but who cares. Your love handles and tiger stripes are badges of honor.
4th Trimester Tips Summary
Remember that the 4th trimester is just a phase. Your mom skills will grow with your newborn, and it won’t always be this hard to function. Rely on your partner and family for support to get you through the hardest times. Before you know it, your little one will be walking, and you’ll be Googling how to handle toddler temper tantrums instead!
If you’re wondering if you have postpartum depression, check out my article about PPD signs and treatment, to see if you should call a doctor.