Planning for the Fourth Trimester

By Denise Rangel Holbrook IBCLC

Preparing for a baby is fun. Your belly grows and your mind wanders to the unknown; all of the infinite possibilities.You roam the store to handpick items for your registry choosing pieces that fit the image of what your picture perfect family looks like.You choose the perfect name, the perfect crib, and the even more perfect bed set. You plan the perfect baby shower. A birth team  is chosen to honor and support you. You love your Birth Doula and took so much out of the birth and breastfeeding classes you attended.

But once the baby arrives and the initial excitement has passed, you are often left alone with a tiny little being that is now solely your responsibility. You prepared for the baby, but what came next did not make it into the narrative you wrote for yourself: the sore nipples, the lack of sleep, the overwhelming feelings of inadequacy. The fourth trimester consists of the first few months after a baby is born where it is transitioning and adjusting to life outside the womb. Though it’s true that for some this transition is seamless, it is also true that for many this transition can be overwhelming and full of challenges. Our baby’s birth is not the end of our journey, but the beginning of something new. Of someone new. Your new life as a parent and your baby’s new life earthside.

Preparing and Surviving the Fourth Trimester

Real Talk

First, it is important to understand and accept that babies are a full time job, especially in the first few weeks. Newborn babies want and need to be close to you. Plan to spend at least the first two weeks in bed with your baby giving them lots of skin to skin, nursing them on demand, and bonding with them. Commit to this idea now, and it will not feel like such a shock when the baby arrives.

Identify Your Helpers, Give Them Jobs They Can Succeed In

Is your mom great at making a few meals, freezing them for later all while putting up laundry and doing dishes? Great! This is the perfect job for her. Is she not so great at sitting with you and really hearing you and your struggles? Let’s give that job to someone else. Be honest with yourself about who in your life can be with you and really help during what can be a very difficult transition. Create a list and reach out to them before the baby comes so they can be prepared to be called upon, when needed.

Hire a Postpartum Doula

Postpartum Doulas are trained to help nurture the family as they transition into parenthood. They offer guidance and help with the physical and emotional recovery after birth and provide breastfeeding support, assistance with newborn care, and more. Find a doula while you are pregnant, interview them to make sure their values align with yours, and add them to your postpartum team. To find a doula close to you visit

Find Local Support Groups

Ask your midwife, doctor, doula, childbirth educator, and friends which support groups they recommend, and make an effort to go to a meeting while you are pregnant. What you will find at a support group is a collection of parents who have been through, or are currently going through, similar struggles. Online support groups can be a helpful, but be can also be full of negativity and judgement, so join with caution.

Rethink the Registry

What do babies really need? Think about it: Is it the cute onesie with the matching leggings and tiny jacket? Does your baby really need tiny pockets? Think over all the advice you just read and apply it to your registry. Ask for practical help and gifts like a gift certificate for a postpartum doula or lactation consultant. Ask people if they are available to help when the baby comes, and how they can assist you. Meal delivery, grocery shopping, and chores are gifts you can ask for ahead of time. Just be sure to mention that an offer to help is not a guarantee to see the baby.

For Partners

For non birthing/breastfeeding partners, it is easy to feel confused as to what your role is. Put simply, your role is to support the process and help nurture your family. Go to the birth and breastfeeding classes too, and learn as much as you can about what normal birth and breastfeeding looks like. Change diapers, get lots of skin to skin with baby, and make sure your breastfeeding partner is well nourished and hydrated. Be the gatekeeper of your home and only let supportive, compassionate people in with your family during this delicate time.

Finally, know that although parenting is not easy, it will get better. You get better. Transition and the unknown/uncertainty are always the hardest. It is through experience and going through the fire, the unknown, that we build our confidence as parents.All we can do is plan as best as we can for a smooth transition. Will you feel like your old self again? Maybe. But maybe not. And that is OK. You are not the same. You are stronger. But you are not alone.

The Postpartum Period

By Caty Blakley

The Postpartum Period. As a mother of three precious kiddos that range in ages from 8 years to 1 year, I felt like this was the number one topic that isn’t talked about ENOUGH! I hope that with each new conversation between seasoned mothers and new mothers, that will change. I hope that by sharing my postpartum experiences, it will help at least one expectant mama out there <3

As parents anxiously awaiting the arrival of each baby, we did just about everything a person can do to prepare themselves and their home for the arrival of a child. I did things such as getting the nursery set up and organized, made sure the car seat was installed, made sure the labor day bags were packed, had some freezer meals ready to go, the works. But it wasn’t until our THIRD baby, that I planned WAY more for the postpartum period than I did for the arrival of our other two kiddos.

When our first baby girl arrived, it was magical. We lived hours away from both of our families, so my mother graciously stayed behind to help us out for a week when we arrived home. It was amazing. However, when she left, that’s when we realized how unprepared we were for the postpartum period and how much stress could have been eliminated had we had known more about this phase. No one told us how long it would take for me to heal, no one mentioned how challenging breastfeeding could be for some, no one mentioned how exhausted both of us would REALLY be, no one told me about the guilt I would experience when I was “just sitting and doing nothing”, or how guilty and exhausted my husband would feel for just wanting to do nothing but sleep after helping me, or how it was an unrealistic expectation to expect a new mom to be up doing housework days after giving birth, or how it’s OKAY to say NO to visitors and not feel guilty about it. We didn’t have too many visitors with our first, but we felt so awful telling people they couldn’t come see baby even though my husband I could cry from how tired we were, and we just wanted space, we still let them come anyways. I remember feeling so much guilt and falling apart because I felt this pressure to “do it all” and please everyone even though my body just went through a huge experience that it needed weeks or months to heal from.

Fast forward to us expecting baby number three – lessons learned! We prepared way more food or had gift certificates for takeout ready, we hired a doula that checked in on us often after baby was born and an in-home lactation consultant on standby. We also set up little carts or “stations” around our house that had little things for baby (such as diapers, wipes, spare outfit, little toy, pacifiers, blankets, etc.) and mama (snacks, books, tissues, breastfeeding/pumping supplies, etc.), and even though it was the most difficult (yep, even more difficult than the actual birth of our child), it was the most important part – we unapologetically set BOUNDARIES. It is SUCH an incredible feeling to have so many family and friends excited for the arrival of your precious one and that was something that was never lost on us, but baby will be there for others to visit when YOU are ready, so take care of yourselves and your new little family first. We understood that feelings would get hurt or some would be disappointed, but we set boundaries to keep our health and sanity a priority. We did so and didn’t feel a shred of guilt because we knew the three most important things were taking care of our precious baby, taking care of our other two daughters, and taking care of ourselves.

Did you know that in some countries, such as Malaysia, a new mother has an army of women that stay with her taking care of every little thing possible?! Whether it’s her home, her other children, her errands, making her meals, and so on. The mother’s ONLY job is to rest in bed, feed her baby and eat! How amazing is that?! That is the standard of care all new mothers should receive, if possible! I have seen just how important that all is looking back. It was frustrating that it took us until our 3rd child to figure it out, but from tough past experiences, we knew just how vital it was to be as prepared as we could for my postpartum phase.

Truthfully, if I’m being extremely honest, I felt that for us, preparing for postpartum was THE most important thing we could have done for baby and for ourselves. I cannot express enough how it is OKAY to make decisions for yourselves that may not make others happen. Of course, make sure to do it with politeness and grace, but you are the ones that have to live your life, do what you need to do that is going to make this wonderful transition into parenthood enjoyable for your and your partners <3

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