For most of us, we prepare to welcome baby by ensuring as healthy a pregnancy and birthing day as we can. The energy and excitement that we invest beforehand is valuable, but once baby is here we can be lost in a haze of uncertainty and recovery while caring for a newborn and finding our new identity. These first 3 months of motherhood and caring for a newborn is referred to as the fourth trimester. It’s a period of time where we may experience challenges, emotional highs and lows, and the physical effects of birth.
The conversation that we have as a community of women is vital to setting the tone for self care and long term support. Let’s share our experiences with one another and learn about how we can move through our fourth trimester together. The experience of childbirth leading to the reality of raising a child can be a smoother transition when we keep in mind certain things. The history and cultural practices that the women before us benefited from are integral in how we bond with our babies and listen to our intuition.
Developing a post birth plan can be key to feeling better prepared. Take time to think about how you will care for your body and restore your health. This incorporates having help with baby, the food you will eat, breastfeeding support, and even preparing for intimacy. Some of the preparation is more practical, such as a meal train, stocking your freezer or arranging help with household chores. Other aspects include ensuring you follow up with your care provider and tend to any physical needs that may arise. Acknowledge the work your body has done, and allow yourself the time to appreciate its journey and process your birth experience. The connection our body and mind have after birth allow us to reintroduce ourselves to our family, our partner, and the world in general. It’s an opportunity to discover our new appearance, discover the mother we hope to be, and even reclaim our sexuality. Whether it’s your first or your third baby, any new addition to the family requires us to find a new balance in our dynamic as a family and as an individual.
During this fourth trimester, you will care for your newborn while finding ways to connect and bond. Times are changing and the way we interact with our babies can be interrupted by unsolicited advice, baby products, technology and so on. For those who want to care for their little ones in a fourth trimester mentality, there is a consensus that providing an environment similar to that of the womb can help soothe and comfort babies. There are many schools of thought, which include motion, sound and keeping baby snug in carriers or blankets. Creating this environment goes hand in hand with using carriers such as our Ring Sling, and Scout carriers. We invite baby to be close to your heart and feel at home. ‘When a baby rides in a sling attached to his mother, he is in tune with the rhythm of her breathing, the sound of her heartbeat, and the movements his mother makes—walking, bending, and reaching.
This stimulation helps him to regulate his own physical responses. Research has even shown that premature babies who are touched and held gain weight faster and are healthier than babies who are not.’ (1) Giving them plenty of time on your body will allow you to read their cues and respond sooner to help keep them calm. It will promote physical development, and make day to day activities more manageable. These methods can help you feel successful as a parent, which is a great energy to carry through your fourth trimester and beyond.
Your identity as a woman, partner, mother, student, guide will evolve as you and baby navigate this time in your lives. Take time to reflect on how you will prepare yourself for this pivotal time, because in the end we want to be present and whole, for ourselves and our families.
(1) – “Current knowledge about skin-to-skin (kangaroo) care for pre-term infants”. J Perinatol. 1991 Sep;11(3):216-26.