I’ve officially made it past the 4th trimester with my second child. Before you think I can’t count or wonder why you didn’t hear about my gestational period on the news, the 4th trimester is the three months following the birth. It is a huge period of change for the baby, but also the mother and family. By the end of the 4th trimester, you’ve hopefully settled into a bit of routine, are feeling better physically, and getting sleep for a at least a few consecutive hours. Here are a few things I’ve learned:
Lay the Groundwork
Ok, this isn’t postpartum. But doing a few things before birth will help you tremendously when you get home
- Organize Clothes- I’m sure you have your hospital bag and everything ready for the baby, but what about you? Make sure to pull a few outfits and have them easily accessible for when you come home. Keep in mind that “outfit” takes on a whole new meaning when you have a 4 day old. These can be pajamas, exercise pants, nursing tanks, or t-shirts. I wouldn’t use your favorite of anything though, as stains and fluids abound. You have enough going on, you don’t need to waste time digging through clothes for that pair of pants you know will fit.
- Comfortable Nursing Bras- As I mentioned in my post about packing your hospital bag, I would have one or two sleep nursing bras. Additionally, I would have a couple of nursing bras with no underwire for the first couple weeks. You’ll have time to go shopping for real bras once you get a handle on life, and figure out what size you actually need.
- Read the Right Things- Instead of comparing my baby to the size of a certain fruit or knowing they had eyelashes, I wish I would have read more about what to do with the baby when, you know, when they’re actually out in the world. I guess I just assumed everything would come naturally, but I had a whole lot more time to read before giving birth.
- Pain Medication- Everyone has their own opinion on medication, but I say embrace it. No need to be a hero, you’re keeping a tiny human alive. Take enough of your prescribed medication to be comfortable, just know that you’ll have to gradually decrease the dosage as the days go on. You’ll know the next day if you pushed yourself too hard.
- Freebies- Yes, you can take all that stuff from the hospital. I actually take more stuff for me than the baby. Mesh underwear, pads, numbing spray, ice packs, and witch hazel pads. I take it all.
- Vitamin- Don’t forget to keep taking your prenatal vitamin if you’re breastfeeding. You may need to set an alarm for the first few weeks when days and nights blend together.
- Water- Drinking water is imperative for your recovery and for breastfeeding. Always keep a bottle with you, and the larger the better. You’ll likely come away with one or two from the hospital.
- Walk- Start small, but make sure to move. I had a C-section with my first, which was a much harder recovery. I tried to limit my stairs for the first few days, but made sure to keep moving.
- Lactation Consultant- Take advantage of your consultant while you’re in the hospital, and have them visit your room at least once or twice. Breastfeeding is not always as natural as you would assume.
- Cream- I’ve been pretty lucky not to have any major issues or infections, but keeping comfortable is important if you’re in it for the long haul. Make sure you already have a nipple cream so it’s ready to use in the first days when you’ll need it the most.
- Using a Cover- If you plan to use a cover when you’re in public, I highly suggest practicing at home first. This will help make you, and the baby, more comfortable.
- Storage Bags- If you’re planning on pumping, these are my favorite storage bags.
- Use a Baby App- With my first, I wrote everything in a notebook. I was keeping notes on how often he spit up/what I ate, but that could have easily been in an app. Now I use Baby Tracker, and there’s a place for notes if you really need. I primarily just use it for feedings, but in the first two weeks your pediatrician will ask about diapers as well. Using an app really helps when you can’t even remember what day it is.
- Ask for Help- Before our first son was born, my husband asked me who would be at the house to help when we got home from the hospital. I thought he was crazy. In the past I’ve had a hard time asking for help, but I was wrong (yes, I put that on the internet). I needed a lot more help than I thought, especially after a C-section. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, and space it out if you can.
- You’ll Cry- Whether hormones, exhaustion, joy, fear, or absolutely no reason at all, don’t be surprised if you cry. A lot. It’s ok. However, if it lasts more than a couple weeks or you have other symptoms, you should talk with your doctor about postpartum depression. I leveled out after about two weeks, but I think that was probably the most useful part of our childbirth class. My husband learned about the signs from a medical professional instead of me trying to tell him about something I didn’t know much about.
- Snuggles- This was harder for me the second time, but don’t forget to relax and enjoy the baby snuggles. They will only fall asleep on your chest for so long, and you can use that time to relax.
- Routine- The first few weeks are pure survival. However, you’ll notice that a pattern or routine will start to emerge. We somewhat follow Babywise, and I think there are two major points. First, make sure your baby gets a full feeding. Second, follow the pattern of wake/eat/play. Even if your baby is awake for 10 minutes, it’s hard to break the habit of nursing to sleep.
- Get Out- Getting out of the house seemed very intimidating to me at first. But looking back, the first three months are the easiest time. Newborns sleep basically all the time, and almost anywhere. So go for a walk and get some fresh air, have lunch with those friends that already have kids, or see a movie. No really, there are many movie theaters that have baby-friendly showings. Just check their programs section.
- Sleep- ……good luck? We had our challenges, but in general we’ve had decent sleepers. I’ve also always been better at functioning on less sleep than my husband, so this isn’t the worst for me. You won’t truly know what works until you’re in it, but discuss nighttime beforehand. All you? Alternate feedings? Partner does everything but the actual feeding?
- That Face- Parenthood can be one of the hardest things you ever do, but at the end of the day you have that squishy face! It is hard when you’re in it, but everything is truly just a phase.