Ah, the fourth trimester. The term was originally coined based on the fact that newborn babies are actually born too early so the first three months of their life earthside should be as “womb-like” as possible to ease their transition to the big world...but it also refers to your development, too!
Your brand-new mama self was born at the same time as your sweet babe, and navigating the world of recovery, baby care, hormonal shifts, and breastfeeding (all on little sleep, thankyouverymuch) can be daunting. First-time mothers especially might be surprised by the challenges, although every babe and every birth is different so even seasoned moms need an assist!
Thankfully, with a little advanced planning, you can set yourself up for a much more comfortable and successful postpartum experience (and you just grew a human and an extra organ and everything, so don’t you deserve all the help you can get?)
So...ready to ace your fourth trimester?
Make a Plan (or two…)
A month or so out from your guess date, sit down with your partner and map out a plan for your postpartum period (yep, actually write it down).
Here are a few questions we asked that might be helpful to you:
- How will we handle meal prep/grocery shopping?
- Will I breastfeed? Formula feed? A combo?
- What products do I want to have on hand post-birth? (Check out “Stock Up on Supplies” below for ideas)
- What’s the plan for household chores once my partner goes back to work?
- How long will I be on maternity leave?
- Will I encapsulate my placenta to support my healing?
- Who will walk the dog/take care of the pets while I’m recovering?
- Can a relative or friend spend some time with my older kiddo(s) during the day so I can bond with the baby?
- Do I want visitors after the baby is born?
- Should I hire a postpartum doula / night nurse / housekeeper?
It’s also a good idea to plan for eventualities like a belly birth (if you’re not already planning to have one) or any complications that may arise...of course it’s impossible to plan for every scenario, but having a general idea of the extra support you might need, additional supplies that might come in handy, and adjustments to your expected timeline can make surprises a lot less stressful. Examples of those questions could be:
- Who will take care of older kiddo(s) if I have an extended hospital stay?
- What additional precautions should I take with a recovery from a belly birth?
- If I’m not able to breastfeed right away, how can I safeguard my milk supply and make a feeding plan?
Assemble Your Postpartum A-Team
Mamas (ok, women in general) can be terrible at asking for help...society tells us we’re supposed to be able to do it all with a smile on our faces, so calling in reinforcements is looked at as failure or weakness. Wellllll, we call major B.S. on that!
Help is critical to postpartum success (and bonding with your baby), so make sure you’ve got a team of people on board with what you will need post-birth. In addition to your partner, this could be:
- Postpartum doula
- Baby nurse / night nurse
- Maid service
- Lactation Consultant
- Babysitter / nanny
- Mental Health Therapist
- Pelvic floor physical therapist
- Pediatrician / Family Doctor (supportive of breastfeeding, if you plan to)
- Chef service or meal train
- Friend / family member
Even if you don’t think you’ll need all those people on speed-dial, it’s good to have the resource list ready to go (see above: planning = less stress).
An important note: no matter who your “A-Team” consists of, it’s not your job to play hostess to anyone.
You have literally two jobs: recover and bond.
Anything that takes away from that is not serving you. For some mamas this means a moratorium on visitors, for others this may mean short visits or only certain people allowed. Put it in your plan and make sure you and your partner are on the same page!
If you do opt for visitors during the fourth trimester, have them help too!
Honestly, they probably want to and just don’t know how...which is where a list can be super handy. Post it on the fridge so it’s conspicuous (and so well-meaning aunties and grandparents don’t have to ask you what you need every five minutes) Download our PDF here, or make your own!
- Start a load of laundry
- Fold the laundry from the dryer
- Wash dishes / load dishwasher
- Run a hot bath for mom
- Make mom some freezer meals / dinner tonight
- Foods we love:
- Foods we avoid:
- Bring mom a snack and her water bottle
- My favorite snacks are:
- I don't eat:
- Rub mom’s feet with lotion
- Take the dog for a walk
- Run the vacuum around
- Clean the bathroom
- Make the bed with fresh sheets
- Do a grocery run
- Bring mama a fancy coffee drink (decaf if needed)
- Get takeout from mama’s favorite restaurant
- Make lactation cookies
- (leave blank spaces to add your own)
*Hold baby ONLY IF mama asks you to!*
Stock Up on Supplies
A little gear goes a long way when it comes to an easier postpartum recovery; shop for what you need ahead of time so you’re not caught out in the moment (even 2-day expedited shipping can feel like ages if you’re waiting for vaginal numbing spray…)
- Sitz bath herbs
- Vaginal spray or oil
- Peri bottle
- Belly butter for itchy postpartum skin
- Nipple cream
- Nursing pillow
- Belly binder
- Breast Pads (LINK)
- Pumping supplies
Mama Pro-Tip → Our New Mama Bundle is specifically curated for postpartum success, and includes luxurious yoni oil, nipple balm, lactation cookies and tea, and a beautiful Cocoon nursing cover and wrap...add it to your registry!
Respect the Lie-In Period
If you do literally nothing else to prepare or plan for postpartum, do this. The lie-in period is also sometimes referred to as the 5-5-5 Rule:
- 5 days IN bed → get up only to use the toilet and take a shower
- 5 days AROUND bed → prioritize napping / resting with your babe, but you can relocate to the couch or other comfy spot a couple times throughout the day
- 5 days NEAR bed → keep baby close with skin-to-skin and nursing time, but you can get a little more mobile...go for a short stroll, do a craft, fold some cute baby laundry if you want (but leave everything else to your helpers!)
“If mom is able to do this, I've seen mothers make a full recovery from birth within these first 40 days---- hormone levels optimize, pelvic and core tone is restored, the body naturally sheds pregnancy weight because mom's digestion and metabolism are optimized, energy levels are sustained, mom experiences healthy mood, and libido returns. In cases where mom is overextended and unsupported, I've seen it take a full 2 years to fully recover from the birth of a child. So consider this time an investment in mom's well being, baby's well being, and the health and happiness of the whole family!” -Ivy Joeva, Doula
If 5 days of each step seems impossible, shoot for at least 3 days per phase. Think about it this way: a small investment of time now avoids a huge investment of time AND energy later. Above all, listen to your body for signs of overexertion...an increase in lochia is a good indicator that you’re pushing yourself too hard.
From Our Founders: Tips and Tricks for the Fourth Trimester
From Emily Baldoni:
Nursing stations!! All spots where you tend to breastfeed should have a little basket or table with water, nuts, bars, lactation cookies, face mist...whatever your heart desires but definitely water and some sort of protein-packed snack.
I would be sweating a lot when nursing as my babies were really warm babies, and the sweat smells interesting with all the hormones pumping, so I’d recommend a cooler with ice by your nursing station -- filled with wet towels sprinkled with some lavender oil or other nice essential oil -- so mama can cool herself off. Or just use wipes so at least you can do some wiping and stay fresh.
NAP WHEN BABY NAPS!
Nursing pillow or any sort of support while nursing. I never gave myself enough support because I wasn’t uncomfortable in the moment, but I suffered later.
Water water water.
Dare to ask for help. Have a friend come over to hold your baby so you can take a normal length shower and put lotion on and pamper yourself.
From Satya Twena:
Making time for myself to do the things I love (the second time around I was much better at this...)
I committed time during my second pregnancy to think about things that would “fill my cup” and would take no more than 15 minutes to do.
It's all about the details...for example, I made sure that I had beautiful delicious-smelling bath salts and candles for my 15-minute bath, or a soft velvet meditation cushion. And I learned from my first postpartum the huge effect of placenta pills on my emotional well-being (for me they were a lifesaver).
Additional ResourcesThe First 40 Days: The Essential Art of Nourishing the New Mother
The Fourth Trimester: A Postpartum Guide to Healing Your Body, Balancing Your Emotions, and Restoring Your Vitality
Mama, You Matter: Honest Talk About the Transition to Motherhood