The Fourth Trimester: What It Is And How To Prepare
After you’ve given birth, both you and your baby will go through a transition period: the fourth trimester. Needless to say, this trimester is quite a bit different from the first three! Instead of preparing for your new baby, you’ll be caring for them.
Don’t know what to do? That’s OK! Our baby experts are here to help you find out exactly what the fourth trimester is, what to expect during this transitional period, and how to prepare for it.
What Is The Fourth Trimester?
The fourth trimester is a 12-week transitional period after you’ve had your baby. It’s a time when your body recovers and your baby adjusts to life outside the womb.
As much as you want to jump right back into the swing of things after delivery, it takes time. That’s why this transitional period is so important. You and your baby can’t go from pregnancy to “normal” right away.
Your little one needs time to adjust to their new environment, and your body needs time to recover from delivery.
Physically, you will still look pregnant during this time. Emotionally, you will experience ups and downs, sometimes within seconds of each other! You can thank your hormones for that.
The fourth trimester needs as much attention as the first three trimesters you experienced during your pregnancy. Don’t dismiss the changes that take place during these next several weeks.
How To Prepare For The Fourth Trimester
Here, we’ve compiled a list of things you can do and consider to prepare for the fourth trimester. Since it immediately follows delivery — and most of the time you don’t know exactly when you’ll go into labor — start implementing these ideas during your third trimester.
Understand Your Newborn’s Needs
To understand your newborn’s needs during the fourth trimester, take a look at some of the differences they will experience after birth.
In your womb, it was always warm. In the world, the temperature changes. In your womb, they were in a tight space. In the world, they have lots of space. In your womb, they received constant nutrition. In the world, they experience hunger.
It’s quite different for them! Recreate the womb atmosphere for your baby to help them adjust to their new environment.
One way you can accomplish this is by swaddling your baby and holding them. Rock them back and forth to create the motion they felt while they were still in your belly.
Swaddling also helps your little one fall asleep and stay asleep, which means you might even get some sleep yourself!
Let Go Of Unrealistic Expectations
During the fourth trimester, your main goal is to eat healthy, sleep when you can, and meet your baby’s needs. Put this on repeat.
As much as you might want to get back into the swing of things as quickly as possible, give yourself time. Taking care of yourself and your baby are top priorities during these three months.
Understanding this ahead of time and having realistic expectations on anything else — like cleaning, cooking, and laundry — will help make this a smooth transition.
Set Up A Visitor Policy For Your Family
Go ahead and decide now who is and isn’t going to be in the delivery room. And while you’re at it, determine a visitor policy for your family after delivery.
For example, if you want to limit the number of visitors coming in and out of your home, set up a schedule beforehand to eliminate having a big group of people come all at once.
Find Your Tribe
Find people you can talk to about your parenting journey. Your body will go through a lot of changes and so will your baby. You need new and seasoned mothers in your tribe to help you through!
Other new mothers can relate to what you’re experiencing at that moment, while seasoned mothers can give you advice. They know because they’ve been there.
Once you find this tribe, hold them tight. And before you know it, you’ll become a seasoned mother giving advice to new mothers!
Delegate Household Responsibilities Before Delivery
Talk with your significant other about household duties before you go into delivery. Make a list of each responsibility and delegate them ahead of time — who will do what and when — to eliminate any confusion or unrealistic expectations in your home.
And if you don’t have someone else in the home with you, seek out friends and family to come help take care of the specific needs you may not be able to handle.
Prepare Meals In Advance Or Set Up A Meal Train
The last thing you want to do after giving birth is cook!
A good option is to cook meals before your due date and freeze them. Another option is to set up a meal train schedule for friends and family to come on designated days to bring you and your family dinner while you’re recovering.
Taking care of yourself is a top priority both when you’re pregnant and once you’ve had your baby — eating healthy is part of that.
Most mothers find their appetite increases after giving birth, especially if you’re breastfeeding. It’s tempting to open the pantry and grab some junk food to snack on. Since this isn’t the healthiest option, plan healthy snacks ahead of time, too.
If you’ve already predetermined what you’re going to eat, it helps eliminate the temptation to grab an unhealthy snack.
Educate Yourself And Your Partner On Postpartum Mental Health
Many mothers experience the “baby blues” after giving birth. This is when you’re sad and emotional for no apparent reason.
(The reason is you just gave birth and your hormones are all over the place!) This can usually last for a few days.
That being said, it’s best if you and your significant other are educated about the signs of postpartum depression, which differs from the baby blues.
Postpartum depression is when those feelings of sadness, or even anger, don’t go away after the first few days. If these emotions linger, reach out to your doctor and talk to someone right away.
Gather Your Essentials
During your pregnancy, you’re so focused on the essentials for your baby that it’s easy to overlook your essentials. Stock up on these essentials for new moms:
- Witch hazel pads
- Nursing bras
- Nursing pads
- Loose-fitting clothing (or just wear your maternity clothes)
- A sitz bath
- Nursing Comfort Balm if you plan to breastfeed
- Postpartum skincare essentials, like Mustela stretch marks products
Put these essentials in a basket in your bathroom so they’re ready and accessible when you come home from the hospital.
Gather Your Baby’s Essentials
Your baby's essentials are quite different from yours. And you won’t be able to run out to the store, and you don’t want to have to send someone to gather last-minute essentials.
Stock up on these baby items before the big day:
- Foam Shampoo For Newborns
- Cleansing Wipes
- Baby Oil
- Organic Hydrating Cream with Olive Oil and Aloe
- Organic Cleansing Gel with Olive Oil and Aloe
- Organic Micellar Water with Olive Oil and Aloe
- Diaper Cream with Olive Oil and Aloe
Prepare your baby’s hospital bag and diaper bag ahead of time. Check out our article, The Essential Newborn Baby Hospital Hospital Bag Checklist for more specifics.
Having a stocked diaper bag makes it easier when you’re ready (and able!) to get out of the house. That’s just one less thing you have to do!
Designate “Your” Area In The Home
Decide where you want to recover and rest when you come home from the hospital. Prepare that area before you go into labor. Make it cozy and comfortable with pillows, blankets, books (or an e-reader), music, and anything else you may want.
Additionally, we recommend keeping a heating pad and ice pack nearby. After all, this is where you’ll recover, so it needs to meet your needs.
Embrace The Fourth Trimester
The fourth trimester is a time like no other. Embrace it!
Remember to recreate the womb for your newborn as much as possible to help them transition to life outside of your belly. Also, have realistic expectations, find your tribe, gather the essentials, and educate yourself on postpartum depression.
Other ways to prepare for this trimester include freezing meals, designating your recovery area, and delegating household responsibilities.
Mustela wants this to be a smooth transition, so we have all of your baby’s skincare essentials. Check out our Newborn Arrival Gift Set to help make things a little bit easier during the fourth trimester!