The fourth trimester is the three months immediately following your child’s birth. Once your baby arrives, all attention is usually spent meeting the needs of your little bundle of joy. However, it is important as a new mom to take care of your physical, emotional, and mental health too.
Soon after birth, your uterus starts to shrink back to its original size. This can take anywhere from 6-8 weeks and you may feel light contractions during that time. Remember that your body took nine months to grow your baby and it is now re-adjusting to a new normal. The ‘snap-back’ culture can create unrealistic expectations that you should be back in your skinny jeans within weeks of giving birth. You may feel frustrated that you still appear pregnant months after the arrival of your child. Be patient and proud of your body – it has spent the last nine months serving as a cocoon and then delivering your baby – no small feat! Now is not the time to consider dieting to speed up weight loss. Eating balanced meals throughout the day will provide the nutrients your body needs, so be healthy and patient.
One of the major changes during the fourth trimester is the amount of time spent feeding your baby. You may feel like you are constantly feeding – which can be overwhelming. How you choose to feed your baby is a very personal choice and can be difficult as well. Be confident in whatever decision you’ve made and know that it is okay to change your mind at any time. If you’ve chosen to breastfeed, be aware that you will need around an extra 400 calories a day to replenish what you are putting out while nursing. (Yet another reason why eating regular, healthy meals is so important.)
Caring for a newborn is a full-time job that can take a physical and mental toll on you. Asking family and friends for help – whether by cooking meals, looking after your baby while you take a nap, or cleaning your house – will make these intense weeks more manageable. Be open to receiving help, the ‘superwoman’ cape is not necessary to prove you are a great mom. The best thing you can do for your baby now is to look after yourself. Resting while the baby rests may not always be practical but taking regular breaks to replenish your energy will be beneficial, especially for those night feedings!
Your mental health is equally important and shouldn’t be downplayed. Talking to your partner, your support system or a health professional can do wonders. Some women may feel like a failure because having a baby has negatively impacted their mental health but you shouldn’t. Having a baby is a major life change and as your physical health is affected, it is completely normal for your mental health to also feel this impact. The most important thing is being open to getting help, in whatever form you need.
Exercise is a great way to improve your physical and mental health. Low-impact workouts such as walking or swimming are recommended as your body recovers from childbirth. Starting higher impact exercise soon after birth is not advised, especially if you’ve had a cesarean section or if exercise wasn’t a part of your pre-pregnancy routine. Make sure that your doctor clears whatever physical activity you choose to do before you get back into it. And don’t forget that your joints are still loose after childbirth so take extra care to avoid injury.
The fourth trimester is a beautiful yet overwhelming time of transition for a new mother. It is totally normal to be loving on your baby one day and feel teary and exhausted the next. As with pregnancy, post-partum is a journey. The hormones during pregnancy and childbirth are still circulating in your body so the wave of emotions flooding you daily is normal. You are a whole new person when you become a mom. Your perspective shifts, your outlook on life changes, and your body is different. With all these changes, you must grant yourself grace and be prepared to have good and bad days. You may feel like you miss your old life and that’s completely normal too – none of these feelings make you a bad mom.
As you focus on your baby and their needs in the first three months, don’t overlook your own health and well-being. You are important. Your needs are important. Your body has gone through a lot to get your precious one here so take time to heal at your own pace. Remember to attend your follow-up appointments with your doctor or midwife, stay in contact with your doula if you had one, and most importantly, keep checking in with yourself. How are you feeling? Your baby needs you healthy. You’re now in one of the most important roles in your life, you’re learning day-by-day and you’re doing the best you can – in fact, you’re doing great!
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