5 Big Ways to Prepare for the Fourth Trimester
Written By: Stevie Trujillo, Postpartum Doula.
As a Postpartum Doula I work with families in the fourth trimester. Many families book me months in advance, while others have had their baby already and are desperate for support. What I have found is that those families who booked me months ahead had a plan for their fourth trimester. Those families had much better experiences vs those that did not have a plan and thought everything would fall into place once their baby arrived. During pregnancy many new parents come up with a birthing plan (which is great and not to be discounted), but what about when the baby is here, what's next? More than likely you prepared for your new baby with a baby shower, finding the best baby products, and setting up a beautiful Instagram-worthy nursery. The reality is those gifts you received off your registry, those baby products, and that nursery will not prepare you for what your body, mind, and spirit goes through during the fourth trimester. Below you will find my top 5 ways to prepare for the fourth trimester.
My first suggestion for preparing for the fourth trimester is the most important. Talk to your partner. Sounds simple right? Sometimes these conversations are hard to have. However, they are essential for not only your relationship, but for a better experience with your new baby. Topics that should be discussed are: who will be getting up with the baby, who will be taking care of specific chores around the home, who will be making the meals, do you want visitors those first few weeks (if so, who?). The birthing person will need time to heal from delivery whether it was a cesarean or vaginal birth, and they will be relying heavily on the support of their partner. Typically sleep deprivation is hardest on couples with newborns. Therefore, it is incredibly important that both partners are taking turns taking care of their baby overnight. I suggest to parents that one parent takes the first half of the night and the other takes the second, that way each parent gets a solid few hours of sleep. House chores are typically the last thing on your mind when you are about to have a baby, but once your new baby is here the laundry, bottles, and household chores will stack up quickly. Unfortunately, this can cause unwanted anxiety and stress during the fourth trimester for both parents. So talk about it beforehand don't wait until you are exhausted and stressed to have these discussions. Together you can designate one person to take care of the bottles and have the other take over the laundry. Make it simple, but make sure everything is covered so you don’t stress.
Another thing to do to prepare for the fourth trimester is to decide on whether you plan on breastfeeding, formula feeding, or both. If you decide to breastfeed it is important to be prepared since it is not always natural and easy. Research IBCLC’s in your area that you like or that accept your insurance, and take a breastfeeding class. Also if you are breastfeeding you should decide if you would like to also introduce a bottle to your new baby, and when then should be done. If you plan on returning to work then it would be important that your baby be able to take a bottle once you do return to work. Sizing for pump flanges and finding the right bottle will also be something to consider if you plan on pumping and bottle feeding. Breastfeeding can be very beneficial to both the mother and the new baby, but it can also be incredibly difficult. It may go very well, but if it doesn't you will feel good knowing you have already researched and found support that you feel comfortable with. If you do not plan on breastfeeding, that is ok too. Breastfeeding is not for everyone and for many different reasons. If you decide to formula feed it is important to research which formula you think is best for your baby. This may need to be adjusted once your baby arrives depending on if they have specific dietary needs. However, if you research and find a formula that works best for your family it will save you time/energy once your baby arrives. Keep in mind when considering how you want to feed your baby, it does not have to be all or nothing. You can absolutely both breastfeed and formula feed.
Nesting is known as the burst of energy pregnant people get in the last few weeks of their pregnancy in which they clean and organize their homes in preparation of their new baby. Something I recommend for nesting parents is for them to also prepare meals that they can freeze and consume once their baby arrives. Some really great meals to make ahead and freeze are soups, chilis, pan style meals (i.e. lasagna and enchiladas), muffins, and protein bites. Once your baby arrives the last thing you will want to do is go stand in the kitchen for hours to cook, however it is incredibly important for your healing body to remain nourished. Having healthy meals ready that you just need to heat up will leave you feeling so relieved.
You have likely heard the saying, “it takes a village” and it is one of the truest statements I have ever heard. So another important suggestion is to determine who your village is. Who can you call for help, or who can you call when you're having a rough day. When you have your baby, having a “village” of supporters behind you will make the experience that much better. Talk with your close family and friends, see if anyone is willing to come help support you. Whether it is helping with meals, housework, holding your baby for a few minutes so you are able to take a shower or go for a walk every single bit helps. While it can sometimes be uncomfortable to ask others for help, the truth is most people would love to be able to help their loved ones (you). With the current pandemic that does make it more difficult for in person support, but even a simple meal dropped off at your doorstep can take one thing off your list. Also, join mom-groups. It is so important to remain connected with others, especially when you have a new baby. Even if you are socially distancing you can connect with like-minded moms through online groups. Not only is social media a great place to find groups, a lot of in-person mommy groups have moved to digital platforms to make connections easier during the pandemic. It is much easier to go through those tough moments when you know you are not alone.
Finally, a strong suggestion I have for parents expecting is to get the support of a postpartum doula. Postpartum doulas provide families information and support on infant feeding, emotional and physical recovery from childbirth, infant soothing, coping skills for new parents, and referrals as needed. They also help with light housework, meal prep and can help incorporate an older child into this new experience. Postpartum doulas work both days and overnights, so if sleep deprivation is a concern, they can help make sure you get the rest you need. A postpartum doula may not be in the budget for all families, but there are some ways to help curb these costs. Find a doula that does gift certificates (and then put that on your registry), save for it (just as you would for a wedding), find a newer doula that is willing to take a lower rate, and ask your insurance if they cover postpartum doulas (as of January 2020 many insurances are reimbursing the costs for a certified postpartum doula). Even if you hire one for just a few hours, I promise you will not regret the money spent.
There are many ways to prepare for the arrival for your new baby. After working with many families, I have found that the best ways to be prepared are to talk with your partner, have a feeding plan, meal prep during pregnancy, find your support system, and hire a postpartum doula. Even if you only do a few of these suggestions, your postpartum experience with your new baby will be that much better.
Stevie Trujillo became a Postpartum Doula in 2018 and in 2019 she started her business, Stevie Rose Doula. In two short years Stevie has served over 20 families to include many sets of multiples, premies, and medically fragile newborns. Stevie serves families all over San Diego County. She has a passion for helping new parents become confident in their abilities as parents. Stevie has continued her education by becoming a certified postpartum doula in 2020, and taking a course on breastfeeding for doulas. As a mother of 5 herself, Stevie understands the importance of support after the birth of your baby or babies.