Welcome to newborn life. 9 Months of making a little human is at it’s end and you’re basking in the bliss of a brand new person soaking up every drop of that new baby smell! Life’s perfect, or so you thought…
For the past 9 months everyone (including yourself) has been caring for you, making sure you are happy and healthy. This all changes in an instance as the focus shifts from mom to the new baby. This is a time of huge transition and growth and also a time that should be enjoyed and cherished but every second won’t be a walk in the park. At times you might even feel like running away but it’s all part of momming and it’s totally normal.
Fresh out of it all; I’m here to share our 10 tips on surviving the 4th trimester – happy mama and baby intact. I’m no expert, this is just what we’ve learnt 3 babies later and what worked for us. Hopefully it will help some fellow tired sister too.
1. Screw society
We’re living in a fast paced world where mamas are expected to look good, feel good, be happy and have the baby caring thing down almost over night. The pressure of doing “what’s right”, making sure baby feeds well,is breastfeeding, growing at an acceptable rate, settles easily, is happy all the time and hitting those milestones on queue is overwhelming!
You just had a baby. It’s okay to feel emotion, tired and unsure. It’s okay if you don’t “know” your baby yet. It’s also normal to hate the 1st few weeks of breastfeeding, to look pregnant even though you aren’t and to stay in your pj’s all day!
It takes time to settle into your new role as a mama and the new reality of family life… So, don’t rush, give yourself all the time you need. For some those “motherly instincts” kick in the moment they hold their baby, others take a little longer to bond and even though you love your little blessing; you might just not be a “baby person” – only really starting to enjoy motherhood months (even years) later. IT’S ALL OKAY!
Your inability to check all the “Mother of the Year” boxes doesn’t mean you don’t love your child more than anything in the world!
2. Say YES to help
You won’t be graded on motherhood and believe me there’s no awards ceremony at the end of the year. You don’t have to know it all, do it all or be it all.
Let dad take some of the parenting work load, (he made that baby too) and most of the time he wants to help. Also, never feel bad because “he has to work tomorrow”. Being home and tending to a newborn’s need is a job too, all while taking care of yourself as well. He’ll anyway be thanking you one day for letting him share in this special time.
If you’re lucky enough to have family close by, count your blessings! Be open to grandma coming over to give baby a bath or letting an aunt or uncle enjoy a feed. Having 10 minutes to shower can be life-changing to a new mom.
Remember, accepting help doesn’t mean admitting failure. It’s just taking a (well deserved) break.
3. S-L-O-W down
It’s an entire trimester, 3 months. Transitioning from womb to world isn’t easy. You’ll have good days, bad days, all nighter and some full nights of sleep. Some days you’ll have a little angel and other times you’ll be rocking in a puddle of your own tears. As soon as you think you’ve figured it all out, new challenges will arise. Accept that somedays you will do “nothing” – It will be 17h30, hubby gets home, you haven’t showered, combed your hair, gotten dressed, made the bed… you’ve only been feeding baby and changing diapers all day. Nothing went according to plan, no goals were achieved!
NOT TRUE, you just survived a cluster-feed / growth spurt / challenging mom-day. Welcome to the club, we know, initiation sucks! It’s an unpredictable time but also a time to enjoy and savour and a time to get to know your precious little person. Getting back to normal will never be possible, you need to discover your “new” normal.
So, put down those books. Stop worrying and just let yourself enjoy your baby. Trust your instincts, you (and baby) will figure things out as you go along.
4. Be kind to yourself
Your body has just survived the huge trauma of pregnancy and delivery. Paired with sleep deprivation and the added bonus of hormone changes… No wonder you feel like a train wreck. The sudden drop in oestrogen could have you experiencing night sweats, fatigue, insomnia (like you needed help staying awake), depression, moodiness and all kinds of other fun symptoms. I remember thinking “I would never feel like myself again.”
The good news: It won’t last forever so try not to worry about it too much. Rather focus on keeping your “emotional tank” full.
A few ideas on how to do this:
- Cut negativity out of your life. Rather focus on support that wont just verify your feelings and experiences but will also help and encourage you.
- Forget about social media – we all know only a small part of it is real. It should be enjoyed not used to break you down or make you doubt how awesome YOUR OWN LIFE is.
- When you have a moment to spare; feed your soul with positivity, your favourite series, a cuddle, a bath and God’s word.
- Don’t focus on “getting your body back” right away. Rather eat a healthy diet and get enough rest. Belly binding is also very helpful and does make a difference.
- Don’t obsess about the routine, baby’s weight gain and milestones. Feeding on demand and letting baby take the lead for the 1st few weeks while mommy recovers won’t lead to a difficult child later. Also cut baby some slack. Maybe you have a future over achiever reaching milestones ahead of the curve or maybe your slow bloomer is taking a more relaxed approach to life.
5. Be prepared
You can never truly be prepared for a baby (even when it’s your 3rd.) There’s just no tried and tested recipe for success.
You can however prepare frozen dinners, stock the pantry and make sure you’ve got snacks and loads to drink, especially while breastfeeding. Save the numbers of your favourite take away places too and make sure you’re eating dishes high in nutrition, you can worry about weight loss later. Also be careful about the types of dishes you choose during the 1st few weeks. I found it best to avoid spicy food, chocolate and caffeine as well as dishes containing “”gassy” veggies such as onions, cabbage,broccoli etc. Unfortunately this is a trail-and-error kind of thing; some mamas can eat everything without upsetting baby. Other littles are a bit more sensitive. It is however worth looking into seeing as no one needs to be awake with a fussy baby due to mama’s diet.
Having 3 kids also makes planning and preparation more important and this is where our Family planner proves very helpful. Mom and dad are literally on the same page and can see what’s going on week after week. No surprises or forgotten events for anyone.
6. Wear that baby proud!
Never let anyone tell you keeping your baby close means spoiling them. The only thing that spoils is food, not babies… Baby wearing, whether it’s mom or dad is a total life saver! We can not live without our Ubuntu Baba baby carrier. Since Ava was 6 days old we’ve been snuggling her close to our chest, right next to our hearts. I really believe it was a big help assisting in my recovery post c-section. (You can read more on why I say so here.)
The benefits of baby wearing, especially during the 4th trimester is incredible, not just to baby but mommy too. You can read more about less crying, longer sleeping periods, digestive ease, post-natal depression prevention, assistance with breast-feeding and more on the Ubuntu Baba website. We still use our carrier daily. It’s the easiest way to calm Ava when she’s fussy or uncomfortable, get things done when need be and it makes it possible for me to spend time with all 3 our girls at once. It’s replaced our need for a stroller.
Baby wearing got me back to living life and being able to get out of the house.
7. Bring on the skin
Even at 5 months we still make time for skin to skin contact. It may not be as beneficial as during the early days but we love every second. Who wouldn’t? There’s just nothing like the feeling of baby soft skin. Skin to skin has definitely helped with establishing breastfeeding and a good milk supply. It makes bonding easier too and Ava loves cuddling on my bare chest and soft, flabby mom belly.
Their bodies won’t always fit onto yours and our 5 year old is already becoming more body conscious, not wanting to be naked. Treasure these moments, they’ll only be possible for a brief period of time.
8. From womb mates to room mates
No need for a fancy nursery. We haven’t even used our beautiful baby nook much, except during the day. Whether you decide to co-sleep or not, having baby close is key.
Having baby sleep in their own room, by themselves shouldn’t be the end goal for trimester 4 – like already mentioned, there is no rush. You’ll be getting up a lot during the 1st few weeks so it may be easier not having to run to and from bedrooms. Whether you choose to co-sleep, have a crib in the room or a bassinet next to the bed… It really is the parent’s choice and you should do what you feel most comfortable with. To us safe co-sleeping with our Nordic Nuss has been a dream. Having this familiar sleeping environment has helped settle Ava anywhere we go and I feel confident it will also help transition her to her crib as soon as we are ready (I’ll keep you all posted).
Knowing when to move baby from your bed / room to their own is a personal choice that differs from child to child. Some are light sleepers easily woken up by mom and dad. Others are loud sleepers waking up mom and dad… You will figure out what’s right for your family.
The most important thing is that everyone gets some much needed rest!
9. When in doubt, boob it out!
I may have had a rocky start to breastfeeding but I still love it! The 1st 12 weeks of a 1st baby can be terrible but stick to it mama! You will be rewarded, especially when baby number 2 and 3 comes. It’s almost like once you’ve gone through those 1st time struggles your breasts remember and just do what they’re suppose to.
I have also never been a fan of schedules and rigid routines and prefer feeding on demand. This gives baby the opportunities needed to “learn to feed”. Yes, it’s a skill that needs to be learned. We may think it’s all natural and instinct but babies still need to figure out how to latch and drink properly so give your little as many opportunities as possible. Also remember babies go through grow spurts, feeding more during certain times, getting thirsty on hot days and some day can also be more stressful than others. You’re not failing, it’s most likely a phase… hence my philosophy; “When in doubt, boob it out”.
Letting baby feed and comfort whenever they feel the need (or when nothing else is working) has helped establish my milk supply and has kept our girls thriving and mama sane.
10. Make technology work for YOU!
This may sound weird and unimportant but I have my own WhatsApp group. A group created just for me, my space. I use it as a place to store reminders, save things I want to remember, write down thoughts and ideas, compile the grocery list I forward to Mr. Perfect or my mom and loads more other stuff. It’s been such a huge help especially while recovering from preggy brain.
It was easy to create.
- Step1: Create group with Mr. Perfect.
- Step 2: Ask Mr Perfect to leave group.
- Step 3: Enjoy my own little space to work, store, plan and remember things in.
And that’s how we went about surviving the 4th trimester this 3rd time round. Maybe you have used some of the same techniques or maybe you have a few tips to share. Please tell us all how you made it work by leaving a comment below and remember to share this post with all the newborn mamas needing a word of encouragement today.
PHOTO CREDIT | Anje-Ilana Nel from Madison and West. (Where applicable).