Often we spend our pregnancy preparing for labour, birth and life postpartum. We spend months speaking about essential oils and mucus during labour, prams, car seats, bassinets and carriers. Albeit important, we often neglect discussing the Fourth Trimester.
The Fourth Trimester – the first 12 weeks post-birth. A time of great physical and emotional change. During this time, the mother and child build a nurturing relationship, you find your rhythm and start to become comfortable with feeding.
It’s important to remember – breastfeeding does not always come naturally. We don’t always know what to do when our baby cries, or how to settle our baby. Sometimes we figure these things out, and sometimes we don’t. Whether we do or not, the Fourth Trimester is all about finding your feet in this new role as a mother.
After seventeen hours of active labour with my first son, Otto, we experienced a baby with 100% tongue tie who lost a lot of weight in his first week, and a mother with an incredibly low milk supply (I pumped a total of 3mL in a 24-hour period) and sky-rocketing anxiety. I commonly hear a variation of this journey in my clinical practice. Here are my top tips.
Commit to doing a birthing course.
I recommend the detailed birthing classes Hypnobirthing, Calm Birth and She Birth (if you’re in Australia). Or the birthing classes provided by your local hospital are great for learning the basics. If possible, ensure your birthing partner joins you as you will both gain such clarity around the birthing experience and will be confident and fully equipped to make informed decisions throughout the process.
Build a team of health professionals around you.
You may not always need them, but if you do, you don’t want to be running around trying to find medical support in the newborn haze. During your pregnancy, you will become familiar with your Doctor, Midwife and Obstetrician. Some other health professionals to consider are…
A naturopath will assess your nutritional needs, help you manage feelings of overwhelm, anxiety, stress, depression and fatigue, support your breastfeeding journey, and assess any additional needs for baby. As a guide, I like to see new mothers in each trimester and follow up with them within the first two weeks after birth. We meet again at six weeks to do any additional testing to ensure nutritional and metabolic health are optimised.
Knowledge is power when it comes to breastfeeding. Get the advice from an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) who can give insight into different feeding positions, baby’s latch, and ensure pain and bleeding is avoided. If there is an issue such as tongue tie that is affecting your breastfeeding journey, a IBCLC will steer you in the right direction.
Chiropractor or Osteopath
To assess you and the baby after birth. I personally found this beneficial as I could not understand why Otto hated laying on his back and would scream when breastfeeding on one particular breast. An assessment showed he was out of alignment.
Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist
To assess your recovery from birth, provide support if you experience a prolapse or any discomfort, and give the approval to return to exercise from six weeks.
Call on your family and friends
The Fourth Trimester can be an emotional rollercoaster. Do not hesitate to ask for support, or accept help when offered. Anything from help with cooking, cleaning or washing – while you are spending time holding your baby, allow someone else to hold you.
If you are reading this and have a loved one giving birth soon, consider starting a meal train for the first few weeks post-birth. This can be life-changing for new parents.