How to Prepare for the Fourth Trimester (Postpartum)
Updated: 18 hours ago
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Postpartum can be an equally hard and beautiful time. A fresh new baby is so beautiful and floods the body with oxytocin! A body that just birthed a baby though needs a lot of support and rest to heal. Milk coming in, baby blues, poor sleep, and balancing other responsibilities can be very overwhelming! For these reasons, it’s important to prepare ahead of time for the postpartum period.
It feels like most people focus on baby's needs during the postpartum period. However, mom needs just as much, if not more support than baby does. A new baby. is really reliant on mom, so it's so important that mom stays healthy and happy. For this reason, this post focuses on mom’s needs.
The 5-5-5 Rule
Prepare to follow the 5-5-5 rule. 5 days in bed, 5 days on the bed, and 5 days around the bed. This allows your body the rest it desperately needs after giving birth! Those first 5 days especially, you’ll most likely want to stay in bed as your body will be sore and tired! If you had an uncomplicated vaginal birth, you may feel better before the first 15 days are over, BUT remember that you have a lot of internal healing to do and continue to rest.
Ask for help
If it’s at all possible for you, arrange for someone to come stay with you that first week (or two) after your birth. Your mom, a sister, a close friend, or a hire a post-partum doula. With a sore, tired body, brand new baby, and rapidly changing hormones, small tasks like going pee, taking a shower, and eating a meal are a big deal! Having someone there to help and support you is so so needed! Even if your spouse or partner is at home with you, it’s still so helpful to have an additional person there. If one person can’t be there all the time, ask a few friends to cycle through and visit to help clean, cook, or hold the baby while you take a shower or just take a break. I also found it so nice to have someone there to tell me that what I was experiencing was normal and/or I was doing the right thing. The experience and reassurance of another mother was really invaluable to me during that time.
Most likely, after you give birth and your milk starts to come in, you will be hungry. This is for good reason! Your body needs nourishment to heal and now care for a new baby! Take care of your body with nourishing meals and snacks! The postpartum period is NOT the time to try and lose weight. It’s a time to heal, recover, and bond with your new baby.
I have another post about nourishing foods to eat during pregnancy. These foods are also so nourishing for the postpartum period!
Fixing a meal during those first few days postpartum can feel virtually impossible. If you’re able to, plan ahead and stock your freezer with meals in the third trimester. The easiest way to do this is when you cook a meal, double the recipe, and freeze half for after the baby comes. Setting up a meal train can also be really helpful. It’s so nice to have a hot meal brought to your house a few times a week when you’re freshly postpartum.
Set expectations for visitors
Having friends and family come into your home to help with chores, cook a meal, or help take care of you is so so beneficial! However, it is NOT beneficial to have visitors come in who expect you to host them. You do not need to be worried about keeping your house clean during this time or making someone else feel comfortable. Visitors who come in and offer to hold your baby while you do chores are also not beneficial. Set gentle boundaries when necessary. I personally asked my spouse for help setting these boundaries, which helped take some of the mental load off me.
Practice intentional self-care
Self-care during the postpartum period can feel so challenging and nearly impossible some days, but is so healing! Self-care for me postpartum was my mom or husband holding our baby while I took a hot shower or Epsom salt and herb bath (after waiting about a week after giving birth). Shaving my legs, dinking around the house, and walking around the garden were all glorious activities postpartum. I was also privileged enough that I could take my baby to my mom’s house after she got off work, and throw pottery for an hour while she held the baby. Doing something I enjoy for an hour a few times a week was SO nice. I recognize that these things are not possible for everyone (especially those with multiple children), but do what you can. Ask for help and have grace for yourself.
Many women find that they or their baby (or both) need extra support from professionals after the baby comes. It’s really good to have these resources lined up before baby gets here so that you can just make a phone call. Your provider or a doula can likely give you great recommendations. A few providers to research beforehand and keep their contact information are a lactation consultation, a chiropractor, a pediatrician, a pelvic floor therapist, a mental health therapist, and a craniosacral therapist.
Stock up on household essentials like groceries, toilet paper, and other essentials. Also, stock up on postpartum needs. Of course baby items like diapers and wipes, but also mom’s postpartum needs (again diapers).
See my post here for What Items are Actually Needed Postpartum (for mom)
The fourth trimester can be one of the most challenging times in a woman’s life. I heard from several friends before giving birth that they were miserable or in survival mode for months after their baby was born! It’s not like that for all women, but regardless, it’s so beneficial to do a little preparation beforehand to make this time period easier. Let me know in the comments what you did to prepare for your newborn!