What To Expect: The 4th Trimester

I know what you’re thinking.

“Hold up, there’s no such thing as a fourth trimester lady…”

No. Listen. It’s a REAL thing.

Studies have shown that the first three months of a baby’s life, they are so delicate and needy that they are pretty much still a fetus. It’s basically like being pregnant because:

  • They consume literally every second of your life.
  • They have to be attached to your body for survival (or formula).
  • They want to be held and swaddled at all times (similar to being in the womb).
  • Their senses are all very weak and still developing.

Your baby is still much like he or she was in the womb, still needing 100% of your attention. The 4th trimester is, in my opinion, the very hardest season of parenthood.

So ladies… because the 4th trimester is real, and it’s a BIG DEAL, here are some things you should know.

Newborn babies can’t be spoiled!

Seriously, they need you so badly at this stage. Just imagine how you would feel after being cuddled inside of a dark, cozy spa and now everything is bright and loud and crazy. Newborns are overwhelmed by all their senses and everything new around them and what they need more than anything is the sounds, smells and feelings they are used to…. and that’s YOU mama. They know you better than anything else and they need you to be comfortable and safe. Don’t be afraid to coddle your little one. Rock them to sleep, feed on demand and give them all the kisses you can.

Focus on bonding with your baby & their 3 basic needs.

Babies have 3 basic needs:

  1. Sleeping
  2. Eating
  3. Pooping

Other than that, all they need is love. Save the rest for later. Right now, meet those three needs and spend all the time you can bonding. Love isn’t always instant. Sometimes it takes a little while to get to know that little one and really fall in love with them. For me, it took a little over a month before I felt that little spark of adoration… and from there? Well, we are two peas in a pod. 🙂

Take care of yourself.

Having a baby is one of the hardest thing one can do. It takes so much out of you physically, emotionally, mentally, and even spiritually!

Something that nobody really explained to me before having a baby is all the stuff about hormones. The 1st trimester is literally hell because your body is bombarded by brand new baby hormones (LOTS of them!) and you have to adjust mentally, emotionally and physically to all the symptoms of those hormones. Thankfully by the 2nd trimester, most of those symptoms have become your new normal.

But what most women aren’t prepared for is the 4th trimester when the same thing happens… except in reverse. Your body and brain have adjusted to all the baby hormones surging through your body. But as soon as that baby comes out, all the hormones suddenly drop! This results in emotional mayhem.

The best way to combat the stress that goes along with this season is to be prepared. Know that things will be really hard. Here are some things you can do to make things a little smoother during this time:

  • Pay attention to your emotions and don’t ignore or discount them. Yes, your emotions will be all over the place. Yes, your thoughts and feelings likely will not be logical. Yes, you will be a mess. But if you have scary thoughts, address them. Ignoring your emotions will only cause them to build up and create more issues.
  • Talk it out. Have other mothers in your life that you can trust and talk to at anytime. Women who have been in your shoes before are going to be able to understand, be compassionate and also be more likely to notice if something is really wrong.
  • It takes a village – so get a village. Have people signed up before your little one comes to bring meals, do housework, or just come hold the baby while you nap. All of this stuff is going to be really helpful when you’re overwhelmed, exhausted and just want a nap.
  • Watch for PPD. Postpartum depression is real and common. The baby blues are expected in most women (just a result of all those hormones disappearing so suddenly and the arrival of a new person in your life!). However, PPD is quite a bit more serious. Tell someone if you’re feeling really sad or angry after your baby is born and call your doctor. Check out this article and quiz if you aren’t sure.
  • Rest for two full weeks. I know, it sounds like such a long time. But it’s really necessary. I did not do this well and ended up getting an infected scar and had issues with weight loss, PPD and exhaustion. Your body needs time to recover from what it just went through… and having a new baby to care for that is zapping all of your time, energy and sleep…. you really need extra time. Just do it and let the world go by while you adjust.
  • Let yourself heal. Depending on what kind of delivery you went through you will have different issues to deal with. C-section recovery requires you to not lift anything heavier than the baby for two weeks and absolutely no abdominal exercises for 6-8 weeks, or sometimes even longer. You’ll have to keep your incision clean and dry until it is fully healed. If you had a vaginal delivery, you’ll want some sort of iced pad or witch hazel (padsicles are a GREAT thing to make before you have your baby!). You also will need to take it slow for a few weeks and abdominal exercises are out for at least 6 weeks.
  • Take time to get used to your new life. Let’s be real. Having a baby changes everything. Journal about how you are feeling. Talk to friends. Write down your baby’s birth story. Cry if you need to. Figure out what your new schedule may look like. Let yourself adjust. It’s a big transition and you deserve time to think it all through and get used to everything.
  • Take a break. There’s no reason that you can’t take a break from your new baby. In fact, you probably need one! Between colic, waking up every 2 hours and the overwhelming new responsibility all at once, you and your partner will need some time away. This is one great reason to start bottle feeding ASAP! As soon as your little one has figured out a good latch and become good at breastfeeding, introduce the bottle with a little bit of pumped breastmilk. This way you can go on a date with your partner as soon as 2-3 weeks after the baby is born. I highly recommend doing this for your mental and emotional health, not only as a mama but in your relationship with your partner.

Breastfeeding can be tough.

Milk takes 3 days to come in. Before that you have colostrum.

Your nipples will be sore for a little while.

Your milk supply will regulate at about 4-6 weeks. Your baby will also go through a growth spurt about this time. You aren’t losing your supply, this is normal.

If you are breastfeeding, you will probably want to wait till 2-3 weeks to introduce pacifiers or bottles so they can get used to breastfeeding with a correct latch and not get confused. But you also don’t want to wait too long. Whenever they seem to have established breastfeeding well, introduce the bottle.

The best time to introduce a bottle is in the evening when they are relaxed, calm and awake. Make sure you are using a slow-flow bottle.

Never microwave expressed breast milk. It destroys the nutrients in the milk, and it also can create hot pockets within the milk that would burn your baby’s mouth. Instead, run the milk under hot water until it is warm.

Pump directly AFTER a feeding. If you pump too long after a feeding, you will use up milk for your baby’s next feeding. T

he first few weeks of breastfeeding are the very hardest! Don’t give up. Soon it will come naturally and you will be so thankful you stuck with it

Prepare yourself for the 4th trimester.

  • Freezer meals. Check out pinterest for tons of great ideas! I made enough meals so that we could be fed for 2 months. I stocked up on homemade granola bars for breakfasts (along with plenty of boxed cereal), egg breakfast burritos for breakfasts and lunches, and tons of different freezer meals for dinners to last for 2 months. It was just me and my husband the first time around so I either halved the recipe or counted it to last for two days.
  • Padsicles. Seriously, these are amazing. Make sure you have them in the freezer. I actually had a c-section, but because I did push for 4 hours I ended up needing them anyways to soothe the area down there. Look up ideas for “recipes” and stock up about 2 weeks worth of “padsicles” in your freezer!
  • Supply Baskets. I saw this idea on Pinterest. Instead of just having all your baby supplies in one area, spread them out throughout the house. Think of the places that you’ll most likely be stuck with the baby for longer periods of time and put a basket there with things you may need. Some ideas would be: water bottles, chapstick, lotion, snacks, nipple cream, burp cloths, diapers, wipes, extra baby clothes, hand sanitizer, phone charger, books, blankets. This way you don’t have to worry about getting up if you have a sleeping baby on you!
  • Get some babysitters. Before you have the baby, get ahold of a few good friends and relatives and ask if they would be up for helping you out that first month. Just getting their okay to call when you are in need will make you feel better about doing it when the time comes. In particular, see if one or two people (grandma’s are the best for this!) would be willing to come spend the night and take care of the baby for the night so you can sleep. You may or may not need this, but just having someone who says they would if you need it can be so comforting.
  • Hire a housekeeper. Just once a week for the first month would be amazing for you. Housekeepers usually run about $15-30 an hour which would leave you at about $120-200 for the whole month. If you can’t afford it, ask one of your parents to help out… or just ask a friend to help you out a little bit for free.
  • Get people to bring meals. If you are part of a church, this may already be a ministry that they have. Ask your pastor or church administration about this. If not, ask a friend to set up a meal sharing page for you. Generally people will bring meals for 1-2 weeks, either every day or every other day. Sometimes you’ll even get people who are willing to help out with housework and/or holding baby when they come to bring food! It’s a great way to introduce the community to your baby slowly as well.

Daily Life: The 1st Month

Goals & Expectations:

The 1st month home with your baby can be very overwhelming. Expect for your entire life to involve around your baby and to deal with some very crazy emotions during this time. The first 3 months of a baby’s life are referred to as the “4th trimester”. This means that your baby is still a fetus! They need all the care, protection, pampering and cuddling you can possibly give them. Respond to their cries as quickly as possible. There is no such thing at this stage as too much cuddling or spoiling.

Feedings:

  • How often? 
    • Daytime: Until baby regains birth weight, they need to be woken up every 2-3 hours to eat. Always measure from start of one feeding to the start of the next. After baby regains birth weight (this can take up to 3 weeks), you can begin feeding whenever they ask for it instead of waking them up for feedings.
    • Nighttime: At night, let your baby call the schedule. It’s important, even at this age, to differentiate between night and day. Whenever they wake up, feed them.
  • How much? 
    • Breastfed: On demand, no matter how often or how long. Feed until baby falls off. 8-12 times daily.
    • Formula: 2-3 oz every 2-4 hours

Pooping:

At this age, babies might poop 6 times a day or once a week! What is most important is consistency. If it is hard, they are constipated (breastfed babies cannot get constipated). The most important thing is if they are urinating enough. If you are changing at least 4-6 wet diapers a day, they are getting enough to eat.

Your baby’s very first bowel movement is called “meconium”. It is hard, sticky and black. Their poop will be like this during the first week. After that, you can expect very liquidy, golden colored poop.

Sleeping:

How much?

Anywhere from 14-22 hours daily. Newborns sleep pretty much all the time when they are not eating.

Where?

Whether you are co-sleeping or using a bassinet/crib, make sure that your baby is in 100% SID-safe sleeping conditions. As long as you are completely wake, it is very good for your baby to sleep at the breast or cuddled in your arms. At this stage of their lives, all they need to know is that their mama is with them.

Co-sleeping is only recommended for breastfeeding moms, but it is very good for your child to be near you. It’s wonderful for their emotional & mental development and can actually decrease the risk of SIDS when done correctly. Make sure that you know all the rules to create a safe co-sleeping environment for you and your baby. Read about my co-sleeping story here.

Baby Care:

Umbilical Cord 

Keep the umbilical cord area dry. There is no reason to clean it. Let it air out and don’t cover it with the diaper. It should fall off within the first month. If you notice a foul smell or some blood, you can clean it gently with a cotton ball and rubbing alcohol. This will not hurt your baby.

Fingernails

DO NOT clip your baby’s fingernails the first few weeks. If they are scraggly, you can use a filing board. Once their nails harden, you can begin using baby clippers.

Bathing

Use a warm washcloth then wipe down your baby. Begin with their eyes, nose and face. Move to their head, neck, ears and trunk. End with their genital area and butt. There is no need for soap or immersing them in a tub/sink of water. Use coconut oil on any cracked or dry spots.

Signs of illness

  • Personality changes
  • Loss of appetite
  • Temp of 100.4 +

Milestones 

  • Gaining 5-10 oz a week
  • Hearing will fully develop by the end of the month
  • Keeps hands tight in little fists
  • Can lift head up for short periods of time
  • Brings hands to face

Growth Spurts

At 4 ½ – 5 ½ weeks, you may notice that your baby begins crying more often for no apparent reason, becomes extra clingy, or wants to breastfeed all the time. These are not causes for concern! These are signs that your baby is going through their first growth spurt. Cuddle them often and let them eat as often as they ask for it.

Activities:

  • Tummy time, either lying on your chest or on a nursing pillow
  • Gaze at your baby at close range so that they can memorize your face
  • Hang colorful toys 8-10 inches from their face
  • Talk & sing – they love silly noises and songs!
  • Play soft lullabies & music for baby
  • Hold, caress, cuddle & swaddle – there is no such thing as too much cuddling the first month
  • If you have to do a chore or run an errand, wear your baby in a sling – they love the be close to you at this time, and it is wonderful for their development
  • Stroller rides around town – the walking is great for you too momma!

Daily Life: The 2nd Month

Goals & Expectations:

Your baby is still teeny-tiny, but they are beginning to show bits and pieces of their personality! You may get a smile out of them for the first time this month, as well as some cooing noises. Enjoy this time with your child, but remember that they are still very fragile and the world is a big and scary place for them.

You may be feeling like taking care of a baby is the only thing you will ever do again and that your life is over. Remember that this is not true, and you will get your life back again! This is only a phase. Think of some people who would make good babysitters. Your baby is old enough now that you can think about getting away for a few hours with your spouse or some friends. You deserve a break!

Feeding:

How often? Every 2-4 hours. 6-12 times daily.

How much? 3-4 oz formula every 2-4 hours.

Sleeping: 

14-16 hours daily

Growth Spurts:

7 ½ – 9 ½ weeks

Milestones:

  • Looks at things longer and more frequently
  • Responds to touch in new ways
  • Gives a social smile for the first time
  • May begin making cooing or raspberry noises
  • Is more awake and busy
  • Gaining 5-8 oz weekly
  • Tracks moving objects with eyes
  • May start to suck thumb/fist
  • Begins to lift head for longer periods of time

Activities:

  • They prefer faces over toys
  • Hold brightly colored toys in front of baby and move around in circles – this helps them track with their eyes
  • Wear baby while you do chores
  • Laugh when baby laughs – imitate their faces and sounds
  • Expose baby to different textures & sounds
  • Begin using infant swing & bouncer
  • Place baby on tummy for tummy time
  • Move baby’s arms and legs in swimming motions
  • You can begin to bathe your baby in a tub

Daily Life: The 3rd Month

Goals & Expectations:

Your baby is beginning to develop a personality and seem more like a child! But, even though your baby is fun, remember that you are still in the 4th trimester. Your baby is still tender, sleepy and overwhelmed by the world. When in a social situation, make sure to watch your child for signs of being overstimulated. Sometimes at this stage, they just need a break from the talking and noise. They have not yet learned how to tune out noise, so they have to process every voice or sound they listen to! Can you imagine how overwhelming that would be?

Feedings:

How often? Every 2-4 hours. 6-12 times daily. Feedings will take much less time now because your baby is getting more efficient at eating.

How much? 3-5 oz formula.

By now, your will be feeding less during the night. You can expect 1-2 feedings at night, and 4-10 during the day.

Pooping:

Don’t be worried if your baby begins to poop less. It might be up to 12 days in between bowel movements at this stage!

Sleeping:

15 hours a day. Will begin sleeping less during the day and more at night. You may notice your baby begin to create his own napping schedule during the day.

Milestones:

  • Gaining 5-8 oz weekly
  • Becoming more of a social butterfly
  • Mimics sounds, expressions and movements
  • Makes eye contact
  • Recognizes familiar faces and voices
  • Turns head to respond to sounds
  • Flaps his hands against a toy
  • Feels toys without grasping them
  • Discovers and observes different parts of his body
  • Makes short, explosive sounds with his voice

Growth Spurts:

11 ½ – 12 ½ weeks

Activities:

  • Hold brightly colored toys in front of baby and move around in circles
  • Wear baby while you do chores
  • Laugh when baby laughs – imitate sounds and faces
  • Expose baby to various sounds & textures
  • Use infant swing & bouncer
  • Place baby on tummy for tummy time
  • Move baby’s arms and legs in swimming motions

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