We spoke to the team at Epworth Maternity, to learn more about the fourth trimester, what it is and what’s important during those precious weeks following birth. Here’s what mum of four, Erin, and neonatal paediatrician Dr John Mills had to say.
There can be a lot of pressure placed on new mums to adapt to life with a new baby, like a duck takes to water. From getting your little one to sleep through the night to mastering breastfeeding, the list of “shoulds” is long and unrealistic.
But what if we took the pressure off completely? What if we saw the first 12 weeks of your newborn’s life, as the fourth trimester? What if those 12 weeks were used purely for bonding with your baby, recovering from giving birth, and adjusting to your new life?
I distinctly remember the first 12 weeks after I became a mum for the first time. I was completely and utterly terrified of getting it all wrong. I also felt like I was the only one failing at this “new mum” thing. I remember struggling to feed my tiny new baby, and imaging no one else could ever find it this hard.
It turns out I’m not the only one who felt like this. Dr John Mills says “quite specific guidelines and expectations are given about what a baby should do. And it can be very anxiety provoking for parents if their baby is doing something a little bit different.”
Fast forward to how life was when my fourth child arrived and it couldn’t have been more different. I had learned, over my subsequent pregnancies, the importance of the fourth trimester and what exactly that meant for me.
Here is what helped me in those first 3 months post partum;
- Skip the daily bath -newborns don’t really get that dirty. Unless of course there’s a poo explosion. Bath as needed and take the pressure off having to do it every day.
- Accept ALL offers of help. An Aunty wants to take your older kids to the park? Yes please! Susan from playgroup wants to make you a lasanga? Absolutely! Your mum wants to hold the baby so you can soak your aching body in a bath? Can I get a hell yeah!!
- Don’t worry about that dirty R word – I’m talking about ROUTINE! There’s way too much focus on getting your new baby to sleep when you’d like it to. Throw that out the window (the routine not the baby) and let your baby sleep when and where it wants to. I bet you a million bucks it’s tucked neatly in your arms, next to that delightful and familiar heartbeat of yours.
- Remember FED is best. Dr John Mills says “what matters is that the baby is content and happy and growing well and developing well. And if those conditions are met then whatever the babies feeding pattern is, is fine for that baby.”
- Be kind to you. You are amazing. You have just grown and birthed another human being. You do not need to be “snapping back” you need to be celebrating and replenishing that body of yours.
- Ask for advice if you need it. Putting your hand up for help doesn’t make you a failure. It makes you a caring mother who wants the best for their child. Lean on friends, family, your mothers group or health care providers.
Remember, this is an exhausting time for both you and your new addition. Take it day by day and give yourself a huge pat on the back, you’re doing an amazing job!
The author of this article is Epworth HealthCare, Victoria’s largest not-for-profit private hospital group, renowned for their excellence in diagnosis, treatment, care and rehabilitation. Epworth is an innovator in Australia’s health system, embracing the latest in evidence-based medicine to pioneer treatments and services for our patients. Epworth Maternity