By Genevieve Putter of The New Normal
If you are reading this, chances are you are currently pregnant and preparing for your Fourth Trimester or you have already given birth and are in the thick of it. Either way, you’ve probably never been told that having a Fourth Trimester plan is as important as having a birth plan. Why, because birth is just the start of your motherhood experience, but the weeks and months that follow are the foundations of it and if you are informed and have access to the right kind of support it can be a very positive and empowering time. After all, giving birth isn’t what makes you a mother, it’s the daily grind that comes with keeping a baby alive and well that does.
So, what exactly is the Fourth Trimester and why is it so important?
According to paediatrician and author of the book The Happiest Baby on the Block, Dr Harvey Karp, the Fourth trimester is the first three months of a baby’s life. The theory goes that human babies are actually born prematurely and during the first 3 months postpartum they need undivided attention and care, usually by the mother but also from other caregivers in the mother’s circle. Today however this term is being used more in reference to a mother’s adaptation to her new life with a newborn. Many traditional cultures around the world have a lot of rituals and practices aimed at keeping the mother in a calm and relaxed state in an attempt to encourage the flow of oxytocin which is crucial to many aspects of the mom-baby dyad in the early days.
The reason why the Fourth Trimester as a concept has made its way into the common lexicon is that society is realising that if moms are not nurtured and taken care of during this critical adaptation phase, they are unable or incapacitated to perform their evolutionary role of primary caregiver. The theory being, when a child is born so to is a mother and therefore she needs as much love and caregiving as her newborn.
Modern mothers today have a lot to contend with aside from being able to solely focus on their newborn, they have to take care of other children, manage a household and in some instances have to return to work soon after the baby is born to be able to support the family unit. But what the Fourth Trimester calls for is a quietening of all this, for her community and family to step in to nurture her so she can nurture her new baby.
In the absence of the village and with the immense pressures of modern living, mothers today have to be way more prepared which is why a Fourth Trimester/ postpartum plan is so important.
Here are some tips to help you plan for your Fourth Trimester
1. Babyshower- Instead of asking friends and family to buy new gear and stuff from a gift registry, rather ask them to donate preloved items and to spend their money on getting you a few sessions with a lactation consultant, postpartum doula or massage therapist. The truth is, newborns need very little and there are bound to be women in your community who are able to donate their unused baby items and gear.
2. Meal train- Ask a friend to set up a meal train with the Mealtrain app that will allow your close family and friends to cook a home-cooked meal for you and deliver it on a specific day. Nourishing a new mom and her family is some of the best support her community can provide, taking one less load off the family having to worry about dinner every day.
3. Establish your village- Enlist close family members and friends to help with daily tasks during the Fourth Trimester, whether it’s to do grocery shopping, run errands, lift the older kids to and from school. Once everyone knows their roles, you can then come up with a weekly schedule so that everyone knows what to do.
4. Visitors- In those first few weeks postpartum, you will be inundated with people wanting to visit and meet the new baby. Be strategic with it! Set up a what’s app group or broadcast list for your family and friends stating the times during the day that best suit you and make sure you ask whoever is visiting that day to run an errand for you too. Also, get someone to set up a tea and coffee station so that visitors can help themselves and so you don’t have to serve them.
5. Online shopping- Setting up your online shopping profiles and doing a weekly shop is a good way to make sure you have everything you need. Dedicate an hour a week to ordering with stores that deliver straight to your door.
Most importantly, don’t be afraid to ask for help. We were never meant to do this alone and the more support you have will go a long way in making sure you and your baby have a smooth Fourth Trimester.
If you are currently pregnant and preparing for your Fourth Trimester or you have already given birth and are in the thick of it book a consultation with a Nurturey Practitioner on 064 940 5110.