The fourth trimester refers to the first three months of a newborn’s life. This is also known as the beginning of the postpartum period for new mothers. The fourth trimester can be both beautiful and terrifying for new parents! There are so many lessons learned along the way that can sometimes only be learned through personal experience. I spoke to friends and family members who are moms and asked them for the top questions they had during the fourth trimester. Keep reading to find out more!
1. Does my baby have colic?
Colic is when a healthy baby cries for extended periods of time (usually at least 3 hours a day) for no obvious reason. According to this article from John’s Hopkins Medicine, a baby likely has colic if they cry for at least 3 hours a day, at least 3 days a week for at least 3 weeks. Babies with colic are often fussy (having difficulty self-soothing), gassy, and don't sleep well. Colic can be challenging for newborn parents as there tends to be no way to comfort or soothe their babies. There is no known cause for colic and babies tend to grow out of it between 3 and 6 months. My daughter had colic and she had grown out of the colicky phase by about 4 months. I have some strategies for parents dealing with colic that I plan to release in the coming weeks!
2. How come I can’t sleep when the baby sleeps?
Honestly, I’ve only met a handful of mothers who could consistently sleep when the baby was sleeping! If you’re already a mother, then you already know the answer to that question: there is a very short window of time in which a newborn sleeps. Newborns often have short and erratic sleep cycles because their brains are still learning how to regulate sleep on their own. A nap may be 2 hours or it may be 30 minutes! This is true during the day and at night. It is impossible to try to predict when you will be able to get quality sleep around that schedule.
There are a variety of other things that impact your chances of sleeping when the baby sleeps. You will quickly figure out that the only time to get anything done is when your baby is sleeping; especially in the newborn phase and double especially if you are breastfeeding. Nap time is usually your opportunity to take care of your basic needs (e.g. eating, showering) and complete household chores (e.g. tidying up, laundry, etc). On top of all that, there is an added layer of postpartum anxiety and depression (common in new mothers due to rapidly changing hormones) that often contribute to insomnia and poor sleep quality. So, if you’re having trouble timing your naps with the baby’s naps, you are in the majority and not the minority.
My go to is always to get help from your village. If your partner or another family member is around, have them take over baby duty for a few hours so that you can get adequate sleep. If you’re alone with the baby, I recommend prioritizing any form of rest (e.g. laying down, resting eyes) rather than full on sleep. If you have a bunch of things to get done, prioritize your needs first and spread them out over several naps so that you get a moment to rest during each one. If it’s possible, try to accomplish tasks while the baby is awake so that you can maximize your resting time while the baby sleeps. This may look like eating (even snacks) while the baby is awake and having quiet time on the couch when the baby sleeps. Baby wearing is a great way to accomplish tasks while baby is awake! I wish I learned how to use my Boba Wrap earlier in my daughter’s life because it was a huge help in getting things done while she was awake. Some moms even breastfeed while babywearing! Swings and bouncers are another great option to safely get your hands free and allow you get things done while baby is awake.
3. Is it okay to supplement with formula?
YES, IT IS OKAY TO SUPPLEMENT WITH FORMULA! I can’t emphasize this one enough. The mom guilt will destroy you if you let it. Don’t let it. Say it with me, “Fed is best”. Moving on.
4. Should I stop breastfeeding if I have a low supply?
I am no medical expert and there is a lot that goes into breastfeeding and milk supply. However, it is widely known and accepted that mother’s milk is the best form of nutrition for baby. I can go on and on about the benefits of breastfeeding, but I will spare you for now! I highly recommend continuing to breastfeed even if you have a low supply. You can always supplement with formula in order to ensure that your baby receives adequate nutrition! The benefits of continuing to offer breastmilk, even in smaller quantities, greatly outweigh the risks. The only time I would recommend stopping is if there is some threat to you or your baby’s health. This could also include any detriment to your psychological health. For example, if breastfeeding is becoming too stressful or you’re feeling inadequate, then of course, it is worth stopping! However, if you and your baby feel good about it and the only issue is low supply, then by all means continue breastfeeding.
5. What if I’m having trouble accepting my new body?
There’s a saying, “when a child is born, so is a mother”. This rings true in every way, including your body. Pregnancy inevitably and irreversibly changes your body. This may look like stretch marks and loose skin. This may look like a change in hair color or an increase in shoe size. For some, it may be a giant new scar on their belly. There’s nothing that I really can say that would make someone begin to love their new mom bod. What I can say is that you don’t have to love the way your body looks right now! The fourth trimester is only the first 3 months of a child’s life. That means it’s the first three months of your new life as a mother. Think about how long it takes for children to learn new skills and for adults to learn how to be an adult. You’re likely not going to love your body right away, but you don’t have to! Acceptance doesn’t mean being happy with the way things are. It just means acknowledging that things are the way they are. You used to look a certain way, and now you don’t. Acknowledge the change and accept that it exists. Nothing more, nothing less. It will get easier as time goes on and eventually, you will love your body again!
I hope this list was helpful! I am not a medical professional and the information I’m sharing is based on my own personal experiences in addition to research that I’ve done on these topics. Consult your doctor immediately if you have any questions or concerns about your health! If you haven’t already, check out PART 1 which has more FAQs about the fourth trimester! Were there any questions that you had in your fourth trimester? Leave a comment below!