We did it! We made it through the notoriously trying first three months with a newborn, known as the Fourth Trimester. Most people will tell you this is the hardest phase of having a baby. So many people told me this that I was mentally preparing myself for battle, expecting nonstop tears and exhaustion beyond belief.
While it was certainly no walk in the park, I have come out the other side feeling fairly unscathed. In fact on most days, I feel pretty damn good. And no, it’s not because my baby sleeps through the night, he isn’t even close. Maybe it was luck but I think it was trial and error that led me to allowing myself some grace, knowing when to ask for help, and communicating clearly with my husband.
Either way, here is what helped me get through the fourth trimester and I hope it helps you too. And yes, let’s assume daily cups of coffee and some beer (strictly for milk supply purposes of course) are a given in this three month survival tool kit.
Receiving Help. Repeat after me, “Yes”. When family and friends offer to help say, “Yes”. It’s amazing how hard it is to get anything done around the house with a newborn. Mindless tasks such as putting away dishes and switching the laundry suddenly feel as daunting as preparing to climb Everest. Not to mention that bending over and standing up for long periods of time can be quite uncomfortable during the first weeks.
When people offer to come watch the baby so you can nap say, “Yes”. When friends offer to vacuum say, “Yes”. I know it feels weird but trust me. I declined help way too much in the beginning because I felt like I was putting people out. People offer because they genuinely want to help. Denying this robs them of the joy of helping and you of the help you need. Us women like to be supermoms who can do it all but smart supermom’s know what they can handle and when to ask for assistance.
Especially when it comes to people offering to bring food say, “Yes”. In the first few weeks, the last thing you will have time to think about is grocery shopping and making meals. Ask a friend or family member to create a meal train for you. There are free online websites like mealtrain.com where people can sign up to bring your family a meal. You can also add the option of restaurant delivery services like Uber Eats or Door Dash for your friends who don’t cook.
In our house to make our lives easier I subscribe to a meal delivery service where the meals are already made, all you have to do is heat them up. My personal favorites are Pete’s Paleo and Freshly. There are many meal delivery services that give you the food to cook up yourselves but after having to google some of the obscure food prep terminology on the meal prep cards, we decided that was too much work for us for now. Receiving help is a beautiful thing and you will probably have many opportunities to pay it forward to other new parents in the future so for now say, “Yes”.
Take breaks. Go do something without the baby. That’s right, hand off baby to someone you trust and leave the house. The daily routine of nurse, play, sleep, and let’s not forget crying can be exhausting. Take a walk. Get a pedicure. Go grocery shopping. I personally am a fan of massages and after nursing for hours every day, those shoulders and hips need some loving.
Whatever it is, taking time for yourself allows you to reset emotionally and physically. This is crucial to you feeling like your former carefree self during a time when you are completely focused on keeping this bundle of joy alive. If the thought of leaving baby for too long is scary, go take fifteen minutes to go grab a coffee.
Figure out what you are comfortable with and make it happen. Taking time for yourself and is so important for your wellbeing. I assure you that will return from your time away feeling refreshed. Plus, it’s important to show your partner that you trust them with baby!
Know your limits. Most of us are used to having the freedom to do whatever we want whenever we want. Gone will be the days of being out and about for hours on end, at least for a few months. Newborns force us to slow down and for those of us used to being “on the go” all the time, it can feel like being stuck in heavy traffic when all you want to do is go fast and get to where you think you need to go.
At first I tried to fight this traffic in my head and do errand after errand. By the time I got home I would have an agitated baby who was hungry and sometimes had missed a nap. He usually would cry all the way home which yes, babies cry and that is fine, but it was raising my blood pressure and I would be on edge until I could get home to nurse him or get him down for a nap. I was causing myself unnecessary stress telling myself I had to get all of these things done. It took some time but I finally realized I needed to embrace this slower pace of life.
Now I honestly enjoy it. I’ve started making my to-do list easier by ordering more items online and through Amazon that I don’t need immediately. Newborns force you to prioritize what actually needs to get done. I love creating to-do lists where I write out what truly has to get done and this helps me organize my day. During the week when I am on my own I know I can do about one big errand at a time. I know to leave the house right after he is fed so he is awake and happy. I will have about an hour and a half before he starts to get tired and cranky.
You will learn your baby and what they can handle. Baby will be happier overall and sleep better when he gets naps and feedings in as needed. Your baby’s schedule will continue to evolve so being open to adjusting your day accordingly is important to make sure baby is getting what they need in a timely manner and that you aren’t adding extra stress to your day.
Sleep When Baby Sleeps. Everyone will tell you this and you will say, “Ok sure yeah” but this advice is no joke. In order to feel like a semi-functioning human being, nothing is more important than getting sleep. During the day, the minute that baby falls asleep you sit your butt down and close your eyes. I don’t care if you have been waiting all week to finally watch the Bachelor. Spoiler alert, someone will be over-served and cry and the villain will get a rose, again (I’m onto you producers).
Truly it’s amazing what closing your eyes for 15 minutes can do for your energy. The same goes for at night. We quickly learned there is no shame in going to bed at 8:00p.m or whenever baby falls asleep. You don’t know how long you have until baby wakes up so sleep for as long as you can. You will feel much better day to day if you follow this advice.
Communication. Talk to your partner about what kind of help from him or her you need. This will be an emotional and sleep deprived time and good communication becomes key. Bonus points if you talk through how you can help each other before baby comes. During the night my husband will change our son’s diaper then hand him to me to nurse. I don’t always need help but knowing he is always willing to help is what matters.
Talk through what you both need to feel your best. Every couple is different and there are no right or wrong answers here. Exercising is important to my husband and I us so we make getting to the gym a priority. Every week we talk through our schedules and what we want to get done so we are on the same page and can plan for baby coverage. You two are a team and keeping things inside doesn’t do any good for either of you.
One last point on communication, never underestimate the power of a good laugh. It’s easy to get caught up in daily struggle and stress of trying to survive the day and sometimes you need a good laugh to lighten up the mood. There are so many crazy things that happen with kids and making light of a situation, like the one time my son managed to simultaneously pee, poop and spit up on me, makes life so much more bearable.
I hope that applying some of these concepts to your fourth trimester will make the experience easier for you. It is trite but true that while the days are long, the months and years are short. Enjoy this time and remember that the sun will rise tomorrow.