Exploring Your Fourth Trimester
If you’ve ever given birth or are close to someone who has, you know that things don’t simply go back to their pre-pregnancy status once the baby is born. Your body is still going through massive changes while you’ve now taken on more than a full-time job: you’re on duty 24 hours, seven days a week.
This twelve-week period postpartum is often referred to as the Fourth Trimester. During this time, mothers are working to heal their bodies while also coping with the physical and emotional challenges of breastfeeding, all in the midst of ongoing sleeplessness.
To ensure you know what to expect in the weeks after your baby’s arrival, it helps to prepare now so you can more easily manage the discomfort. These tips from Moms Beyond can help.
The Challenges of Breastfeeding
The first few days after the birth of your infant is perfect for learning how to breastfeed—for both of you. Your breasts are still soft for a few days after delivery before they become full and firm as the milk changes from highly nutritious colostrum to mature breast milk.
Sore nipples usually happen because your baby isn’t positioned just right or able to properly attach to the breast. Contact a breastfeeding specialist for help. La Leche is a good resource to turn to for guidance. Another source of discomfort may come from having a poorly fitting bra. The breasts become fuller and heavier during breastfeeding, so having a bra that fits well is critical for your comfort.
Your nursing bra is likely to be several sizes larger than your pre-pregnancy bra, so it’s important to measure yourself before making a purchase. You want a bra that’s both soft and stretchy but also supportive, and quick access to on-demand breastfeeding is a must. If you already had a larger bust, to begin with, don’t worry. Popular retailers like Amazon offer retail shops that specialize in postpartum bras specifically designed for larger breasts. Just toss a few of these in your shopping car when making regular purchases for items like wipes and diapers.
Newborns sleep around 12-16 hours a day, so try to get some sleep yourself during those nap times. Resist the urge to only sleep during the night while using their daytime naps for household chores. Instead, sleep as often as you can when they do.
Keep the baby next to your bed in their own bassinet. That way, feedings, and diaper changes can be done right in your bed. It’s also best to avoid caffeine aside from morning coffee, and turn off electronics at least one hour before bedtime.
Having comfortable nightgowns and pajamas goes a long way toward helping you sleep well. Soft breathable fabric is best since hormonal changes will affect your body’s ability to regulate temperature. Nursing sleepwear is a must if you’re breastfeeding too. It’s advisable to wear a nursing sleep bra under your gowns and tops to help with the heaviness of full breasts.
Take Some Time Off
Most first-time mothers are unprepared for just how exhausting those first weeks postpartum can be. They often assume they can easily get back to a work routine a week or two after the baby is born. More often than not, this is unrealistic. Not only do you need more time to rest and recover, but you’ll also want to have more bonding time for you and the baby.
Typically, new mothers take off anywhere from 6 to 8 weeks after the birth of a baby, and many mothers will even take 12 weeks off. All of this is dependent on the type of job you have, what sort of coverage your employer offers and any FMLA you take. Of course, if you own your own business, that math change exponentially.
Regardless of your situation, make arrangements early, like putting a plan together that helps your co-workers understand the workflow in your absence. Consider how accessible you plan to be and how soon, and whether or not you want the option to work remotely for a while before returning to the office. Planning ahead can reduce any stress you might feel about what is happening at work while you are out on maternity leave.
Knowing What to Expect
Understanding the changes that will occur after you’ve given birth and what to expect in the weeks after can keep you from feeling too overwhelmed when they happen. By making preparations for your fourth trimester, you’ll be in a better position to navigate your entrance to parenthood. So have a few friends you can reach out to immediately or put a lactation consultant on speed dial in preparation for breastfeeding. Invest in supportive nursing bras and comfortable pajamas and loungewear. Allow yourself to rest when the baby does, and make arrangements at work as soon as you can so that things go smoothly in your absence. The more you prepare before your baby’s arrival, the more you can enjoy this magical time.
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