I am “in the trenches” of the fourth trimester.
If you have never heard of the fourth trimester, it is simply a term to describe the first three month period of adjustment for babies to life outside the womb. My baby is 6-weeks-old and let me tell you, the struggle is real.
You might think that labor and delivery are hard, but caring for a tiny person while simultaneously healing from surgery, not sleeping, and pumping breast milk every two hours is NO JOKE.
Fortunately, now that I am on baby number three, I have come up with a few handy hacks to save my fourth-trimester sanity – and maybe even get some shut-eye. Here are some must-dos to make the fourth trimester a little easier for everyone:
- Invest in a good baby sling, carrier, or wrap. Baby-wearing has been proven to promote bonding and weight gain, but even better, it allows you to get things done around the house while still keeping the baby near you. I cook dinner, get housework done, and even catch up on emails all while wearing my new little guy.
- Got a stuffed-up baby? Instead of (or in addition to) using a nasal aspirator, take a HOT shower and then bring the baby into the steamed up bathroom for a few minutes to help loosen congestion and relieve discomfort.
- When leaving the house with baby, bring an entire outfit change for yourself as well. Baby spit up knows no bounds. I once had to leave the doctor’s office with spit up covering my entire shirt because, while I had packed three changes of clothes for my son, I had packed nothing for myself.
- Accept help. One of my babies was a terrible sleeper and very colicky. I needed sleep so badly, but whenever anyone offered to watch her, I said no. I didn’t want to “pawn my baby off.” Plus, my hormones were raging and I felt guilty being away from her. Fast forward to baby number three, and I discovered the importance of self-care. I finally started letting friends and neighbors help out so I could take a shower, a quick nap, or even just sit in silence for a few minutes. Newborn life can be magical, but it can also be incredibly stressful. Remember, happy mama = happy baby.
- All hail the amazing powers of breast milk! You might think it is just for feeding baby, but did you know breast milk has been found to cure baby acne, sore nipples, even diaper rash! Just express some milk, put it on a cotton ball and let it dry.
- “Double make” the baby bed. This hack was taught to me by a friend of mine who survived triplet boys! So you know she must know a thing or two about survival. When she makes up the crib, she layers it like this: mattress protector, sheet, mattress protector, sheet. This way, if the baby’s diaper leaks in the middle of the night, you just have to whip off the top sheet and mattress protector and, VOILA, the bed is already made underneath!
- Wash baby socks and mittens in a lingerie bag. They are tiny and easily lost in other clothing or bedding. Our first week home, before discovering this trick, I bought six new packs of baby socks. We are now on week four of no lost socks.
- Trimming baby nails is tough! I trim only when my little guy is asleep. I even keep a set of clippers in the car. Trimming while the baby sleeps prevents wiggling and squirming and makes it easier to avoid cutting too low. He usually sleeps right through it.
- Set up multiple changing stations on every level of your house. We keep a diaper kit (complete with a changing pad, diapers, plastic bags, wipes, lotions, and a change of clothes) in nearly every room. This way, we aren’t running up to the nursery every time we need to change the baby. This is especially important during the postpartum period when it often hurts just to walk a few steps.
- When taking your new little one to the store, park close to the cart return carousel. This way, you can safely leave your baby in the car while you return your cart and pack up purchases.
Remember, every baby is different! The fourth trimester is a time for weeding through the millions of different pieces of advice you will get and figuring out what works best for you. Even on the hardest days, remember “this too shall pass” and one day soon, you will be dealing with a threenager and yearning for the days of newborn angst.
What was your 4th trimester like? What are your tips for surviving the 4th trimester?