The Fourth Trimester

Most of us presume there are three trimesters. Well, medical professionals coin the first three months postpartum as the ‘fourth trimester”. Parents can feel overwhelmed during this period. It takes nine months to make a baby and many say nine months to physically recover, and we would agree. Your body needs rest and nutrition whilst your hormones take you on a journey that can feel like a rollercoaster! 

The fourth trimester is often overlooked and not talked about enough, this period is the time for: 

  • Healing and recovery – for the mother after pregnancy and birth 
  • Settling – your baby to get used to its new environment
  • Learning – whether first born or into a busy family, each baby presents new challenges – and joys! Perhaps siblings have to get used to the new addition?
  • Nourishment for baby – whether breast or bottle feeding, your baby is growing at a phenomenal pace during these first few months 
  • Nourishment for mum – to help with sleep, if you are nursing, and for recovery, mothers often put themselves at the bottom of the list – but your body and baby need you to practice some self care too!  

While your baby provides many moments of joy, the fourth trimester can be the most challenging. Juggling care for your baby, involving interrupted sleep, learning and adapting to a busy new life, all whilst your body is working hard to recover. 

Many mothers set themselves almost impossible goals, striving to bounce back to pre-pregnancy bodies and lives – our advice is to remember to be kind to yourself and allow yourself time. Your body has just done the most amazing thing – created, grown and delivered a baby and it will take time to recover, to rebalance and to rebuild. Our advice is

  • Nurture yourself as well as your baby
  • Have manageable aims and try not to put pressure on yourself to achieve the list of things you did before your baby arrived
  • Try to get outside each day, eat well and limit chores for at least the first few weeks. 

When looking after your baby during these first few months, remember: 

Do cuddle your baby. Your baby is also adapting and learning about their new environment. Having been cocooned and snug in the womb, they are thrust into new surroundings. They need to feed regularly and sleep between 14-17 hours a day. They also need plenty of cuddles with research suggesting hugs also help cognitive development. 

Don’t be scared of crying. Your baby is communicating with you in the only way they know how! Parents learn to read their babies different cries during the fourth trimester, often slightly different for hunger, dirty nappy, fatigue and discomfort. Persistent crying is a sign of discomfort however and is stressful and upsetting for parents. Once you’ve established your baby isn’t hungry, needing a nappy change or tired, they’re telling you there’s something more needed. 

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you’re worried, speak to friends and family, get in touch with your health visitor or doctor, but look for trusted resources. You may want to seek out alternative options and visit a paediatric Chiropractor or Osteopath, Craniosacral Therapist or Reflexologist .Baby massage can also help to soothe uncomfortable babies. 

Do remember, every baby is different! Routines will start to be established towards the end of the fourth trimester. By three months old most babies will be holding their held up and smiling, sleeping for longer periods during the night and hopefully postnatal hormone fluctuations will be balancing out. 

The fourth trimester is a time of physical and emotional change for your baby and for mothers but fathers and co-parents are also getting used to the new arrival and it takes a while to adjust. It’s all-consuming, wonderful, exhausting, worrying, remarkable and sometimes feels like it will never end – rest assured it will.

NCT have a lots more advice and tips to help during this special and challenging time.

11 May 2023