Crying over everything and nothing, leaking breasts that feel like they might explode, and a tiny new person who depends on you to meet their every need. Postpartum.
The fourth trimester, a term coined by Dr. Harvey Karp, refers to the first three months after your baby is born. It’s a time of healing, growing, learning, and transition. The beginning of a new life, yours and your baby’s together.
Cultures around the world have traditional practices that guide the way mother and baby are cared for during this time, but in North America, we are just starting to understand the need for postpartum practices and traditions.
Not unlike a birth plan, a postpartum plan will help you navigate your recovery from birth and transition into parenthood. We suggest you start planning for the postpartum period while you are still pregnant. Embrace this time as one that will set the stage for your new life as a parent.
So how do you plan for your fourth trimester?
Explore Cultural Practices From Around the World
Almost every deep-rooted cultural practice for postpartum recovery includes a lying-in period. This is a time when mother and baby rest together and are nurtured by others while they focus on bonding and rest. This time of rest ranges from one month to 100 days, depending on the culture. Lying in may include other traditional practices, health beliefs, taboos, rituals, and prescriptions. For example, in China, postpartum women “sit the month”, called zuo yue zi. They may be cared for by a yuesao, similar to a postpartum doula, who bathes baby, prepares nourishing meals to promote postpartum healing, and incorporates other traditional practices.
How do You Want Your Baby to be Cared for?
Immediate care of your newborn can be covered in your birth plan. How you would like your baby to be cared for beyond their first few hours of life fits into your postpartum plan. Include things like feeding preferences, medications, diapering, vaccinations, skin-to-skin time, and bathing. Not sure what to include?
We can help you ensure you’ve covered everything important to you at our My Postpartum Period workshop.
Set Boundaries with Visitors
Decide ahead of time who you would like to visit you and meet your new baby, both at the hospital and at home. You may want to limit visitors to immediate family for the first
few weeks or even avoid visitors all together while you are learning to breastfeed and getting to know your baby. You do not owe your friends and family time with your baby. Some people even wait to have a baby shower until after their baby is born, allowing them to avoid visitors in the early weeks but giving friends and family a date to look forward to.
Need support when wording your preferences for visitors and requests for support from friends and family? You’ll find information about our My Postpartum Period workshop at the end of this post.
Consider how Household Chores and Meal Preparation will be Managed
The first few weeks after your baby arrives should not be filled with laundry, dishes, and mopping. Will you enlist friends and family to help out, trade baby snuggles for home-cooked meals, rely on your partner to carry the responsibility, or hire a postpartum doula?
You have many options for keeping up with your home while you get the rest you need.
This is Your Postpartum Period