The first 6 weeks of your baby’s life can be brutal. You’ve so much that has changed, your life has flipped upside down. You’re a mess of emotions, worry and you don’t feel yourself. The old you has gone, forever to be replaced by the new version. Of course there are many happy moments too, something wonderful has happened and of course you are a walking miracle maker. I wrote a blog about surviving the 4th trimester, and I do believe those first few weeks are pure survival.
But, I do believe you can thrive in your 4th trimester, and not just survive it. I felt that once I reached 6 weeks that things turned a corner. Perhaps I had built it up as such in my head, but I definitely felt a shift. After 6 weeks of resting and taking it easy, I felt it was time to move into the new normal. So if you are ready to thrive in your 4th trimester then read on for my tips!
SET YOURSELF A ROUTINE
By a routine I don’t mean a feeding/sleeping routine for your baby. I think it’s too early at 6 weeks to enforce something. But by 6 weeks you can see your baby forming a pattern of when they like to eat and sleep. This means you can start to structure your day a little. You will know when the baby would like to feed and so you can plan to be somewhere easy. I found I had a 3 hour cycle of changing, nursing, burping, keeping upright and then having 2 hours before it started again. Recognising this pattern also helps you to adjust slightly, so that if you need to be somewhere at a certain time, you can feed earlier or plan where you will feed. In these early weeks it can help take a lot of anxiety away just by knowing how you will do the day’s feeds.
Once you get past 6 weeks your baby is becoming more awake so that baby groups are worth attending, although attending boob groups is always good before this time if you are breastfeeding. I have something planned in every day at either a group or seeing friends. I find having something to do every day gives you some purpose, makes sure you get dressed and put on makeup and encourages you to chat with other mums. Plus, the more you feed out and about means your confidence will grow.
Don’t feel like you have to rush back into anything. You find once you have kids that time flies, so you want to slow it down and be in each moment. I find the busier that I am, the quicker the time goes. So slow down. Take each moment as it comes. Don’t think too far ahead and don’t fill your days so much that you don’t get time to sit down and look at your baby.
I cannot stop raving about baby cinema. The first time I went it was like a revelation! I put Ernie in the sling and enjoyed a brand new film, with a hot cup of tea! He slept most of the time and had a little feed in between. It was just a brilliant bit of me time and you can take them from birth. Check your local cinema and head to their baby club!
I have been filling in my 4th trimester journal every day and it has been so encouraging to see the changes in feeding and sleep and my mood. I can see myself getting more content every day and being comfortable with the new normal. I think I have started a lifelong habit of journaling, which will have a huge positive impact on my mental health I’m sure.
I have found I’ve been able to pick up reading a book again. Ernie likes to sleep in the sling so on an afternoon I will pop him in there for a snooze while I read my book. I will have read a whole book in the 4th trimester, not my usual rate but still very positive. Reading also reduces mindless screen time, which isn’t helpful for anyone.
I’ve found myself being able to appreciate the moment a lot more in the second half of the 4th trimester. Noticing the sky and birds, the quiet breathing of my baby, the peace when they are in bed. I will be trying very hard to continue being present and mindful as it is a skill that must be practiced but is something that is so worthwhile. You will slow time down and notice more if you can be present in your daily life.
I didn’t really feel like exercising until 9 weeks postpartum and I have started slow with low intensity workouts 2 or 3 times a week. I’ve also got the Fitbit on again and aiming for 10,000 steps a day. I’ve been doing a mum and baby yoga class and practising yoga at home. Now at 12 weeks postpartum I’m ready to join a class again and am doing a work out 3 times a week while Ernie watches, or sleeps if I’m lucky. I’d love to start running but I know it takes months to get your core and pelvic floor strong enough. I’d recommend the Squeezy app to help with that!
Wearing your baby is going to help you get so much more done in a day,and you’ll feel so much more like yourself. I know I felt like we weren’t coping if the house was a mess. So I strap Ernie to me and get vacuuming, or hang the washing out, it really has been brilliant. Don’t do too much though, only what you feel like doing.
It is so so easy to sit on your phone all day. Baby is feeding. Baby is sleeping. Hours on end to fill. But offline time is the new luxury and you can give yourself some mental health issues scrolling and comparing for hours on end. So find something else to do. Read that book, do some colouring, plan your meals, call your friend/mum for a chat, go for a walk.
LET GO OF PERFECTION
You have probably realised by now that you are not perfect, neither is your baby and no one else is either. So stop trying! No one is a perfect parent, but we are all doing our best. Try not to stress when the baby cries, you are still learning. Get help if you still need it with breastfeeding. Don’t over-google.
GET SOME TIME WITHOUT THE BABY
I think this is really important as once you have a baby you are never alone! If you are breastfeeding it’s good to know your baby will take a bottle. We started a bedtime bottle at around 3 weeks old and have had no nipple confusion what so ever. I don’t feel a great urge to be away from the baby, but I know it’s important to start getting a bit of you back. So I’ve had tea out with friends, one small night out (home for 11pm) and been out for a pedicure. You have to show yourself that you can be you and a mother at the same time. It is easy to think that by having me time you are taking away from the baby, but you’ll only become the best mummy you can by being yourself. And it is time to find out who the new mummy you is.
HAVE A WINE
If you haven’t already then once you are getting into the swing of your new normal life, it is time to have a cheeky wine! Obviously be sensible but having a taste of a chilled Sauvy B certainly helped me feel more myself and once the kid(s) are going to bed at 7/8pm, that wine tastes so much better than it ever has done!
You can thrive in the 4th trimester and set yourself up for a wonderful time in your baby’s first year. Yes times can be hard, but know ‘this too shall pass’ and always remember that a happy mummy means a happy baby. Do what is best for yourself and your family and don’t worry about what anyone else says!