The fourth trimester is the first 3 months after a new baby is born and is a crucial time for development for the baby but also for the new mother.
When we think of pregnancy, nearly everyone is familiar with the concept that it is split into 3 parts or trimesters.
Over the last number of years, people have begun to understand that the early postnatal period – the first 3 months after a new baby is born - is a crucial time for development for the baby but also for the new mother.
It is this time period that is referred to as the fourth trimester.
While it is very important to give new families space and not overload them with too many visitors, there are some practical things that can be done to really support them at the beginning of their parenting journey and ensure that their fourth trimester is a healthy one.
How to help a mother during the fourth trimester:
Despite having spent years doing night duty as a midwife, nothing could have prepared me for the level of tiredness I felt a few weeks into being a new mother. Some days I didn’t even make it out of my pyjamas, let alone have a shower! Between feeds, changes and just staring at my beautiful baby, the days and nights merged into one big blur.
Offering practical support can be a great way to help a new parent practically, be it making a dinner, calling over and doing some housework or laundry, making them a cup of tea, holding the baby and encouraging them to have a rest or allowing them to have few minutes to themselves.
This is the help that is invaluable and instead of just suggesting or offering via text, when you are in their home just do it! While presents are lovely, your actual presence - and offering real assistance, is the thing that can really make a huge positive difference and ease the journey as a new mum or dad.
Anyone who reads my articles regularly or follows me on any of my social media channels knows I am allergic to parental judgment! New mums and dads are incredibly sensitive in the parenting decisions they make. Everyone is trying to do their best and some of the best emotional support we can offer is to simply listen.
Unless your opinion on a particular matter is expressly asked - don’t give it! Instead, perhaps start a conversation with “I think you are doing brilliantly- how are you feeling?” or “Your baby is so beautiful, you are doing such a wonderful job”.
During the fourth trimester, to gain confidence and adjust well, we must positively encourage and listen as opposed to criticise and give unwanted opinions.
Although I have a great family and wonderful friends, I found it incredibly difficult to ask for help in my fourth trimester. Even when people offered, I turned them down with an entirely irrational fear that I was doing a bad job as a mother or would be seen as ‘not coping’.
The only way I survived was when my husband discovered the amazing, wondrous creatures that are postnatal doulas. Doulas can offer help antenatally and during birth, but they can also be hired to offer the most amazing assistance in the postnatal or postpartum period.
These amazing women would come into my home, listen to me, support me, help me with Felix, allow me to sleep, make me food, do laundry or light housework. I describe them as the ultimate “rent-a-mammy”. I will forever be indebted to them. It remains the best money I ever spent!
Perhaps you want to support someone, but you don’t want to interfere, or you don’t live nearby or for a million other reasons. Either suggesting a doula or even buying them a voucher for doula hours might be the ultimate new parent gift!
Ultimately, helping a new parent to make their fourth trimester a success means identifying what they might need, and making it happen!
- I got my postpartum doulas from the brilliant agency https://www.doulacare.ie/ who have doulas working all over the country
- There are other agencies and also amazing independent doulas such https://www.instagram.com/sandydoula/ or https://www.instagram.com/susan.pickup.doula/ (Susan was one of my postpartum doulas) and she is now based in Wexford.
- Or, the fantastic Kitty https://www.instagram.com/birth_baby_beyond_/ who works throughout Leinster.
- This is a very short list non-exhaustive list- there are amazing doulas in every county!