Bringing a new life into the world is one of the most profound experiences a person can have. However, the transition into parenthood is not without its challenges, especially during the first few months after birth, known as the fourth trimester. This period has gained interest in recent years, as more and more millennials turn to online resources to seek support and advice on this new and exciting phase of life.
New data shows that people are looking for ways to support parents through the infamous first 3 months with a newborn this year, according to searches from Millennials, who are looking for everything from new parent meals to presents and essentials. Search demand shows that the following terms have risen in popularity, with more people wanting to understand how best to support new parents:
- Postnatal must-haves: +40%
- Postnatal hamper: +135%
- Postnatal essentials: +85%
- New parent meals: +70%
- New parent presents: +140%
Millennials, often dubbed the “sharing generation”, are known for using social media to commemorate life events such as babies and birthdays, as well as micro-moments such as mealtime. As a result, it’s no wonder that this generation has turned to online search to help them navigate the postnatal period and ease their way into parenting. We spoke with postnatal experts to determine the best advice and support for new families during this time.
What is the fourth trimester?
The fourth trimester refers to the first three months after birth, when a newborn adjusts to life outside the womb and new parents adjust to their new roles. It’s a time of great change for everyone involved, both physically and emotionally.
A newborn is still developing and adjusting to their new environment during the fourth trimester. They require constant attention and care, such as feeding, nappy changes, and sleep. During this time, new parents may also experience a variety of physical and emotional changes, such as fatigue, postpartum bleeding, mood swings, and breastfeeding difficulties.
Understanding the fourth trimester and the changes that come with it is essential for new parents to navigate this time with confidence and ease. It’s important to seek out accurate and reliable information to help manage the challenges that may arise during this period.
In the next section, we will discuss the top postnatal advice, support, and essential items needed during the first three months after giving birth to help new parents navigate this transformative period with ease and grace.
The rising interest in the fourth trimester
The fourth trimester has seen a significant rise in interest in recent years, and for a good reason. According to Google Trends, there has been a steady increase in searches related to the fourth trimester since 2015. It’s no surprise that more people are looking for information and support during this time, as the fourth trimester can be a challenging period for new parents.
There are several reasons for the increased demand for fourth trimester information. One likely explanation is the rise of social media, which has made it easier for new parents to interact with other parents who are going through the same thing. Social media platforms have also spawned a new generation of “mum bloggers” and influencers who discuss their parenting experiences and offer advice to other new parents.
Additionally, cultural attitudes towards parenting have shifted, with a greater emphasis on self-care and mental health during the postpartum period. Many new parents are realising the value of self-care and seeking support as they navigate the challenges of parenthood.
The increased interest in the fourth trimester is a positive development because it indicates that more people are looking for the help and resources they require during this critical time. It’s important to remember that no two postnatal experiences are alike, and finding accurate and trustworthy information is critical to ensuring a positive and healthy transition into parenthood.
Support during the fourth trimester
The fourth trimester can be an overwhelming time for new parents, but with the right advice, support, and essential items, it can also be a beautiful and transformative period. Here are some top postnatal tips and essential items that can help new parents navigate the first three months after giving birth:
Rest and Sleep
As a new parent, it’s essential to prioritise rest and sleep. Sleep deprivation is a common experience for new parents, and it can impact mental and physical health. Take naps when your baby sleeps to get extra rest, and make your sleeping environment as comfortable and relaxing as possible, with comfortable bedding and a cool room temperature.
Eat Nutritious Food
Proper nutrition is essential during the postnatal period, as it helps support healing, breast milk production, and overall health. Plan your meals in advance and prepare healthy snacks to have on hand when you need them. Make sure you stay hydrated with plenty of water throughout the day, aiming for 2.5 litres alongside a balanced diet of wholegrains, lean proteins and healthy fats.
Take care of your physical and mental health
Taking care of your mental health is essential during the postnatal period. If you’re struggling with postpartum depression, anxiety, or other mental health issues, seek professional help. Talk to a trusted friend, family member, or counsellor about your feelings, and engage in activities that make you feel good, such as exercise, meditation, or reading.
Claire Gregory, MSc, MEd, PGCE, Co-Founder of Sigma Woman and specialising in pre and postnatal exercise and rehabilitation, commented on the importance of physical health for new mums: “So many women face issues during this “fourth trimester” such as stress incontinence, abdominal separation, breastfeeding issues such as mastitis, ligament pain and laxity, and pelvic floor dysfunction. One of the biggest issues we see is pelvic floor dysfunction during this stage. So many women tolerate stress incontinence, painful sex etc because they believe stress incontinence is “just one of those things” after having a baby. Yes it’s common, for 1 in 3 women, but it doesn’t have to be normal.”
Stress incontinence is a common issue that can occur during this time. It is the unintentional loss of urine that happens when pressure is exerted on the bladder, such as coughing or sneezing. This can be caused by weakened pelvic floor muscles, which can happen during pregnancy and childbirth. To help prevent this, new mothers should do pelvic floor exercises daily. These exercises can help strengthen the pelvic floor muscles, which in turn can help with urinary incontinence.
Another common issue that new mothers face is abdominal separation, also known as diastasis recti. This is a condition where the abdominal muscles separate during pregnancy, which can cause a bulge in the midsection. It can also lead to lower back pain and poor posture. It’s important to work with a healthcare provider or physical therapist to address this issue and work on exercises to help strengthen the abdominal muscles.
Breastfeeding issues such as mastitis can also occur during this time. Mastitis is a painful inflammation of the breast tissue that can cause flu-like symptoms, fever, and breast pain. It’s important to seek medical attention if you suspect you have mastitis. To help prevent mastitis, new mothers should try to breastfeed frequently and ensure proper latch and positioning.
Ligament pain and laxity can also be a problem during the fourth trimester. The hormone relaxin, which helps prepare the body for childbirth, can also cause ligaments to become more lax. This can lead to joint pain and instability, particularly in the hips and pelvis. It’s important to avoid high-impact activities and to work with a healthcare provider or physical therapist to help address these issues.
Lastly, pelvic floor dysfunction can also occur during this time. This can manifest as urinary or faecal incontinence, difficulty with bowel movements, or pain during sex. Pelvic floor physical therapy can be a helpful way to address these issues and improve pelvic floor muscle strength.
It’s important for new mothers to know that these physical health implications are common and can be addressed with proper care and attention. Seeking support from a healthcare provider, physical therapist, or other postnatal wellness experts can help new mothers navigate these challenges and improve their overall physical health during the fourth trimester.
Bond with Your Baby
Bonding with your baby is essential during the postnatal period. Have skin-to-skin contact with your baby to help promote bonding, and talk to your baby frequently to help promote language development and bonding. Spend quality time with your baby by reading, singing, or playing.
Cate Hamilton, Doctoral Student and Founder of Babel Babies, gave some insight on the importance of quality time for babies’ language development: “Babies learning to talk just seems to happen effortlessly, hence the common misconception that “babies are sponges” when it comes to learning languages. Actually babies are not inactive like sponges, merely immersed in their environment. Newborns are actively involved in language learning processes, sorting out the input they hear in their environment into language categories and figuring out the back-and-forth cues of conversation with their caregivers. It’s a full workout for their brains (just like it is for adults), and takes a lot of effort.
“New babies have been tuning into the sounds and rhythms of the languages surrounding them all through the 3rd trimester of pregnancy. When they are born, they get started straight away sorting out the sounds they hear that indicate a conversation is happening, and other sounds like coughs or whistling that come out of people’s mouths but don’t signal conversation. Incredibly, babies of four days old can distinguish between languages they have already heard in utero, and languages that are new to them.
“There is evidence that babies cry with the same intonation and rhythm as the languages they hear, and that babies exposed to two languages have cry melodies that follow the different rising and falling intonation patterns of each language. So, far from being sponges, babies use their brain’s full capacity for categorising the slew of sounds they hear into meaningful chunks, and gradually communicating using the sounds they hear around them. They understand around 50 words by their first birthday, and can say 50 or more by their second.
“Caregivers support the process by talking to new babies, making eye contact, sharing stories, singing songs, and talking about things happening around them. This can happen seamlessly in two+ languages from birth: babies are not confused by hearing multiple languages, even very similar ones like Spanish and Catalan. They just categorise them and, if they hear them often enough, learn to understand and speak them too.”
Accepting help from friends and family can be challenging, but it’s essential during the postnatal period. Let go of any guilt you may feel about accepting help and be specific about the type of help you need, such as preparing meals, running errands, or watching the baby.
Navigating the fourth trimester can be challenging, but with the right support and essential items, new parents can transition into parenthood with ease and grace.
How to support new parents during the fourth trimester
The fourth trimester can be a challenging time for new parents, and supporting them can make a significant difference in their experience. So, how can you support new parents during this critical time?
One of the most significant ways to support new parents is by offering help. Offer to bring over a meal, run errands, or hold the baby while they rest. Small acts of kindness can go a long way in supporting new parents during this time. Gregory added “I would say feedback from our mums is that food can be one of the biggest forms of help! Someone dropping off a lasagna, soup or any form of a cooked meal is an absolute game changer during this period. Often mums go without during the day or manage on tea and cold toast!
“When already under stress from a new baby and lacking in sleep, not having enough calories and nutrients can really affect mental and physical health. So if friends and family can make some meals and drop them off this can save not only time and hassle for new mums, but also make sure they’re getting the nutrients they need to function with a new baby.“
The fourth trimester can be an emotionally charged time for new parents, and having someone to listen and offer a listening ear can make a significant difference. It’s essential to validate their feelings and offer words of support and encouragement. Ask them how they are, and if there is anything they are struggling with physically, emotionally or mentally. By giving them an open space to share any challenges they are struggling with, you can really give them a supportive environment to share their experiences with you.
Provide the essentials
Having the right essentials makes all the difference for new parents. If you’re wondering what would be the most helpful gifts or items, we’ve compiled a list of the essentials:
- Muslin cloths
- Swaddles and blankets
- Warm outerwear items, like snuggle suits
- Bodysuits and sleepsuits, especially with different age ranges so parents don’t need to worry when their baby starts to outgrow the newborn pieces
- White noise machines or toys
- Postpartum care for new mothers, such as nipple cream and pads
- Baby towels and bathing supplies
- Sensory toys and books
- Teething toys
Providing new parents with resources such as books, podcasts, or online support groups can help them navigate the challenges of the fourth trimester with ease. These resources can provide valuable information and support for new parents.
Encouraging new parents to prioritise self-care is essential. Offer to watch the baby while they take a nap or suggest a relaxing self-care activity like a massage or a warm bath. It’s essential to be patient and non-judgmental with new parents as they navigate this transformative time. Listen to their concerns and offer support without judgement.
The fourth trimester is an important and often challenging time for new parents as they adjust to life with a newborn. With the rise in interest around this period, it’s clear that many new parents are looking for support and guidance on how to navigate this stage. From postnatal tips to essential items, there are many ways to make the fourth trimester a little easier.
It’s important to remember that every parent’s experience is unique, and there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. However, with a little help and support, new parents can find their way through this challenging but rewarding time. Whether it’s reaching out to a support group, asking for help from family and friends, or simply taking care of themselves, new parents should remember to prioritise their own well-being as well as their baby’s.