Expectations: Part 3 – The 4th Trimester

Expectations: Part 3 – The 4th Trimester

This is the 3rd installment of the Expectations series and it reveals the truth about the 4th trimester. Click here to read part 1 and part 2 (Expectations: Part 1 – Pregnancy; Expectations: Part 2 – Labor and Delivery)

Mama, you survived pregnancy and labor and now you’re holding your bundle of joy next to your heart. Congratulations!!!! Your journey as a parent continues and has entered a new stage known as the 4th trimester.

Why is it called that? It’s called the 4th trimester because while the baby is on the outside, it’s just as helpless as it was on the inside. The baby can’t regulate its body temperature very well, doesn’t know night from day and doesn’t do well without almost constant contact. Wow, right?

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The truth about the 4th trimester

So what do you expect the 4th trimester to be like, mama? If you’re like a lot of first time moms, you’re a bit confused on what to expect. You know your body will change, you can kiss your sleep good-bye but you still can’t help but conjure up beautiful images of you holding baby while the sun rises over the horizon, kissing baby’s tiny head and reading your favorite books to baby. You may also think that your maternity leave will be a great time to get projects done around the house, work out and catch up on life you’ve been missing while pregnant.

The truth though will most likely disappoint you. Your 4th trimester is not likely to be a time of peace or bountiful free time. You won’t be getting brunch with friends every Sunday while your baby peacefully sleeps in the stroller next to you. You might get some free moments but you may be more interested in spending those on much needed sleep. After all, as much as it’s a cliche, but once baby comes, you are not doing much sleeping. And what’s worse, you are not sleeping in a way that you are accustomed to, with long uninterrupted stretches.

Here’s what you will be doing a lot of: holding baby. Your baby needs you!!!! And it’s a good thing. Your baby is learning all about this big scary world and your smell, warmth and hearth beat lets them know that everything is OK. Now if you get lucky and have a newborn that sleeps a lot in the beginning in their own bed and needs to be woken up for feedings, count your blessings. But also know that this bliss may not last past the initial week or so. Eventually those babies wake up and demand to be held.

Expectations: Part 3 -The 4th trimester

If you are like a lot of moms, the initial month or so, you will only be too happy to snuggle with your baby 24/7. You will be in love and won’t really mind all the closeness. If your support system is strong, that first month you may very well be doing nothing but cuddle and love on baby. But even the strongest support system helps less over time and you start to become bored and restless if all that you are doing is cuddling baby. But the problem is that your baby still wants to be on you even after a month.

Baby loves to cuddle

I think this is where a lot of new parents run into a wall. They feel (mostly due to erroneous information) that after a month their baby should have had enough of the cuddles and be more independent. At the very least, baby should not need a human body in order to go to sleep. The parents start frantically researching what is wrong with their baby and why the baby sleeps like that. While there are some good quality websites about baby sleep, there is also plenty of garbage out there. And it’s hard to sort through it when you are exhausted and looking for a solution.

Expectations: Part 3 - The 4th trimester

 But the solution is very simple: cuddle that child to help them sleep or put them in the stroller and go for a walk. If you can’t just sit on the couch and rock your baby to sleep, put them in a carrier and go about your business.


Baby Loves to Eat

One other thing that babies do a lot of is eating. Whether from breast or bottle, expect that your child will eat anywhere from 1.5 – 3 hours. If you are breastfeeding, it may mean that some days you will literally not be able to put the baby down (cluster feeding). It will be exhausting. Those are the days when your partner should really be stepping up to help care for you and everything else more. You will probably feel extra hungry, thirsty and sleepy. It will feel as if the baby is taking the last juices out of you but it will pass. Their growth spurt will stop, your milk supply will boost up, and all will return to normal for a  little while.

It’s not abnormal and in fact, more common than it seems, that you will be struggling with breastfeeding in the beginning. It can be anything from latch issues, insufficient supply, tongue/lip ties that will make breastfeeding feel like anything but normal or natural. That’s why it’s important to reach out to a lactation consultant to help figure out solutions to your issues as soon as possible. Most issues can be resolved. 

If your are having trouble connecting to a lactation consultant in your area, I have partnered with Rachel Da Silva, RN, BSN, CLC, founder of Mommy Did You Know and became an affiliate for her wonderful breastfeeding courses. She has 3 tiers of courses: Milk Minutes Free Breastfeeding Class,  The Milk Minutes Breastfeeding Crash Course,  Milk Minutes All About Feeding Your Baby (Premium Version). She has a variety of helpful resources on her page, including an online consultation to answer your postpartum related questions. If you are interested in checking out and purchasing any of her courses, click here.


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Baby takes over

If this installment is about expectations for motherhood, you may wonder why it’s so heavily baby focused. And I’ll tell you why. This is what your life looks like when baby comes. Everything revolves around them and their needs. And I’m not talking about this from the perspective of being a selfless martyr. No, I actually think that adjusting your life to your infant’s needs is exponentially easier than trying to “break them in” to a schedule you want. While there will be some easy going babies that will go with the flow, most will not and will make your life living hell if you don’t heed their needs.

So, in a lot of ways, adjusting to your baby is being selfish. It preserves their sleep, which in turn preserves your sleep. And believe me when I say that in the 4th trimester, sleep trumps any and every other desire you have.

Since, I am not a medical doctor. I will not go into the many bodily changes that you (mama) will experience postpartum. Just know that there will be a lot and you won’t recognize your body for a while. And even when time passes, your body will not be the same. But your body, just as the rest of your life will find a new normal. And it will eventually feel right.

My final piece of advice for a smoother 4th trimester is to be flexible and forgiving. You and your partner will make mistakes, baby will cry no matter what, and life will feel overwhelming. Try your best to adjust to this crazy new world, and be kind to yourself and your partner. After all, neither one of your lives will ever be the same!!!!

Expectations: Part 3 - The 4th Trimester

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72 thoughts on “Expectations: Part 3 – The 4th Trimester”

  1. The fourth trimester!
    Ah sweet and awful. As much as I loved having him in my hands,.missing him as soon as someone else takes him from me; I missed the bump more 🙂

      1. Loved this post! My biggest takeaway advice is “be kind to yourself and your partner”. For us, we found that we were snapping at one another for what seemed like nothing. When we changed our approach and outlook to one of being a team and more understanding with each other, things got a lot better.

  2. It’s been a long time since I was in this stage of motherhood, but I wish there had been a post like this then. This is such a realistic view of the time right after giving birth and I think a lot of new moms will benefit greatly from this advice!

  3. The newborn stage is the hardest in my opinion. People talk about terrible twos and I roll my eyes. My 2-year-old is amazing! Totally agree on sleeping, that’s all I wanted to do for the first 4 months.

    1. I agree with you, Diana. Toddlers come with challenges but it’s so different from a newborn. When you have a newborn everything revolves around sleeping and eating.

  4. I wish more people discussed this. I know it’s not easy and the most terrifying experience is being a new mom and alone with a child. You’re practically figuring out things as you go. The best thing to do is to trust yourself and seek help when you need it.

  5. The 4th trimester is no joke. When everything completely changes in your life and you transition into your life with a little one. Babywearing is the key to survival. My son was a great sleeper when he was being held and that didn’t change for the first year. Only then did I get even a little peace.

    1. Thanks for sharing, Jennifer. I think that’s the case with so many children. But we are not often told that it is. In fact, a lot of the time we are told not to hold them too much or we will spoil them.

  6. Baby cuddles were my favorite part of the newborn stage. All the snuggle time. My daughter is 4, and I’m still trying to catch up on sleep. lol. Parenting, no matter the stage is sometimes a struggle. Newborn, toddler, young, teen, adult. Welcome to motherhood, it’s a never-ending thing. lol.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Rikki. I agree. Each stage has its own struggle. And sleep is just an elusive dream now. Lol.

  7. My 4th trimester wasn’t bad. Thankfully, I have older sisters who had gone through pregnancy and childbirth who were a great resource both during and after pregnancy.

    1. That sounds amazing, Kim. Support is so important in making it a good experience. So glad that you got to experience it.

  8. Thanks for sharing this, I definitely wish I knew this when I was pregnant. I feel like I’m still caught up on sleep 4 years later lol.

  9. i definitely enjoyed wearing my babies into my 4th trimester in my tulas. Now I can’t get them to even kiss me goodbye !! i enjoyed every moment

  10. I wish I could remember this time ! It was all such a blur, those first few months. But I do remember holding my son A LOT. He was a BIG baby too! haha Wish I had a baby sling back then, it would saved my back!

  11. Thank you for sharing! I enjoy these moments when they are babies; but I also love seeing how they develop as they get older *minus the moods* hahaha!

  12. As a 6 time mama I’ve learned to get as much done before the baby comes, and to stock my freezers with enough food so I don’t have to cook for one month. I also limit visitors. I do not do anything for one week, and during the second week I don’t do much. It makes such a difference and helps create a peaceful postpartum experience. Taking that last month super easy also helps the recovery process go much better.

    1. Thank you for sharing, Shayla. Yes, prepping food and limiting visitors is definitely great advice. Postpartum does need to be a peaceful experience about mom and baby bonding and mom healing from labor.

  13. All 3 of my babies threw me curve balls. One came out of the womb ready for independence and was crawling full-on at 5 months because she had places to go. Then there was my reflux/allergy baby. He hated to be worn, but there this weird position he liked to be held in. Baby 3 had a severe tongue tie and couldn’t transfer milk until we had it revised, which threw a temporary wrench in my breastfeeding plans. He hated to be worn, as well.

    Expect the unexpected…

    1. Thank you for sharing, Sue. You are a true warrior mama. It’s incredible how different all kids are and how they keep us on our toes. And we need to learn to adjust.

  14. I’m pregnant with my second and while I should know what to expect it was great to read this and be reminded. It’s crazy how easily we forget parts of motherhood! The cuddle stage is my favorite! I do worry what that will be like with a toddler around.

    1. Thank you for your comment, Chelsae. We do forget a fair bit, I agree. And yes, it’s so different with the toddler around. You have to split your attention and won’t be so just baby focused. It’s also tough if your toddler goes through severe jealousy. We had that and it was rough. It was not safe to leave my sons in the same space. I never knew when my toddler would hurt the baby.

    1. Thank you for sharing, Ala. Yes, I think the one good thing about now is the availability of information. We may be more socially isolated IRL but we can share more and find out more through social media and blogs.

    1. Thank you for sharing, Sarah. I know a lot of people do love the cuddles. Everyone should definitely soak up the stages they enjoy. Nothing wrong with baby cuddles. They are the sweetest.

  15. Why don’t more people talk about this? Such good information for new moms! I was in this stage not too long ago and now I’m about to be in it again! Thanks for the refresher!

  16. I actually have loved the 4th trimester with each of my kids. Being able to just snuggle and nurse them all the time was wonderful. Looking forward to it in the next week or two when baby #3 is born!

  17. Yes it’s good to have very realistic advice out there. I remember doing lots of holding the baby, feeding, and not much else. I didn’t mind being in my pajamas for several straight weeks. But what a time!

    1. Thanks for sharing, Catherine. I think that’s the life of so many parents in the beginning but not everyone is prepared for it. And when you have super helpful relatives telling you that this is wrong, it doesn’t help matters.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Rikki. It’s so true. You can’t ever truly be prepared for it. That’s what makes it infuriating most of the time. But having as much info as possible definitely helps.

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