Many cultures have traditions around caring for a birthing person after childbirth. In Islam the tradition is that for 40 days the birthing person’s female relatives care for them and they do not leave their bed. Colombia and India also spend 40 days at home for recovery.
In Japan, the birthing person moves back to their parent’s home for a month to rest and receive care. These rituals acknowledge the need of the birthing person to be nurtured, just as they are nurturing their baby. The time after birth is important for babies and caregivers alike. It allows for binding, rest and recovery , and sorting out feeding routines.
The Fourth Trimester is the three months after the baby is born. While yes, four trimesters doesn’t make grammatical sense, the idea is that the journey into parenthood starts during pregnancy with three trimesters, and after birth, the parent, baby dyad still exists. Parents move into a new stage of knowing and caring for their baby while stepping into their new roles. This can be a very intimate and challenging time.
So, how can you make the most of the Fourth Trimester?
Lean on your support system. Now is the time to ask for help. Give people the chance to show up for you. If you can, ask a friend to set up a meal train for you. Ask someone to do your grocery pick-up or shopping the first week or two. Add a postpartum support doula to your baby registry.
Plan ahead. List out meals and grocery lists for a week or two. Prep ahead some freezer meals or have other frozen food on hand. Think about the typical things that you need during the day/week and see if you can have some of that prepared in advance. Even simple things like listing a few restaurants and your to-go orders from them can help. When you are sleep deprived, the less decisions to make, the better.
Have the non-birthing person take time off. Sometimes couples will want the non-birthing person to save their time off for when the birthing parent goes back to work and therefore, extend the time the baby is out of daycare. While this is a generally good idea, make sure that the non-birthing person is home for at least a while in the beginning. We’d suggest at least 4 weeks. Not only do they also need time to bond with the new baby, but the birthing person is going to need a lot of help and support. (We recognize this is not always fiscally or logistically possible as time off may not be offered or paid.)
Set up your home. As best you can, try to have your home organized and prepared for baby. If financially possible and your space allows, have extra household supplies and pantry items as well as your favorite comfort items. Try to have your home cleaned pre-baby arrival or purge some unwanted items (great opportunity to ask for help!).
What else are you doing to prepare for the fourth trimester?