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  • Writer's pictureRebecca McCann

Thriving Through the 4th Trimester: Creating a Comprehensive Postpartum Plan

Woman holding infant. Both smiling.

In my previous blog post I discussed reasons why prenatal breastfeeding preparation is crucial, but to really optimize and simplify your life during the 4th trimester, I recommend crafting a comprehensive postpartum plan, addressing not only breastfeeding but also the broader spectrum of challenges and changes that occur during this time period.

I recently conducted a casual survey on Instagram which revealed that a majority of respondents found postpartum recovery to be the most challenging part of having a baby (other options included pregnancy, labor & delivery, and breastfeeding). These results might be surprising but they make a lot of sense. During the 4th trimester (the first 12 weeks after the baby is born), we are recovering from childbirth, learning to care for and feed a new baby, operating on less sleep than usual, navigating new family dynamics, and riding a roller coaster of emotions triggered by drastic postpartum hormone changes. How can we navigate this period more smoothly? Let's break it down into three crucial areas: your physical needs, household tasks, and support network.

Physical needs:

  • Plan for your nourishment in advance - consider making freezer meals ahead of time, stocking up on nutritious and easy-to-prepare foods, accepting offers of meals from friends and family, or setting aside extra funds for food delivery/take-out.

  • If you don't already do this, you might consider grocery delivery. Many stores offer grocery delivery for a fee, or you could pick up your groceries in the store parking lot (often for no additional fee). The second option saves you from having to take your baby into the store. Even if the store charges a fee, you might find that you save money in the long run because you're only buying the items you need (and skipping the impulse buys you might make in the store, if you're like me!).

  • Personal care:

    • Stock up on items you'll need for your postpartum recovery: pads and/or postpartum underwear, breast pads, ice packs, over-the-counter pain relief

    • Stock up on items your baby will need: diapers, wipes, baby soap, etc.

Household tasks:

  • Have a discussion with your partner and any family/friends who are going to take an active role in supporting you during the 4th trimester. Talk about who will be responsible for tasks such as:

    • Feeding, bathing and diapering the baby

    • Taking care of older children

    • Pet care

    • Laundry

    • Dishes

    • House cleaning

    • Bill paying

  • Don't hesitate to accept offers of help from friends and family. If someone says, "let me know how I can help" they often really want to support you but aren't sure what to do. Give them a specific task, like starting a load of laundry or picking up some things from the store.

  • If possible, explore options like hiring a postpartum doula, or assistance for house cleaning.

  • Prioritize rest for the new parents!

    • New moms especially need time to rest and recover from childbirth. In an ideal situation, their only other responsibility should be feeding the baby.

    • You may want to consider limiting visitors in the early days to only those people who can provide genuine support.

I realize that every family has different circumstances and may not be able to take much time off to rest. Unfortunately our society does not prioritize postpartum recovery time, and many parents have to return to work quickly or don't have a large support network to help with other tasks. To the extent that you are able, try to maximize your rest time during the 4th trimester.

Support network:

  • Think about who you can count on for support in the early days and weeks after your baby is born:

    • Family members and close friends

    • Healthcare providers for you and your baby (keep their contact info handy)

    • Breastfeeding support: IBCLC, local breastfeeding support group, supportive friends/family

    • Mental health: learn the signs of postpartum depression and anxiety, and know who to contact if you need support

To learn more about postpartum depression and anxiety, and to download a detailed postpartum plan that you can personalize, check out the resources from Postpartum Support Virginia.

Bringing home a new baby has it's challenges, but it's also a really beautiful time. As I reflect on my own postpartum experiences, I'm reminded of one of my favorite quotes:

Life is amazing. And then it's awful. And then it's amazing again. And in between the amazing and awful it's ordinary and mundane and routine. Breathe in the amazing, hold on through the awful, and relax and exhale during the ordinary. That's just living heartbreaking, soul-healing, amazing, awful, ordinary life. And it's breathtakingly beautiful." - L.R. Knost

Enjoy those amazing moments as you get to know your new baby, and help your future self get through the hard parts by creating a postpartum plan ahead of time. You'll be so glad you did.

If you need breastfeeding support, or help with prenatal breastfeeding planning, contact me for a 1:1 consultation or check out my comprehensive prenatal breastfeeding class. You can do this, and I've got your back.


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