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What every new parent needs to know about the 4th trimester

Doubtless, as a pregnant woman, you have been marking your pregnancy in terms of trimesters – the first is one of secrets and morning sickness, the second a time of celebration and elasticated waistbands, and the third a countdown to the due date.

But what is this mysterious 4th trimester?

The first few weeks after giving birth, the postpartum period, has been given this title because although the baby has very much ‘arrived’ he/she will still require the sanctuary of their mother’s womb. Mom too is recovering and learning, so it’s only right to envelop this period as an extension of the pregnancy.

As a breastfeeding counselor and mom of two, I know the arrival of a baby can be a whirlwind of emotions, exhaustion, and endless diaper changes! My kids were born just 16 months apart, so you could say I’ve been there, done that, and got the spit-up stained t-shirt to prove it!

Let’s talk a bit more about what mothers can really expect during those first 12 weeks postpartum.

What is the 4th trimester?

As I say, the 4th trimester describes those first three months after the baby arrives. It’s a transitional time of major adjustments and steep earning curves – for you and your baby.  

For the past nine months, your baby has been living in your safe, warm, and noise-canceling womb. Then, suddenly, here they are – thrust into a world of bright lights, loud noises, and new sensations. 

Your baby still relies on you for everything, needing constant comfort, nourishment, and touch as they adjust to life on the outside. You need to miraculously become a whole new selfless person adept at all things baby and breastfeeding, all while grappling with post-birth recovery and hormonal rollercoasters.

It’s both overwhelming and extraordinarily exciting – finally, you get to meet the person you grew inside you and bond, learn, and grow together. And while it can be challenging (okay, sometimes exhausting!), it’s also a time of incredible love and connection.

What mom goes through in the first 12 weeks postpartum

New mothers all have one thing in common: a sore body! If you were one of the lucky ones who managed to sleep soundly throughout your pregnancy then this period might be a bit easier – for the rest of us, it’s just another test of our resilience and determination. Now the hard work begins. It’s a lot to handle, but every new mom goes through this.

Here’s what you can expect during this postpartum period:

  1. Physical recovery: It might sound obvious, but after pushing a human out of your body (or having them surgically removed, in my case), it’s going to take some time to heal. You’ll probably be dealing with soreness, stitches, and postpartum bleeding (lochia) that seems to last forever. All this is normal of course so just take it easy and use a soothing Soothic Sitz Bath to take the edge off.
  2. Hormonal shifts: Remember those pregnancy hormones that made you cry at puppy commercials? Well, I’m sorry to say they don’t just disappear after birth. In fact, they can go a little haywire in the fourth trimester, leaving you feeling like an emotional wreck. One minute you’re staring at this miracle new baby you created, and the next you’re sobbing because you can’t find a breast pad. It’s okay! Take it all in your stride, and as the saying wisely goes, ‘this too shall pass’.
  3. Sleep deprivation: Ah, sleep. Remember what that felt like? Expect in the first few weeks for your baby to be waking up every couple of hours to feed and cuddle. Put the ‘8 hours sleep a night’ dream on hold for a little while. Let’s be real, ‘sleep when the baby sleeps’ is easier said than done. But try to squeeze in some rest whenever you can, even if it means letting the dishes pile up.
  4. Adjusting to a new identity: Becoming a mom is a huge shift in identity, and it can take quite some time to get used to. Suddenly, you’re responsible for this tiny human 24/7, and it can be overwhelming. As you get to grips with the challenges of breastfeeding and become an expert diaper changer, you may wonder where your old self has gone. But here’s the thing: you’re still you, just with a new title. Embrace the change and know that it’s okay to have mixed feelings about this new role.

I know this all sounds pretty intense, but I promise it’s not all bad. Watching your baby grow and change every day is incredible, and the love you feel for them is unlike anything else you will ever experience (until the next one comes along!).

Coping strategies for new moms in the 4th trimester

You can absolutely survive (and maybe even thrive!) those first few months postpartum.

It’s easy to slip into the endless cycle of diaper changes, feeds, and catching up on sleep. But trust me, there are ways to make it through with your sanity intact.

  1. Find your village and lean on them hard.
    • It may sound like a cliché but don’t be afraid to ask for help from your partner, a family member, or friends. You aren’t actually supposed to do this all on your own. Let them do the household chores, watch the baby while you nap, or bring you cups of tea. And accept all help when it’s offered.
    • Other moms know exactly what it’s like to have a newborn. Join a local moms group to connect with other parents who are going through the same things you are. One of the best things I ever did was venture out of the house to a local baby group – there’s something about having a safe space to be real with strangers when the only thing you have in common is new motherhood.
    • Consider hiring a postpartum doula for extra support and guidance – these guys are experts in their field.
  2. Embrace the power of self-care for the sake of your mental health.
    • Take a shower, put on some lip gloss, or step outside for a breath of fresh air – little things like this can make you feel like a new woman.
    • Nourish your body with healthy foods and plenty of water (and coffee!)
    • Don’t ever think that taking care of yourself is selfish – it’s necessary! Your baby relies on you to be healthy so you are doing this for both of you. Make sure you discuss your own health and well-being as well as your baby’s during your postpartum follow-up visit.
    • If possible, sleep when your baby sleeps. Ignore the laundry or dishes and just close your eyes in peace.
    • And if all else fails, invest in some good concealer for those dark circles.
  3. Don’t suffer in silence.
    • Postpartum depression affects many women during the 4th trimester, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, anxious, or just not like yourself, reach out for help. Many women experience the guilt of baby blues, but PDD is different. In this modern era we are totally clued up on how serious it can be, so learn the warning signs of PDD and make sure your partner knows them too.
    • Talk to your doctor or confide in a close friend or partner.
  4. Find joy in the little things.
    • Every day feels like a week … then suddenly your baby is 3 months old! Snap some pics of your baby’s adorable yawns and gummy smiles. And don’t worry about ‘social media perfection’ – these pictures are treasures you will visit for many years to come.
    • Savor those sweet newborn cuddles and inhale that intoxicating baby smell – try to be as present as possible with your baby.
    • Celebrate each milestone, no matter how small!
  5. Give yourself some grace.
    • The 4th trimester is a time of major adjustment, and it’s okay to feel out of your depth. It’s easy to start comparing yourself to everyone else – they all seem to know exactly what to do don’t they? Well, they don’t. they are winging it just like you.
    • Remember, you’re the perfect mom for your baby, and that’s all that matters.

And if all else fails, just remember: there’s always wine (and yes, you can have a drink or 2 when you’re breastfeeding)! 

What’s the 4th trimester like for your baby?

Your baby has spent 9 months tucked up in the sanctuary of your womb, lulled by your heartbeat and the swooshing of your body. Birth is a rude awakening!

Babies are born with an innate need to be held constantly, fed frequently, and demand the comfort of a familiar voice and smell. Your baby might cry a lot, startle at the slightest sound, and generally be overwhelmed by the outside world! Their senses are still developing but their instinct will be to root for your breast, listen for your calming voice, and curl right back up into a tiny ball.

The most natural thing to do in the early days is to practice skin-to-skin contact. Your heartbeat and the sound of your breathing will be so reassuring, your smell will be familiar and the warmth of your body will soothe them. Do this as often as you can.

You cannot spoil a newborn (despite what you might have heard) so respond to their cries straight away. Crying is their only way of communicating so you are building trust by meeting their needs promptly.

Don’t try to start any sort of feeding or sleeping routine because at this stage it’s best to follow your baby’s lead. The only thing you can guarantee is unpredictability!

At the end of the day, newborns are simple little creatures with simple needs. Hold them close, feed them, comfort them and love them.

When to seek professional help

While some challenges are normal during the 4th trimester, there are times when you should seek professional help:

  • Any symptoms of postpartum depression or anxiety, including persistent sadness, irritability, or difficulty bonding with your baby.
  • Your baby has trouble feeding, isn’t gaining weight, or has other health concerns.
  • Breastfeeding struggles (you may like expert support from a lactation consultant or breastfeeding counselor).
  • Concerns about your physical recovery (excessive bleeding, pain etc).

Please know that seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness. Healthcare providers are there to support you.

The 4th trimester is character-building (and revealing!)

I know I’ve talked a lot about the challenges of the fourth trimester, but I also want you to know that you’re on the most amazing adventure of your life.

As a mom who’s personally been through the 4th trimester twice, I can tell you that it’s a time of incredible growth, discovery, and love. Yes, there will be moments of exhaustion and doubt (believe me, I’ve been there!), but there will also be moments of pure magic.

You’ll discover new depths of strength and resilience that you never knew existed and you’ll create a bond with your baby that is unlike anything you’ve ever experienced.

Trust your instincts, lean on your support system (I couldn’t have done it without my amazing husband and my mom friends!), and ALWAYS ask for help when you need it.

Most importantly, remember to be kind to yourself. Your baby is lucky to have you as their mom. This is just the beginning of a lifelong adventure, and I promise it’s going to be an incredible ride.


Cleveland Clinic. (n.d.). Lochia (Postpartum Bleeding): How Long, Stages, Smell & Color. Retrieved from

Mayo Clinic. (2022, November 24). Postpartum depression – Symptoms and causes. Retrieved from

About Guest Author: Katie McCann

Katie, founder of “From Bump To Bubble,” holds a BSc in Psychology and is a certified breastfeeding counselor. She uses her background as a mother of two and former HCPC paramedic to provide science-based parenting insights and emergency care advice on her blog. Katie’s experience makes her a trusted voice in parenting, offering guidance on breastfeeding, parenting tips, and mompreneurship.

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