What’s a New Momma to Do. Navigating the Fourth Trimester

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This post is sponsored by Roper St. Francis Healthcare, however, all opinions expressed are our own.

You’ve been discharged from the hospital, buckled that tiny baby safely in the car seat, and are sitting beside him/her on the drive home. You feel the sunshine and breeze for the first time in a few days and the smells of home have never been more refreshing.

You’re home. And now you’re a mom!

You’ve been preparing for this moment for 40 weeks and yet, somehow, it can feel like you showed up for a test without studying. We spoke with Roper St. Francis Healthcare’s RN Mandy Owen who is also a certified lactation counselor and expectant family instructor to give you the ins and outs of this special newborn/postpartum time.

First things first, she wants you to know that you are not alone!

Sometimes in the wee hours of the morning, it can feel like no one knows what you’re going through, how tired you are, or how long it’s been since you showered. “Transitioning into parenthood is not easy. Reach out! We all need a little help. It truly does take a village” says Mandy.

From my personal experience, people want to feel helpful. While there are certain things friends, family, and neighbors can’t help with, like recovering from a c-section, trying to breastfeed, or adjusting to sleepless nights, they can help you do things like cook meals, fold laundry, or sit with the baby while you shower and put on a fresh set of clothes. If someone offers to help, say yes! There’s no reason to try to be supermom because believe me, it will catch up with you. Accept help as it comes, and jot down who you owe a thank you note to.

Postpartum Challenges

One of the first decisions you’ll face is how to feed your baby. If you are going to breastfeed, Roper St. Francis Healthcare offers TONS of resources to support you in this decision! If you haven’t already, definitely sign up for their Breastfeeding Basics Class. It’s a zoom class, so you can even care for your little one while you learn.

When I delivered my first child, the local hospital’s lactation consultant became my best friend. From everything I’ve learned about Roper St. Francis’ team,  they will be the exact same way with you! My son had difficulties staying latched, staying awake to nurse, and completing a feeding. Even after my pediatrician advised me to switch to formula, the lactation support I received made it possible for me to breastfeed my son for a year. Breastfeeding can be difficult, but if you’ve made the decision and the plans to breastfeed and you’re experiencing difficulties, the best thing is to seek support from local La Leche Leagues, contact your hospital’s lactation consultant, or download this e-book all about breastfeeding.

I can remember the first week my first child was born, and the most important thing I can remember is counting wet diapers. It literally saved my son’s life. He dropped well below his birth weight by his five-day checkup. Remember this simple rule: you want one wet diaper for every day your baby has been alive. One wet diaper on day one, two on day two, and after six days you should consistently see six or more wet diapers. If you have any questions or concerns about this, be sure to reach out to your pediatrician.

I know sometimes the information you learn while you’re pregnant can be a little foggy too, so remember there are always courses like Baby Boot Camp Class and digital resources like Roper St. Francis’ e-book A New Beginning which is jam-packed with ALL the information you need. Do yourself a favor and download it now. It will literally save you hours of googling, questioning, and second-guessing!

Why Do Babies Cry?

“Babies cry anywhere from 1-5 hours (not consecutively) per 24 hours,” Mandy says. So what’s all the fuss about? The e-book I mentioned, A New Beginning, says babies cry for one of several reasons: a desire to suck, a desire to be held, needing stimulation, overstimulation, too cold or too hot, needing a fresh diaper and hunger. It can be close to impossible to know exactly what your baby needs each time he/she cries.

Each child is also different and what works with one won’t necessarily work for the next one! Try to keep your cool and go through your ‘toolbelt’ of options: swaddle baby, change his/her diaper, offer milk, change the scenery, rock your baby or eliminate distractions. I know how frustrating listening to a crying baby can be. Just remember, you can always give yourself a time-out by putting the baby in his/her empty crib and walking away for a few minutes. I can certainly attest to having done this a time or two, and both my littles are growing up just fine.

Interacting with Baby

When a baby is awake but not quite ready for a feed, it’s a great time to start tummy time! Mandy recommends laying on your stomach with your head near your baby’s head as he/she lays on their tummy. You can start this the day you come home from the hospital in small increments. Try talking to your baby or shaking a rattle to get their attention. Over time you will begin to see their neck muscles gaining in strength to where they can turn their head and find you. Peek-a-boo sweet baby!

Another special thing you or your partner can do with your newborn is skin-to-skin. Newborn babies have never worn clothes before, and they crave that immediate contact with you. Research has shown that skin-to-skin contact “can boost the baby’s immune system, lower parents’ stress levels, promote the production of mom’s breast milk, help the baby gain weight and more.” Trust me, your little one will be crawling over the place in no time, so cherish these precious moments as much as you can.

Caring for Yourself

These early days can be such a blur, but Mandy wants you to remember the importance of taking care of yourself. Your body has been through a lot, and you need to allow yourself time to recover from delivery and adjust to having a newborn. Listen to your body. Sleep when you can. Be physically active for 20-30 minutes a day (when you’re cleared). Eat well. Manage your pain appropriately, and most importantly, call your doctor if you have any questions or concerns.

While your body has undergone many physical changes, you also have many emotional changes happening. Nine out of ten women report feeling overwhelmed, sensitive, anxious, exhausted, and/or doubt their ability to be a mother. These ‘baby blues’ typically begin around three or four days postpartum and can last a week or so. However, if these feelings continue or strengthen after two weeks, you may have postpartum depression or anxiety. These are very real, very serious conditions that require medical attention. It’s important to remember that medical professionals are there to HELP. They will help you get back to feeling like yourself again so you can enjoy those first giggles, first toothless grins, and all the coos in between. Our friends at Roper St. Francis are there for you every step of the way.

Read more from our friends at Roper St. Francis Healthcare
Tips for a Smooth First Trimester of Pregnancy
Celebrating the Second Trimester
You’ve (Finally) Reached the Third Trimester of Pregnancy

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Katie Finch is an Alabama native who spent the past nine years living in sunny Jupiter, Florida where she co-owned three Uptown Art (think wine and painting) studios with her sister for seven years. She graduated from Auburn with a degree in Marketing, so her role was all things marketing, cross promotion, advertising, social media, and event planning. After selling the studios, she and her husband relocated to the Charleston area with their two children (David who is 3 1/2 and Selwin Mae who is 1 1/2) in April, and she can honestly say they are loving every day here! They love the Southern hospitality, scrumptious food, and exploring this great city. In her free time Katie enjoy walking, listening to worship music, a (stereotypical) bubble bath, and watching the Bachelor. She also loves a strong cup of coffee, anything with chocolate, and a well-rounded glass of Pinot Noir.