11 postpartum essentials to survive the 4th trimester
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You’ve spent the last nine months growing your baby, and your bundle of joy has finally arrived. While this may seem like the finish line in your pregnancy journey, it's not. Now that baby is here, you'll experience the less-talked-about 4th trimester, and you need to be ready.
Don’t know what the 4th trimester is? We are here to break it down for you and help you figure out what you need to set you up for a happy first chapter in parenthood.
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So, what is the 4th trimester?
The 4th trimester is the hazy 12-week period of new parenthood where you are simultaneously recovering from childbirth while learning how to be a new parent.
For moms, there is a lot of physical and hormonal recovery. Our body is working to heal and recalibrate, while also feeding and nurturing a new being. There is a reason why so many cultures around the world consider the two- to three-month postpartum period to be a sacred bonding time between parents and new infants, as well as a critical healing time for a woman’s long-term health.
Why do we call it the 4th trimester?
Like most things having to do with maternal health, the term “4th trimester” focuses on a baby’s developmental stage.
Dr. Harvey Karp is believed to have coined the term, and it refers to the first few months after birth when an infant is learning to adjust to life outside of the womb. This period is generally when babies are the fussiest and when new parenthood can feel the most overwhelming.
Maternal health, however, is slowly gaining the attention it deserves. While the term 4th trimester was coined with a focus on the baby, it’s now also being given attention as a recovery, acclimation and healing period for new parents.
What do I need to know about the 4th trimester?
The 4th trimester can be a wonderful period of bonding as a new family, but there are some things to be aware of. Between 70% and 80% of people experience baby blues after giving birth, and, according to a 2006 study, one in seven may develop postpartum depression.
It’s estimated that over half of new mothers who experience postpartum depression suffer in silence and do not report their struggles.
During this time, there can be feelings of failure, boredom and confusion. There can also be physical changes like hair loss, night sweats, and muscle and joint pain. That’s why it’s so important that new parents be given the support they need to recover and heal after welcoming a new baby into their world.
What do I need to survive the 4th trimester?
We spoke to two postpartum doulas, Brandi Sellerz-Jackson and Maria Pasquarelli, to get tips on how to prepare yourself for postpartum recovery.
If you’re gearing up for your baby’s birth, these are excellent, unexpected registry items. If you’re a few days (or weeks) into your postpartum journey, here are some mood-lifting and empowering postpartum essentials that can give you just the boost you need to feel better.
1. For the one who’s hungry: Healing soups by Mama Tong
So much attention is given to breastfeeding or formula-feeding a new baby, but new parents need to eat well, too. Both Pasquarelli and Sellerz-Jackson say give the new mama food.
"Eating—and eating well—is so important. You just came out of war and now [if you’re [breastfeeding] you’re a walking snack machine. Even if you’re supplementing with formula, you’re losing sleep and you’re using muscles you didn’t know you had. You actually need to eat more now than when you were pregnant. You really are eating for two,” says Sellerz-Jackson.
Get your friends and family to set up a meal train. And put some nurturing food delivery services on your list of options they can send you.
This four-pack of postpartum soups by Mama Tong are just what a new parent needs to feel well-fed, restored and rebalanced. Made with traditional Chinese herbs for postpartum healing, this herbal soup company specializes in soups and broths for new mamas and for the people that support them.
2. For the one who wants to get stuff done: An Ergo Baby baby carrier
Everyone puts a stroller on their registry but you won’t actually need that stroller until your baby is a few months old. In the early days, you’re going to want a good baby carrier. A baby carrier allows you to do normal, everyday activities (like going to the bathroom or combing your hair) while keeping your newborn close.
“Baby wearing helps with bonding and mood regulation—plus it's basically an extra set of hands. If you’re suffering from postpartum depression, the love hormone that comes with baby wearing can help. Plus, it boosts your milk supply,” says Sellerz-Jackson.
The Ergo Embrace is soft and breathable and is a top pick by both Sellerz-Jackson and our expert testers.
3. For the one who wants to feel cozy: Postpartum PJs from Hatch, Storq and Kindred Bravely
Sure, you can opt for an old t-shirt and your partner’s sweats, but how about dressing like the queen you are with some truly lux postpartum PJs?
Super soft and lightweight, the three-piece pajama set by Storq comes in gorgeous colors and is standard 100 by Oeko-Tex, which means it’s free of all harmful chemicals.
The crossover nursing pajamas set by Kindred Bravely is somehow both sexy and practical. It makes breastfeeding easy, while also offering stylish support up top.
This pointelle nightie by Hatch Maternity is pretty enough to greet guests in but comfy enough to sleep in.
4. For the one who wants to ditch the thick maxi pads: Modibodi Sensual High-Waisted Briefs
Here is what they don’t tell you: Every body that births a baby will bleed. For up to six weeks after delivery, your body will be shedding a lot of blood, mucus and discharge. While you can always opt for some high-absorbency pads and underwear, period underwear is also an option.
These high-waisted period briefs by Modibodi add comfort and style to your recovery period.
Our reviewers loved them for their soft, stretchy and luxurious feel, and for the cute and—that’s right—sensual look. They are also terrific for unpredictable postpartum periods.
5. For the one whose posture took a hit: A postpartum Belly Bandit
If there is one thing you absolutely need during the 4th trimester, it’s a postpartum belly wrap: also known as a belly band or binder.
Pasquarelli says a postpartum belly wrap is the one thing she recommends to absolutely all of her clients.
“No matter how your baby comes out of your body the whole core has been stretched, moved about and completely maxed out. Using a [belly] binder is about supporting the core, the back, the womb and the uterus as it’s shrinking back down,” says Pasquarelli.
She goes on to explain that a postpartum belly wrap, like the ones by Belly Bandit, help to redirect everything to where it needs to be. Using one can not only help immediately postpartum but it may also prevent back and core issues that may not othersshow up until years down the road.
6. For the one that needs some TLC (especially down there): A Thena Natural Wellness soak bath
While you can absolutely just grab any Sitz bath from your local drugstore, both Sellerz-Jackson and Pasquarelli agree that if you can turn a utilitarian measure into luxury, you should do so.
There are loads of delicious-smelling postpartum sitz baths to be found on Amazon and Etsy, but we love this one by Thena Natural Wellness. It’s filled with soothing herbal remedies like yarrow, comfrey and calendula. Plus, it has magnesium, which will help with relaxation and sleep.
7. For the one working on her milk supply: Haakaa breast pump
Our Best Breast Pumps reviewer has this to say about the Haakaa: “If I could give a Haakaa manual breast pump to every nursing mother at the hospital, I would. It’s that good—and that indispensable.”
The Haaka manual breast pump expresses by suction. It’s a perfect companion to breastfeeding that prevents the need to pop a nursing infant from breast to breast. Instead, you can let them hang out on one breast while the Haaka works its hands-free magic on the other. No more feeling lopsided post-feeding sessions!
It’s great for engorged breasts, for expressing discreetly on the go (you can literally drive while it does the work), and it’s even an indispensable product for clogged ducts.
8. For the one with the screaming perineum: Frida Mom padsicles
If she had any amount of tearing, cutting or trauma to her perineum (read: Every woman who gave vaginal birth), she’s going to need some TLC down there.
These “padsicles” by Frida Mom are recommended by Pasquarelli and are the ultimate pain reliever for soreness and healing. Essentially an ice pack and maxi-pad combo, you simply pop these in the freezer to get good and cold and then position them in your undies for some cooling action and pain relief.
9. For the one who wants support while feeding their baby: A Boppy breastfeeding pillow
While nursing pillows can encourage latching, they aren’t just for breastfeeding moms. Any type of feeding, be it breast or bottle, can be taxing on your back and shoulders. If you have a strained back and shoulders, or if you’re recovering from a C-section, a good nursing pillow will be your best friend.
Plus, they have other benefits, like being a perfect tool to encourage tummy time (under supervision) once your baby gets older.
The Boppy nursing pillow is tried and true and converts into a prop-up pillow for when a baby wants to be cradled.
10. For the one who wants a glow-up: Pregnancy and breastfeeding-safe skin care by Matrescence
Pregnancy and postpartum can have a profound effect on your skin. Hormonal changes can lead to dryness, acne, sensitivity, melasma and a whole host of other skin care ailments.
While there are absolutely safe ingredients that can be used during this time, it takes a lot of label-reading and research. Sellerz-Jackson recommends taking the guesswork out of your skin care routine. Instead of obsessive label-reading and researching, take that time to luxuriate. She highly recommends the Matrescense skin care line.
Everything created by this mom-owned brand is pregnancy, breastfeeding, and skin-to-skin bonding safe. Plus, this company is Black woman-owned. What that means for everyone is it pays particular attention to pigmentation, which is of the utmost importance when you are dealing with major hormonal fluctuations—no matter what your skin tone may be.
11. For the one that needs some pampering: A Soothe massage gift card
"When in doubt, give [new parents] something that will make them feel human again," says Sellerz-Jackson. Since it’s hard to go anywhere with a baby during the first few months, she recommends a massage or facial that can come to them. Soothe has a menu of services from massages to haircuts to facials. Just fill out a gift card and let them book an appointment for exactly what they need and crave.
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This article originally appeared on Reviewed: 4th trimester postpartum essentials for new moms