During pregnancy, you’ve probably never felt more special. You’re being offered seats on the bus and foot massages from hubs, but as soon as the baby arrives you might feel a little left out in the cold. You might have been told that being a “good mum” means sacrificing your own self-care for your newborn, but we are calling out this outdated attitude towards the postpartum mother.
During the fourth trimester (the first 12 weeks after your baby is born), mums need care (and cuddles, if you’re so inclined) too. As your baby's body is adjusting to life outside of your womb, you are dealing with recovery from childbirth, adjusting to sleep deprivation, and adapting to the many demands of motherhood. Whether it is your first baby or you’re learning to juggle a new member of your existing brood, it’s time to fasten your own oxygen mask first.
We’re not telling you anything you don’t already know, but you might be feeling a bit stuck on how to actually go about this ‘self-care’ business when you don’t have time to light the good candle and have a bubble bath. We’re breaking it down into practical tips, because #bitesize.
1. Go easy on yourself
When was the last time you got something right the first time? Since babies don’t come with instruction manuals, you’ll probably suck (ha!) at breastfeeding, and many other new mum things, for at least a couple of weeks (or months, or years) before you get into a rhythm. Just when you think you’ve got the hang of it, your baby will change. Expect this, and be nice to yourself when it happens.
> Try it today: It might sound simple, but think about what you’d say to your best friend if she was struggling with breastfeeding. It’d likely be something a lot gentler, more supportive and encouraging than what you’re telling yourself.
2. Accept help & support
Support is crucial, and can come in the shape of a partner, family members, friends, or healthcare professionals. Ideally, you will have a combination of these to assist you, though it may not be the case for all mothers and that’s okay too. Allow your family and friends to clean bottles, put on a load of washing, or look after older children. Flat out ask them if you need it.
> Try it today: If you’re pregnant, try creating a baby shower registry with practical gifts like meal services, babysitting vouchers etc. If you’ve had your baby, it’s not too late to outsource help with household tasks; sign up for a food delivery subscription or even just delegate organising the online grocery delivery to your partner. We hear chatGPT is great at making meal plans if you give it the contents of your fridge. If you’re having some trouble asking for help (from your humans, not the AI robot…) here are some scripts:
- “I’d like to see you today. Can you bring [lasagne]”
- “Yes! I’d love a cup of tea. Can you please put a load of washing on while the kettle boils?”
- “I’m exhausted. Can you hold the baby while I go [nap, shower]”
3. Rest and recover
You already know you’re meant to ‘rest and recover’ in the 4th trimester. But it’s easier said than done, isn’t it! Take advantage of any fleeting opportunity to sleep or rest while your baby is sleeping. Try creating a peaceful space in your bedroom (or a small corner or nook of your house or neighbourhood) so that your mind and body can find calm. You could also see if the 10pm feed could be done by your partner (or mother, sister, friend) so you can get a decent block of rest.
> Try it today: Try to find a 10 minute block today. Lay down in bed with a relaxing playlist on (maybe even something you loved pre-baby) and focus on breathing deeply and intentionally. Even just a few minutes can help. There are also plenty of apps, like Headspace, that can guide you through a quick meditation (some as short as 2 minutes, which might be all you have!). The mantra of “done is better than perfect” is a good one to apply here – a short rest (instead of putting on another load of washing) can be better than waiting until you’ll have time for an uninterrupted few hours of sleep. If you don’t feel rested and pure, don’t beat yourself up about it. Teaching yourself to be calm is a lifelong thing, and it’s fleeting even if you can achieve it.
4. Stay hydrated and eat nutritious foods
Yes, stay hydrated, eat nutritious. We know it’s important and we know that we feel better when we drink water, and get those lovely nutrient-dense foods into us. But how to do it?
Tip 1: Smoothies. Smoothies can be a great way of getting a lot of nutrients into a one handed snack, or check out our TikTok for some more easy one handed snack ideas perfect for the fourth trimester.
Tip 2: Outsource. Get onto a meal delivery service if you have the funds, or a meal train if you’re on a budget.
Tip 3: See a nutritionist. They might be able to help with meal plans or recommend what to do if you’ve got some gaps in your diet.
> Try it today: Chop and freeze small servings of fruit in ziplock bags to have on hand for a smoothie snack in a hurry - simply add milk and honey if desired and blitz.
5. Try to bond with your baby
Skin-to-skin contact is one of the most simple and effective ways to bond with your baby. It helps regulate your baby's body temperature, heart rate, and breathing, and it also promotes bonding between the two (or more) of you. The smell and feel of your baby on your skin will also cause a rush of the love hormone, oxytocin, which can give your mood a wonderful happy boost. A wrap or carrier can be a great way to get skin-to-skin time during the day.
> Try it today: Have a shower or bath with your baby to get your skin-to-skin calm-down time in. Getting into water together can be a particularly great escape in the evening witching hour.
6. Remember that motherhood isn’t a race.
Once you have kids, Bluey will likely become a regular part of your life. There’s an epiosode called Baby Race, where Bluey’s mum, Chilli, realises that every kid is different and she’s doing a good job – regardless of whether her little one is the first to roll over in her Mother’s Group. Watch the ep, sans kids, when you need a little reminder (no judgment, we watch Bluey without our kids too!). Have the hanky handy, it’s a tearjerker of an episode.
> Try it today: Doomscrolling on socials might be all you feel up to when you’re feeding in the middle of the night, but do yourself a favor and unfollow anyone who doesn’t make you feel good after watching their content. Ain’t nobody needs to see how an influencer fit into her pre-baby jeans 2 weeks postpartum.
7. Take care of your mental health
The fourth trimester can understandably be an emotional time, and you definitely have more triggers, body changes and challenges to move through. Postpartum depression and anxiety is common, as is general feelings of frustration, confusion, and overwhelm. Talk to your healthcare provider if you’re worried about postpartum depression, or are struggling with sadness, irritability, or anxiety, or anything really. If you’re struggling, here’s a list of resources that might help ❤️
> Try it today: Even if you’re feeling great, replace your screen scroll time today with Panda.org.au. They have amazing resources and even stories from other mothers. If you’re worried about some of your thoughts & feelings, there’s a great checklist for new mums (and new partners as well for that matter) that goes through body and behaviour, thoughts and feelings and relationships. You could work through that and follow the prompts for what to do next.
The fourth trimester is a crucial period for both you and your new baby. It is a time of significant change and adjustment, but by focusing on what you need you can thrive during the fourth trimester.