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Fourth trimester tips for supporting a new mother

Zariah Kale

Zariah Kale

Zariah is a writer, history nerd, amateur chef and mum of three. When she is not negotiating screen time with one of her two tweens, or falling asleep during movies, you'll find her scouring vintage shops for one-of-a-kind pieces or apologising to friends for the "late reply" over text.
Created on Oct 30, 2023 · 7 mins read

Imagine swimming peacefully in a calm ocean. You are expecting a few waves that bobble you up and down a bit every few minutes.

It’s calm; you can handle it. So you keep floating and appreciate the sun’s rays as they dance on the surface of the ocean. You breathe and take in that salty breeze from the warm ocean.

It’s lovely—maternal bliss.

But suddenly, a huge wave comes crashing, and sends you under. You struggle, trying to make sense of which way is up, you panic, you swim; and then you try to survive. The salt stings your eyes as you try to make sense of your new situation. You resurface, gasping for air, just before a wave hits you again. That is exactly what being a new mum feels like.

What are the hardest weeks for new parents?

Becoming a parent is an extraordinary journey filled with joy, wonder, and immense challenges. The early months of parenthood, especially the first 6–8 weeks, aka the fourth trimester, can be particularly overwhelming for new parents as they adjust to the demands of caring for a newborn while managing their own physical and emotional well-being.

The first few weeks after bringing a baby home are often the most challenging for new parents. Sleep deprivation, hormonal changes, recovering from childbirth, and adjusting to the needs and routines of a newborn can leave even the most prepared individuals feeling exhausted and emotionally drained.

For new dads, adjusting to a new sleep schedule, dealing with a big change, and taking care of their spouse can all be very overwhelming. Additionally, the pressures of societal expectations and the fear of not being a “perfect” parent can add to the stress experienced during this period.

What is the best way to support a new mother?

Throw in a buoy by providing constant support during the beautiful yet stressful journey of motherhood. This can be like a survival tool for new mothers as they deal with sleep deprivation, physical recovery, nursing challenges, and mental health concerns.

First step: if you know a new mum or are one yourself, it is crucial to find or get the support you need to survive the first few months.

If you know a new mum, offer help. For example, sleep deprivation can take the fun out of parenting. Encourage her and her partner to prioritise rest by forming a support network or taking turns with night feedings. Offer to babysit or take the baby out for a walk while she takes a nap.

Second, physical recuperation following childbirth is critical. Stress the value of self-care and, if necessary, provide resources or professional assistance.

Third, breastfeeding can be overwhelming and challenging, and providing support through resources, consultants, and comfort about alternate feeding techniques can make a world of difference.

Finally, make sure you know the signs and symptoms of mental health issues like postpartum depression and anxiety in new mums. It is estimated that around 14% of new mothers in Australia suffer from PPD.

Encourage open dialogue, share information on support organisations, and demonstrate patience and understanding. Anyone and everyone can provide real support to new mothers at this point. On some days, even showing up with coffee and a willingness to help is all that she needs.

If you know a new mum or are one yourself, here are a few ways you can help others or look for help yourself from your support group:

1. Lend a helping hand

How do you take care of an infant and the house? You don’t! At some point, you give up on one, and that’s usually chores like laundry and cooking, which eventually pile up.

This is why one of the most important ways to support a new mother is to provide physical assistance: pre-cooked meals, loading the dishwasher, or simply lending a sympathetic ear. These tiny acts of kindness can substantially relieve the new mum’s load and allow her to focus on her baby and self-care without the added guilt.

2. Be all ears and listen without judgement

New mothers frequently go through a rollercoaster of emotions, ranging from delight and joy to fear and self-doubt. Being present to listen without judgement, provide encouragement, and tell her that she is doing an excellent job can make all the difference. Encourage her to express her thoughts openly and reassure her that it’s okay to admit what she’s really feeling.

3. Steal some cuddles

Offer to babysit or care for the baby for a few hours, allowing the new mother to recover or engage in activities that bring her joy. This break can provide an important opportunity for self-care and renewal, improving her general well-being. And, as a bonus, you get some delicious newborn snuggles!

How do you deal with early motherhood?

Becoming a mother is a dramatic and life-changing experience that triggers emotions ranging from pure delight and awe to moments of uncertainty and exhaustion. Amid the chaos that is early motherhood, it is critical for new mothers to feel encouraged, reassured, and accepted as they embark on this magnificent adventure.

If you have recently become a mum or have a little one on the way, here are some things you can do to make the fourth trimester a little easier.

Make self-care a priority

First off, taking care of yourself is essential throughout the early stages of parenthood. Ensure you get enough rest, eat healthy foods, and stay hydrated. Make time for rejuvenating activities such as going for a stroll, reading a book, or relaxing in a warm bath. Self-care is never selfish.

Ask for help and accept it

When you need help, be bold and ask for it! Seek it from your partner, family members, or trustworthy friends.

Join local parenting groups or online networks so you can connect with other new mothers going through similar experiences – and make some new friends in the process! Sharing your ideas and feelings with others who understand can be reassuring and comforting.

Hire a cleaner for some chores. If you are able to, ask Grandma to babysit. Parenting in those early weeks is not a one-person task!

Manage your expectations

The mums on social media will have you believe you can keep your house spotless with a new baby. It’s a façade, which is why creating realistic expectations for yourself and your child is so important.

Recognise that early parenthood is a learning experience and that making mistakes is normal. Trust your instincts and remember that there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all approach to parenting.

Every infant is unique; what works for one baby may not work for another. Accept the journey and give yourself grace while you adjust to your new role.

Keep educated, but trust your instincts

While books, online resources, and healthcare professionals might be helpful, remember that you are the authority on your child. When deciding about your baby’s care, trust your instincts and intuition. If something feels wrong, get medical help or a second opinion.

Embrace motherhood with all its flaws

Last but not least, cut yourself some slack. We are often our worst critics. It’s okay to find yourself struggling in the first few weeks of parenting, to have a meltdown, and to not have it all under control.

It is okay to struggle as the waves hit you harder and harder. Pat yourself on the back for the days you manage to do one thing right! Like, resurfacing to breathe or using a buoy to stay afloat- or even hanging out to the lifeguard who jumped in to save you.

Remember, you don’t have to swim alone.

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