The Fourth Trimester
Often referred to as the first three months of a baby’s life and the immense changes they experience in terms of adapting to life outside of the womb, development and learning, this is a period where the needs of the mother are often forgotten or pushed aside in favour of baby’s health.
In some traditional cultures, such as in China, the time directly post-partum is referred to as “The Golden Month” or “sitting out the month” where the mother is looked after by members of her family and fed highly nutritious and easily-digestible meals while she rests and recuperates. While this concept may seem a little old fashioned or not possible due to the demands of modern life, new mothers can still incorporate some of these principles to ensure long-term physical, emotional and mental wellness in their new role as mother.
Sleep is the time when the body repairs, detoxifies and restores, which may explain why many new mothers often feel more than 'just tired' during this time of broken and limited sleep. It’s a given that our normal evening sleep routine will be disrupted when we have a baby, however, incorporating rest throughout the day can make the world of difference. This might look like letting go of the pressure to get your ‘pre-baby body’ back or keeping the house tidy or cooking all of the household meals. Women today don’t need to go into confinement like we historically may have been forced to but we must still appreciate the value in rest and going slow after birth.
Post-delivery, there are a number of nutrients that will need replenishing due to both the baby’s consumption and also the birthing process, restoring the energy used during growing and birthing babies is vital. If you decide to breastfeed, most of your nutrient requirements will increase, with some daily recommendations increasing by as much as 50%. Some of the specific nutrients that may require attention during post-partum and breastfeeding are:
Protein (60 gm per day): Meat, Chicken, Fish, Lentils, Chick Peas, Tofu & Tempeh, Mushrooms, Nuts
Iron (9-18 mg per day): Red Meat, Shellfish, Spinach, Broccoli, Lentils, Turkey, Organ Meats
Magnesium (320-360 mr per day): Dark Green Leafy Vegetables, Asparagus, Kelp, Dark Chocolate, Avocado
Zinc (8-12 mg per day): Shellfish, Eggs, Pumpkin Seeds, Lentils, Almonds
B6 (1.3-2 mg per day): Pork, Chicken, Turkey, Wholegrains, Eggs, Salmon, Spinach, Sweet Potato
Calcium (1,000 mg per day): Yogurt, Cheese, Milk, Pumpkin Seeds, Sesame Seeds, Almonds
Folate (400-500 µg per day): Lentils, Kidney Beans, Eggs, Beetroot, Dark Green Leafy Vegetables, Nuts
Fluids (2-3L per day): Water, Herbal Tea, Broth
Adjusting to motherhood is like starting a new job often leaving you feeling unsure, lost and overwhelmed. Ensuring you have support systems in place will help the transition into motherhood. That may involve enlisting family or friends to bring you food or watch the baby while you shower or take a bath or joining a mother's group and spending time with other new mothers who are also going through the same experiences as you. It is important to avoid isolating yourself during these early stages.
While breastfeeding is a natural act, it is a learned behaviour and may take some time to establish a routine and technique that works for you. There are many tools available to help develop this new skill which can include lactation consultants, doulas, resources found online such as at womenshealth.gov or new mothers groups.
Struggling with breastfeeding and bringing home a newborn can be difficult but you don’t have to go through it alone.
You can be a strong woman and still ask for help.