New Parent? Your Survival Guide to the Fourth Trimester 

by | May 8, 2024

You might already be on maternity leave reading this. Or you might have just given birth, or you’re about to. If you have yet to go to antenatal classes or are too overwhelmed to search for content and sift through it, this article is for you. Your baby’s arrival is a whirlwind of emotions. But many new parents aren’t prepared for the “fourth trimester” – the often-overlooked 12-week period following birth where both baby and parents are adjusting to life outside the womb. That’s why we’re here: to guide you through the basics of those twelve weeks so that you feel a little more confident, knowing there’s a MamaMagic resource you can reference. 

A Time of Transition

The fourth trimester is a crucial development time for both you and your little one. Your body is recovering from childbirth while your baby is acclimating to a world of sights, sounds, and sensations vastly different from the warm, snug environment in the womb. 

What to Expect from Your Baby

  • Frequent Feeding: They no longer have the placenta through which they feed constantly. Newborns have tiny tummies and need to eat often around eight to twelve times a day. This can be exhausting. What might comfort you is that you play a crucial role in their feeding beyond survival. That little life is dependent on you to help them grow well. 
  • Sleep… or the Lack Thereof: Forget about regimented sleep schedules. Newborns have immature sleep-wake cycles, leading to frequent night wakings and unpredictable naps. Just like breastfeeding, sleep is a skill they need to learn. Their waking frequently is not to upset you; they need to feed and change mum and dad. Your baby is also not being “naughty” because they’re not sleeping for hours. You’re their lifeline through this. When you reframe the lack of sleep, managing it becomes a little easier. Embrace the cuddles and know that this phase won’t last forever.
  • Crying Cues: Crying is your baby’s only way to communicate. Learning to decipher their cries – hunger, discomfort, tiredness – takes time and practice.
  • Rapid Development: The fourth trimester is a period of accelerated growth. You’ll witness improvements in their vision, coordination, and communication skills.

Tips for Handling a Newborn in the Fourth Trimester

  • Embrace the “Fourth Trimester”:  Knowing this is a temporary adjustment phase can help manage expectations.
  • Respond to Cues: Crying is your baby’s way of telling you something is wrong. Try feeding, diaper changes, swaddling, or skin-to-skin contact to soothe them. Remember to take a deep breath and remind yourself that your baby is desperately trying to communicate; this is the only way they know how. 
  • Prioritise Sleep (When You Can):  Take naps when your baby naps. Ask for help with household chores or childcare to allow for more rest. The dishes can wait; sleep for those 20-30 minutes instead. 
  • Skin-to-Skin Contact: This promotes bonding, regulates the baby’s temperature, and reduces stress for both of you.
  • Feeding on Demand: Whether breastfeeding or bottle-feeding, follow your baby’s hunger cues.
  • Swaddling: Mimicking the womb’s snugness, swaddling can calm fussy babies and improve sleep (remember to stop swaddling when they start showing signs of rolling over).
  • Babywearing: Carrying your baby close can comfort them and free up your hands for other tasks. 

Taking Care of Yourself

The fourth trimester can be emotionally and physically demanding. Here’s how to prioritise your well-being:

  • Accept Help: Don’t be afraid to ask for help from your partner, family, or friends. Let them handle errands, cook meals, or watch the baby while you nap. It’s not too much for them, we promise. They are more than willing to help but often need to learn how. 
  • Postpartum Support:  Talk to your doctor about physical or emotional concerns after childbirth. Consider joining a support group to connect with other new parents, even if it’s online. 
  • Nourish Yourself:  Eating healthy meals and staying hydrated are essential for recovery and energy levels. (Get friends and family to help with those meals, mama).
  • Listen to Your Body: Don’t try to do too much too soon. Rest when you can, and prioritise healing. This is life-altering, and you’re adjusting to new life too. Remember to change your expectations about yourself. 

Trust your instincts, learn from your baby’s cues, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. The fourth trimester is an indescribable mix of joy, frustration, newness and yes, a little bit of yearning for more sleep or more time alone. Give it space, and the joy will trump the negative moments. Be kind to yourself and ask for help, and you won’t sweat the small stuff. 


  • Understanding the 4th Trimester: What to Expect for Your Baby and You
  • The Fourth Trimester: A Guide for New Parents