5 Tips for New Mothers in the Fourth Trimester of Pregnancy
Your bundle of joy has finally arrived. Giving birth is truly one of the wonders you experience both physically and emotionally. Labor and delivery can be a rollercoaster of highs and “not-so-highs,” draining and yet exhilarating. Whether you had a 3-hour labor or a 30-hour labor followed by a C-section, you’ve made it through the hardest part of your journey to motherhood with a new addition to the family. What an accomplishment! Now you enter the next phase. This postpartum period is often referred to as the fourth trimester of pregnancy, a time when your body unwinds some of the changes that came along with pregnancy.
This fourth trimester is an important time for healing whether you’re a new mom or you’re on your second or third child. Your body has just gone through a lot and needs specific nutrients and care to recover from pregnancy, labor, and delivery. And if you’re planning to breastfeed or pump and bottle feed, you need to make sure you’re doing all that is necessary to add nutrients to and produce an adequate amount of breastmilk as well. Here are the five most important things you can do to take care of your body and help it return to its pre-pregnancy state.
Your diet and nutrition are crucial for postpartum care as your body needs nutrients not only to recover but also to produce breastmilk for your newborn baby. Now that the little human you’ve been growing inside your body is out, he/she will let you know when they’re hungry. During pregnancy you needed an extra 300 calories per day, but now you need an additional 500 calories per day.
We recommend that 200 of those additional calories come in the form of a protein shake that can provide two of the most critical nutrients during the postpartum phase: protein and calcium. Protein powders are available in various protein types, including pea, soy, and even whey. Give Life Shake™ a try; this delicious meal-in-a-glass contains 20 grams of protein and 6 grams of fiber. Add Life Shake™ to milk or another calcium-rich, non-dairy alternative. You can also throw in a few handfuls of spinach for iron and vitamin C or frozen berries for antioxidants and an extra burst of flavor. Other great sources of protein include fatty fish such as salmon and organic free-range eggs. For plant-based protein sources, you can try tofu, edamame, beans, and legumes like lentils.
Overall, your diet should be balanced with about half of your plate made up of fresh fruits and vegetables each meal. The other half should be split between grains and proteins. Protein is important for your body’s healing (especially if you had a C-section). Grains are key sources of minerals as well as fiber to help with regularity (more on this in the supplement section.)
After giving birth, you may have weight loss on your mind, but this is NOT the time to try losing weight with a diet. Be patient! Most women will lose the 15–20 lbs of “pregnancy weight” comprised of additional fluid to support fetal circulation, breast development, and placenta during the first few months after childbirth. The quality of your breastmilk will depend on the quality of your nutrition. So no skimping! Eat heartily, and don’t be afraid to treat yourself to a bowl of ice cream (extra calcium) or some air-popped popcorn drizzled with olive oil (omega-3s for your baby’s brain and fiber for you). You can reassess your weight when you are no longer breastfeeding, but for now focus on producing the best nourishment for your child.
Hydration is also very important in the fourth trimester, especially if you are breastfeeding. You can stay hydrated with water and other beverages. Foods with a high water content like fruits and veggies can help you stay hydrated as well. Aim to consume up to 16 cups of fluids per day from food, beverages, and water. If you need to get into the habit of drinking more water throughout the day, a good way to stay consistent is to drink a glass of water every time you feed your baby. Hydration is another reason why we recommend adding protein shakes to your diet—throwing in some ice cubes and fruit will cover some of your fluid needs.
Hopefully, you are already taking prenatal vitamins for your pregnancy. Meology™ Prenatal is a great option for a supplement plan you can customize to your current needs in the fourth trimester. Whether you’re breastfeeding or not, you’ll want to continue this nutrition regimen after you give birth to fill any nutrition gaps in your diet. These first few months after birth are recovery and replenishment time for your body. As you probably already know, babies will take what nutrients they need from their mothers whether their mom has enough of that nutrient or not. So, you want to be sure you are supporting all your body’s needs, especially your bones, muscles, iron stores, and immune system. Both calcium and vitamin D are critical; breast milk tends to be a poor source of vitamin D for baby simply because most women tend not to have optimum levels of vitamin D. Aim to get at least 2,000 IU of vitamin D per day. Some recent studies have shown that higher amounts may be necessary to get an adequate level in breast milk. Discuss possibly checking your vitamin D levels with your doctor.
We can’t stress rest enough. In the first three months of motherhood, you are pretty much guaranteed to be sleep-deprived, so try to sleep when your baby sleeps. We know it can be tempting to try to get as many things done as you can while your infant is asleep, but this is the best time to rest and rejuvenate yourself. Take the time you need to relax—you’ve earned it.
- Ask for Help
You’ve already made the long pregnancy journey to motherhood. You don’t need to take on the rest by yourself! If you can pump and have some bottles of milk ready to go, you can ask your partner, parents, or in-laws to help you with feeding from time to time. Have your family help you with some of the things you’d normally do, whether it be running errands or chores around the house. And if you’re feeling overwhelmed, speak up and let your family or friends know! Don’t be afraid to call or make an appointment with your doctor. Being a mom doesn’t mean you need to be Super Woman all by yourself—reach out and ask for help.
You’re Doing Great!
As you welcome a new addition to your family, remember that you’ve got this! Being a mother may not be easy, and no matter how many kids you have, there will always be new challenges to face. But nobody said you had to have everything figured out! We know you’ll do your very best to love and care for your little one so that he/she is the healthiest and happiest baby they can be. The best way we can support you now is with the nutrition you need for your postnatal journey. Find out how to customize Meology™ Prenatal to address your specific needs and concerns.