My First Five Years

Let's acknowledge the 12 weeks after birth as a trimester in itself - a massive period of adjustment in its own right that's just as big and importnat as all the pregnancy trimesters. You're starting a new job!

The three trimesters of pregnancy – 0-3, 3-6 and 6-9 months – are well written about, tracked and anticipated, as is the arrival of your baby. But the 12 weeks after birth – the fourth trimester – is a little more of an unacknowledged journey, perhaps because there are fewer people around you and your family may be in your own cocoon for some of it. However, when you realise this is you starting a new job – and one you’ll do for life – you might go easier on yourself (whoever nailed a job in the first 12 weeks of starting?)  


As you embark on this new role, here are some honest tips to help with the biggest period of adjustment for you and your baby to date. P.S. there’s no backing out – you’re hired!  

Ok, so there’s no/very little holiday and no pay (and it can feel overwhelming to have complete responsibility for a small human). But it’s also more important than any other job you’ll have. And what a beautiful lifelong project.


Begin this new chapter realistically and go easy on yourself. If you’ve just given birth, however your delivery went, your body and mind will need to rest and readjust. In fact, however your baby has entered your world, things will have changed dramatically, and you’ll need some calm and peace to take it all in.


Take advice, but filter it to make it work for you and your family 

Research tells us about averages, but your baby hasn't read the research! They are totally unique so will have their own patterns of sleeping, feeding, pooing, crying – everything. Keeping your baby content at all times is an unrealistic expectation. You and your baby are getting to know each other now, but some days and nights might feel harder than others, and that’s ok. 

What works for another baby might not work for yours. It's good to get ideas from other people, but sieve, filter and work it out with your baby.


Use your HR network 

Talk to your friends and family about how you feel, what you need, and even what you don’t need, i.e. people turning up at the house at 9am. Keeping a connection and reminding yourself that you are still you, is hugely important.

And do talk honestly to your health visitor or other professional if anything isn’t feeling right or comfortable. If you’re down or disheartened or just want to ask questions, they are there to help – not to check up on whether you’re doing a good enough job.

Remember: the only work appraisal you'll have is with yourself, so focus on the achievements and don't set yourself too many targets!


Negotiate offers (a.k.a. accept help) 

Only a few generations ago you most probably would have had a back-up tribe around you – an extended family, a mixture of ages and experience ready to pitch in with advice and practical support, like cooking and cleaning.

If a friend or neighbour offers to prep a meal or two, say yes. Ask someone to take a washing load to the laundrette for a service wash in exchange for a cuppa. Accept that invitation to give you a break while someone else holds your baby so you can have a bath or get some fresh air. Conversely, if you want to nail a sign to your door that says: ‘Visitors not welcome’, that’s ok too! 


Adjust to your new kit and caboodle 

Breast pads, breast pumps, bottles, bottle warmers, nipple cream, babygrows, nappies, wipes, muslins, change bags, car seats, travel systems – your accessories have taken on a whole new style and direction. They’ll take time to adjust to, but you’ll get there.


Take lots of pictures, even if you’re not photoshoot ready 

When it comes to your working wardrobe, milk or baby vom will no doubt find its way on to most things you own (wet wipes will be your new best friend). But we urge you not to worry. That’s not to say give up on looking good, just to remember to take and be in lots of photos with your baby during the fourth trimester – unbrushed hair won’t matter when you look back on them in the years to come. 


Don’t, for one second, feel guilty about just loving and staring at each other 

This is not time wasted. It’s not indulgent. We could go into all the reasons why it’s actually hugely beneficial, but suffice to say, finger grips, smelling their hair, neck and creases while you cuddle, intense gazing, first smiles, and all-round fourth trimester adoration is a MUST.


Last, but not least: SLEEP! 

Ha, well that’s a whole world of whys, whens and please can I have some mores! Our fourth trimester advice: get it whenever you can.


The My First Five Years app delves into this oh-so-important topic, along with many others, to help you see and understand your baby’s development with fresh (if tired) eyes.

 You can download it here. 

Forth Trimester