What is the fourth trimester? Your guide to adjusting for you + your baby

In the fourth trimester, your baby is going through a massive environment transition.


The world of pregnancy is often split into three separate stages: The first trimester, the second trimester and the third trimester.

After that, you zip off to the hospital or birth center (or a room for your home birth,) and after several grueling hours, you give birth to your sweet little angel. You're taught a few educational lessons by your nurse or doula, handed your swaddled baby, patted on the head, and sent on your merry way feeling both excited and terrified.

While most people only consider childbirth to have three trimesters, we've come to find there is another trimester most people don't know about—it's called the "fourth trimester."

The fourth trimester is comprised of a few essential components and phases, and we're giving you tips on how to best transition yourself and your baby through this next stage.

What exactly is the fourth trimester?

The fourth trimester is the first three months after birth.

Your baby spent nine months in the comfortable home of your belly and is now a tiny little thing in a great big world. So, let's focus on two separate ideas: How to help your baby accommodate during the first three months of their life, and how to heal your body during these next three months of recovery.

The baby's fourth trimester

In the fourth trimester, your baby is going through a massive environment transition.

During the nine months of pregnancy, your baby was cradled in its amniotic sac and fluid. Now that they're here in the world, that environment is gone—and that takes some getting used to.

To help your newborn transition into this new environment in the fourth trimester, you can recreate feelings of their 'prior home.'

Recreating your baby's belly bungalow doesn't mean sticking your baby in a bath 24/7, but it does mean we can evoke the same comfort and security our baby was used to feeling in the womb.

Here are two ways to help your baby transition to their new environment:

1. Skin-to-skin contact

Immediately after birth, we are hopefully handed our babies and told to place them on our bare skin. This skin-to-skin contact calms the baby with our skin's warmth and familiarizes our baby with the smell of our skin and the sound of our voice.

2. Swaddling

Babies are used to being enveloped by fluid and your snug uterus, so having to adjust to this open space we call the world is a drastic change. Swaddling the baby in a cloth can help the baby feel as if they have more security. It is important to learn the proper technique for swaddling, so your baby feels comforted but not restricted. Ask your nurse to show you before you leave your birthplace, or try a swaddle device that helps take some of the guesswork out of it.

Your baby's development during the fourth trimester

During the first three months postpartum, your baby will be experiencing a ton of change. This change is often expressed in three ways: crying, sleeping and eating. Knowing what you can anticipate during your baby's fourth trimester will better equip you on how to handle their changes.

Here are four newborn developmental changes to anticipate during the fourth trimester:

1. Crying

Crying is said to escalate around five to six weeks and typically lessens around three months. Keep in mind that crying is your baby's only form of communication. Although you should keep an eye out to make sure nothing is significantly wrong with the baby (and remember to call your pediatrician for any questions), you can also take comfort in knowing that your newborn will cry a lot in the fourth trimester.

2. Sleeping

Babies all vary in their sleep schedules. In the first two months, babies are not able to tell the difference between day and night. During the first week, babies will typically sleep 16-18 hours throughout the day, and as they get older, they will lessen the amount of time they need to sleep.

3. Eating

Newborns typically feed once every two to three hours because their stomachs are small and digest quickly. Over the course of time, your baby will feed less frequently because their stomachs will grow and will be able to stay fuller for a longer duration of time.

4. Senses

In the womb, your baby develops their senses, but everything is a bit muted. But during the fourth trimester, their senses start to sharpen.

  • Vision: At birth, your baby's vision is blurred. As time goes on, your baby will slowly open their eyes more and start to recognize shapes until they are fully able to see. Take note of your baby's alertness. As your baby gets older, they will look around more and place focus on different things they are able to recognize.
  • Smell: We are often told to hold our baby against our bare skin during the fourth trimester to accustom our baby to our smell. This especially comes into play if you choose to breastfeed your baby. When it's time to feed, even if our baby can't see fully, they are able to recognize our scent and can search for the breast to begin feeding.
  • Hearing: It turns out that playing classical music for your baby in the womb wasn't a moot effort! Your baby is able to hear during pregnancy and has vaguely familiarized themselves with the sound of our voice. After delivery, your baby is introduced to a world full of sounds. Crying may occur if the baby is overwhelmed with senses, especially sound. Although we don't need to keep our baby in a chamber of silence, we should be aware of the surrounding noise to keep our baby comfortable.

Mama's fourth trimester

Talk about massive transitions. While your baby is adjusting to being in this world, you are adjusting to being a mother! Here is what you can anticipate and how to help yourself through this massive transformation.

Physical transition

The changes your body endures during pregnancy are nothing short of a miracle. The mere fact that women's bellies expand in order to house their little cohabitant is astounding. But these changes and the physical endurance we need to give birth take a serious toll on our bodies. For mothers, the fourth trimester should be dedicated to the physical recovery of your body.

Pelvic floor therapists specialize in helping women assess and strengthen their abdomen and pelvic region after birth. While typically, the human body is resilient and returns to its former functionality, sometimes, this restoration period doesn't happen quite as seamlessly as we'd like it. If you are experiencing incontinence, instability or back pain, these may all be signs that your pelvic region needs to be examined.

The same thing goes for your abdomen.

During pregnancy, the tissues expand, and after delivery, these tissues will typically return to their normal location. However, in certain cases, diastasis recti, or a separation in the abdomen tissues, will leave you with a protruding belly. If, after several months post-delivery, you still have a larger-than-normal belly, seek out a pelvic floor therapist or women's health provider and have them measure the width of separation occurring in your abdominal region. They should be able to tell you what is normal or not and recommend exercises and massages for more efficient recovery.

Postpartum nutrition

The fourth trimester should be a time when mothers focus on the healing of their bodies through proper diet and nutrition. As we've discussed, the process of pregnancy and giving birth is extremely taxing, and while our focus usually defaults to our newborn during this time, we also need to make ourselves a priority, especially when it comes to nutrition.

During the fourth trimester, mothers should emphasize the following three aspects of their nutrition:

1. Boosting serotonin

Postpartum depression is the most susceptible during the fourth trimester because your body is trying to rebalance its hormones and is likely sleep-deprived. There are some foods that are believed to naturally boost your serotonin levels by incorporating foods that contain tryptophan and vitamin B6 into your diet. Foods like eggs (specifically the yolks), salmon, pineapple, tofu, turkey, and nuts can all naturally help you feel happier and more energized. This being said, if you have any concerns about your mental health, seek medical treatment or therapy right away.

2. Regulating the digestive system

Unfortunately, constipation and hemorrhoids are common during the fourth trimester. To regulate your digestion, stay hydrated and eat enough fiber. Foods like flaxseed, berries, oatmeal, ripe bananas, and fermented foods (like yogurt, kimchi, and sauerkraut) can help regulate the digestive tract.

3. Finding a wholesome nutrition supplement

During the fourth trimester, healing our bodies through the vitamins, minerals and nutrients, we receive through food is essential. During birth, women have significant blood loss, which is why maintaining healthy levels of iron is so important. Having efficient protein is also a must in order to rebuild our muscles and overall strength. A good way to ensure we reach our daily nutrition is to find a clean, healthy nutritional supplement. You should keep taking your prenatal vitamin, and consider speaking with your provider about additional recommendations for your specific needs.

In This Article

    The HATCH Mama collection is everything your pregnant body needs right now

    Their oil is the only thing that stopped my belly from itching as it grew bigger.

    Conz Preti

    Let me start by saying I'm not a fan of moisturizing. I hate being wet and sticky and after applying product to my body, I have to stand around awkwardly until I'm fully air-dried—a practice that is not compatible with having three kids under the age of 3. However, as someone who has carried three children in her body, I also know how much your belly needs hydration as the baby grows.

    This was especially true with my second pregnancy. My belly popped way sooner (a thing that happens with subsequent pregnancies) and on top of that, I was carrying twins, which meant I became super pregnant super fast. My belly was itching constantly from the skin stretching (I checked with my doctor to make sure I didn't have Cholestasis) and there was no scratching in the world that could ease my discomfort. My doula recommended the HATCH Mama belly oil and changed my life. The oil is nourishing—but more important to me, quick-drying—so I could apply it all over my planet-sized twin belly and get dressed immediately after without having my clothes ruined nor stuck to my body. Because of how much I loved the oil, I tested other products, and let me tell you, they're all equally amazing.

    Curious about the HATCH Mama collection? All of their products are non-toxic and mama-safe, designed to help pregnant people overcome the challenges unique to pregnancy. As their website claims, "from stretch marks to thinning hair, to sleepless nights, we're helping you tackle every prenatal and postnatal beauty issue head-on so you can continue to feel like the best version of you." I'm here for all of this. For the entire Hatch Beauty collection click here.

    Here are my favorite products from HATCH Mama:

    Belly oil


    Intensely hydrating + fantastic at reducing the appearance of stretch marks and scars, this will be your favorite through pregnancy + beyond.


    Belly mask

    HATCH COLLECTION  Belly Mask Set

    Not only does it help to minimize the appearance of stretch masks + scars during pregnancy + postpartum, but there is a little non-toxic wink (and that's to you, mama.)


    Nipple + lip ointment 

    HATCH COLLECTION  Nipple + Lip

    Calming + soothing, this magic sauce is lanolin-free & made of tropical butters and super fruits. I'm not lying when I say you will not want to stop using this, even way after birth.


    Belly tattoos

    HATCH COLLECTION  Belly Tattoos

    A very rock and roll way to honor your bump. And non-toxic + plant-based at that!


    This article was originally published in March 2021. It has been updated.

    We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.


    Motherly created the flexible online birth class moms need

    The Motherly Birth Class is completely online, which means you can take the class at your own pace.

    Taking a birth class is a pregnancy milestone. Whether you've been excited to take a birth class for a long time or have just recently decided that you wanted to take one, sitting down for that first lesson feels big—spoiler alert, this is really happening! But finding time for a birth class isn't as easy as it would seem.

    We know new parents are busy (hello, understatement of the year). Between diaper changes, pediatrician appointments, healing from birth and the general adjustment to #newparentlife, the days can fill up quickly. But a lot of people are caught off guard by how busy pregnancy can be, too! That first trimester is so often full of symptoms—like nausea and fatigue—that can make previously easy or simple tasks exhausting. The second trimester begins and (usually) we start to feel better. But then our days get filled with planning out baby registries and deciding on questions like, "Where will this tiny new human sleep?" And before you know it, it's the third trimester—and, well, then you're in the home stretch. Plus there are so many appointments!

    All this to say that we get how busy you are—and how hard that might make it to fit in a birth class.

    And that's why we created The Motherly Birth Class. The Motherly Birth Class is completely online, which means you can take the class at your own pace.

    Think you'll want to watch each lesson a few times over? Great!

    Due date's next week and you need the option to take a birth class very quickly? No problem!

    Like everything at Motherly, we designed this class with you in mind.

    Taught by Certified Nurse-Midwife Diana Spalding (who also wrote "The Motherly Guide to Becoming Mama"), this class is broken into 12 lessons—and you get to control how and when you watch them. We'll teach you about what your (amazing) body is up to in labor, how to decide when it's time to head to the hospital or birth center (or when to call your home birth midwife), what your options are for coping with pain and so much more.

    When you sign up for The Motherly Birth Class, you'll get access to a downloadable workbook and meditations. Plus, you'll be invited to join our supportive private online community (where you can chat with the class instructor!)

    Oh, one more thing: Your insurance or flexible spending account might even able to able to cover the cost of this class.

    Pregnancy is wonderful—but it's a lot. You deserve a birth class that works for you and empowers you to have your best birth. Because vaginal or Cesarean, unmedicated or medication, birth is incredible. And you are the star of it all.

    You've got this.

    Sign up for The Motherly Birth Class today!

    The Motherly Birth Class


    Take our completely digital birth class from the comfort of your living room. We'll help you have your best birth—because you deserve it.


    We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.


    This post is sponsored by BABYBJÖRN. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.


    14 toys that will keep your kids entertained inside *and* outside

    They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

    Keeping kids entertained is a battle for all seasons. When it's warm and sunny, the options seem endless. Get them outside and get them moving. When it's cold or rainy, it gets a little tricker.

    So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of the best toys for toddlers and kids that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, many are Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

    From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these indoor outdoor toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

    Secret Agent play set


    This set has everything your little secret agent needs to solve whatever case they might encounter: an ID badge, finger scanner, walkie-talkie handset, L-shaped scale and coloring comic (a printable file is also available for online download) along with a handy belt to carry it all along. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.


    Mini golf set

    Plan Toys mini golf set

    Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.


    Stepping Stones


    Kiddos can jump, stretch, climb and balance with these non-slip stepping stones. The 20-piece set can be arranged in countless configurations to create obstacle courses, games or whatever they can dream up.


    Wooden doll stroller

    Janod wooden doll stroller

    Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.


    Sand play set

    Plan Toys sand set

    Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.


    Sensory play set


    Filled with sand or water, this compact-sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.


    Vintage scooter balance bike

    Janod retro scooter balance bike

    Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.


    Foam pogo stick


    Designed for ages 3 and up, My First Flybar offers kiddos who are too young for a pogo stick a frustration-free way to get their jump on. The wide foam base and stretchy bungee cord "stick" is sturdy enough to withstand indoor and outdoor use and makes a super fun addition to driveway obstacle courses and backyard races. Full disclosure—it squeaks when they bounce, but don't let that be a deterrent. One clever reviewer noted that with a pair of needle-nose pliers, you can surgically remove that sucker without damaging the base.




    Whether they're digging up sand in the backyard or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? It's made from recycled plastic milk cartons.


    Hopper ball

    Hopper ball

    Burn off all that extra energy hippity hopping across the lawn or the living room! This hopper ball is one of the top rated versions on Amazon as it's thicker and more durable than most. It also comes with a hand pump to make inflation quick and easy.


    Pull-along ducks


    There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.


    Rocking chair seesaw


    This built-to-last rocking seesaw is a fun way to get the wiggles out in the grass or in the playroom. The sturdy design can support up to 77 pounds, so even older kiddos can get in on the action.


    Baby forest fox ride-on

    janod toys baby fox ride on

    Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.


    Meadow ring toss game

    Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

    Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.


    We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.


    When you ask any two mamas to share their experience with breastfeeding, you are bound to get very unique answers. That's because while the act of breastfeeding is both wonderful and natural, it also comes with a learning curve for both mothers and babies.

    In some cases, breastfeeding won't be the right path for everyone. But with the right tools, resources and social support systems, we can make progress toward the American Academy of Pediatrics' recommendation to continue breastfeeding through the first year of a child's life. After all, breastfeeding helps nourish infants, protects them against illnesses, develops their immune systems and more. Not to mention that mothers who breastfeed experience reduced risk for breast and ovarian cancer, type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure.

    With National Breastfeeding Awareness Month this month, it's a great time for mamas (and expectant mamas!) to gather the supplies that will support their feeding journey—whether it looks like exclusively breastfeeding, pumping or combo-feeding.

    Customflow™ Double Electric Breast Pump

    Designed for regular use, this double electric breast pump allows mamas to customize the cycle and vacuum settings that work for them. The 100% SoftShape™ silicone shields on this pump form-fit to a wide range of breast shapes and sizes—which means more comfortable, more efficient pumping. And every pump comes with two complete Dr. Brown's Options+ bottles, giving you everything you need to go from pumping to feeding.


    Dr. Brown’s™ Breast Milk Collection Bottles

    There's no need to cry over spilled milk—because it won't happen with these storage bottles! Make the pump-to-feeding transition simpler with Dr. Brown's Milk Collection Bottles. The bottles adapt to Dr. Brown's electric pumps to easily fill, seal and transport, and they work with Dr. Brown's bottle and nipple parts when your baby's ready to eat. (Meaning no risky pouring from one bottle to another. 🙌)


    Breast Milk Storage Bags

    With an extra-durable design and double zip seal, your breast milk will stay fresh and safe in the fridge or freezer until it's needed. Plus, the bags are easy to freeze flat and then store for up to six months, so your baby can continue drinking breast milk long after you are done nursing.


    Silicone One-Piece Breast Pump with Options+™ Bottle & Bag

    Here's something they don't tell you about breastfeeding ahead of time: While feeding your baby on one side, the other breast may "let down" milk, too. With this one-piece Silicone Breast Pump, you don't have to let those precious drops go to waste. The flexible design makes pouring the milk into a bottle stress-free.


    Dr. Brown’s® Manual Breast Pump

    No outlet in sight? No worries! With this powerful-yet-gentle Manual Breast Pump, you can get relief from engorgement, sneak in some quick midnight pumping or perform a full pumping session without any electricity needed. With Dr. Brown's 100% silicone SoftShape™ Shield, the hand-operated pump is as comfortable as it is easy to use. Complete with Dr. Brown's® Options+™ Anti-Colic Wide-Neck Bottle, a storage travel cap and cleaning brush, consider this the breastfeeding essential for any mama who has places to go.


    Options+™ Anti-Colic Baby Bottle

    With the soft silicone nipple and natural flow design of these bottles, your baby can easily switch between breast and bottle. Clinically proven to reduce colic thanks to the vent, your baby can enjoy a happy tummy after feeding sessions—without as much spit-up, burping or gas! By mimicking the flow and feel of the breast, these bottles help support your breastfeeding experience.


    This post is sponsored by Dr. Brown's. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

    Our Partners

    Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard admit they 'wait for the stink' before bathing their kids

    Just like Ashton and Mila, Kristen and Dax don't bathe their kids every day either.

    Kristen Bell/Instagram

    Last week, Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis admitted that they only bathe their kids when they can "see the dirt," which, honestly, we get it. Babies usually love bath time. But toddlers and kids, though? Not so much. Sometimes that's a fight that leaves us parents just waving that white flag of surrender. Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard agree.

    In an appearance on The View this week, they discussed the topic of bathing their daughters Lincoln, 8, and Delta, 6 and how their routine has changed through the years.

    "We bathed our children every single night — prior to bed is like the routine," Shepard said. "And then somehow, they just started going to sleep on their own without the routine, and by George, we had to start saying, 'Hey, when's the last time you bathed them?'"

    Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard Talk Body Image, Parenting and Couple's Therapy | The View www.youtube.com

    Ha! Bell agreed, admitting that sometimes they forget. To be fair, it's also especially easy to let things like that slip a little more often during the summer when most families don't have the more rigid routines that the school year dictates.

    Shepard said sometimes they let "five, six days" pass in between baths, but he says he doesn't think they smell. To which Bell politely (and hilariously) disagreed.

    "Well, they do sometimes," she shared. "Once you catch a whiff, that's biology's way of letting you know you need to clean it up."

    She says that waiting for the stink, or, in other words, Mother Nature's Way Of Letting You Know Your Kids Need Soap And Water STAT, is her way of knowing that her kids should probably scrub up.

    "There's a red flag, because honestly, it's just bacteria," she said. "And once you get the bacteria, you gotta be like, 'Get in the tub or the shower.' So I don't hate what they're doing. I wait for the stink."

    For what it's worth, the American Academy of Pediatrics says you definitely don't need to bathe your babies every day—because it's very easy for their delicate skin to dry out. And the American Academy of Dermatology Association suggests kids ages 6-11 should bathe at least once a week.

    Interestingly, Kunis and Kutcher discussed the topic of dirty, stinky kids (I kid, I kid) on Shepard's podcast, where the topic kind of blew up and became a national parental dialogue. Kunis said she didn't bathe her kids, Demetri and Wyatt, "ever." And Kutcher backed her up, saying that they only bathe their kids "if you can see the dirt on them."

    Personally, I don't usually let more than two nights pass in between baths these days because my kids sweat all day, play in the dirt, and get chlorine build-up in their hair and layers of sunscreen slathered on their skin. But there are absolutely some nights where it's a "warm washcloth to the dirty parts" kind of night because we're all tired and cranky.

    On the flip side, many people on social media have pointed out it's important to note how white privilege plays a role here, and that Black parents and other parents of color likely wouldn't receive the same funny, "oh it's no big deal" reaction as white parents do. Activist, author, and MSNBC contributor Brittany Packnett shared the below tweet:

    As a white parent myself, I agree that it's absolutely necessary to acknowledge privilege in every way it presents itself—especially in parenting.

    The bottom line for kid-bathing, though: whatever works for you and your kids without sacrificing their basic needs—do that.

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