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

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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."

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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.

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When we buy baby gear we expect it to be safe, and while no parent wants to hear that their gear is being recalled we appreciate when those recalls happen as a preventative measure—before a baby gets hurt.

That's the case with the recent recall of Baby Trend's Tango Mini Stroller. No injuries have been reported but the recall was issued because a problem with the hinge joints mean the stroller can collapse with a child in it, which poses a fall risk.

"As part of our rigorous process, we recently identified a potential safety issue. Since we strongly stand by our safety priority, we have decided to voluntarily recall certain models of the Tango Mini Strollers. The recalled models, under excessive pressure, both hinge joints could release, allowing the stroller to collapse and pose a fall hazard to children. Most importantly, Baby Trend has received NO reports of injuries," the company states on its website.

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The strollers were sold through Amazon and Target in October and November 2019 and cost between $100 and $120. If you've got one you should stop using it and contact Baby Trend for a refund or replacement.

Four models are impacted by this recall:

  • Quartz Pink (Model Number ST31D09A)
  • Sedona Gray (Model Number ST31D10A)
  • Jet Black (Model Number ST31D11A)
  • Purest Blue (Model Number ST31D03A

"If you determine that you own one of these specific model numbers please stop using the product and contact Baby Trend's customer service at 1-800-328-7363 or via email at info@babytrend.com," Baby Trend states.

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[Editor's note: While Motherly loves seeing and sharing photos of baby Archie and other adorable babies when the images are shared with their parents' consent, we do not publish pictures taken without a parent's consent. Since these pictures were taken without Markle's permission while she was walking her dogs, we're not reposting them.]

Meghan Markle is a trendsetter for sure. When she wears something the world notices, and this week she was photographed wearing her son Archie in a baby carrier. The important thing to know about the photos is that they show the Duchess out for a walk with her two dogs while wearing Archie in a blue Ergo. She's not hands-free baby wearing, but rather wearing an Ergo while also supporting Archie with her arm, as the carrier isn't completely tight.

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When British tabloids published the pictures many babywearing devotees and internet commenters offered opinions on how Markle is holding her son in the photo, but as baby gear guru Jamie Grayson notes, "it is none of our business."

In a post to his Facebook page, Grayson (noted NYC baby gear expert) explained that in the last day or so he has been inundated with hundreds of messages about how Markle is wearing the carrier, and that while he's sure many who messaged with concerns had good intentions he hopes to inject some empathy into the conversation.

As Grayson points out, these are paparazzi photos, so it was a private moment not meant for world-wide consumption. "This woman has the entire world watching her every move and action, especially now that she and Harry are leaving the umbrella of the royal family, and I honestly hope they are able to find some privacy and peace. So let's give her space," he explains, adding that "while those pictures show something that is less than ideal, it's going to be okay. I promise. It's not like she's wearing the baby upside down."

He's right, Archie was safe and not in danger and who knows why the straps on Markle's carrier were loose (maybe she realized people were about to take pictures and so she switched Archie from forward-facing, or maybe the strap just slipped.)

Grayson continues: "When you are bringing up how a parent is misusing a product (either in-person or online) please consider your words. Because tone of voice is missing in text, it is important to choose your words carefully because ANYTHING can be misconstrued. Your good intentions can easily be considered as shaming someone."

Grayson's suggestions injected some much-needed empathy into this discourse and reminded many that new parents are human beings who are just trying to do their best with responsibilities (and baby gear) that isn't familiar to them.

Babywearing has a ton of benefits for parents and the baby, but it can take some getting used to. New parents can research safety recommendations so they feel confident. In Canada, where the pictures in question were snapped, the government recommends parents follow these safety guidelines when wearing infants in carriers:

  • Choose a product that fits you and your baby properly.
  • Be very careful putting a baby into—or pulling them out of—a carrier or sling. Ask for help if you need it.
  • When wearing a carrier or sling, do not zip up your coat around the baby because it increases the risk of overheating and suffocation.
  • Be particularly careful when using a sling or carrier with babies under 4 months because their airways are still developing.
  • Do not use a carrier or sling during activities that could lead to injury such as cooking, running, cycling, or drinking hot beverages.

Health Canada also recommends parents "remember to keep your baby visible and kissable at all times" and offers the following tips to ensure kissability.

"Keep the baby's face in view. Keep the baby in an upright position. Make sure the baby's face is not pressed into the fabric of the carrier or sling, your body, or clothing. Make sure the baby's chin is not pressed into their chest. Make sure the baby's legs are not bunched up against their stomach, as this can also restrict breathing. Wear the baby snug enough to support their back and hold onto the baby when bending over so they don't fall out of the carrier or sling. Check your baby often."

Meghan Markle is a new mom who was caught off guard during a moment she didn't expect her baby to be photographed. Every parent (no matter how famous) has a right to privacy for their child and the right to compassion from other parents. If we want people to learn how to safely babywear we can't shame them for trying.

Mama, if you've been shamed for wearing your baby "wrong" don't feel like you need to stop. Follow the tips above or check in with local baby-wearing groups to get advice and help. You've got this.

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At one of the most important nights of their career, celebrities made sure their hairstyles stayed put at the 26th Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Awards. As a collective, the hairstyles were beautiful—french twists, bobs, pin curls and killer cuts filled the red carpet on the night to remember.

And surprisingly, the secret wasn't just the stylist team, mama. For many of the celebs, much of the look can be attributed to a $5 hairspray—yes, you read that correctly.

Dove style+care micro mist extra hold hairspray was one of the top stylist picks for celebs for a lightweight, flexible finishing spray, leaving tons of body and bounce. Unlike most hairsprays that can take several minutes (even a half hour) to set the look, this extra-hold one contains a fast-drying, water-free formula that helps protect your hair from frizz in minutes. As a result, celebrities were able to hold the shape of their styles with mega volume.

"Dove hairspray works well by holding curls in place with maximum hold and ultra shine, while still maintaining soft, touchable texture that is easy to brush out," says Dennis Gots for Dove Hair, who styled Phoebe Waller-Bridge for the SAG Awards. Translation: It's great for on-the-go mamas who want a shiny hold that lasts, but doesn't feel sticky.

Here are a few awesome hairstyles that were finished with the drugstore Dove style+care micro mist extra hold hairspray at the SAG awards:

Lili Reinhart's French twist

"I sprayed Dove style+care micro mist extra hold hairspray all over Lili's hair to lock in the shape and boost the shine factor, making the whole look really sleek," says stylist Renato Campora who was inspired to create the look by Reinhart's romantic gown. "Lili's look is sleek and sharp with a romantic twist."

Cynthia Erivo's finger waves

"This look is classic Cynthia! I knew I wanted to keep it simple, but it's actually quite detailed and intricate up close," says stylist Coree Moreno. "While the hair was still wet (yes—I needed to work fast!) I generously spritzed on the hairspray for all night hold without flaking. The hair continued to air dry perfectly while she finished up makeup."

Nathalie Emmanuel's curly high pony

"Nathalie wanted a retro Hollywood glam for the SAG Awards, so I used her natural texture and created a high pony with loose tendrils framing her face and neckline," says stylist, Neeko. "I finessed the look with the hairspray to lock in the style while keeping her hair looking and feeling touchable."

Phoebe Waller-Bridge's slicked back bob

"I used duckbill clips on different areas of her hair to keep the shape and curl while the hair air dried. Air drying the hair allowed for maximum shine and then I sprayed lots of hairspray all over to truly lock in the sleek shape and enhance the shine," says stylist Dennis Gots, who was inspired by a 90s vibe for Waller-Bridge's look.

Dove Style+Care Micro Mist Extra Hold Hairspray

Dove Style+Care Micro Mist Extra Hold Hairspray

Who doesn't want a hairspray that makes your hair feel as good as it looks? Dove Style+Care Extra Hold Hairspray holds body, volume and enhances shine. It gives your hair touchable hold while fighting frizz, even in damp or humid conditions.

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

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We often think of the unequal gender division of unpaid labor as a personal issue, but a new report by Oxfam proves that it is a global issue—and that a handful of men are becoming incredibly wealthy while women and girls bear the burden of unpaid work and poverty.

According to Oxfam, the unpaid care work done by women and girls has an economic value of $10.8 trillion per year and benefits the global economy three times more than the entire technology industry.

"Women are supporting the market economy with cheap and free labor and they are also supporting the state by providing care that should be provided by the public sector," the report notes.

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The unpaid work of hundreds of millions of women is generating massive wealth for a couple of thousand (predominantly male) billionaires. "What is clear is that this unpaid work is fueling a sexist economic system that takes from the many and puts money in the pockets of the few," the report states.

Max Lawson is Oxfam International's Head of Inequality Policy. In an interview with Vatican News, he explained that "the foundation of unpaid work done by the poorest women generates enormous wealth for the economy," and that women do billions of hours of unpaid care work (caring for children, the sick, the elderly and cooking, cleaning) for which they see no financial reward but which creates financial rewards for billionaires.

Indeed, the report finds that globally 42% of women can't work for money because of their unpaid care responsibilities.

In the United States, women spend 37% more time doing unpaid care work than men, Oxfam America notes in a second report released in cooperation with the Institute for Women's Policy Research.

"It's an economy that is built on the backs of women and of poor women and their labour, whether it's poorly paid labour or even unpaid labour, it is a sexist economy and it's a broken economy, and you can only fix the gap between the rich and the poor if at the same time you fix the gap between women and men," Lawson explains.

According to Lawson, you can't fight economic inequality without fighting gender equality, and he says 2020 is the year to do both. Now is a great time to start, because as Motherly has previously reported, no country in the world is on track to eliminate gender inequality by 2030 (one of the Sustainable Development Goals adopted by 193 United Nations member countries back in 2015) and no country will until the unpaid labor of women and girls is addressed.

"Governments around the world can, and must, build a human economy that is feminist and benefits the 99%, not only the 1%," the Oxfam report concludes.

The research suggests that paid leave, investments in childcare and the care of older adults and people with disabilities as well as utilizing technology to make working more flexible would help America close the gap.

(For more information on how you can fight for paid leave, affordable childcare and more this year check out yearofthemother.org.)

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