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What new moms should know about the ‘fifth trimester’

This is the time the working mom is born. 

What  new moms should know about the ‘fifth trimester’

For babies and mamas alike, the “fourth trimester” is a monumental transition: The newborns are adjusting to life outside the womb and, as parents, our lives suddenly revolve around making sure the baby’s needs are met.


When I was experiencing this with my first baby, there were days when it seemed like the outside world ceased to exist. All of my energy was poured into parenting and figuring out how to overcome the steep learning curve.

Then, all at once, maternity leave ended and I again had to make a big transition.

In her book The Fifth Trimester, Lauren Smith Brody describes this as the time “the working mom is born”—which can be just as intimidating of a process as the newborn phase.

Through research, discussions with experts and interviews with more than 700 working moms, Brody says trepidation during this time is a universal feeling. “No matter how ambitious they were, everyone had this blib of, ‘I think I’m going to need to quit my job,’” Brody, a former executive editor with Glamour, tells Motherly. “For some people that was a couple months long. For others, it was an hour, a bad meeting, a bad day.”

Amplifying that anxiety for many women is, unfortunately, the pressure to return to work before they feel prepared. As Brody found through her research, it takes new moms an average of 22 weeks postpartum to feel physically “normal” and a full 24 weeks before they feel better emotionally.

Yet, the average length of (largely unpaid) maternity leave for women Smith Brody surveyed was 8.5 weeks. Other research analyzing data from the Department of Labor shows one in four new moms returns to work less than two weeks after baby’s birth.

For many, challenges persist when back in the workplace due to inadequate pumping breaks, after-hours demands and children’s inevitable sick days.

Unfair as it may be to assign yet another responsibility to new moms, Brody says the reality is we’re the ones in the position to affect more family-friendly policies—and much of that starts with being transparent about the merger of motherhood and work.

“Often there are so many things that new mother say they didn’t realize were happening for moms until they go through it themselves,” Brody says.

Although she acknowledges the “the last person” you want to place more of a burden on is a new mom, Brody says we can inspire positive changes simply by making motherhood more visible.

For starters, she suggests women let coworkers know, yes, you are pumping, but also using that time to catch up on emails. Or explain why you can’t make the early meeting, but would be glad to dial into a conference call during your commute.

Awkward as this may first seem, Brody says to remember it is not your fault you have to negotiate. “Everywhere else in the world this is handled culturally for you,” she says, adding it likely isn’t your boss’s or industry’s fault, either.

But this challenge is also an opportunity for us to find purpose.

“It’s really important and very bolstering to know that even being open about your parenthood in the workplace will make the culture better for you, and your next baby and everyone around you,” she says. “It is something we can work together on an individual level to really make a change.”

Just as important is internalizing that you are as—if not even more—capable of an employee. (Research proves it.) Knowing that, Brody says, can help give moms confidence in the moments when returning to work initially feels impossible.

And, in time, the new normal will work itself out.

“What’s uncomfortable about a new situation is the unknown,” Brody says. “But you will be able to look back on what you’ve gotten through and that will fuel you.”

The Fifth Trimester: The Working Mom's Guide to Style, Sanity, and Big Success After Baby is currently available on Amazon. Brody also advocates for better workplace policies for parents through corporate speaking engagements.

We're so glad to live in a time when modern baby gear exists. Sure, no one is going to argue that having a baby is easy—but it can be easier with support from some gadgets designed to help your baby and put your mind at ease.

As you build your baby registry, look for products that go the extra mile to make your life a whole lot easier. For example, what's better than a bassinet? A bassinet that can rock by itself. And what's better than a traditional baby monitor? One that allows you to actually take a peek at your baby. Believe us when we say these upgrades can make all the difference.

Here are 10 baby gadgets that will make your life so much easier… relatively speaking, of course!


A bassinet to promote safe + sound sleep

HALO Innovations Bassinest Swivel Sleeper Essenta Series Nautical Net

The safest place for your newborn to sleep is in your room, but not in your bed. Thanks to the swivel function of the Halo Bassinest, you can easily tend to your baby during the night—which means more sleep for you, too. Trust us when we say that is the best gift you can give a new parent.

$239.99

A smart swing for your baby

4moms mamaRoo 4 Bluetooth Enabled High-Tech Baby Swing - Classic

Believe it or not, many babies are born with strong opinions about how they want to be rocked, swung or shushed to calm down. With the mamaRoo's various motions and reclining positions, you'll be able to find a setting your baby loves when you need to free up your hands for a bit.

$219.99

A complete travel system for car + sidewalk

Chicco Bravo Travel System - Indigo

No matter where the day takes you—or what mode of transportation you need to get there—getting a complete travel system for your baby will equip you for anything.

$379.99

A swaddle you don’t have to wrestle

Love To Dream Swaddle UP Original

What do babies and Harry Houdini have in common? A knack for breaking out of tight constraints—which can be a headache when swaddling is the best way to help promote good sleep. Thanks to a breakout-proof swaddle that allows your baby to sleep with their hands up, you don't have to work up a sweat just to get your baby comfortably swaddled.

$29.99

A nursery wherever you need it

Baby Trend Lil Snooze Deluxe II Nursery Center

During the early days of parenting (when you are feeding and changing your baby around the clock), having convenient access to everything you need with a go-anywhere nursery station can save you serious time and energy.

$99.99

A little help for stuffy noses

Fridababy NoseFrida Nasal Aspirator

Up until the point years down the road when your child is able to blow their own nose, the sniffles can be a real struggle—but not with a nasal aspirator that makes it easy for you to get that snot out of their nose.

$15.99

A way to keep an eye on your baby

VTech 5" Digital Video Baby Monitor - VM5251

Trust us when we say you'll sleep better when you know your baby is also sleeping soundly. That's why we're so thankful for modern-day video monitors, which allow you to check in on your sleeping baby without running the risk of waking them up when you sneak in for a peek.

$79.99

A bassinet for hands-free rocking

Simmons Kids Silent Auto Gliding Elite Bassinet - Odyssey

Babies are soothed by rocking motions. But what does that mean for you if you can't rock them throughout the night? With an auto-gliding bassinet, they can comfortably drift off to sleep... and continue snoozing.

$99.99

An easy way to contain diaper smells

Diaper Genie Expressions Pail

Sometimes it's the little conveniences that make a big difference in the quality of your day-to-day life. That's why a great diaper pail should not be undervalued: By containing the smell, you will save yourself dozens upon dozens of trips to the garbage can.

$24.99

A white noise machine that pulls double duty

Hatch Rest Sound Machine, Night Light & Time-to-Rise

A phone-controlled sound machine may be something you never considered until now, but it will be a major lifesaver for years to come, especially as it can also function as a time-to-rise clock that promotes good sleep habits for your child.

$59.99

And as for securing all these awesome products? Well, a Target baby registry is the way to do it. By creating your baby registry with Target, you will also enjoy their Year of Benefits registry program, which includes perks like a welcome kit with more than $100 in savings and samples, two 15% off coupons to complete your registry, and a full year of returns. The benefits are better than ever right now: Target just launched the Year of Exclusive Deals perk as one of its registry benefits, and this includes a year's worth of discounts on baby essentials (think diapers and formula) and comes complementary when you sign up for Target Circle.

Because while parenting may not be "easy," deciding to register with Target definitely is an easy decision. Start your Target baby registry now and enjoy shopping with a Year of Benefits featuring a Year of Exclusive Deals available via Target Circle, two 15% off coupons, a year of hassle-free returns, a free welcome kit and more!

This article was sponsored by Target. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

Our Partners

Every week, we stock the Motherly Shop with innovative and fresh products from brands we feel good about. We want to be certain you don't miss anything, so to keep you in the loop, we're providing a cheat sheet.

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Earth Mama: Effective, natural herbal care for mamas and babies

Founded and grown in her own garage in 2002, Earth Mama started as an operation of one, creating salves, tinctures, teas and soaps with homegrown herbs. With a deep desire to bring the healing powers of nature that have been relied on for thousands of years to as many mamas as possible, Melinda Olson's formulas quickly grew into Earth Mama Organics. Since then, the brand has remained committed to manufacturing clean, safe and effective herbal solutions for the entire journey of motherhood, including pregnancy, breastfeeding and baby care, and even the loss of a baby.

Bravado Designs: Soothing sounds for a good night's sleep

With 28 years of serving pregnant and postpartum mamas under their belt, Bravado Designs is a true authority on the needs of changing bodies. It's true that we have them to thank for rescuing us from the uncomfortable and frumpy designs our own moms had to live with. Launched in Canada by two young mamas, they designed the first prototypes with extra leopard print fabric certain that a better bra was possible. Throughout the years they've maintained their commitment to ethical manufacturing while creating long-lasting products that truly work.

The Sill: Instagram-ready potted plants

We've long admired this female-founded brand and the brilliant mind behind it, Eliza Blank. (She even joined Motherly co-founder Liz Tenety on and episode of The Motherly Podcast!) The mission behind the business was simple: To make the process of bringing plants into your home as easy as possible, and as wonderful as the plant themselves. With their in-house, exclusively designed minimalist planters, the end result makes plant parenthood just a few clicks away.

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Just about all of us had set assumptions about raising kids before we became parents ourselves.

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1. Put your baby down drowsy, but awake

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