There is a 4th trimester that most people don't know about. It's not widely spoken about or acknowledged in Western society. It really is the most fundamental portion of your entrance into parenthood though. Not only are you personally going through many physical, emotional, and mental changes, so is your baby. And since the 4th trimester is not properly valued in America, most new parents are not prepared for what hits.
During the postpartum period many changes and introductions are taking place. Caring for your new self, caring for your new baby, learning how to soothe, change, feed, and understand your new human is a lot. Not only are there many new things to learn, but the demands are non-stop. Babies eat every 3 hours, timed from the beginning of the last feed.
The typical 0-3 month baby routine looks something like this: Baby wakes up, change diaper, re-swaddle, prepare bottle if necessary, feed for 10 min, burp for 5 min, feed for 10 min, burp for 5 min, feed for 10 min, burp and hold baby upright for at least 20 min for proper digestion, and soothe baby back to sleep if needed. That entire routine generally takes 40-60+ min. Then you lay back down and baby might wake again, fussing with gas possibly, or you just can't fall right back asleep because you're UP now. And the process will begin again on only 1-2 hours time. There's no denying it's exhausting.
No one really knows how it feels to be running on a few hours a sleep each day until they are forced to endure it. In the midst of all of the new demands, and extreme hormonal changes, the lack of sleep can put a real damper on the joys of becoming a new parent.
That's where a night "nurse" comes in. This role is typically not performed by an actual nurse, is also sometime referred to as night nanny, and is typically performed by a postpartum doula. This person comes to your home in the evening and cares for your baby through the night while you sleep undisturbed (or almost if you're breastfeeding). She soothes the baby every time they wake, she feeds at each feeding (unless you are exclusively breastfeeding she will bring baby to you for a quick breastfeeding session), she changes all the diapers, swaddles, prepares bottles, and might even fold some laundry or do some dishes while you sleep. When you wake up in the morning from a full night's rest and to a happy baby, you'll feel like a million bucks and far more prepared to happily take on the day.
If you're an exhausted new parent you know how amazing this sounds. If you're not yet an exhausted parent, you will see the value in this when you are in the throws of caring for a newborn in the 4th trimester. Sleep is critical to your overall health which must be prioritized so you can be the best parent and actually enjoy your new baby and these fleeting moments, rather than feeling like you can't catch a break. In addition for caring for you newborn, you MUST care for yourself and although it feels like that is optional at this time, it is absolutely NOT optional.
A Postpartum Doula helps you put yourself first so you in turn, can care for your baby in the healthiest, most enjoyable way. In addition to baby, you will personally have constant needs too; food to nourish your body and keep your energy, water to help you recover and create the milk supply your baby needs, rest to rejuvenate, help around the house so you can sit still and bond with baby, guidance on recovery, feeding, and caring for baby, identifying issues and seeking appropriate care, and your Postpartum Doula will help with all of that. When your Postpartum Doula is with you during the day, she is essentially your assistant during the 4th trimester to help you care for yourself and baby so everyone remains healthy, happy, and enjoys this very special time together.
Whether you are pregnant and preparing for this monumental life change, or in the throws of it now, if this sounds like something that could help you be a healthier, happier parent, explore your local options and chat with a Postpartum Doula about how she can support you and your family through this pivotal time.