Fourth Trimester – Postpartum Recovery

L-R : 37 weeks / 1 week postpartum / 8 weeks / 15 months

Postpartum in your fourth trimester is HUGE. It is your road to physical recovery, adjusting to parenthood and figuring out life again after the delivery. Some may begin feeling overwhelmed by external pressure from their family’s do’s and don’ts or other moms’ advises even before reaching home.

No, no, no. no. YOU TAKE YOUR TIME.

I know it feels like you are expected to somehow naturally know what to do. But no one figures it out all at once. “Why is my baby crying?” “Why am I unable to soothe them?” “What am I not doing right?“ All these are questions that every parent will ask. Please don’t worry if you just do not understand what you baby needs. In time, trust me. YOU WILL be good at this what-my-baby-needs guessing game.

So what happens after you bring your baby home?

Becoming parents will change your routine as a couple and you will find the balance between work and family again. It is important for you prepare your mind mentally on what’s ahead of you. And as you are charting new territory, knowing a few things beforehand can make it easier to navigate through this new chapter.

Create a safe place for you to transition
I like to think of the first month confinement period a good excuse for not having visitors over. Limiting visitors to people that you can trust having support from can also be limiting unnecessary comments and judgement that may affect you emotionally. Having visitors over can wait. You will find that when you are physically stronger and am comfortable with your baby’s “sort-of” routine, you will be more ready to take visitors and be out there again.

Be patient with your body
People do underestimate how much your body goes through pregnancy and after delivering your baby just because they cannot physically see the changes that’s happening IN your body. Hence, many moms receive insensitive comments about their weight, body or baby all the time. But in fact, there are many things that happens in your body to grow your baby over the 9 months. The skin has to stretch, your intestine is not where it use to be and hormones have to recalibrate to make room to grow a human being in you. Most women go through physical changes during pregnancy – weight gain, bloated legs, bloated face and pregnancy symptoms are no joke. All these do not go away instantly after your baby arrives and you definitely do not spring back to your pre-pregnancy body immediately after giving birth. Stop googling postpartum body images or compare yours with another mom’s recovery speed. Your body will heal in its time. Give yourself grace to wait and let your body heal properly. Your body is created to know what it is suppose to do. You need physical sleep, mental strength and emotional support to help your body, mind and soul to help you be the best caregiver you can be.

Everyone has a different breast-feeding journey
It is perfectly normal if yours is different from another mom. Please do not feel bad if you do not have enough milk supply and if you give your child formula. Formula is God-sent and it exists for a reason. I think stressing about the milk you feed your baby is unnecessary, and the goal should be, “Is my child getting all the nutrients he/she needs?“

The beginning of breastfeeding may be painful
According to the nurses, Hailey had a great latch immediately when she did her first skin-to-skin experience. For me, I could not feed her soon after delivery because she was taken for a 4-hour observation (she was vacuumed and had to be observed before she was returned to us). When she came back, she was so hungry and each feeding session was long and painful. My nipples got sore very quickly, cracked and bled. I was told to apply breast milk and nipple cream provided some temporary comfort, but because she was feeding so frequent, it could not heal completely. It was painful. Once she was back home, she was on formula while I nurse my nipples back. Just in time before my milk supply came. For the first few pumps, it was a slight strawberry colour due to my nipple bleeding. I stopped and once it was healed fully, I started pumping again on a low suction and slowly built the suction level up. Many people find direct latching best, some pump, and some use formula. I gave them all a try and found pumping really helpful as it allowed Ming Han and others to feed Hailey and I was thankful that she took the bottle really well (heard some babies would reject the bottle). When my supply was not enough on certain days, I would sub with formula. And on good days, I’ll have extra to store for the next day. I never had excess storage to be kept frozen. I was fine with both breastfed and formula-fed and it helped when I didn’t stress too much about it.

There will be many people out there who will not agree with your choices
And it’s ok. Let go of the things that does not bring you or your family joy. Trust your instinct and whatever decision you choose that is for the benefit of your child, you and your husband’s sanity, run with it.

You will not get much rest in the beginning
Hailey was feeding hourly, and then every 2 hours. In her second month, her sleeping slowly dragged on to 3 hours and started sleeping 6 hours at night. By her fourth month, she was eating every 5 hours and sleeping 9 hours at night. We did not sleep train at all, but we monitored how much she was consuming and the duration and experimented feeding her at certain times. Night feeds during the hourly and 2-hour feeding clock was not fun. In fact, the first 2 weeks after our confinement lady left, it was brutal! By mid 2nd month, both of us were so heavily sleep deprived and we would take shifts. He would do the midnight – 3am, and I would do the 5am onwards.

Feeding Tips:

  1. We use our Notes app (both iPhone users) to share all the timings she was fed, time we changed her diaper and when she poops. Whoever wakes up next to do the feeding and then check the app if we left each other any notes without having to wake the other up to ask. Trust me, when you are so tired you will not remember the last time she was fed, because she eats up to 12x a day.
  2. I found sleeping with my glasses and wearing a digital watch was the most efficient way of knowing what time it was instead of reaching out for my phone each time. It’s funny but if you are blind without your glasses, you will know what I mean.
  3. I found using formula at night really helpful. I would keep 4 pre-filled bottles by my bedside and portion out the formula in a formula dispenser. I also keep a bottle warmer by my bedside, so that I can warm up the water before mixing in the milk powder.
  4. We used a sidebed crib which nests next to our queen-size bed. It made feeding so easy compared to having a full-sized crib where you will need to get up and walk to the crib to pick her up. This worked out great and we did not need to co-sleep with her on the same bed.
  5. One thing I did once I would roughly gauge what time she will be eating. (I did bm in the morning and formula at night, but all bottle feeding) I would prep her milk 10-15 minutes before her next feed and the moment she gave an early hungry signal I would feed her before she cried. After repeatedly doing it over the month, she seems to know when she is hungry, milk is near and she would fuss without crying. It is extra work on our side, but developing good habits from the start can be a good foundation to cultivating other habits later on.

All this of course changed after the fourth month and will continue to change past 1 year old 🙂 By then, you will be a pro at adapting to changes. Till today, Hailey still wakes up for her night feeds (15 months). hah

Having extra help around is good
Do not feel like you need to do everything on your own and if you asked for help, you are weak. Not everyone is able to get enough help in the early weeks. For us, having a confinement nanny in the first month was God-sent! We had extra pair of hands from both our parents who helped with groceries and Ming Han was full-on hands on deck. Husbands can help by doing night feeds. You not only create a stronger bond with your child before going back to work, but with your spouse by being present and not be afraid to help out during this time. When our confinement lady left and while I was taking care of Hailey alone, our families were a BIG help. Things like buying food and groceries, running errands, looking after baby for a few hours in the day so I could nap help relieve a lot of stress while I cope with your day-to-day and new baby. For food, I had catering for the next 2 months and for cleaning, I had someone to come and help with cleaning once a month. That lifted my weight and helped me focus on taking care of Hailey.

What happens to your body after delivering your baby?

My whole body was exhausted from the delivery and my body was functioning with lil sleep the first 2 nights. My hoo-haa stitches took up to two weeks to heal, and for the first few days, my walking was very slow and I would be sitting carefully on a donut cushion. On the day I came back from the hospital, I would feel dizzy if I was standing too long. I wanted to unpack our bags, wash all the items from the hospital, and organise the mess but my whole body just didn’t have the energy to do anything. So my mom helped . I sat on the couch and told her where things went and she sorted out everything. The confinement lady took over and took care of Hailey while I lied down to rest. Lesson: Plan what you can before you deliver so that it is easier to rest once you get home.

I thought I would be the 1% of not having stretched marks during pregnancy, but I was wrong. I did not get any stretch marks till the 37th week onwards. My belly grew the biggest and had a growth spurt in the last few weeks. I tell new moms… do not be shock of your belly after delivery. It will be flat when you lie down, and you will look 4 months pregnant when you stand up. It will look really strange, feel weird but it will not stay like that forever. No one told me about it, and I would say that seeing how my belly looked and felt after delivery was the biggest shock. The feeling all the loose skin and how weirdly shaped it was when I stood up was not something I was mentally prepared for. But I had to remind myself to give my body time. By week 6, I could see a significant change in my body. 3 months in, my ring fits again and so did my old clothes. A year in now, my belly is not exactly the same that it was pre pregnancy. I do a flat tummy, but it still wrinkle slightly when I bend over. Not all moms get that, but majority of us do. And it is perfectly ok.

I was 42kg pre pregnancy and gained close to 17kg throughout my pregnancy (59kg). I gradually lost weight naturally over the months. A year in, I’m not back to my pre pregnancy weight but it took me close to a year to finally feel like I’m 100% myself again. I think it’s important for all moms to know that it’s okay to give your body time to bounce back to where you want it to be. Aim to stay healthy and happy (and tune away from insensitive comments from others)

Weight transition:
2 weeks post partum: 52kg
8 weeks post partum: 49kg
12 weeks post partum: 48kg
16 weeks post partum: 46kg

Do not forget to do something for yourself
I think it is good to carve some time out of the first few months to get some pampering done… Get a haircut, get your nails done or have a massage – anything to make you feel a lil more like yourself and have a lil break 🙂

Document baby progress
Your baby will grow so fast even though the days will feel very slow. I am so glad I updated her progress on my Instagram / IG Stories. I tell my friends to save all their IG stories into a highlight (up to 100 stories per highlight) and download them (it will be a 10-12mins video). Till date, Hailey has about 30 videos from the day she was born and that is something I am so glad I did. It is quick and easy once you get use to it.

If you would like to see some of our baby fav items during Hailey’s first year, visit this page

Postpartum Essentials

Postpartum recovery was on my mind a lot before Hailey was born. I’m so glad I had these all prepared in the bathroom because they helped me go through the first few weeks and I want to share them with all moms out there. Below are my postpartum essentials that were really useful for me, especially in the early weeks

  1. Pureen Madame Maternity Pads – These super long pads are great for absorbing your heavier flow esp for the first few days of heavy bleeding. Yup it is 9 months of no period coming back at you. hah I I also bought some thin pads but for heavy flow at hand to use when the bleeding gets lighter (you don’t want to wear such a thick pad out of the house).

  2. Earth Mama Organics Perineal spray – This spray, the balm and witch-hazel pads were my holy trinity when it came to keeping my hoo-haa clean at all times. Using the bathroom right after delivering naturally can be scary. (I was so terrified I didn’t want to drink any water or eat anything in case i needed to pee and poop. But I was silly, cause it didn’t hurt). Hah KEEP THIS WITH YOU AT ALL TIMES. Just spray this (yes upside down) to clean your hoo-haa and use tissue to dab gently. This gives you a cooling sensation down there and it will provide some comfort.

  3. Earth Mama Organics Perineal balm – After applying the perineal spray, I’ll apply this and follow with the witch-hazel pads.

  4. Witch-hazel pads – Any witch-hazel product is going to soothe down there. I would place this in the refrigerator to keep it cold. You can line it along your pad before wearing it. Trust me, it’s the best feeling ever and it will provide great comfort especially for the first few days.

  5. Sit in a shallow basin of Epsom Sea Salt – Watch the demo if you have no idea what it is but you can use a normal shallow basin (just need to get the right size to rest it over the toilet bowl. Place a shallow basin and rest it over the toilet bowl. Place sea salt in it and sit on it for 10 – 20 minutes or so (watch a youtube video and time will pass by really fast :p). This will help with your healing and I had no complication with my recovery.

  6. Donut chair – This helps relieve the pressure from sitting down after delivering naturally.

  7. Nipple cream – We bought Marcalan from the hospital and it worked like a dream. Another good one is Medela Purelan 100

  8. Breast pads – Any brand will do. Once your milk flow comes and starts stabilising, these will be your good friend in case you are out and your bobbies start to leak! (yes milk will leak out / even spray out uncontrollable, i’m not joking). Also if you wear slightly fitting attire, you can use these and get away from wearing a bra.

Parenthood is a journey and it is a very exciting one. It prunes you and shapes you to be a better person and no matter how much time and strength it takes of you, you will persevere. One day at a time. You will learn soon enough that it is always best not to control any part of parenting, but be flexible and adapt as changes happen. You will see the brightest eyes looking at you with wonder because you are their superhero. You will do things you have never done before. You will learn and adapt. Some days will get the better of you. It only makes you human. But not every day will be like that. There will be so many many many happy days. As a parent of a 15-month-old toddler today, it never gets any easier. But old challenges will go and new challenges come and you will grow new superpowers to keep up with them. I know she is only one. But I always remind myself that the first five years of her life (or when she goes to school) are going to be the most precious time I will have with her. I want to connect with her, instill values and teach her all that I can.

In short, your baby is going to grow out of their clothes really fast. So, make each day count 🙂

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We purchased our home in 2019. Without an ID hire, we sourced our contractors, materials and did our own DIY home projects...

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