6 Top Tips for Navigating the Fifth Trimester
After nine months split into three trimesters, your baby arrives. And everything snaps perfectly into place, right? Not quite. But this isn't the expectation either.. The next phase, popularly dubbed the fourth trimester, is recognized as being full of even more adjustment and change. As such, it’s common practice for friends and family to lend support (freezer meals are a popular manifestation of this assistance).
Then, after a short-yet-long 90 days, you’re a certified baby expert and ready to move right along. Wait, that’s not right, either. However, for some, it’s an assumed truth. The period after the newborn phase, and its effect on you as a parent, isn’t as widely acknowledged. Known as the fifth trimester, this time marks another major shift, especially for parents starting to work again. And it doesn’t help to enter it blindly. Much like the previous trimesters of pregnancy, it’s beneficial to go into the fifth trimester understanding what to expect. Ahead, learn more about this time period, including the top Mylicon tips for navigating it.
What is the 5th Trimester?
Pregnancy is commonly divided into three trimesters, each marked by different symptoms and progressions. After the baby arrives comes the fourth trimester, consisting of the 12 weeks post-birth. The next three months are the fifth trimester, which often coincides with the end of parental leave and mom going back to work. While this phase of parenthood has always existed, the term is relatively new. It was coined in the 2017 book, The Fifth Trimester: The Working Mom's Guide to Style, Sanity, and Success After Baby by Lauren Smith Brody.
When Does the 5th Trimester Start?
The fifth trimester comes after the newborn phase, starting when your baby is about three months old. As mentioned, this may line up with your return to work. While maternity leave lengths vary, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides eligible employees in the U.S. with up to 12 unpaid work weeks in a year.
6 Tips to Help Parents Prepare for the 5th Trimester
Chances are, your next phase of motherhood may consist of strong emotions (from you and your little one), as well as lots of efforts to balance the different facets of your life. Below, discover our best tips for easing the transition between trimesters.
Manage mom guilt
All mothers experience guilt that they’re not doing enough, at least sometimes. It’s just a fact of the role. And this can be exasperated by lifestyle changes, including returning to your job. To overcome those feelings, it’s important to acknowledge and express them. It can be challenging, we know, but try to block out mom guilt. Share what you’re experiencing with a partner, friend, or therapist—even writing it down can be beneficial.
You can also try speaking about mom guilt with other moms. Recognizing everyone has had similar feelings may help you feel less alone. You may also need to make peace with mom guilt to some extent—it’s a part of motherhood and not a sign of failure.
Make time for yourself
During the fourth trimester, moms often get little time for themselves. You’re completely absorbed in your baby’s schedule and needs. In the fifth trimester, make it a goal to make more time for you. Even small moments of self-care can make a big difference in how you’re feeling. Make dinner plans with friends, carve out time to watch your favorite T.V. show, or put on a face mask and take a long bath.
Get plenty of rest
How much sleep you get can affect nearly everything in your life, from your productivity at work to your skin (yes, really). And even if you don’t experience full-blown sleep deprivation, being unrested to any extent can make parenting harder.
Of course, telling you to get more sleep doesn’t do anything to make it your reality. It can be undeniably hard to get a full night’s sleep as a parent—especially in those early months. Do your best to sleep when you can, including taking naps when your baby does. If you have a live-in partner, taking turns covering the overnight shift (a.k.a. handling nighttime baby feeding and crying) can help you catch some uninterrupted Zzzs.
Create a plan
Planning for the fifth trimester can help things run smoothly and also ease the stress surrounding the changes ahead. Have a game plan for childcare on days you work, including backups for sick days. Read up on separation anxiety and how to handle it. Think through how you’ll manage your responsibilities outside of work too. Are there household chores you need to tackle on your days off? When will you have time for doctor’s appointments (for you and your little one)?
It can also be helpful to develop a solid routine for your baby. This includes starting their day the same way every day if feasible. For example, wake them up at 8 a.m., feed them, and give them a daily infants’ probiotic. To help with the transition period, keep as much of their routine consistent as possible.
Pay attention to your emotions
Mom guilt isn’t the only emotion you may experience during this time. Paying attention to how you feel can help you understand and address your needs. And, keep in mind, postpartum depression (PPD) can occur up to a year after giving birth. If you think you may have PPD, talk to your doctor as soon as you can. You can also find a mental health professional with the American Psychological Association’s (APA) APA Psychologist Locator, or call 1-800-964-2000.
Watching your emotions can also help you enjoy and embrace the good feelings that can come with entering the fifth trimester. You might find going back to work to be a positive in your life, providing you with increased social interactions as well as satisfaction from your professional accomplishments.
Prioritize time with your baby
Work-life-balance can seem elusive, but it’s important to prioritize spending time with your baby when you’re able to. Those are memories you’ll be able to cherish for years to come. When you’re home, try to let work go and focus on your baby. If you’re able to work flexible hours, consider taking advantage of them to spend more time with your baby while they’re awake.
When Does the 5th Trimester End?
The fifth trimester lasts 12 weeks, ending around the time your baby is six months old. But don’t be surprised if these 12 weeks come and go and you’re still adjusting. Each month (or even day) can bring new experiences and challenges, and it’s normal to feel like things are a work in progress.
One challenge you may face in the subsequent months is sleep regression. But don’t stress just yet. Read our article on sleep regression 101, next.