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There is a whole slew of things they don’t tell you about giving birth, newborns, your postpartum body, your emotional health, and so much more in the fourth trimester that it took me three births to figure out.
Is it messy? 100% yes. Is it worth it? 100% yes. If you’re worried, scared, or feel a mess, so many of us have been there before you. We survived, and you will, too. 😉
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Things They Don’t Tell You About Giving Birth
On Your Healing Body
- Clots are normal.
- Mesh panties are a huge knock to a girl’s style esteem, but completely necessary.
- A postpartum recovery basket will make your healing quicker and easier.
- You’ll cramp as your uterus returns to what it was. Totally normal.
- Your belly might look like a deflated clown balloon. It does not define your worth. You grew a literal person! You’re kind of a big deal.
- Don’t worry about losing weight for at least 6 weeks. Catch your breath before you worry about your weight.
- Breastfeeding will help your body heal faster and help lose a few pounds!
- Wearing a postpartum girdle can help your uterus shrink back.
- They’re called tiger stripes and you get them for creating life. 😉
- Dermaplast will bring you more comfort than anything, except maybe witch hazel.
- You know the squirty bottle they give you? Use. It.
- Kegels help. You do them by holding the muscles you use to hold urine for several seconds, then slowly releasing.
- Witch hazel is straight heaven sent. You can use tucks, as well, but I preferred squirting it directly on the pad.
- You can also make “padsicles”. Squirt witch hazel on pads (open it but leave the wrapper on), optionally: top with aloe, and freeze. I felt like I was sitting on an ice cream cone so I didn’t like these personally, but I’ve heard mamas rave about them!
- You’re probably going to be in your maternity clothes for several months after giving birth. It’s fine. Most of us do it.
- If you had a C-section, give yourself extra grace and extra time. You had major abdominal surgery. That’s huge and you are incredible! Like, super hero status. Respect. Give yourself the same grace you’d give a friend in your position. You’re worthy of your own compassion.
On Your Mental & Emotional Health
- Lower your standards and give yourself grace for at least 3 months. The fourth trimester is real, but after that, it starts to get easier. Honestly. You will find your groove. You’re the mama these babies need, even on the hard days.
- Take a hot shower, alone, every day if at all possible. It makes you feel like a person again. If you miss a day, at least change your clothes and spray something to smell yummy (or yummier).
- You might feel broken, physically and emotionally, for a while. It’s normal. Your hormones will level out. It takes time and prayer, but it will pass. I remember praying and crying listening to worship music and saying to God, “I feel broken. I need you to normalize me and make me me again.” And He did for me, and He will for you, too.
- You are doing better than you think you are.
- Get sunshine as often as possible.
- God sees you, knows you, and made your body to do what it just did. It’s no big thing for Him to help balance you back out. I worshipped and prayed often after I had Lexi especially, for Him to balance me back out and normalize my hormones. It gave me peace and, shocker, my hormones did level back out, and I felt like myself again about 3-4 months later.
- If you are struggling, please reach out! You are not alone. Talk to your mom or your friend or someone who has been there before you. Being understood and listened to is sometimes all you need. Talk to a postpartum doula and/or a trusted care provider who has your best interest at heart. They have tools to help you. You have resources. You are not alone. Being a martyr or trying to stick it out isn’t helping you or impressing anyone, especially if it’s making you miserable. Get help if you need it!
- You can’t be good at something you’ve never done before, and even if you have done it, you haven’t done it with this baby. It takes time to learn each baby, his/her personality, his/her needs, and what they need of you. You are doing better than you think you are.
- A loving mama is the best kind of mama. If you truly care, the rest has a way of falling into place.
- Pray. A lot. I love the reminder in Phillippians 4:6: Don’t worry about anything, instead, pray about everything. He’s got you. You’re doing amazing.
- Remember, you are still you. You are more than “just” somebody’s mom. At your core, the little bitty details that make you uniquely you still exist. You are more than just a milk machine. You’re loved. You’re important. You are wonderful.
- Keep the mindset that this is just a season. Mindset is everything. It is messy and every day and night feels like it lasts a few weeks, but every day is a day closer to it being easier and you feeling normal again; and it will come.
- Go on walks if weather permits. Fresh air and sunshine are good for the soul. Even opening the curtains and windows can be enough to help!
- No matter what you’re expecting, it’ll be so much different. I always thought I knew what to expect or what was coming with all three of my girls… I never did.
- Preparation is key.
- Read. Okay, I know this seems like a weird one, and I know you don’t have the time or the energy or desire to do so, but reading can make you feel like you’re in another place, even if just for a while. I remember when Lexi was only a few weeks old, struggling to breastfeed and nursing every 45 minutes, I was hormonal, touched out, overwhelmed, and not sleeping. Joey walked in on me sitting on the kitchen floor, leaned up against the island with tears falling silently while she cried in the pack and play because I just needed two minutes. I relocated to the couch, and he literally pulled me off the couch. He put the umbrella up on the patio and put the book I was reading and my water outside. He’s never firm in any way, but that day, I needed it and he saw that. He insisted that I go outside and read for a half hour. He had the baby. She’d be fine. I went, reluctantly, and came back feeling like a new person. That small bit of time helped me feel like a different person.
- Including big siblings in baby’s care will start to bond them. They will take the baby under their wing and get so excited to help with him/her!
- Tell them constantly how much baby loves them and they amazing of a big brother/sister they are! They will become protective of the baby and it will foster their bond. Make a big sibling kit “from” the baby to start them off on the right foot and avoid jealousy right away.
- Have a basket of special quiet activities for when you’re nursing or need some quiet time.
- Ask them to get diapers, burp cloths, etc. for the baby, then tell them how much they’re helping the baby. They’ll eat it up and love feeling like a part of things!
- If it’s an option, leave the baby with Daddy or a trusted loved one for an hour to talk the big sibling(s) somewhere for an hour. It can just be a walk around the block or a donut date, but they will cherish the quality time with Mama and it will remind them that they are still important to you. Talk to them about the baby and ask open-ended questions to try to help them adjust.
- Ask Daddy to take each kid on a Daddy/daughter date or Daddy/son day. A little one on one with Daddy will help them and help you!
- Put on a movie to sit with them when you can. Cuddle them, even if the baby is nursing. Make sure they know how much they still mean to you.
- Let them hold the baby (with help, of course). I don’t know what it is but kids LOVE holding babies. It can be nerve-wracking, but it is super sweet, too.
- If they’re a little older and you’re comfortable with it, allow older siblings to do skin to skin with the baby. They recommend if for parents, and guess what: it’s no big secret it will work to bond siblings, too!
- Create moments of love and intentionality on an individual and on a family level.
- Try your best to have at least one meal a day at the table as a family. It promotes family bonding. Leave your phone in the other room and talk with the kids about their days. On days when that just isn’t possible, you can always put a kid table in front of the couch and eat together that way, or bring high chairs in the living room.
- You are your baby’s voice. Don’t be afraid to be their advocate. That baby needs you to not be afraid to speak on their behalf if you know something is wrong. Don’t doubt yourself. You are his/her mama.
- Don’t hesitate to call the pediatrician if something feels off. I’ve had three babies and each time, and for the first two weeks, I was probably at the office three or four times a week. Sometimes having trained eyes on your baby to tell you the rash or bump or crying is normal helps; especially if you’re sleep deprived and doubting yourself.
- If you have a little girl and she gets bumps under her nipples that feel like marbles around two weeks old, it’s normal.
- Some babies have gag spots which prevent them from being able to take certain shapes of bottles or passies. A craniosacral therapist can work these out in part or in full.
- Pacifiers too early can lead to nipple confusion, making it difficult for babies to nurse.
- Hold them as much as possible and as much and as often as you want to. These days are once and they won’t come back. You spoil kids with things, not love. Don’t buy into “you’re going to spoil them by holding them so much”. It’s not possible. It meets their psychological need for love, attachment and closeness, and it is healthy to have a baby that’s attached to you.
- You have to learn this baby, and it takes time to get to know someone. Don’t stress if you feel like you aren’t bonding right away. I didn’t feel like I really bonded with my first two girls until after 5-6 weeks in. Of course I loved them because they were mine, but it took time to really feel like they were my babies. It’ll kick in.
- They just came out of a 98 degree body. Keep them warm, but remember they don’t sweat yet. It is possible to have them too bundled.
- They are of your body. All they’ve ever known is warmth, snug love, and safety. Your closeness is essential to their development. Keep them close. Go with your instincts. Holding them, wearing them, room-share sleeping, daily skin to skin, and breastfeeding all encourage healthy bonds and attachment, strong babies, and healthy mental development! You can’t spoil a baby with too much love, you spoil them with things. Don’t listen to anyone who is making you doubt yourself.
- Don’t even attempt sleep training until they’re close to a year (or older). Opinions are all over the map on this and this post isn’t to lambast different viewpoints (mine have even evolved as I’ve had more kids), but the fact remains that babies need closeness with their parents to grow. Their little brains need cuddles and nurturing. In hindsight, I realized that I have been more gentle in this area with Lexi than I was with Sophia and Ella, and it’s a regret I wish I could redo.
- Yellow, seedy poops are totally normal for breastfed babies. Weird looking for sure, but also normal.
- It takes time. So much time. Do the very best you can to give it at least 6 weeks to give your babe a strong start. I’ve heard some women say it took them 5 or 6 months before it finally felt natural. Personally, the longest I have made it was 3 months, and given the hurdles we faced, I’m happy with that because I did my best.
- A good lactation consultant and craniosacral therapist will drastically affect how your breastfeeding journey goes. Seeing them with Lexi was an absolute game changer.
- Breastfeeding is not supposed to hurt. If it does, your latch is either off, too shallow, or baby is tongue-tied (or all three). It’s just supposed to tell like tugging, not pinching, burning, or anything in between.
- If your baby is tongue-tied, they won’t be able to latch well. Stretches before and after a frenectomy are so helpful and will prevent it from growing back.
- If your baby needs a frenectomy, make sure it is a reputable DDS that specializes in frenectomies and has a great reputation. Make sure they use a laser. Using scissors is more difficult to do it correctly as it’s easy to go too far or not enough. I was blessed to find one who even had a lactation consultant on staff who helped with nursing immediately after!
- Freeze any extra breastmilk. Remember to label it with time of day and symptoms your baby is having (if any) because your milk changes to meet your baby’s needs. Pretty cool, huh?
- Many insurance companies provide pumps. The Spectra 2 was by far my favorite! If your insurance doesn’t cover one, you can also buy my favorite breast pump on Amazon.
- Make a breastfeeding basket to keep nearby with breastfeeding essentials. These were a few of my favorites: a hakka, burp cloths, an extra onesie, breast pads, and coconut oil or nipple butter.
- Nipple butter and coconut oil are safer than Lanolin, and safe if baby accidentally eats some!
- Your nipples should not be blanched or creased after a feeding. If they are, your latch is off.
- Bring baby to your breast rather than bringing your breast to your baby.
- Latch well by aiming your nipple at the roof of their mouth and going for a chomping motion. One, two. Wide open mouth. On one, the bottom hits, and on two, the top closes. If it’s not right or comfortable, try again until it is.
- Nipples come in different flange sizes. Just because one is 21mm doesn’t mean the other one is. A lactation consultant can help you with sizes.
- Lactation consultants specialize in different areas. You might have to search one out who is knowledgeable in what you’re struggling with. I saw three different ones after I had Lexi, and they all helped me with different areas!
- Put cabbage leaves in your bra to help with engorgement or if you’re weaning.
- Breastmilk itself can be a nipple cream!
- Breastmilk works well on baby acne.
- You can even put breastmilk can be put on diaper rashes. And basically every other wound, even on older children!
- Breastmilk can be labeled by time of day and frozen, because it changes throughout the day!
- If you little one is sick, teething, or anything in between, label your milk and freeze it. Your milk literally customizes to fit your baby’s needs! How cool is that?!
- Older children can drink breastmilk in cups. Age doesn’t take away the benefits of Mama’s milk.
- You can use breastmilk topically on just about anything.
- Lactation consultants pick their specialties, meaning they’re all knowledgable in different areas. Seeing several can be very beneficial, especially if you’re struggling in a particular area.
- Wean down from breastfeeding slowly. Doing it too quickly can lead to clogged ducts, abscesses, and more.
- You should not have any kind of pain in your breasts. If you do, call your doctor immediately.
- Wearing a maternity bra day and night while weaning can help make you more comfortable.
- Breastmilk builds your baby’s immunity! I always told myself we were going to give it at least 6 weeks and reassess to give her the strongest start in life possible.
- It is amazing and wonderful and I am all for it – but it’s not the end all be all. I’m going to be completely transparent. Breastfeeding made me miserable all three times. I tried so hard. I drove all over Timbuktu to different appointments and I did all the right things, but it never got easier. And truth be told, I only stopped with one because I was miserable. With the other two, I was miserable too, but I held on because she loved it. I stopped because she wasn’t growing. I felt like a failure and a terrible mom until I had this thought one night: What makes me a worse mom, to keep going even though she’s hungry to say that I’m breastfeeding, or to know she’s hungry and not feed her? Once I thought of it like that, it was an easier switch. Bottle feeding does not make you a bad mom. It never has, and never will. Your baby being happy and healthy is incredibly important, but your joy matters, too. And if you have kids or babies or your husband counting on you, they need you operating at your best.
Products That Helped Me
- Get a great travel pillow for your neck. If your baby is anything like mine were, they might want held to sleep for awhile. A pillow will save your neck if you’re in a chair or on the couch. I loved this one.
- Drink recovery tea. I absolutely loved my recovery tea and truly believe it was one of the things that helped my body heal fully in under six weeks!
- Dry shampoo. Enough said. I’ve tried so many from expensive to budget brands, and Dove Dry Shampoo continues to be my favorite! It smells the best of any I’ve tried, and has helped my stretch my washes into every 4 days at times. Whoops.
- Resinol works way better than any diaper cream I’ve tried. My husband’s mom told me this hack when Sophia was a baby, and it has seriously cleared up even the worse rashes in under a day. You can get it here or behind the counter at your local pharmacy.
- A nanobebe bottle is the closest bottle that resembles real nipples. At first, this was the only bottle Lexi would take. This bottle helped us transition her to Dr. Browns. These amazed me and gave me much needed breaks during the transition because Daddy could help feed her!
- A great baby carrier will help you move more as you’re able. I registered for this amazing carrier on my registry with Lexi, and it was one of my very favorite baby products I had! She’s 14 months old now, and I still wear her from time to time. This four in one carrier allows me to do more, handsfree, and still keep her close and has worked for us since she was tiny. I didn’t really get into wearing Sophia or Ella and I could never get the hang of tying a wrap, but with her as my third, I was needed more often and more quickly than what I was with my first two who were close in age. Pro tip: our pediatrician does not recommend wearing babies outward-facing. You can read more on that here.
- A hakka is a really cool product that catches the letdown of the opposite breast and reduces waste. I liked having two in case one was being washed!
- This frame stroller was the single best thing we had when Lexi was born. She’s almost a year old and we have kept her in her pumpkin seat as long as possible so I can keep using it! Hauling that car seat around, long distances, with a diaper bag and three kids just sounded like too much, because it was a lot with one or two kids; let alone three. I remember being overweight after I had Sophia and Ella, struggling to carry them in their seats for long distances. This stroller is compact, lightweight, easy to maneuver, and has a handy strap to fold it up with one hand! I’m a little salty it took me till my third kid to find it, honestly. This stroller fits with any Graco Click Connect car seat, but I have seen strollers to fit any brand of car seat! Lexi is 14 months old and still rides in this car seat. It is lightweight and well made, but my biggest qualm was it was kind of a pain to click and unclick, especially when she was briefly in the third row of my SUV.
- Having a cool diaper backpack will be a lot less annoying than a diaper bag. Or it was to me, anyway. I’ve used at least three diaper bags. They always ripped at the seems, I had a hard time getting everything my kids needed in them, and they constantly fell off my shoulder. This backpack has been by far my favorite bag. It always stays out of my way, I can get everything I need in it with ease, and I love all the pockets – even one in the back to get things on the bottom without having to unpack everything!
- I love reusable breast pads from breastpads.com. They’re cute, soft, comfortable, and washable, which saved me money! Plus, they always have promos going, and it’s so fun to pick them out!
- The stretchy car seat covers were my favorite because they didn’t blow in the wind. They can also double as a nursing cover while they’re little! I got mine on carseatcanopy.com and loved the Jersey stretch covers.
- Comfortable nursing bras. I even slept in mine for a while and while I was weaning to ease discomfort. These are the very best ones I have found! I started wearing them as maternity bras during pregnancy and just popped an extender on them for the last couple months of pregnancy.
- I love our video baby monitor! We used to have an audio monitor, but it eases my mind to be able to see them as well as hear them. This one is so cool because it has a nightlight and the range of motion of an owl’s head. It can be set on furniture or mounted on the wall.
- Puppy pads. Seems weird, right? Sleep on these immediately after birth to save your mattress and take them with you to change baby on in public! They’re absorbant and water proof.
Everything else they don’t tell you about giving birth
- Freezer dinners will actually save your life. Sign up for my ultimate list of freezer dinners on the side of this page to fully stock your freezer and prepare for the fourth trimester if you’re interested! Nothing beats feeling prepared.
- Be willing to ask for and accept help. All the help!! Give yourself so much grace. You’re amazing. This is a season, and it won’t feel like this forever!
- You will never fall more in love with your husband than when you watch him become a Dad. Nobody talks about how when baby is born, a father is born as much as a mother. Watch him grow. Encourage him. Tell him things he’s doing that you love. Let the birth of your baby bond you as a family, as much as you bond with your baby. Foster the love of a new father.
- Take advice with a grain of salt. Take what you love, leave what you don’t, and pray about what you aren’t sure about.
- Ask visitors to wash their hands or use hand sanitizer before they hold the baby, especially if it’s between November – March.
- It’s okay to kindly request people who haven’t felt well don’t visit until they do. A cold in an adult can turn deadly in a brand new baby in no time flat.
- Avoid going out as much as possible to protect your baby. We didn’t take the girls out at all for the first 4-6 weeks, except where absolutely necessary or to family’s homes a few times. You never know what’s floating around in the air at Walmart or what your babe could come in contact with, and it takes time to build their little immune systems up.
- Urine is sterile. You don’t have to wipe them every time they pee.
- Educate yourself on car seat safety. I cannot overemphasize how important it is to know correct car seat safety, and they really don’t tell you this because babies seeing as 43% of children who die in car crashes were not properly restrained (read more on that here). This is a great article that makes it so simple! You can always take your car seat to the fire station or a car seat checkpoint to have it double checked if you’re not confident or are having problems installing it.
- Do what feels right for sleep (wisely). On their back, in a room, in a bed with nothing to touch defies instincts. Remember, you are their regulator. You stabilize temperature and promote emotional bonding by cuddling. Babies need all the cuddles. There are ways to co-sleep safely. We loved butting a 3 sided crib up to my side of the bed so they were always within arms reach. Hold them when they need you. Don’t leave them when you don’t want to. Trust your instincts. They won’t lie to you.
- They lived in 98 degrees for their entire existence, until they were squeezed into a 70 degree room. Babies need more clothes initially than we do, but they don’t sweat yet and can also overheat. Make sure their core stays warm. Hands and feet are a bad gage of warmth as they are farthest from the heart.
- Guard their little neck and head until they have good head support and their fontanelles close.
- Take tons of pictures and videos. I don’t know how many pictures I have of my girls cuddled up on me, nursing or sleeping. I wanted to remember the newborn ball when they were a few months away from starting kindergarten and the baby chunk when they were potty training. Now, I want to remember preschool when they’re in high school. That’s just a general parenting thing, I guess. Memorize their little bitty features and jerky motions. Coordination and growth come in the blink of an eye. You’ll feel like you turned around and five years have gone by. That’s how I feel, at least.
What would you add to the list of things they don’t tell you about giving birth?!
Please leave a comment and tell me your must know baby tips that no one told you!
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