The fourth trimester

Postpartum doula: Real challenge are months following birth

By Barbara Pierce


Having a new baby will the best thing that ever happened to you and hardest thing you’ve ever gone through.

This is what Naomi Starsiak, a trained birth and postpartum doula from Oriskany, would like new moms to know. The first three months after your baby is born are the hardest.

With her mother, Starsiak operates Mohawk Valley Doulas, a network of doulas who share and teach about labor, birth and babies, and help new moms handle the challenges of birth.

“The ‘fourth trimester’ is what we call the time after your baby is born,” said Starsiak. Pregnancy is divided into three trimesters. The fourth trimester describes the first months after the birth, when women are adjusting to motherhood, dealing with the aftermath of birth and the reality of having a newborn.

It’s an intense time of change and growth for the baby and for the parents. When it’s seen as the fourth trimester, everything that’s going on makes better sense and seems more manageable.

“It’s a period of rapid changes — for your body and baby,” explained Starsiak. “In movies, the baby comes out and the mom is back to normal. That’s not the way it is. It took your body nine months to make all the changes it made during pregnancy; it takes a couple of months to get back to normal.”

“You’re not getting those hormones anymore. Your brain is changing. That’s why we get the baby blues,” she added.

This is a time of transition — your body is transitioning back, you are transitioning to life with this little new baby, and your baby is adjusting to life outside the womb.

When babies are born, they are incredibly ill-prepared for life outside of the uterus. Understanding this and treating newborns as if they were still in the womb can make life much easier, say the experts.

“The fourth trimester should be a time of mimicking life inside the womb for your new little one — be skin to skin, feed her on demand, keep her close and act quickly when she has a need. Remember, you cannot spoil a baby,” said midwife Rhonda Huggins in Natural Awakenings magazine.

Count on your ‘tribe’

mom NEWBORNWhat helps you get through?

“A big thing that helps is the ‘tribe’ you have — family and/or friends,” said Starsiak.

They provide emotional support. Surround yourself with people who share your vision of how you want to parent.

“It’s so important to have people around you who support you,” she added. “Women have either thrived or crumbled due to this one thing. If your vision of how you want to parent goes against your family, that can be hard and add stress.”

She gives the example of breast-feeding. “If neither your mother nor your mother-in-law ever did it, and don’t know how, and if you breast feed, that means they can’t have the joy of feeding the baby and they won’t support you in breast feeding,” Starsiak said. “So find a support group. Go to social media; find an online community on Facebook or somewhere.”

“Also find a friend, or friend of a friend or a girl in a nursing support group, etc. who is in your shoes (as in also has a newborn. Those middle-of-the-night texts, and ‘Is this normal?’ conversations are priceless to your sanity,” advises Laura Beth online.

“And let your husband know how he can help,” she adds.

Babies cry a lot. That’s their only way to communicate. The piercing wails let you know they are hungry or need their diaper changed.

These early conversations can be frustrating but you’ll get a handle on what the baby needs before long.

Starsiak recommends the book “The Wonder Weeks.” The author breaks down the first 18 months of life and what you can expect each week. “It’s helped so many moms,” said Starsiak. “Especially first-time moms.”

For example, the author describes the developmental leaps babies make during certain weeks. They become more fussy, clingy and prone to crying during these leaps, because they are experiencing vast changes beyond their control.

“It helps to know, “That’s why my baby is crying. I know there is nothing I can do; it won’t last. I’ll get my sweet baby back,” she added.

All told, the first three months of parenthood are a very challenging time, no matter how much help you have or how prepared you think you are.

“Just remember it’s all worth it — every sleepless moment, every tear you both shed, every blow-out diaper, and every ounce of spit up because having a newborn is the best thing in the world,” says Laura Beth.

Starsiak offers her experience on pregnancy, birth or newborn-related issues to anyone interested, and she will speak at events.

She can be reached at 315-736-2503 or visit