You grew a little seed in your body for 9 months. Carefully nourished and developed it into a perfect little baby who melts your heart every time you look at her. You then took care of her and put her above everything else since last few months. You have done an amazing job (yes you have!) and been the best mom your little one can have. And just when you thought it is getting a bit easier and you are getting a hang of it, it is time to return to work - the dreaded fifth trimester.
Fifth trimester is a not-so-new-anymore term coined for the period when the mother has to return to work after her maternity leave and balance the dual identities of a mother and worker. The first few weeks or even months of this transition are often emotionally and physically overwhelming for mothers who are still in the fragile postpartum recovery stage. The most common issue moms face during this period is sheer exhaustion which makes dealing with everything else so much harder. This is also the first time mother is away from the baby for long hours every day, which brings in a flood of mixed emotions like mom guilt, self doubts, fear of harm to the baby, and of course missing being with the baby. If she is breastfeeding, things can be even more hectic with dwindling supply, pumping schedules and storing milk at work, all while being buried in a backlog of work.
The most common issue moms face during this period is sheer exhaustion which makes dealing with everything else so much harder.
Preparing ahead for the back-to-work days can help new moms reduce the stress and anxiety associated with the fifth trimester. Having a plan in place, practicing the new schedule a week ahead, starting to pump and store a few weeks ahead, and introducing bottle feeding before heading to work are some of the ways to manage the transition. After joining the work, it is helpful to keep exclusive mommy time in the evenings to bond with the baby, while seeking help of your partner to share other responsibilities.
Even after all this planning and preparation, it is sometimes easy to let your own health take a back seat while you prioritize juggling between the work, home and baby. In this article we wanted to talk about a few things that are easy to include in your schedule to make sure that your body and mind remain healthy and nourished.
The easiest one to implement, but also the easiest one to overlook and forget is staying hydrated. While it is important to be drinking enough water for everyone, new moms (especially if breastfeeding), need to be even more vigilant about it. Try to drink 6-8 oz of fluids every hour that you are awake. Adding coconut water, fresh juices, and milk/mylk to the routine is a good way to keep up your hydration game. Avoid having too much caffeine (though you may be inclined to), and try herbal drinks like golden milk and lemon/ginger tea.
Keep nutritious snacks around you
If you have experienced the fourth trimester, you have probably experienced the bursts of hunger that hit you and you find yourself munching on whatever you can lay your hands on. Let me tell you this - things may not be very different once you get to work. Though you may get too busy at times, your body will still crave good calories and nutrients that it needs for continuing to heal itself and provide for the baby
To avoid picking up bag of chips or a pack of cookies from the vending machine, it is important that you keep a supply of nutritious snacks at your desk and in your bag. Raw nuts, whole-grain crackers, Freshly Moms sesame brittle, and dried fruits are some healthy snacks that are easy to carry around with you. Include fresh fruits like apple and berries, yogurt, and cottage cheese in your snack list too if feasible.
Continue eating balanced meals
Your mornings are even more rushed now as you rush for work, while also making sure that the baby has everything she needs while you are out. You are tied up in meetings and pushing to clear backlogs during the day at work, while checking baby cam whenever you can take a peek. Evenings are no easier as you try to take care of the baby, feed her and make her sleep, and then prepare for the same grind next day. In all this hustle, even sitting down and enjoying a meal seems wishful, let alone cooking one for yourself. However, fueling yourself with good nutrition during this time is as important as it was during the last 4 trimesters which you won like a champ.
Breakfast: The most important meal of the day is fortunately also the quickest one to make. Overnight oats or chia seed pudding, scrambled eggs, Freshly Moms Hot Cereal, and avocado toast are some of the most nourishing breakfast options that you can make in 5 minutes or less. Smoothies and smoothie bowls are also great ways to supply micro nutrients that your body needs. If you are breastfeeding, adding a scoop of Lactation Smoothie Mix can help you keep a stable milk supply during this challenging time. Check out some of our favorite smoothie recipes for inspiration.
Lunch: If you are buying your lunch at work, go for healthy options like salad, soups and wraps/sandwiches when feasible. If you are bringing your own lunch from home, putting together a sandwich, stir fried vegetables with brown rice, or pasta salad is not difficult. Some meal prep over the weekend also goes a long way in making sure you can put together even elaborate meals quickly.
Setting aside 2 hours every Sunday for meal prep can make it easier to cook nourishing meals in the limited time that you get on weekdays.
Dinner: Try prepping for the dinners ahead of time, ideally over the weekends. Schedule 2 hours every Sunday just for chopping, boiling and freezing components of different meals. Make a menu plan for two weeks of lunches and dinners once, and rotate it so that you are getting enough variety of foods without spending too much time thinking about it each day. Also try things like Khichadi, which needs only 5 minutes of work and makes a comforting and nourishing meal.
Rest as much as you can
To beat exhaustion before it cascades into something bigger, and for your own mental well-being, it is important to prioritize resting during this transition. Whether it is getting a quick nap after work with the baby, or retiring to bed early while your partner takes care of tidying up, make sure you are catching up on those precious zzzzz's. If you are bottle or formula feeding during the night, share that responsibility with your partner whenever you can.
Going back to work comes with its own challenges and it can be a physically and mentally exhausting period for new mothers. With a little bit of planning however, you can navigate this period of motherhood like a pro. Prioritizing your health and wellness is equally important during this period. Make sure you are getting enough rest and nutrition for your mind and body to stay sharp. Be prepared for unexpected situations like teething, sleep regression or nanny-took-the-day-off, that are likely to happen, while also knowing that you've got this, cause you are a supermom!
Written by Shruti Mishra