adult hands encircling baby feet

The Path of Least Anxiety and your Fourth Trimester

The Path of Least Anxiety. This is a phrase that made SO MUCH SENSE to me when I first heard it! As new parents we’re trying to do so much. Learn a new job, care for older children, recover from birth physically (and perhaps emotionally), run a household and potentially ‘entertain’ visitors (who may be very helpful or as welcome as a hole in the head). All on less sleep than normal.

The Path of Least Anxiety means you do what’s best for you and keeps your stress levels lowest. It’ll hopefully help protect your ability to cope, your mental health and make the newborn period just a little more enjoyable.

An example could be if it takes you 45 minutes to try put baby in the cot for them to only sleep 15 minutes, and the whole process stresses you (and bubs) out, then the Path of Least Anxiety would suggest you go buy a baby wearing sling/wrap/carrier, let them sleep on you to skip the stress.

If having visitors is causing you anxiety, let everyone in your social circle know that you’re not accepting visitors for a week. Or two. Or indefinitely.

If it’s week 9 and you still cringe and feel your blood pressure rise whenever you think of breastfeeding your baby, maybe it’s time to reconsider whether that’s the right path for you.

It’s your life. It’s your family. It’s your mental health. You do what’s best for you. Ignore everything non-essential that doesn’t help you stay as low-stress as possible. Stress will squash the ‘love’ hormone oxytocin, which is an essential part for the first days and weeks with your newborn as it assists with bonding, breastfeeding and feeling more content with your monotonous little bubble. Oxytocin has a short half-life (3-5 minutes) so you’ll need to constantly get new hits to experience its full benefits.

When I’ve shared the reasoning behind the Path of Least Anxiety, I often get the follow-up question “but what about bad habits?” in response to the baby-wearing suggestion. In my opinion, in parenting, something is only a ‘problem’ if *you* feel it is.

For example, if you rock/pat/feed your baby to sleep every nap/night, and you’re happy to do that routine, then ignore anyone who tells you it’s a “bad habit”. The day that the thing becomes an issue for *you* is the only day where you need to worry about changing it. Of course this extends to so many scenarios where other people have an opinion about how we parent our children.

As a Postpartum Professional, I’ve recently started offering 2 hour Postpartum Preparation Sessions via video call. These sessions are designed to take you through the topics you and your partner should discuss during pregnancy in order to prepare mentally for the Fourth Trimester, and give you a rough idea of what to expect.  In these sessions I discuss both these trains of thought and the role of oxytocin (and HOW to boost it) much further. We’ll also discuss topics like having realistic expectations about this season of your life, ways you and your partner can work together to navigate this period, and information on where to turn for professional assistance and general support if you find you need it. If you’d like to book a session, head to the Contact Me page.

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Rachel Angelone is the founder of Your Birth Your Baby and has been working as a birth and postpartum professional since 2018. She is a Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator, Postpartum Doula and NurtureLife Pregnancy Massage Practitioner based in Melbourne. Rachel offers independent childbirth and early parenting education to pregnant families before baby arrives. Once babies are Earth-side, she offers practical and emotional in-home support for families as you adjust to their new life as parents. She is also a loving wife and mother to two young girls.

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