The Fourth Trimester
The first 12 weeks after the birth of your new baby is sometimes referred to as the 4th Trimester. It has come to be named this because during the first 3 months of their life, your new born baby will often behave like they are still in the womb; have their eyes closed, asleep for most of the time only waking to feed. Somewhere around the 3 month mark your baby will begin to “wake up” from their new-born state and start to interact with their new environment by smiling, intently watching faces and communicating with us in ways other than crying.
During their 4th trimester, babies are making the transition from life as they knew it in the womb into life in the big, wide world. These two lives are very different from each other and it can take some time for your baby to adjust to their new environment and life on the “outside.”Your baby was in your womb for 9 months, that’s a life time to a new-born baby!
Your womb was the perfect environment for your baby and their needs were met instantly. In your womb your baby:
- Was nourished constantly with the exact when they needed it
- Was naked and wet
- Was the optimum temperature at all times
- Heard muffled sounds constantly
- Was close to you all the time
- Was soothed by your constant heartbeat and motion
- Slept when they needed with no concept of night and day
- Felt safe and secure in a small, confined space
Now let’s have a look at life outside the womb. Now your baby:
- For the first time will experience hunger and waiting for their food
- Is dry and fully clothed, often in many layers
- Feels slight changes of temperature in their environment and experiences hot and cold
- Hears loud and unfamiliar noises frequently
- Is put down or passed to other people that aren’t you
- No longer feels your constant motion or hears your heart beat
- May not be able to fall asleep easily anymore as we try to get them on to our day and night time zone
- Now has the freedom to move around and is in a much bigger space
Whilst your new baby will find their new environment a very exciting and stimulating place, it can leave them feeling a little overwhelmed and insecure.
These feelings of insecurity can make your new born baby very unsettled in the 4th trimester. This is perfectly normal, with a little time and patience your baby will gently adjust to their new home and life.
Replicating the environment of your womb will make them feel safer and secure helping them to settle, easing them and you through the 4th trimester.
Keep your baby close to you
It is natural for a baby to want to be near you; their source of everything: food, comfort and safety. Your presence and touch calms and soothes them in an instant. It is normal for a new born to cry the instant they are put down and stop the moment you pick them up. They aren’t manipulating you nor are you spoiling them or making a rod for your back by holding them close and cuddling them. A sling can be a life saver during this time because they will close and secure leaving you to move around with your hands free.
Let them sleep on you during the day
It may be frustrating when your baby’s eyes ping open and they start bawling the moment you transfer them to a Moses basket, however it is perfectly normal.
Babies sleep better on us because our proximity, warmth and heartbeat soothe them. There are no bad habits to be made yet and there is plenty of time to get them sleeping happily in their cot once they are a little older.
Follow their lead and don’t worry at this stage about getting them into a routine
It is less stressful to go with your baby’s needs in these early days; it can be very frustrating trying to get your baby on a routine that doesn’t fit your baby. Keep a note of feed and sleep times and you will see you baby already has the perfect pattern for their needs for you to build into a routine.
Putting on white noise, mimicking womb noise, can instantly calm a fretful baby. I have used running taps, hairdryer, oven extractor fan, fan or hoover with great success!
Shushing and patting
Patting and shhhhing noises mimic your heartbeat and helps soothe your new baby.
Skin on skin contact
Having plenty of skin on skin contact is bond boosting and is a natural calmer and soother.
Have a warm bath together with the lights dimmed
This a great bonding experience for both.
Daily fresh air and natural light
Babies are born nocturnal and can take time to get on our time zone. You can gently introduce day and night to your new born by getting lots of natural light, going outside and making noise during the day and at night keeping the lights down low, muted volume and calm.
Congratulations on your new arrival and enjoy your baby moon!