This trimester is 12 weeks from the day your baby is born. It’s a transition time and one of huge change and development; fine-tuning senses, responses and reflexes.
Your baby has spent 9 months in the womb and has a ‘journey’, some tougher than others to arrive in the outside world. Their new world. I always think of a crazy Tim Burton film where it’s loud sensory overload. Full of countless ‘firsts’ in those 3 months.
There is also the train of thought (source: Dr Harvey Karp) that babies are born too early, hence their dependence on mother for so long. If you think of a calf for example they are up on their legs after birth. If babies waited until they were more mobile/independent, we wouldn’t be able to birth their size. Because babies are dependent on their mothers for a longer period of time, their transition into their new outside world is ever-so much important.
If we can mimic their time in the womb, in the outside world, it will make theirs, and yours, transition smoother. Babies like to feel secured, comfortable and assured, and to know their needs will be met.
Muffled sounds Loud noises
Constant warm temperatures Fluctuating temperatures
Constant food Hunger & thirst
Confined space Lots of space
Inability to smell Lots of different smells
Constant contact with mother Reduced contact
Constantly 'held' Held for less
Soft and warm Hard and cold
Environment stays the same Environment differs daily
(source: Sarah Ockwell-Smith)
In terms of things you may see your baby doing....
Erratic sleep - sleep cycles develop more around 3-4 months
Need closeness for security & assurance
Baby doesn’t want to be put down/doesn't like to sleep in certain places
Crying peaks somewhere in the middle of the Fourth Trimester
When baby’s needs are simple, they can be thought of as an ‘easy’ baby however if baby’s transition is not so seamless, they can be thought of as ‘difficult. In this instance, maybe take your time to learn from your experience, cues & cries to help both of you.
Babies are dependant on their mother the longest out of all the mammal world. Some animals are up walking at birth. This is not the case for humans. It is thought babies become more in control of their sense, reflexes around 3 months onwards.
Helping with baby’s behaviour and their norms:
· Movement – babies likes movement eg walking and this mimicks their time in the womb
· Swaddling – helps with a feeling of closeness, snuggled and can be used at night times to aid better sleep (look up the correct way to swaddle)
· White noise – a good go-to. Either white noise using an app/phone ( I went through two hairdryers) or ssssshhhiiinnnggg as part of the 5’s (Dr Harvey Karp*)
· Slings – a sling is your friend in the early days. Baby has been ‘next’ to you for 9 months. A sling will keep baby close whilst you are free to get on and do things you need to, or enjoy that gap of quiet time snuggled with your baby
· Bathing – typically babies like warm water (aquatic feeling from womb) and will help comfort
Other ideas that will help:
· Skin to skin – this is a big one. there are huge benefits for mum and baby - warm, sense of touch, encourages breastfeeding, regulates temperature, breathing and heartbeat, immunity and for mums' it will increase your feel-good with the hormone oxytocin. Full list here. Enjoy the special time of cuddling, bonding and closeness
· Responsive feeding – bottle or boob. Baby will feed for food, thirst and comfort. If you are bottle feeding you could also try a dummy to help settle if need be.
· Safe sleep – check out Lullaby Trust or Basisonline for safe sleep guidelines. Keeping baby close to you at night should see baby settle much easier and allow you to get some sleep too
· Position – how you hold your baby could offer comfort and help settling especially if baby has reflux
· Sensory overwhelm – babies need to be stimulated but too much - it general ends in overwhelm and tiredness. Look for cues such as turning head away, yawning, fuzzy-type cry, eye contact
· Routine – some are happy to go with it in the early weeks and others are keen for a routine, which is totally fine. Just know that in the early weeks a routine might be harder to establish given how baby’s are built. Also, they have had a routine-free 9 months and still to learn the day & night thing - this will come
· Go outside – this can act as a reset button for babies and I use this when things have got all a bit crazy (and because it's good to walk with baby) – the fresh air, movement across pavements and wrapped up combined help babies calm.
With all of these ideas, find YOUR way, what works for you, and what may work for Mum, could be different for Dad/partner.
Whilst the Fourth Trimester often comes with its challenges and can be exhausting, it is a magical time! With every baby born, a new mum is born too. This is a time of change for you also. To adjust to your new ‘role’, emotionally, mentally and physically. I don’t believe we have to ‘get back’ to our old selves but instead it is a new us, a new chapter as we power on through these weeks.
You will navigate the fog and haze of the newborn stage and you will start feeling differently. I've had mums say they feel like someone has turned the light on. You will get into your flow.
There are lots of phases with babies; it's not your forever, just for now. You may hear it's a bad-habit-you-will-spoil-them. I believe you try to tune into your instincts. You know your baby best. And I know it’s likely you will speak to other mums to find out what’s going on with them - knowing you are going through similar phases and getting ideas can really help. Just leave the rest, the things that won't work for you and that doesn’t feel aligned.
I wish you all the very best and do reach out for support should you need to.
All my best, April
*The 5’s are from Dr Harvey Karp and he believes babies have a calming reflex and to activate that reflex you activate 3 out of the 5 - these are my go-to when working with a new baby!
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(and you don't have to walk a tightrope!)
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