So what exactly is the 4th Trimester?
You’ve maybe heard of the 4th trimester but aren’t exactly sure what it is. You know during pregnancy you have your 1st, 2nd and 3rd Trimester, so it seems to make sense that the 4th Trimester would come after this, but what else is there to know. I’m going to fill you in on what the 4th Trimester is all about, what to expect and how to navigate this time with your newborn
How long is the 4th Trimester? Well, it is the 12 or so weeks after your newborn is born, when the baby adjusts to life outside the womb (and you adjust to life as a parent). During this time, the way to keep yourself and your baby as happy as possible is to make the transition to the outside world as pain-free as possible. This means making your baby as comfortable as they were wrapped up in your womb… Yes… crazy as it seems, this will help. The world is such a harsh place in comparison to life in the womb, with lots of loud noises, bright lights, smells and temperatures. It is a LOT for a newborn to deal with. It’s also a time for you to get used to parenthood, build your bond further with your newborn, relax and recuperate. Here are some tips that could help you
Feeding on demand
Feeding on demand is totally the right way to go with newborns. They have literally never felt hunger before and also if breastfeeding, this is such a comfort to them. They get to be close, warm and comforted all at the same time. You can get a similar effect from bottle feeding if you position your baby in a similar way and they can get satisfaction from a bottle too, it is just more likely to allow too much milk into your babies mouth and they will find it difficult to let you know when enough is enough straight away. So as long as you manage this, give them little gaps in feeding so they can catch up, it shouldn’t be a problem.
Whilst snuggled away in your womb your little person has moved around gently a lot of the time, so no wonder they struggle being laid down on a playmate, in a crib, etc. It’s just really alien to them. So if they are struggling then move them around, jiggle them, rock them. You will soon find that they prefer certain movements to others. It’s why things like babywearing work so well.
Skin to skin contact
Skin to skin not only gives your baby comfort but helps them regulate their temperature. It also helps build that bond for not only you but if you have a partner, them as well. Skin to skin time is such a gorgeous snuggly time, dependant on positioning they can even hear the familiar sounds of your heartbeat and your muffled voice through your chest. Sounds which they are very accustomed to. This is likely to be their favourite place to snooze and sleep too, and so long as you are happy and feel safe with this, I would humbly suggest going with it.
This is an absolute saviour for me with both my little ones. Having our little person snuggled safely on your chest allows you to get out easily and get on with any tasks around the house. It is especially helpful if they are not settling unless on you. I found wraps more useful at first and then moves onto something more structured as they became more wiggly. You can use them to help you anywhere… and yes, I have had many toilet trips with them still attached on my front. Make sure you check out the guidelines for safe babywearing and if leaning forward to pick something up, check you are supporting their head (I found this especially important with the wrap-style carrier). Here is the UK Slings Consortium’s TICKS checklist. Oh and some of the best news if you are a breastfeeder, some slings are even breastfeeding friendly So you don’t have to remove the baby to feed… Unless you have massive boobs like me… I could never get it to work!
When your little love was in your womb, they had consistent noise, not often loud or sharp, but your heartbeat, blood pumping, digestion, noises from around you but muffled, the list goes on. But now everything is sharp. So a lot of babies seem to love weird noises; the vacuum cleaner, car engine and road noise tumble driers, etc. Others prefer soothing music. But either way, there are a LOT of apps out there for you to test out and see what works. My favourites are –
OK, so I have to be honest here, I have never swaddled any of mine, they were both super wiggly and it just wasn’t right for us. But I know some people who swear by it. The reason swaddling is meant to soothe a newborn is that in the womb they have restricted movements and are used to this sensation. If you want to know how to swaddle take a look at this handy guide from Aden and Anais – https://www.adenandanais.com/blog/how-to-swaddle-a-baby
If you are struggling a bit during the 4th trimester, getting outside can really help. I don’t know what it is, maybe the patterns, different things to focus on, sounds, but being outside really seems to soothe newborns and older babies. My two have always been happiest when outside. For some, it seems to send them straight off to sleep, whilst others become a bit more inquisitive before their eyes close. But getting outside is not just for your baby, it is for you too. Getting outside can really help you and your emotional state, whether you are pushing a baby in a pram or babywearing, just try and get outside, even just for a little bit, every day or so. Meet up with others if you can, but even just by yourself, I find it really therapeutic, spending time with your new little bundles of joy (and poo, sick, smiles and snuggles) allows you time to take a breath and be somewhere else.
The 4th trimester can be wonderful and some people say the 4th trimester is the hardest, all at the same time, so be kind to yourself. Don’t feel bad asking friends or family to do things for you, like meals, tidying, etc. It won’t last forever and in the short term, it will be a weight off. Anything that will allow you more time to make the 4th trimester easier for your new little one and yourself is key. If you don’t have support nearby, then my advice would be don’t try to be perfect; let the cleaning, tidying, etc slip, buy takeout, whatever helps. If you are on your own or have friends without an interest in babies, I would also suggest finding a local group for new parents, meeting people in the same boat can be really helpful and mean you can talk about baby things without worrying about it. If there aren’t any groups and you or your partner are still pregnant, why not look at setting something up now so it is there for when the baby arrives.
Whatever you choose to do or not to do, make sure they are the right choices for you and your baby, other people will have well-meaning ideas and opinions, but that doesn’t mean you have to listen or act upon them. And finally, just remember – You’ve got this!