The Fourth Trimester

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September 28, 2016
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The Fourth Trimester

Your pregnancy has three trimesters, but did you know that the three months following birth (known as the fourth trimester) are key to ensuring your baby’s continued development and wellbeing.

The fourth trimester should be viewed as a continuation of pregnancy in that although your baby is no longer living inside you, they need the same amount of support from you. Some babies make the womb to world transition relatively easily but others find it extremely traumatic. Empathising with your newborn and imagining how they must feel being thrust into a completely alien environment where, for the first time, they must make an effort to communicate in order to get their needs met, will therefore help you understand their behaviour. Your baby may seem unsettled or fractious but resist the temptation to label them ‘clingy’ or ‘difficult’. Understand that they cannot instantly fit into our world, then learn the tools to aid their transition and allow them the time they need to acclimatise and adapt.

Maternal contact
Pre-birth: Baby has been part of you, surrounded by your scent, your rhythms, your sounds.

Post birth: Baby is sometimes separated from you.

Try… as much contact and particularly skin-to-skin contact between you and your baby, as possible. Baby massage sessions are great for this, but every opportunity to hold or cradle your newborn should be taken. Of course there are some times when you cannot hold your baby, such as when you are sleeping. Bed sharing comes with risks. Instead, move your child’s crib as close as you can to your bed. If your room does not have space for this, consider purchasing a compact co-sleeping pod or crib which clips on or slides right next to your bed allowing baby to hear, see and smell you.

Temperature and surroundings
Pre-birth: Your baby has been used to a constant and unwavering warm temperature in the womb.

Post birth: Your baby meets fluctuating temperatures in the air and during contact with materials.

Try… holding baby next to your warm body. Give them a warm bath. When transferring them from a position next to your body to a crib or moses basket, try warming the sheet you are putting them on up first, before you lay them down.

Noise
Pre-birth: The womb is a noisy environment with the constant thud of your heartbeat, the whoosh of your blood and digestive system and the muffled sound of your voice.

Post birth: Baby might be left in an almost silent room or be subjected to sharp sounds such as a shout or a dog’s bark.

Try… putting baby to sleep while you do the housework. They may find the sound of a washing machine or the hoover soothing. If you’re too tired for chores buy a ‘white noise’ CD.

Position
Pre-birth: Baby has been securely supported, but possibly lying laterally or downwards for much of the pregnancy

Post birth: Baby is often head up,

Try: The baby yoga ‘tiger in a tree’ pose, where the baby lies face down, head turned to one side, on your arm their legs either side of your arm and their head in your palm.

Movement
Pre-birth: Baby was constantly being wobbled and jiggled around in your uterus as you moved around, and was squeezed gently by Braxton Hicks contractions in the final weeks.

Post birth: We often put babies down on still surfaces like cribs or play mats.

Try… Dancing or swaying gently while holding baby. Take them on a brisk walk or go on a bumpy car ride where the sensation of movement will lull and soothe them.

Food
Pre-birth: Baby has been used to a constant source of nutrition in the womb.

Post birth: For the first time babies feel the unwelcome sensations of hunger and thirst.

Try: Watching for your baby’s hunger cues.  A crying baby may not always be hungry, but a hungry baby will always cry for a feed.  Be led by your baby – they might be looking for a quick drink or snack or full feed. They may just want to suck for comfort.  This is fine. Sucking either on a breast or dummy, helps your baby feel relaxed and secure and also aids the baby’s skull bones to return to position after birth.