The 4th Trimester
Arriving home with a newborn baby, parents often have huge expectations about how life will be. It can be daunting, confusing and frustrating for new parents to find that this longed for baby doesn’t conform to either their ideas, or what the books say a baby does. But the truth of the matter is that babies are often only happy when they are in their carer’s arms. They will cry when you try to put them down, and will often only sleep if they are in physical contact with their parents. They have made a huge transition from living in the womb to being in the world, if we appreciate and accept this it can help us to meet our baby’s needs appropriately.
Pregnancy is composed of three trimesters, but after birth a baby is still very immature and more suited to still being in the womb than out. Our babies are the most vulnerable infants born to any mammal. They need to spend the first three months after birth adjusting to their new world, hence this period is referred to as the ‘fourth trimester’.
Understanding the thinking behind the fourth trimester idea can really help new parents to understand the transition a newborn makes in their first 3 months. It also enables us to help the baby to adjust to life in the world as seamlessly as possible.
- The womb is always moving, from womb contractions to the baby being jiggled as the mother moves around. Babies love movement and don’t like being motionless so it is important to incorporate movement into your baby’s day.
- Being held close can help babies to feel snug. This is what they have been used to- the womb is a tight fit towards the end of pregnancy!
- Being in contact with warm skin is perfect for a baby, it helps to stabilise their body temperature, heart rate and stress hormones and stimulates the release of oxytocin, the love and bonding hormone.
- Life before birth is noisy! They can hear their mother’s body noises and even recognise her voice. These familiar noises will help them settle.
Babywearing during this time is a great way to keep new babies calm and happy. It increases the time a baby spends in a state of “quiet alertness” – a time of contentment when they learn the most. When a baby is in the womb they spend 100% of their time in physical contact with us – yet the moment they are born this can drop by over 40%. Instead of trying to regulate a new baby’s needs if we embrace them in the way we care for our babies they will be happier and we will be calmer parents.
Many parents do come to see us as soon as their baby is born so that they can start babywearing early, but we would love more babies to benefit from early babywearing. The library is therefore planning to launch a new 4th Trimester scheme in the Autumn. We hope that this will enable more babies and parents locally to benefit from babywearing. Follow our Facebook chat group to be the first to hear details of the new programme.