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It’s to be expected that life will never be the same after the birth of your baby. However, taking advantage of the fourth trimester will bring great rewards if you know where to find them. Registered professional nurse and midwife Pippa Hime offers guidance on how to navigate this brand-new experience.
Having a newborn baby can be quite an experience for both you as new parents and for your new baby. As parents, your life will be changed forever by the arrival of this tiny human. Time as you know it will never quite be the same again. The first few weeks after your baby’s arrival can be pretty intense, even for the most organised of parents. We like to think of this time as the fourth trimester because it’s baby’s time of adjustment from womb to world; from a nice, cosy, warm, safe place with food on tap 24/7, to the real world, which can be rather stressful.
What is the fourth trimester?
The first three months of your new baby’s life are considered to be the fourth trimester and should be seen as an extension of the third trimester. You and your baby must try to maintain quiet and calm. Gentle light, and soft sounds and touch are all important during this period of adjustment. In essence, you are simply trying to recreate the womb environment. The calmer the environment you can create for the newborn, the calmer the baby, generally speaking.
Guidelines for the fourth trimester
The transition from womb to world is a big one. Newborn babies need time to adjust to their new surroundings just as much as you need to adjust to your new role as new parents. Let’s take a look at just how you can make this fourth trimester a little easier for all of you.
You cannot spoil a new born
Babies thrive on love and affection! Not wanting to hold or cuddle your newborn because you “don’t want to spoil them” is not right. A newborn baby cannot be spoilt. Plenty of cuddle time calms not only the newborn, but also the parents. There is nothing like a little snuggle on the couch with your baby nestled in your chest to relax you and, importantly, to facilitate bonding.
Keep your newborn close to you
Try to have as much skin-to-skin contact in the first few weeks as possible. Your baby will feel warm and safe being close to your heart. Enjoy this cuddle time – it doesn’t last forever. Research has shown that babies who remain in close contact with their parents are much calmer, feed better and, in doing so, thrive in the first few weeks. Keeping your baby close will also make it easier for you as parents: you will get more sleep, and gradually learn to read your baby’s cues and address their needs much easier.
Wear you baby
It is not exactly possible to spend all day cuddled up in bed with your newborn, so when duty calls and chores need to be done, wear your baby. Make use of the amazing slings, wraps and pouches available. Your baby will enjoy the movement and will more likely than not settle into slumber. Babies will have become used to constant movement in the womb. As a result, when you pop your little bundle into a pouch and head out for a walk, they may calm easily and often sleep peacefully for long periods of time. This can be particularly useful for a baby that is a little fussy.
Forget about routines for a while
Newborn babies follow no other schedule than their own unique rhythm. Put away your books, your apps and your schedules for now. Newborn babies don’t need a routine. They need to be allowed to just be. They don’t watch the clock and they can’t be moulded to fit into a routine. Eventually your baby will create their very own routine, one that works for you and them. Parents who try to be strict from day one often just end up putting unnecessary stress on themselves… and you just don’t need any stressors in the fourth trimester.
Feed on demand
The fourth trimester’s biggest hurdle for new parents is getting the feeding right. Breastfeeding works on supply and demand, and the demand of a newborn baby is frequent and unscheduled. Just like us, newborn babies don’t eat every three or four hours exactly. Sometimes they want to snack often and sometimes they want a full three-course meal and to be left for a while. Your baby will eventually settle down to feed more regularly.
The most important thing is to enjoy this stage with your baby. It is for such a short time and before you know you it, your toddler is screaming in the kitchen because you cut their toast in squares instead of triangles.