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The Fourth Trimester From Your Baby’s Perspective

We often focus on how new motherhood is such an immense physical and emotional change for a woman, but rarely do we consider what the transition is like for the newborn baby.

Have you heard of the fourth trimester? Described by expert Dr. Harvey Karp as the first three months of a baby’s life, it is a time when a newborn is adjusting to life outside of the womb.

Basically, it’s the idea that babies are born too soon.

It can help to think of your newborn as a foetus outside the cosy place they called home for more than nine months

So, what is the fourth trimester like from your baby’s perspective?

Sleep

Life inside the womb was warm, relatively quiet, dark, and cushioned. Anytime your baby felt tired, he was gently rocked to sleep while you went about your day. Now, he’s out in the big world with bright sunshine and lights, loud noises, and he’s (sometimes) sleeping flat on his back.

Feeding

Your baby never felt hungry or thirsty inside the womb because she was constantly fed through the umbilical cord. As a newborn, she has to get used to telling you when she’s hungry, while you get used to discerning which cry means what. Feeding through her mouth plus the new sensations and tastes of milk are all huge changes for her.

Comfort

With the temperature regulated by your body, your baby never felt cold or hot inside the womb. He was cocooned in a safe water world, whereas outside the womb, he’s experiencing changing temperatures, the sensation of wearing clothes, and all kinds of new smells. Digestive discomfort would be expected as your baby’s body adjusts to milk as opposed to the nutrients he received through the umbilical cord.

Love

Your baby never knew loneliness or fear when she was inside your womb. She was always with you, listening to the rhythmic flow of fluid and blood, and your familiar voice from within. Outside the womb, there are suddenly new people and unfamiliar sounds that could frighten her. When left alone in a bassinet or car seat, she may cry out for you because she needs to feel your presence.

How you can help your baby during the fourth trimester

Seeing life from your baby’s perspective can help to strengthen your bond while you work together to make life easier during this wonderful, but often challenging, period. Your baby may have started crying a lot, but as you can see, he has plenty of reason to!

Your newborn needs your help during the fourth trimester, and in supporting them, it will make this time more enjoyable for you. Essentially, the trick is to emulate the conditions of the womb to keep him or her calm:

  1. Swaddling: A safe, breathable swaddle is a wonderful way to make your baby feel secure and settled while they sleep.
  2. Wear your baby: Baby-wearing helps to make your baby feel tightly supported, close to you, and warm and cosy. It’s ideal for getting a few things done, as well as getting outdoors (hopefully while your baby sleeps on you).
  3. White noise: Play white noise to recreate the sound of your rather loud whooshing blood inside the womb. It also helps to block out any sudden household noises that might startle your baby.
  4. Swaying motions: It’s important for your mental health to get out and about, so find your baby’s preference: whether it’s in the car, the pram, or in the baby carrier, the movement will help to soothe your unsettled baby. Baby swings and hammocks were invented for this very reason as well.
  5. Slow down: Try to ignore the urge to do housework or to fill your day with stimulating activities for your baby. This is a temporary period of slowing life down, resting, bonding, and getting to know one another. You’ll soon discover otherwise that an overstimulated baby can get very grumpy towards the end of the day.
  6. Ignore the clock: Newborn tummies are tiny, so they need to be filled regularly – day and night. Your baby will sleep around the clock, and that’s because it’s all she knows. She can’t grasp the concept of day and night, so for now, she’ll sleep when she’s tired. This is temporary, so forget trying to stick to any kind of routine. Habits of any sort can’t be formed, and babies can’t be spoiled by being held too much.
  7. Skin-to skin-contact. Skin contact boosts the love hormone, oxytocin, which helps to increase the bond (and assist with breastfeeding). Dim the lights and snuggle together, or offer soothing baby massages which can also help to alleviate painful wind for them.
  8. Bath time: Your baby may not enjoy bath time at first because they don’t like getting cold when their clothes come off, but it’s a great opportunity for some more skin-to-skin contact, so get into the bath together.

As you can see, the fourth trimester is a period of great change and development for your newborn. By offering plenty of love, understanding, and support, you can make this transition smoother for the both of you. And of course, it WILL pass.

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