These early days with your new baby are some of the most beautiful and precious of your life together. It’s all about focusing on your new baby, breastfeeding, and bonding. This is often referred to as the 4th trimester! You may have already heard of the three trimesters of pregnancy, but here we will tell you about the very special extra trimester.
Think about it from the perspective of a newborn baby. In the 40 weeks since conception, they have spent every moment in a warm and nurturing environment where their every need was attended to. The 4th trimester is considered from birth until your baby is 12 weeks old. This stage is some of the most exciting and wonderful times with so much change in both of your lives, but can also be extremely tiring and challenging for many mums! Both you and your new baby are going through huge transitions in this period, as you learn from each other, and grow together on a physical, emotional and psychological level.
During the 4th trimester it is about helping your baby/ies make a gentle adjustment to their new world outside the womb. Now, in the world outside the womb, they are adjusting to a more varied and sometimes startling world of sound, colour and stimulation.
Here are four ideas how to enjoy the 4th trimester:
Wearing your baby in a sling, wrap or baby-carrier helps mimic the feeling and movement of being in the womb. Babies often prefer to be carried this way, so they can feel closely snuggled up to their mother’s body. It’s a familiar and comfortable sensation for the baby. Do not worry that your baby doesn’t always like to be in their bassinet at this stage. At first being alone without your touch or the touch of your partner can be overwhelming for babies. They are used to being “held” in the womb 24 hours a day. It takes time for them to get use to sleeping on their own. Give it time and baby will eventually settle more on their own.
During breastfeeding, try doing as much skin-to-skin contact as possible. This helps the baby’s senses feel calm and soothed. Holding the baby close to the mother’s heart is also important since the mother’s heartbeat is a familiar sensation from the womb.
The arrival of a new baby is a huge life transition, and it all happens overnight. You need time to cope, so take it slow and lower your expectations about yourself. You will not “get it” all and that’s OK. Just do the best you can, one day at a time. Be prepared to adjust as you go – figure out what works for your baby to help them stay calm and peaceful.
However, this doesn’t mean you have to tiptoe totally around your baby. Remember, your baby has been used to the natural everyday noises whilst they were in your tummy. Often those noises are quite soothing to baby now they are out of your tummy!
The 4th trimester is the time to get breastfeeding off to a good start. Keep in mind that with breastfeeding, there is no “normal.” It’s not unusual for newborns to breastfeed every 2-3 hours around the clock. It might seem tiring at first, but it’s important to keep breastfeeding the baby whenever they want to feed – this is known as “feeding on cue”.
And don’t worry about “running out of milk!” Breastfeeding works on demand and supply – the more breastmilk your baby demands, the more your breasts will make!
Also, don’t be afraid to ask for help – there is lots of breastfeeding support that you can get online, in the community and from your partner and friends.
It might sound like the last thing on your mind, but as a new mum, you need to make a strong and conscious effort to take care of yourself too.
Try to enjoy the daily rhythms of life with a newborn, and don’t be too hard on yourself. Taking care of this little child right now in this moment is the most important work of your life.
Let go of all expectations about sleep and schedules and follow the advice to sleep when baby sleeps – seriously! Getting enough rest should be one of your very top priorities. Keep in mind that as a new mum, your hormones are still unpredictable. Don’t worry about skin breakouts, dry hair, or moments of frustration or ill temper. No one is judging – least of all your beautiful baby!
Just go with the flow – don’t stress about making mistakes. Every day with a newborn is a huge learning experience as you build a relationship with this new amazing person in your life. Praise yourself when you do great – keep a positive attitude – make it fun, and remember to laugh every day.
Most of all, be sure to ask for help: from your partner, family, friends, and professionals like lactation consultants when needed. In a way the fourth trimester requires the same type of self-care as still being pregnant – take care of yourself, eat nutritious foods, dress comfortably, and get as much sleep as you possibly can.