The fourth trimester is a relatively new term, being used a lot these days.
So what is it they’re talking about?
We all know that pregnancy is divided into three trimesters; The first trimester is week 1 – week 12. The second is week 13 – week 27. And the third is Week 28 – birth. Within each trimester, there are milestones or developmental markers, finally culminating in the foetus’ organ, brain and lung maturity, sufficient enough to be born.
So how can there be a 4th trimester, when TRI means three?
It isn’t a technical term, more a term to put into context, that although your baby has been delivered, baby is still needing lots of attention and time to develop and learn the great big, cold, loud world, while still needing mum as much is if he were still in utero.
Babies are used to constant warmth, a constant source of food, and a dark, warm environment. They aren’t used to the unfamiliar, uncomfortable feeling of being hungry or being cold and exposed. What used to be muffled sound and dim light, is now loud and bright.
So many Mums know the frustration of feeding baby, getting baby to sleep, trying to put baby in the bassinet – only for baby to startle, wake right up, and want to be back at the breast immediately. Then to fall asleep again almost immediately. It sends many a mum to wonder what they’re doing wrong, asking all and sundry for advice to help get baby settled and out of their arms so mum can have a bit of a rest.
Well, you aren’t doing anything wrong at all! Once you understand that this behaviour is biologically normal, you won’t feel frustrated, nor that you must be doing something wrong.
First of all, babies are hardwired by instinct. They are completely dependent beings, to be away from their mother means death. You are their source of food, of love and protection. Secondly, babies need to breastfeed often. Breast milk is easily and quickly digestible. With a tummy the size of a large marble, it needs to be refilled a lot. Baby also needs to be at the breast, suckling to establish your milk supply. The more often a baby suckles, the more pathways are sent to the mothers brain to produce milk. What you may think of as a needy baby is more commonly a baby ensuring it’s food source.
When baby will only sleep being held, again it’s that comfort and warmth, the sound of mum’s heartbeat, that they are so used to. When you take baby away from that, he’s in unfamiliar territory, uncomfortable and probably a little afraid.
When you take all of this into consideration, there are a few things that you can do to make life a little easier for both you and baby.
Investing in a stretchy cotton wrap is probably one of the best investments you can make. You can go about your day, wash the dishes, go to the shops, so many things that you couldn’t do when you were stuck on the lounge trying not to disturb the baby’s sleep.
You can even get tricky and breastfeed while you’re walking around doing your thing. I can’t recommend baby wearing highly enough, personally it saved my sanity. Especially having other kids to care for as well as a newborn.
As with any activity, babywearing can be done the wrong way, please make sure to check out the safe ways to wear your baby.
With my first baby, I would get out of bed, sit up, feed the baby, get back into bed, rinse and repeat over and over. Then I discovered the joy of co-sleeping. The baby would wake, I’d give him my breast and we would both sleep for hours. I didn’t even bother getting out of bed with the next nine, they all bed shared and we all had far more sleep than we could have imagined.
There have been many deaths associated with co-sleeping in infants and it’s important that you know how to safely co-sleep with your baby; you must not be under the influence of drugs or alcohol, baby should not be under your doona or blankets, but have their own, your bed should either be pushed up against the wall or have a safe barrier to prevent falls.
Allow and offer your breast to baby often. You can’t overfeed a breastfed baby, your baby will suckle and take what they need, when they need. If baby falls asleep at the breast, it is because he is content and feeling safe. Baby will release the nipple when he is done. Don’t worry if baby wants to latch on again straight away, often baby is so content that he falls asleep before completely filling his tummy.
If you are bottle-feeding, be sure to follow the guidelines marked on the formula tin. Bottle-fed babies can be overfed, don’t confuse your baby wanting your closeness for hunger. Instead offer a dummy, try babywearing, swaddling, rocking and singing. You don’t have to be a world class singer, babies love the sound and rhythm of mum’s voice.
Skin to skin time. Laying naked baby on your naked chest is a little bit of heaven for both of you. Baby can smell Mum’s scent, and Mum can feel and smell baby’s delicious newborn scent to her hearts content. There are so many benefits to skin to skin time, that many health professionals recommend it for pre-term babies and babies in NICU and special care. Skin to skin helps baby regulate heartbeat and respiration, regulate temperature, and helps with weight gain.
All in all, if you try to remember that for the first three months of your baby’s life, all he wants is Mum and to learn the world safe in her arms. Then you will save yourself a whole heap of stress. That doesn’t mean that only mum has to put in the hard yards. Dad’s, Aunties, Uncle’s, Grandparents can all take the pressure off by babywearing or snuggling baby and letting him sleep in their arms. Dad can have a little skin to skin time, or hop in the bath with baby on his chest. As long as you view baby needing these things, rather than worrying what is going wrong. A weight will be lifted from you, and you know that baby will grow out of it.
Did you co-sleep with your baby? Share with us below!
Image source Shutterstock.