The truth about the fourth trimester
With heavy eyes but a full heart, SimplySix blogger Rebekah Hoeft shares her tips for navigating the fourth trimester with a newborn.
The fourth trimester is the three months following the arrival of your baby. It’s the moment after birth when your heart overflows with love as you meet your baby for the first time. It’s the long, sleepless nights that follow, when your nipples are raw, your eyes heavy and your heart full. It’s when you learn about what's important now: looking after your baby and yourself. It's when you learn about yourself as a mother and about your new baby and their specific needs. This trimester introduces you to the wonderful world of parenthood.
The fourth trimester is a term used to describe the period after birth until your baby is three months old. Throughout this time, the developmental changes your baby is experiencing are huge, and are just as important as their time spent in the womb.
Life outside the womb is a huge adjustment. Your baby moves from the security of constant warmth, darkness and muffled noises to somewhere bright and loud and where they’re no longer snug and secure. By understanding the environment your baby is accustomed to, can help you to best comfort and soothe them, and by using this knowledge it provides you with the tools to adapt to their needs. This is why it;s important to offer options to your baby to help them transition easier, and by providing endless amounts of love and support, the transition is in turn, easier for parents too.
I breastfed on demand for all my children, and during the fourth trimester it proved to be invaluable. I do understand that not all new mums are able to breastfeed, but as long as your baby is fed - you’re doing great! Whether bottle-feeding or breastfeeding, when fed on demand it not only provides your baby with all the nourishment and nutrients they need but on top of that it provides you with the perfect opportunity to bond with your baby. During this time, they receive reassurance that their needs are being met, they enjoy cuddles, interaction, eye contact and love.
Many babies love to be swaddled, it provides stability and comfort similar to what they experienced whilst in the womb. My experiences with swaddling vary, one of my babies loved being swaddled, she would fall asleep instantly and would sleep for hours. The others, not so much - they would fight until their arms were free. This is a perfect example of how each baby is different, how there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution to soothe them.
Skin-to-skin is a technique that is often encouraged immediately after birth and works wonders during the fourth trimester. There are many advantages of skin-to-skin contact: it helps encourage correct latching, it provides your baby with soothing and calming benefits, helps baby to recognise your scent and strengthens the bond between you and your baby. Skin-to-skin is not only great for mum and baby but is also a great way to develop the bond between baby and dad. In our home, we ensured that dad would get the opportunity to nurture the bond between him and the baby by showering together therefore, creating a moment that they could both enjoy and baby would be able to have the support, love and comfort from dad too. Skin-to-skin holds numerous advantages for your baby but in all honesty, it is also a beautiful experience for parents too.
Baby-wearing, rocking and swaying are all great techniques to use for newborns throughout the fourth trimester as they recreate the gentle movements that baby’s recognise from the womb. When inutero, they were held securely, and constantly felt your movement throughout the day, so by mimicking these movements it can create a sense of security and comfort for your baby.
The fourth trimester is a time filled with learning, laughing and love. You learn that all babies are different, and how to fulfill your baby's needs. So, take in each moment of madness, each moment of bliss, every tear, every smile and remember, you are doing great! Before you know it, this time has passed and despite how sleep-deprived you may feel now, you'll look back longingly and full of love.
Written by Rebekah Hoeft