Fourth Trimester: Surviving Life With A Newborn

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I remember having my first baby and being flooded with information and advice. Everyone seemed to want to tell me how to get her to sleep through the night or how to have her self soothe. It was all so foreign to me, I didn’t know what to expect. I was a sleep deprived new mom getting information thrown at me from every side. So many people had told me she should sleep through the night  in her own crib at mere weeks old. She should be soothing herself as opposed to me holding her. I felt I was doing everything wrong because she only wanted me. This is when I discovered the truth about the fourth trimester.

The first few months after your baby is born can be a trying time. See why your baby is "clingy" "needy" and only wants to be by you!

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What is the Fourth Trimester?

The fourth trimester is the first three months postpartum. Your baby is new to this world, and has only ever experienced your womb. Everything is new to your baby. All of the feelings and sensations that we are accustomed to are foreign to your bundle of joy. Your baby has never before felt cold or hunger or pain and he doesn’t know how to cope yet. Imagine, you know one thing your entire life. You are kept warm and fed and never feel pain. Then one day you are ripped away from everything you knew and expected to function in a completely new environment. It sounds terrible doesn’t it? This is what our babies experience, yet we expect them to adjust quickly. Those first few months are going to be difficult on you and your baby, but there are ways to ease the transition for both of you.

4th trimester. womb vs world. first 3 months with a new baby

Why is the Fourth Trimester Important?

The first few months of a baby’s life is extremely important for their growth and development. During these first few months, a newborn will require constant care in order for them to thrive. They are new to this world, and a large portion of their development occurs in these first three months. It is important that a parent respond to baby’s cues, as opposed to allowing them to cry it out. Children of this age are incapable of soothing themselves or manipulation. This means that babies cry for a reason. Whether it be from hunger, discomfort, or loneliness there is always a reason for a baby’s cry. The closeness that they crave is actually extremely important to their development. Babies will begin to learn that their mother is a caregiver they can trust because she responds to the cues. Children who are left to cry it out at a very young age have a tendency to believe that no one will be there for them when they are in need.

Please remember that these are my personal opinions that I have formed from doing copious amounts of research. I am not a medical professional, I am simply a mother who has survived the fourth trimester, twice.

Surviving the Fourth Trimester

newborn baby survival guide. The first 3 months with a new baby. the fourth trimester.

If you want to make the fourth trimester as easy as possible for you and your baby, here are a few things that you can try.

Baby Wearing

Your baby is used to being in constant contact with you. For 9 months, that baby has known only you. Your warmth surrounded him and now he is in a cold environment and craves your touch. I get that you can’t hold your baby 24 hours a day. There are things you need to get done and you need both hands to do it. In order to make life so much easier for you and your baby one of the best things you can do is try baby wearing. There are quite a few different options out there. Many moms use a wrap such as the Moby Wrap. I personally could never figure those out, but so many swear by them. My personal favorite is the Ergobaby. As I have mentioned in the past, my daughter was born with Hip Dysplasia. Her Orthopedic doctor actually recommended using an Ergo as it was designed to properly distribute weight and maintain an ergonomic position for your baby.Baby wearing allows you to be hands free, and your baby to experience the closeness that he craves. I would recommend investing in a high quality wrap or carrier, because many of the cheaper alternates can be ill-fitting and uncomfortable. This is an investment, but one that will pay off. I purchased my Ergo with my daughter, and I am still able to use it four years later with my son.
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Breastfeeding

If you are able to breastfeed, this will make the early days so much easier. While it can seem like a chore to nurse a baby, in reality nursing moms are able to get more sleep on average than formula feeding mothers. Breastfeeding will not only provide all of the nutrients that your baby needs, but it will also provide them with closeness and comfort. I recommend feeding on demand as opposed to setting a schedule. Typically, babies are not on a schedule for quite a while, and when they are hungry, they want to eat!  If you want to read all about breastfeeding then click here for my secrets to a successful breastfeeding relationship.

Skin to Skin

Any time you are able to do skin to skin with your baby, you should. This can help calm an upset baby easily. It will also help regulate their temperature if they are cold or if they have a fever. Your little one has known only you for so long, that contact between you and your baby is imperative. The easiest way to do skin to skin is when the baby is nursing or you can even bathe together.

Bath Time

Remember when i said earlier that the womb was an aquatic environment? Well a nice warm bath can help comfort a crying baby. They feel at peace in the water. It is comforting to them because for nine months, all they knew was water. Bath time is also a great time to implement skin to skin contact by getting in with your little one!

Swaddling

For times that you are unable to hold your baby, swaddling is an excellent option. Personally, I am a terrible swaddler so I like to use sleep sack and pre-done swaddle blankets. Swaddling your baby will wrap them up nice and tight (but not too tight). The tightness around them makes them feel more at ease. Remember, they are used to being in a confined space inside you, so all of the freedom of movement and space is new to them. There is a correct and incorrect way to swaddle, and you can find all of that information here. It is recommended that you stop swaddling once your baby is able to roll over on their own in order to prevent any injury or suffocation.

Co-Sleeping

This is a controversial one. On one hand, many mothers are warned right away that they should not bed-share with their infant. There are certain risks that can come along with co-sleeping, but when done safely and correctly it is a God send. There are methods to making co-sleeping extremely safe. For breastfeeding mothers especially, it can lead to more sleep and a reduced rate of SIDS. I am no expert, but I safely co-slept with both of my babies. I was able to easily nurse the baby back to sleep, and baby would tend to sleep longer when near me or on my chest. They make amazing products now a days to assist with safe co-sleeping, such as the Dock-A-Tot. I recommend doing your own research and deciding what is best for your family. Here are some great informational guides on the pros and cons.

Learn how to survive the first three months with your newborn.

The fourth trimester is a tiring and difficult time. Your baby is new to this world and you are new to parenting. It is a time to learn and a time to enjoy your baby being little. Of all of the aforementioned tips the best advice I have for you is to trust your gut. Everyone will have something to say, but you need to decide what is best for your family. You are the mother and you know your child best. Don’t ever let anyone make you feel belittled for your choices either. Trust yourself, and trust your baby, then the rest is simple.

61 comments

  1. robin masshole mommy says:

    I didn’t believe in co-sleeping and I didn’t breastfeed. I think each mom has to figure out what’s best for her own family and do just that.

  2. tkmom18 says:

    I love everything about this! I am nearing six months EBF for the first time, this is my third baby. Co-sleeping is also something we have done pretty much since the start, but being careful and safe are so important like you said.
    I cherish the fourth trimester…never again will they curl up on your chest like that in a tiny sweet little ball…I miss it already!

    • admin says:

      My little boy is 4 months already and it seems like it has gone by so fast! My daughter is almost 4 years old now and I wish she would just cuddle up with me more!

  3. Heather says:

    Love this!! “Fourth trimester” is the best name anyone could give those first 3 months. Been through it twice and getting ready for the third, and you’re right. It’s a very hard time and you always get a mountain of advice… but especially in those first 3 months you just gotta do whatever gets you through the day… and night.

  4. Traveling Well For Less says:

    Your post puts baby wearing into perspective. I had never really thought about how the baby feels. But you’re right, he/she goes from 9 months safely cocooned and then thrust into a new environment, open and exposed. Baby wearing totally make sense.

    • admin says:

      I couldn’t agree more! My husband has been such a huge help, and my older daughter, while she had her jealous moments, is such a helpful big sister.

  5. Amanda Love says:

    These are all very important. I think it’s nice that you’ve mentioned baby wearing because it’s not just a convenient way to hold your baby when needed, but it’s also a great way to bond with them. I loved my carriers and wraps when my kids were little!

    • admin says:

      My youngest just turned 4 months, my oldest is almost 4…. I had forgotten all about how tough the first few months were. Luckily I have survived! even though now he is teething, and he still wakes up to nurse and still co-sleeps lol

    • admin says:

      It was something I had always been told lol It’s like an extension of your pregnancy.. It really does fit because that baby is so new.

  6. Brandi with Big Fit Fam says:

    Each of my kids has loved being worn i pretty much just walk around with a outside pregnancy for a whie! And when they are sucper fussy i take them in the shower with me and they instantly calm down. These are great tips!

  7. Roxanne says:

    I had twins my first time as mom! That fourth trimester is a blur of learning and understanding and comforting. I had no help- it was me by myself for 13 hour days with two babies! No wonder I don’t remember very much from it!

  8. Amber Richter says:

    Co-sleeping does not necessarily mean bed sharing. Having the baby sleep in close proximity in the same room (like in a bassinet) is considered co-sleeping. I was, and still am, very uncomfortable with bed sharing. I know it works great for some people, but it makes me too nervous. My daughter slept in a bassinet within arms reach of me for the first 6 months. Great tips for new parents!

  9. Christine Cox says:

    Babywearing saved my sanity I believe! I had a toddler running around and a newborn baby! How in the world was I supposed to get stuff done without putting the new baby in a carrier?!

  10. Heather says:

    We did co-sleeping with all three of our little ones. I definitely think it is the best thing for us, especially because I didn’t need to get out of bed in the middle of the night to get them to nurse 🙂

  11. AshKTaylor says:

    Baby wearing was a must with my second!! I would have never gotten anything done those first three months after birth. I used a mai-tie carrier and absolutely loved it but would have definitely preferred a Moby wrap I think!
    We didn’t cosleep with our second, but it was mandatory with our first who was colicky and she frequently nursed in her sleep.
    All of the ways that you mentioned to make transitioning to the world from the womb easier have absolutely rung true for me and my children!
    Breastfeeding was definitely more of a struggle in a sense the second time around. I just felt like I was neglecting my oldest, but I hung in there and we are now going on 9 months!

  12. Jenny says:

    Really great infographic on putting the differences for the baby in perspective. I hadn’t thought about it quite like that before. I really started babywearing with my youngest/3rd and we both loved it!

  13. Jalisa Marie says:

    I had no idea what baby wearing was and wasn’t really introduced to it. My family didn’t bring any light to me either. I’m glad my second time around I have found plenty of mom groups so I can be able to pick the righ gear for my second one.

  14. Jocelyn @ Hip Mama's Place says:

    I love that you wrote this because people that don’t have babies don’t understand how much bonding time you need with your baby to make them feel safe. It’s a whole new world for them and its scary. i always said the first 3 months are all about survival because its so hard!

  15. Jennifer Marx (JenuineMom) says:

    When I had my son, I don’t think I’d heard the term “fourth trimester.” But it really does make SO much sense. Those first few months mean everything.

  16. Krystal // The Krystal Diaries says:

    I am not a mother but I still get unsolicited advice on what I’ll need to do when I am a mother. I think every parent needs to do what works best for them and just because someone has children does not make them experts. Do whats best for your baby and you!

  17. The Everyday Mom Life says:

    This is such an important topic. I think that it’s not discussed enough and moms don’t know enough about it.

  18. mrsdoingmybest says:

    Thank you for sharing your story and what worked for you! The fourth trimester is survival for everyone as everyone gets to know each other! Every baby is so different too. I had 2 with reflux and one that needed special formula. Stressful. So much trial and error during this time for everyone!

    • admin says:

      Exactly. Everyone wants to say that a parent HAS to do one thing, but that may not work for them. I bed share but that might not be best for everyone. 🙂 I enjoyed seeing what worked for others and then trying to adapt it to my way of life

  19. thetaylor411 says:

    I completely agree. With both of my boys I swaddled, co slept, breastfeed, and baby wore. My youngest is 9 months now and I still do all of these except swaddle. They all really helped tremendously.

  20. softfuzzygunddog says:

    Every point you make is right on the money. At least for me.
    My Doll is 1y7m and I still wear her sometimes (although it’s hard with a 31week belly!). I used the Moby until she was a couple months old then I switched to the Ergo, which I love!
    We breastfed up until she got a cold and couldn’t latch (but she was only suckling herself to sleep by then, not actually drinking), which I think was around the 14m mark?
    We did tons of skin to skin and lots of baths (honestly, they were more for me than her).
    She didn’t really need to be swaddled for too long. Just at times when she would flail a lot which kept her from falling asleep.
    And we co-slept until a bit after she stopped breastfeeding.
    And I plan to do it just about the same with baby #2!

  21. Wendy Rohin, PTendy says:

    I am a Pediatric PT and I need to say something about the co-sleeping “advice” (By the way, all the other suggestions are right on.) If you lots a baby or know someone who lost a baby from SIDS, you would want EVERYONE to know this.

    This not a controversial topic. It’s an unfortunate reality.

    Co-sleeping, with an infant in YOUR bed with other people, blankets, pillows, etc. is responsible for a very high percentage of infant deaths. This is a FACT, substantiated by decades of scientific research.

    Co-sleepERS is a term used for a newer style of infant bed that allows a baby to sleep CLOSE to her mother WITHOUT the risks of suffocation by sleeping IN mom’s bed.

    Need evidence?
    http://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/3/5/e002299.long
    http://thescientificparent.org/crib-notes-is-cosleeping-really-unsafe/

    Or do a simple google search “Study about Co-sleeping and SIDS” or similar.

    It is easy to give co-sleeping advice to other moms because you and your baby slept better, but if you were an unfortunate parent of a baby who died while sleeping in their arms, you would be saying something entirely different.

    Here’s a comparison:
    Babies under the age of 12months are 50 TIMES MORE LIKELY to die of SIDS than a motor vehicle accident. Would you ever tell a parent NOT TO BUCKLE THE BABY’S SEATBELT because YOUR baby cried less in the car when you left the seatbelt unbuckled…and it’s OK because your baby didn’t die?????????

    WATCH THIS VIDEO IF YOU’RE NOT CONVINCED–It’s from a mom who’s baby died whiles sleeping with her in her bed. http://woodtv.com/2015/06/05/mom-hopes-babys-co-sleeping-death-warns-others/

    Thank you for reading. I chose my profession to HELP babies and their parents, not to make their lives more difficult. “Knowledge is greater than fear.”

  22. Bre Gana says:

    I thought I had already left a comment on this blog when I read it the first time. I love everything about this post! I pinned it and plan to use your tips once the baby’s here in about a month! Thank you! I always enjoy your posts!

  23. toughcookiemommy says:

    The fourth trimester can be a difficult time. I remember I couldn’t wait to give birth at that point and I felt very heavy and cumbersome.

  24. Justine June says:

    LOL! my new mom friends didn’t believe me when I said there was a fourth trimester! I basically wore my sons for three months straight after they were born — eating, cooking, going to the bathroom, the extra 10 lbs of baby helped me gain my strength back 🙂

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