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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.
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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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.