The 4th Trimester

You may or may not have heard the term ‘The 4th Trimester’. It wasn’t something I had come across 7 years ago when having my first child and it wasn’t something I had heard of until 2-3 months in post birth with my second. But it makes a lot of sense with regards to newborn development and social relationships.

The theory behind the 4th trimester is that this new human has been thrust into a strange place, that is bright and loud and scary. It’s almost like an adult being handcuffed with a sack over your head and taken to a place you’ve never been before. The first thing you would do is seek out comfort. Find something that makes you feel safer. The same goes for your baby and that safe place is you, their mum.

So taking this into consideration, your baby wants you. They need you. They know that you are there for them, you grew them, they know the sound of your heartbeat, your voice and your breathing. So when people are saying to put your baby down or you’re wondering why you baby cries when they are put down or cuddled by someone else; it’s because they don’t know them and they’re away from their safe place. They are in effect, feeling scared.

Babies don’t know that our modern world is safe and that there aren’t predators out there trying to eat them. They are full of reflexes and instincts that have evolved in order to aid survival. Crying is a way that they would alert you to a predator and let you know that they are feeling scared, hungry, tired or overwhelmed. These emotions are normal.

Sarah Ockwell-Smith has a fantastic picture comparing the womb to the world and a great article to match it, which can be found here.

 

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Image courtesy of Sarah Ockwell-Smith

The 4th trimester comes into this as being the stage post-birth where your baby is essentially at their most vulnerable. The time that they need you to be able to feel safe and learn about the world and their surroundings. You may find that your little baby doesn’t want to be put down or held by anyone else because they want you. This stage is also important for mum; it helps with bonding and being able to get to know your baby. It also gives rise to a well-established milk supply and recovery from birth.

This is the time that your baby will feed frequently and seem to only want to sleep on your chest. Generally, this stage passes around 12 weeks or 3 months post birth; when your baby is finally getting to grips with their surroundings and better able to see objects and understand what some things are; namely where they are most safe and happy.

But don’t fret, there are somethings that can help:

  • A baby carrier allows you to be hands-free whilst holding your baby and allowing them that comfort of feeling safe. There are lots of different carriers out there and I would recommend visiting a local sling library. You can search for a local group here and here.
  • Some mums find that bedsharing allows them to get more sleep whilst their baby feeds and also aids that closeness that your baby craves. There are certain guidelines that are important to follow if you chose to bed share with your baby. 
  • Batch cooking meals whilst in pregnancy can help ensure that you have food to eat with minimal effort in the early weeks. It also means that visitors can pop some food in the microwave for you whilst you’re feeding or cuddling your baby.
  • Expect the cuddles, expect the fussiness, expect that your baby will want you and most likely only you. If it’s something you’re already anticipating then it won’t be so much of a shock. 

Did you have a babymoon? Did your baby have an obvious 4th trimester? Share your experiences 🙂

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