For many pregnant moms-to-be, the goal is to deliver a healthy baby after nine long months of being an incubator. This was certainly my goal. When I finally delivered a healthy baby boy, I realized the journey was not yet over for him or me. During my time in the hospital, everyone warned me of the exhaustion and discomfort that was soon to come. There was the discomfort of learning how to breastfeed, exhaustion from the hourly feedings and lack of sleep, and all of the changes from my body after the task it accomplished. Yet, no one mentioned to me the discomfort and adjustment my own newborn would also have to go through during this “fourth trimester”. Read on to find different methods that can help your newborn adjust to life after birth.
Understanding the Fourth Trimester
The fourth trimester begins the moment your baby is born and ends roughly three months later. During the fourth trimester, the goal is to slowly ease your newborn from life inside the womb to living outside the womb. This is also the time when your newborn goes through the most changes. They are adjusting to all of the noises around them, trying to create a sleeping pattern, and developing social skills along with growing quickly. During this journey, I have discovered mothering tricks and ideas that I used to ease my own newborn into his new world and also ease my own stress. My goal is for all mothers to embrace this new journey versus simply hanging on and surviving the fourth trimester.
Movement Versus Swaddling
Inside the womb, newborns are cuddled up tightly and feel content as you move about completing your day to day interactions. It is important that you continue to mimic this feeling once they arrive. Once my son made his grand debut, he enjoyed our swaddling sessions for the first week and after that, he fought and busted through each swaddling attempt. For me, moving and swinging him in my arms worked better than swaddling him. I imagined this was due to me always moving and being on the go when I was pregnant. Think about your movements during pregnancy. Pick a method and see which one your newborn responds to better. Remember, the goal is for your baby to be comforted as he was during his time in the womb.
Skin-to-Skin Contact Versus Baby Wearing
Maintaining skin contact is a great way to instantly calm a fussy newborn. Laying your newborn on your chest allows him to feel your heartbeat, which not only comforts him but also helps him regulate his heartbeat. In addition, newborn babies can regulate their own temperature based on how hot or cold mama is and also allows them to practice rooting for breastfeeding. If constant skin contact may not work, you can invest in a sturdy baby sling. Baby slings still meet many of the same goals as skin-to-skin just with more freedom. Your newborn remains close and connected to you while freeing up your arms. These choices also are a great way for dad to help out and bond with the newest family member.
Feeding on Demand Versus Holding on Demand
The opinions towards these last two suggestions are changing in the parenting world. When your newborn is hungry, feed him. Feeding on demand is more than your newborn eating. Your newborn seeks comfort and warmth, and many times he eats in quick bursts and then falls asleep comforted by you. In the beginning, I felt horrible for constantly feeding him, and my grandmother even scolded me for feeding him so often until I saw the results at his two week check-up. Be it a breastfed or bottle-fed baby, newborns need to eat when they demand it until they are satisfied.
For babies who may not eat as often, they may still be fussy. To ease a newborn through a crying phase, adjust their position. Sometimes, this may mean you are constantly holding them. Many mothers, including myself, felt that holding a baby will lead to them being spoiled. The best advice I received was that you cannot spoil a newborn. Some babies need to be held more. This is why you may rock them to sleep for them to begin screaming once you set them down. Investing in a bassinet or portable sleeper allows your newborn to still feel your presence while they sleep safely.
Every Baby is Different
It is important to pay attention to your baby’s cues and see what they do or do not like. By the end of the fourth trimester, your newborn will have made great strides physically, mentally, and socially. During this time, the nights seem long but the time is short. Take the time to embrace the fourth trimester and watch as your newborn develops into a unique, tiny person. As my son enters a new phase, I hope my story motivates other mothers to embrace this fourth trimester instead of simply hanging on and surviving.