The fourth trimester

The term fourth trimester is often used to describe the first 3 months of your baby’s life. A time of enormous transition that your baby must make from being inside the womb to exiting into the big wide world. Find out about the fourth trimester, what you can expect and how to cope and navigate your way through those first few monhts.
The term fourth trimester is often used to describe the first 3 months of your baby’s life. The 12-week period immediately after you have had your baby. 

The fourth trimester is a time of enormous transition. A time of physical, mental and emotional change as your baby adjusts to being outside the womb, and you adjust to your new life as a mum.

The fourth trimester

What is the fourth trimester?

The term fourth trimester is believed to have been coined by Dr. Harvey Karp, a pediatrician who theorised that human babies are born about three months too early.

He believed that after nine months of pregnancy, a fetus' brain is so big that babies may not fit through the birth canal if they were in the womb much longer. However, they’re still not quite mature enough to leave their cosy space, and it takes about 12 weeks for them to adjust to life on the outside.

What to expect in the fourth trimester

1. Crying in the fourth trimester

Crying in the fourth trimester, and beyond, is the only way that your baby knows how to communicate. They will use crying to let you know when something isn’t right. They might be hungry, in pain or just lonely.

Before your baby is born, they will have been in constant contact with you and soothed by the rhythmic sound of your heartbeat. After birth and during the fourth trimester, they will spend much of their time lying in their bed alone.

This is a hard adjustment for them to make. Don’t be afraid to pick them up and try to soothe your crying baby. You can never give them too many cuddles.
2. Feeding in the fourth trimester

During the fourth trimester in particular, your newborn has a very small stomach, so it doesn’t take much to fill it. Your baby will be hungry quite a lot of the time and require frequent feeding through the day and night. You will probably need to feed them at least 8 times every day.

The wonderful thing about feeding time, is that it’s not just about the food. It is also the perfect time to bond with your baby.

Your baby will let you know when they are hungry by giving you cues. They might open their mouth, suck their fingers, or turn their head towards your breast to latch.
3. Development in the fourth trimester

The fourth trimester is a rapid stage of development for your baby. They will learn to deal with the sensory overwhelm of the outside world.

Having being used to a steady 37 degree temperature in the womb, they will also learn to regulate their own temperature to adjust to hot and cold.

Your baby will be born with the ability to taste and smell and they will be ready to develop these senses. Their vision will become clear and they will be able to identify individual sounds.

They will be accustomed to the feeling of constantly being ‘held’ in the womb, so will still find it comforting to be held after birth.

Your baby will also begin to gain control over their limbs. They will consciously be able to wave their arms and legs, or direct their fist into their mouth.

Coping with the fourth trimester

There is a lot to learn when you are suddenly responsible for a brand new baby.

Here are some tips to help you cope in the fourth trimester.
1. Skin to skin contact in the fourth trimester

There is a reason that skin to skin contact is recommended immediately after birth. It stimulates blood flow in your baby, and it releases the happy hormone, oxytocin.

This happy hormone is great for encouraging your milk to let down if you are breastfeeding. Your baby will be soothed by the warmth of your body and the familiar sound of your heartbeat. This can help regulate your baby’s own heartbeat.

Skin to skin contact remains an excellent way to calm your baby through the fourth trimester. You can pair this skin contact with a deep warm bath to help relax you and your baby.
2. Swaddling in the fourth trimester

During the fourth trimester, being wrapped in a swaddle mimics the cosy feeling of being inside the womb. That is why it makes most babies feel more secure and calms them.

When swaddling your baby, you must make sure you use the correct technique. Wrapping your baby’s legs too tightly can cause the soft hip joints to move out of line. This can lead to hip dysplasia.
3. Baby wearing in the fourth trimester

Carrying your baby in a wrap, carrier or pouch sling during the fourth trimester, and the months ahead, makes them feel like they are constantly being cuddled. Often babies who spend time being carried this way will cry less.

Plus, it allows you to move around with two free hands. You will be able to go to the toilet or prepare meals without needing to hold your baby in your arms.

Baby wearing is also an excellent way to get out of the house with your baby. You won’t need to worry about manoeuvering a large baby buggy around shops, or in and out of the car.

And you will never have the worry of needing to put your baby in a supermarket trolley!
4. Move around in the fourth trimester

During your pregnancy, your baby was constantly on the move with you. They get used to being rocked by your daily movements.

Use this to your advantage in the fourth trimester when they need settling. Getting up and moving around with your baby might settle them easier than sitting still.
5. Feed on demand in the fourth trimester

In these early weeks, particularly during the fourth trimester, your baby will be too young to have developed a feeding routine. Feeding on demand can be a great way to keep everyone happy and meet your baby’s needs.

They will have some days that they are hungrier than others, so watching for your baby’s cues and feeding them when they are hungry will make for a relaxed Mum and a content baby.
6. Remember we are all different

It is important to remember that every baby is different. What works for some families may not work for others. Your baby will have their own personality and needs to be met. They may not even behave the same as their siblings.

Take the time to learn about each other and be in tune with your baby’s needs. The fourth trimester is a fascinating time of growing and development, not only for your baby, but for the whole family. The contrast between the womb and the world is huge, and it will take your baby some time to learn the difference.

More baby articles to enjoy
Source: This article was written for us by Baby & Beyond Post Natal and Sleep Consultants.
Image source: keywordsuggest

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