The 4th trimester

Amber here, the doula, not the photographer ;)

I want to talk a little bit about the 4th trimester and how important this time is for baby. The 4th trimester is the month of life after baby is born. It is named this to be perceived as an extension to the third trimester in the womb, where baby is still developing. Many parents bring their sweet newborns home, not knowing much about this tiny little human or how important the first 4 weeks are adjusting to this brand new outside world. Many babies are thought to be “clingy” or “fussy” when put down, and parents are left wondering why their baby is unhappy unless held all day and night. They often wonder if they will ever be able to put them down. This can be especially difficult when new moms are trying to get enough sleep. Babies are content in utero and have spent all of their life in the womb, before suddenly being born into this very different outside world. Naturally, it's going to take some getting used to.

“Birth suddenly disrupts this organization. During the month following birth, baby tries to regain his sense of organization and fit into life outside the womb. Birth and adaptation to postnatal life bring out the temperament of the baby, so for the first time he must do something to have his needs met. He is forced to act, to “behave.” If hungry, cold, or startled, he cries. He must make an effort to get the things he needs from his caregiving environment. If his needs are simple and he can get what he wants easily, he’s labeled an “easy baby”; if he does not adapt readily, he is labeled “difficult.”” – Dr. William Sears.

When baby is inside the womb, everyday is the same for them. They are warm, not hungry, and do not need anything from us to be soothed. They are content and happy and want for nothing.  When they are born, and suddenly immersed into our world, outside of the safety of the womb, they are of course going to need time and a little help to make this big adjustment.

As parents or caregivers we can help them with this adjustment with the use of a few simple tricks.

  • Motion- the womb is a constant place of rocking and swaying, it is always soothing and lulling baby to sleep. In the outside world, baby is often placed to sleep in a bassinet or crib, where there is no motion to soothe them. A few baby gear items can help them make this transition, but don’t worry, baby won't always need this motion to sleep. You can easily wean baby off motion devices with little effort so don't worry about starting bad habits.
  • Swaddling- when babies are in the womb, space is limited. Baby feels nice and snug. Outside baby can feel “wide open” and his reflexes can startle him from a sleep. Newborns often need to feel secure to fall asleep or to stay calm because this is what their life inside the womb felt like. Swaddling can calm a fussy baby within minutes, and can help baby sleep better at night.
  • White noise- Inside the womb, baby hears muffled sounds and the rhythm of moms heartbeat constantly. Babies will often calm when the vacuum runs, or when a hairdryer is being used. It's a good idea to use a white noise sound machine during these first couple of weeks or even longer to help baby sleep better or to soothe.
  • Baby-wearing- This is the perfect place for baby. You can wear baby skin to skin at home, promoting milk production and further soothing baby. Babies will feel warm, snuggled, and rocked while you're wearing them. It's pretty darn close to being in the womb. It can calm even the fussiest of babies. Pressed up against your chest, baby can even hear your heartbeat and smell your milk. It's also a really great way for dads to bond with their babies in these first few weeks.
  • On demand feeding- breastfeeding (or bottle feeding too)- Babies love to suck and enjoy having a full belly. You can't really over nurse a newborn. This time is so important for their growth and to stimulate your milk production. Let baby nurse on demand as cluster feed as needed. Try not to get caught up on schedules or a pattern just yet. A full newborn is often a happy, sleepy newborn. 

Grab a few or all of these helpful products, and see how easy you can soothe your newborn during this 4th trimester.

Your Naturally Newborn doula,

Amber G