What is the 4th Trimester all about?
The 4th Trimester is the term given to describe the first three months of a baby’s life.
It refers to the idea that in many ways a newborn human baby is immature and displays many of it’s in utero characteristics during it’s early weeks. Some animals can be up on their feet just minutes after birth, but human babies are born relatively defenseless and fully dependent on their caregivers to meet all their needs. It is not usually until a baby is nearing the 3 month mark that they start to smile and interact more with their caregivers and emerge from their sleepy newborn state.
Helping baby to slowly transition from the sensations and sounds they would have experienced in the womb, to the big, bright, open world has its benefits.
They have been wrapped and held firmly by the uterus. The wide open space outside coupled with the ‘startle’ reflex babies are born with, can make a new baby unsettled if not held or wrapped. Babies who remain close to their caregivers can smell them, hear their heartbeat and voice, which is all reassuring and soothing.
It’s worthwhile thinking about the fact that newborns have actually been living inside someone else’s body and that is quite noisy! It is estimated to be louder than the volume of a vacuum cleaner inside the uterus! So in fact being alone in a quiet nursery is probably an unfamiliar, perhaps unsettling, place for a new baby. Inside the uterus they get moved and jostled all day, as you go about your daily activities, so rhythmical movement is comforting for them. It is usually when you stop moving and lie down at night that they become active and ‘wake up.’
It is also important to know that a new baby does not yet know that they are their own separate being yet. Keeping them close, holding them or ‘wearing’ them in a carrier or sling will help to calm them if unsettled. Research has shown that babies who are held, in arms or in a wrap or sling for part of the day actually cry less overall.
So by continuing to mimic some of these womb sensations may help baby through their 4th Trimester and you have an easier transition to life with a new baby! Over time you can slowly wean baby off these supports as they grow and mature. Remember baby has no concept of the future; they live entirely in the present. You cannot spoil a small baby so hold, kiss and cuddle them all you want.
If you would like to know more about the 4th Trimester, see Parent Prep’s 4th Trimester Education and Support Page.