So you may have heard the term ‘Fourth Trimester’, but what does it really mean? The Fourth Trimester is defined as the time period from birth to 3 months old. This is when your baby is in their most dependent stage!
The Fourth Trimester
The term Fourth Trimester is of course an oxymoron as tri means three. But this term has come about because the first three months of baby’s life is where they develop just as much as what they did in the womb. They need to become accustomed to the noisy, bright, smelly, cold and open world outside of your womb. They learn how to develop their senses, respond to their parents and interact with family and friends.
Animal offspring can often walk a few short hours after birth, whereas a human child is completely reliant on their parents and caregivers for all their needs. Our baby’s brains are well developed at birth and their neural pathways are existent. But their brains will continue to develop massively during this fourth trimester. Your baby’s brain will be like a little sponge, soaking up all of the experiences, sights, sounds, tastes, everything going on around them.
What Can You Expect During the Fourth Trimester
Do not be surprised if your baby cries a lot in these first three months. Crying is their only way to communicate that something is not quite right. Whether it be hunger, pain or loneliness. Don’t be afraid to sooth and comfort them, you cannot spoil a newborn with too much love!
They will be hungry. A lot! A newborn’s stomach is very small, so they will need frequent top ups throughout the day and night. You will likely be feeding upwards of 8 times per 24 hours. Luckily feeding time is not just about food, it’s also about cuddles and bonding. It can be a great time to get Dad involved in the bonding by having him give baby a bottle of expressed breast milk or formula.
Look for your baby’s cues that show they might be hungry. Opening their mouth, sucking their fingers or turning their head to latch. Make sure Daddy is not shirtless at these times or he might get a wee surprise!
While your baby will have all their senses when they are born, they will develop phenomenally in the fourth trimester. Babies are born with the ability to taste and smell, which is why they seek the familiarity of their Mum. Their vision will become crystal clear and they will be able to identify individual sounds.
You may find that your baby will need to practice lying down by themselves. They have been used to 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 be able to achieve conscious movements, waving their arms and kicking their legs.
What Should You Do During the Fourth Trimester?
Skin to Skin
You baby will likely find skin to skin contact very soothing. They will feel reassured by the warmth of your body and your familiar smell. Also, being able to hear your heartbeat can regulate their own heartbeat. It is also a wonderful way to stimulate breastfeeding if this is the route you choose.
Tummy Time is an important exercise, even if it is just for a couple of minutes every day. Your baby might not always enjoy it, but it is vital for strengthening their neck and chest muscles.
Swaddling can soothe some babies. Having their body tightly wrapped can mimic the feeling of being inside your womb. Make sure you read up on swaddling techniques to ensure you are doing it safely!
Move Around With Baby
Your baby has been used to being rocked by your daily movements during pregnancy. So sometimes when they need settling, you can try to move around with them. It may work better than sitting still for some little ones!
Feeding On Demand
In the fourth trimester your baby will be too young to have developed a routine yet. So if it works for your family, feed on demand until you work out each other’s needs. Whether it’s by breast or bottle, baby will feel well looked after and content. They may have days where they are hungrier than others as they grow, so feeding on demand helps keep everyone happy!
Every Baby Is Different
It is important to remember that every baby is different. They all have their own little personalities and needs. What works for one may not work for their siblings! So it’s about learning each other and being in tune with your baby’s needs.
Does your baby like being swaddled or moved around to settle? We would love to know in the comments below or over on our Facebook page.
Gemma is a kiwi Mum of one and is the Editor for The Baby View. She also works with preschool children, loves cooking, loves sunshine, loves chocolate and loses countless hours at a time looking at cute baby pictures on Instagram!