What every mum needs to know about the often frustrating fourth trimester
Nine months is a long time to have someone attached to you, 24/7. But, for many mums, this is only the beginning. While pregnancy consists of three trimesters, the first three months with your newborn is often dubbed the fourth trimester.
Once your newborn arrives, you may find that she won’t be content unless she is in your arms. And, while it can be frustrating and make you feel like you’re failing, you’re actually doing everything right.
So, to the new mums struggling with a clingy newborn, dying for a shower and assuming that you are doing something wrong, here’s the truth you need to hear:
Called the Fourth Trimester, the first three months with a new baby are not only the hardest for you and your partner but also for your little one. Yes, you’re exhausted, your breasts are aching, your house is a mess and you’re stressed about pretty much everything. Add to the mix, a baby who cries all the time, refuses to sleep and needs to be held constantly.
It’s only natural to assume you’re messing this up, that it’s not supposed to be like this, that your baby is crying and upset because you’re doing something wrong. Stop. Take a deep breathe. And look at it from your newborn’s side of things.
Your baby’s point of view
For nine months all she has known is the comfort of your uterus, where she can eat and sleep whenever she feels like it. She knows you are close – she can hear you and feel you from within. And this is her comfort zone. YOU are her comfort zone.
Now… well, now she’s out. And the space is huge. Sometimes it’s dark. Sometimes it’s light. Sometimes it’s cold. Sometimes it’s hot. Sometimes she’s in your arms. Sometimes she’s in a strange blanket thing. Sometimes these strange new items known as clothes and nappies and weird hat thingies are itchy and uncomfortable. Sometimes she’s hungry but there’s nothing to suck. Sometimes she’s sleepy but she is too overwhelmed to just sleep. And sometimes you are not there.
To her, this is just as confusing. And the only way to voice these concerns is to cry. Because crying makes you come. And all she wants is you.
This is often the case for the first three months, sometimes longer. Babies are not prepared for the world outside the uterus. Some experts suggest that babies actually require more growth in utero but this would make childbirth far too dangerous and difficult.
From womb to world
Replicating the womb in every day situations is one way to help your baby feel more comfortable and get used to this new environment slowly, without such dramatic changes. So let’s think about the womb, shall we?
It’s dark and warm.
She’s pretty much in a bath of heated water. And while you can’t replicate this space, you can try to keep her at a comfortable temperature. Giving bub a bath and skin-to-skin can also help soothe her.
She’s upside down and squashed up.
Swaddling, baby wearing and carrying your infant in a natural, belly down position, can make her feel more comfortable.
There’s lots of strange background sounds.
Like your gurgling tummy. And your beating heart. White noise, pink noise or even comfort toys that mimic these sounds can help duplicate the sounds of the womb.
It’s often moving.
Your baby is in constant motion in the womb, swaying back and forth as you roll over, climb stairs or walk the dog. Dancing, swaying, rocking and bouncing all mimic these movements.
There’s a constant stream of food.
All she has to do is open her mouth. Now when she does this, she is sometimes greeted with milk, but sometimes with air or a dummy. Demand feeding your newborn is not only all they know, but also comforting and calming.
It’s close to you.
And this is what makes the womb such a wonderful place to call home. While you are still there, your newborn doesn’t always know that. In time she will understand, but for now it takes a bit of convincing and comfort on your part.
Your baby isn’t trying to frustrate you by being clingy or needing constant cuddles. She really doesn’t know any better. All she knows is this: You make her safe and comfortable. And, when you are holding her, feeding her, rocking her, touching her or simply being there with her, you are helping your newborn make sense of this strange new world.
The fourth trimester won’t last forever. Soon she will be eager to explore the world, to try new things, to adventure outside your arms. But for now, take it all in. You cannot spoil a newborn. So try not to let the thoughts on what you and your newborn SHOULD be doing spoil this precious time.
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