During pregnancy, there’s not a lot of dialogue about “The Fourth Trimester” perhaps because the thought of one more trimester can be a bit daunting. Regardless, the fourth trimester is not something to easily dismiss. Understanding its importance can be crucial to navigating those incredibly overwhelming first few months.
The fourth trimester is all about emulating the womb for a newborn.
Imagine being curled up in a nice warm pod with loud ambient noise and movements that lull you to sleep. Imagine being like that for 40 weeks. Then suddenly being squeezed out a canal that is roughly a tenth of your size. Only to then feel like you’re freefalling into the cold open air. No wonder newborns scream bloody murder when they arrive.
So, in order to get a newborn feeling safe, warm and calm again, parents need to recreate that snuggly atmosphere. Here’s how:
Swaddling – Any maternity ward nursery is filled with newborns wrapped up like burritos capped with a warm hat. If you don’t know how to swaddle a baby, ask the nurses to show you how. A nice, firm wrap that keeps baby’s arms and legs snug is key. Doulas and baby nurses are also well versed in this exercise. Sometimes it’s worth the money (or ask for it as a gift) to hire one of these earth angels for a day to educate you on the how-to. Even a trusted friend who knows their way around a swaddle blanket can do the job.
Ambient Noise – The noise level inside the womb is that of a vacuum cleaner. It’s loud. Sound machines, especially those with a constant static sound, are imperative. Don’t be afraid to crank the volume louder than expected. Obviously, be reasonable. It’s a nursery, not a rock concert.
Movement – Babies bounce around in a belly for a long time. They’re used to movement. Don’t be afraid to bounce, sway, and rock with them. Maybe all three simultaneously.
Pacifiers – The root word says it all. It means, “to pacify.” Embrace it.
Position – For sleeping babies, “Back is Best” especially for safety purposes. But baby wasn’t sleeping on its back the entire time it was in the womb. So you might need to hold baby on its side or stomach while you help soothe it to sleep. (Moses Baskets and Bassinets are smaller and cozier than a vast open crib. These are good options for baby’s first few months or until he/she grows too big.)
And most importantly, remember to take care of Mom! Regardless of how baby was delivered, for a solid six to eight weeks after a mom gives birth, she will be recovering physically and emotionally. Some doctors recommend not picking up anything heavier than the infant. Keeping manual labor to a minimum is vital in allowing the body to heal. Walking is great. Lifting and housekeeping is for the birds. Get help from everybody and anybody.