For 40 weeks your baby has been warm and cozy in your belly.
The temperature was just right.
They had a super fast food delivery service.
They never felt hungry or thirsty.
Or had gas pains.
They didn’t have to wear clothing with scratchy tags.
Or deal with light or sounds.
Then, suddenly, they are born into a loud, cold world with all this room.
Imagine how shocking that must be! Now, they must learn to eat, sleep, and interact with a whole new world. And with no language to communicate with – all they can do is cry.
This transition period is commonly called the “fourth trimester”. This is the time during which your baby gets used to being in the outside world and hits their first few developmental milestones. You might notice your baby wants to be held all the time, or cries for seemingly no reason, or refuses to sleep unless they are on your chest.
All of these (frustrating) newborn behaviors are totally normal. As babies adjust to the world and become more aware, they get used to the sights, sounds, and smells.
There are also a few infant reflexes that may cause distress, including the Moro Reflex (basically, the baby feels like they are falling and reacts with fear) and the Startle Reflex. These will go away over time.
There are a few things you can do to help your baby adjust to the world outside the womb. As with all parenting advice, what works for one baby or family might not work for another. These are simply suggestions that might help make your baby’s transition a little easier.
Your baby is used to the cramped space in mama’s belly; they are used to reaching out and having resistance. Swaddling also helps calm the startle reflex and the Moro Reflex. This helps the baby relax and feel secure.
There are a few ways to swaddle:
Wrap them up, burrito style, in a swaddling blanket (Here’s a video)
Safety Note: Once your baby rolls over, they should NOT be swaddled with their arms inside the swaddle. Many sleep sacks allow you to swaddle with one or two arms out.
Keeping your baby close is an easy way to help keep them calm during the fourth trimester, and through out their first few years. It also gives you your hands back, which is awesome when you have a brand new baby who only wants to be held.
The warmth, the sound of your heart beat, your smell, all of these are calming to a baby who has just been thrust into a cold, loud new world.
From woven wraps to soft structured carriers, there are so.many.options. We will talk more about the different types of baby carriers in a later chapter, but here are the most common types:
- Soft Structured Carriers: These have straps and buckles and are usually easy to use. There are dozens of kinds and these are very simple to use. Think: Tula, Bjorn, Ergo, etc.
- Woven Wraps: One large piece of fabric tied in specific ways to attach the baby to you. Definalty a big learning curve, but many parents are die hard wrap fans.
- Ring Sling: Similar to a wrap, but with a ring you feed the end of the wrap through. More user-friendly than wraps but still have a small learning curve.
Skin to Skin Contact
At birth, skin to skin contact helps the baby learn to regulate their temperature, helps stabilize blood sugar (very important if you had gestational diabetes like I did!), and helps the baby’s breathing stabilize. This research paper outline other benefits of skin to skin.
In addition to the medical benefits, skin to skin (also known as kangaroo care) helps establish the breastfeeding relationship and causes your body to release the ‘love hormone’ oxytocin. This feel-good hormone helps dad bond with baby as well.
How (and When!) to Do Skin to Skin Contact
Strip baby down to just their diaper and place on your bare chest. Moms and dads can both do skin to skin. Skin to skin is most important as soon after birth as possible but is also helpful anytime baby is sick or upset.
Final Thoughts on The Fourth Trimester
This transition period can be very frustrating for parents. You might feel like you are failing or just aren’t’ quite cut out for this parenting thing after all.
Your baby will adjust. Let them sleep in your arms. Hold them close when they seem to need it. Soak up all those newborn cuddles. You will not spoil your baby. You cannot hold your baby too much. Love them, cuddle them, and make them feel safe as they adjust to this big, new world.
Featured Image: Edited from Flickr | Used with permission (CC for Commerical Use)
In Post Image: Taken by Writer