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WOMB versus THE WORLD: Helping Babies Adjust In The 4th trimester.



# What is the 4th trimester?


You may not have heard of it but every parent and their infant will go through it.

The 4th trimester, is a phrase coined by Dr.Harvey Karp (an American paediatrician) describing the time immediately following birth and lasting up to 3-4 months post-partum when human babies are born less mature than other mammals and may need nurturing as though they were still in utero and when a mother is recovering from birth and transitioning into motherhood.

After the comfort and the warmth of being in the womb, life in the outside world is a shock to a newborn. During the 4th trimester, parents are encouraged to create a similar womb like environment for their baby just as they had experienced during pregnancy.

From an evolutionary perspective, it is believed that human babies are born with immature brains because if human babies stayed another 3 months in utero their brains would get bigger and their heads would not be able to pass through the birth canal.

Unlike other mammal babies who can stand and walk at birth, human babies are born with an immature brain and nervous system. The 4th trimester marks a time of significant physical, mental and emotional development for your baby.


#What can I expect from my baby during the 4th trimester?

Your newborn baby has gone from the warm, dark comfort of being inside the womb to a world of bright lights and extreme stimulation. They have gone from having close contact with their mother at all times to spending time alone and separated. Your baby has gone from having a continuous food supply to feeling hunger pains for the first time.

You can expect your newborn baby to be easily stimulated with lots of period of fussiness and crying during these first few weeks and months together as your baby adjusts to their life outside the womb. This crying and fussiness is a normal stage of infant development and you shouldn't worry if you are experiencing this. Your baby hasn't developed an internal clock yet and day and night can get mixed up with lots of feeding and awake time when you would like to sleep.


#How can I help my newborn baby adjust to life outside the womb?

During the 4th trimester babies need lots of attention to help them transition through this time. YOU CAN'T SPOIL A BABY. Contrary to popular myth, its impossible for parents to hold or respond to their baby too much. You may have been warned by well intended family members not to give in too often or respond too quickly to your baby to prevent you from spoiling them but this is simply not the case. Brain science and developmental research has shown us that young babies cannot consciously connect cause and effect. A young baby is not able to think to themselves 'I'm going to cry until I get what I want!'. We also know that young babies are not able to regulate their own emotions and feelings and are born entirely dependent upon their caregiver to help them to calm and soothe when experiencing big emotions like hunger, frustration, pain from colic or tiredness. When parents respond calmly and consistently to their young baby, particularly in the 4th trimester, they are helping to set up pathways in their baby's brain that controls how a baby will regulate their emotions throughout their entire life. Research has shown us that parents who respond promptly and consistently to their crying baby from birth have infant's who cry for shorter durations and periods at 4 months old.


#The 5 S's.......

I advise 4th trimester parents to think of the 5 S's when helping their newborn babies adjust to the outside world:


Skin-to-skin

Skin to skin contact is the holy grail of activities to try for any new parent and their baby.

Skin to skin contact essentially involves placing a baby undressed (with or without a nappy) onto a parent's bare chest and then both covered with a warm blanket. Skin-to-skin helps a baby feel connected to a parent and will:

  • help a baby stay warm (temperature regulation)

  • regulate a baby's heart rate and breathing rate

  • help keep a baby's blood sugars stable

  • solve breastfeeding problems

  • calm and relax distressed or overwhelmed babies.

it is recommended that skin to skin contact takes place between a mother and her baby immediately following delivery for at least an hour (but don't worry if this can't happen). A parent, (mothers and fathers) can try skin-to-skin for as often and for as long as it feels right throughout the early days, weeks and months.


Safe Swaddling

Swaddling is a traditional practice of wrapping a baby up gently in light breathable blanket to help them feel calm. Safe swaddling a newborn baby can help them to feel secure and contained especially during times when they are overstimulated. However, its important that parents follow the safe swaddling guidelines so as not to overheat their infant or restrict a baby's hips and knees from moving. Please see the