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ABC’s of Newborns- F is for Fourth Trimester
So you thought the typical pregnancy was three trimesters, right? Wrong. The fourth trimester is a period generally defined as the first three months of your newborn baby’s life, a period that can be extremely exhausting and stressful for you as a new parent.
If you find yourself crying what seems like just as often as your newborn, you’re not alone! The fourth trimester can be rough, as every moment of your life is now consumed by the neverending cycle of your baby eating (or refusing to eat), sleeping, and crying. And in turn, you not being able to sleep or eat because of it.
Newborns aren’t always as snuggly and peaceful as they seem on your Facebook feed or on TV, and reality can be a huge shock, especially if this is your first baby. However, after about three months of stress and frustration, you might even miss your fourth trimester and being covered in spit up and sweat.
If you dreamed of being able to rock your newborn to sleep and leave him or her in a swing in the kitchen while you cooked yourself dinner or had a peaceful moment to yourself with a cup of coffee, you might be in for a painful reality check. Your baby will be especially needy during the fourth trimester, and may not like being out of the comfort of mom’s arms (more crying!!)
This may be the appropriate time to consider hiring a postpartum doula, as their job is to make the fourth trimester easier and more relaxing for you by providing guiding you through the parts of caring for your newborn you aren’t confident in, listening to your frustrations and celebrations, giving you time to bond with your newborn, and providing breast and bottle feeding support and guidance.
The best way to think of your newborn during the fourth trimester is that they are essentially still a fetus, but outside the womb. It will take them a few months to get used to all the new sensations of the outside world, especially sights, sounds, light and motions. In utero, your baby was used to being surrounded by darkness, the cushion-like walls of the amniotic sac and hearing the loud whooshing of your blood pulsing through the uterine arteries. A good way to make your baby feel “at home” and calm once he or she is now outside your womb is to provide them with the 5 S’s.
Swaddling, Shushing, Swaying, Sucking, and Side/Stomach Position.
Although some of your baby’s senses are well-developed by the time he or she is born, many of their senses will continue to grow and improve during the fourth trimester. When born, a baby’s sight is often quite blurry, but continues to sharpen to that of an adult around 8 to 9 weeks of life. During the fourth trimester, you will be able to notice your baby’s vision improvement as he or she begins to make eye contact with others. Although your baby already has developed senses of smell, taste, and hearing, you’ll notice further development as he or she turns her head when someone is speaking and how she seems to be comforted by your touch, voice, and scent.
The main difference between human babies and other mammals is that when born, human babies are absolutely helpless. If you’ve ever seen a video of a horse birth or another large mammal, their babies get right up and start running around as soon as they are born. But at least this gives you time to prepare your home before your little one starts crawling around and trying to eat everything in sight, so maybe it’s good thing, right?
Don’t forget to continue reading the ABC’s of Newborns and our “T” blog post about how daily tummy time (beginning in the fourth trimester) can help your baby’s development physically and emotionally.
We are doulas living in Miami with a love for cafecito, pregnancy and newborns. We are the experts and the moms who have been there sharing our best tips and tricks with a side of inspiration. Our goal? Help you kick ass at this parenting gig.
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