The fourth trimester
Have you heard of the fourth trimester? No, don’t worry, you don’t have to be pregnant for yet another three months but this final trimester is more thought of as an extension to your pregnancy while both you and baby adjust to your new life together.
Up until now your baby has been on the ‘inside’ without having to worry about hunger or being soothed. All the time they have been growing you were right there with them, your heartbeat sounding in his or her ear to let them know they were safe. Imagine the startling contrast your baby will find him or herself having to deal with after they’ve been pushed into a world of light, noise and needing to feed? It would be pretty rough to expect them to adjust on day one so the fourth trimester is a time of nurture while you let nature gently ease your baby into the new.
You too will probably need this time to adjust; going from one day having a baby in your tummy to another with a tiny little human relying on you for their every need can be quite a shock to the system and expecting yourself to get right back to normality may not be feasible.
So… What should the fourth trimester look like?
There are no rules; as with everything to do with bringing up a baby there are millions of opinions about what’s right and a million more to do with what’s wrong but… The only opinion that really matters for you and YOUR baby is yours. How you feed, what your sleeping arrangements are, what type of nappy to use… None of it REALLY matters as long as you are happy with the choices you’ve made. No one else is bringing up your baby, you are! You may have made many decisions and then in the fourth trimester you might change them all right round. That’s ok, don’t be hard on yourself for anything right now!
We can give you a few tips on how to make the fourth trimester as easy as possible, no hard and fast rules just some encouragement to make it an enjoyable experience instead of one filled with worry. So…
Stay calm and don’t sweat the little stuff:
It’s easy to get worked up in these first few weeks. Your hormones are flying off the shelf, your family want to visit every five minutes and you are probably beyond tired but… The calmer you are the calmer baby will be too. Baby senses how Mummy feels and this in turn will be projected in their behaviour – this can cause a circle of crying baby, stressed out Mummy, baby cries more, Mummy feels worse and so and so on. If you can just relax and say, ‘hey, who cares about the house being a tip’ and instead sit down with a cup of tea and a cuddle then you will instantly feel better. Remember, no visitor ever cared about a messy house – they just want a snuggle with the baby!
Try not to get too bogged down with routines and getting baby to sleep ‘on time’. Your baby has no sense of time and all he or she needs is to be close to you. If you are a routine Mummy then that’s absolutely fine but perhaps the first few weeks aren’t the time to lay them down like law. Sleep, eat, cuddle, change, feed, repeat… Listen to your instincts, babies are survival creatures and they will let you know if they need something.
It may take a while to work out what all those cries mean, but it doesn’t mean you’re a bad Mum if you don’t get it right first time and change a dry nappy or try to feed a baby who just wants a cuddle. You are learning just like him or her and you will get there together.
The fourth trimester is a time to just be…
Listen to all the advice but make up your own mind. Ask for help if you need it, accept any help offered if you want it and most of all just don’t worry about being the old you. You’ve just had a baby and this is BIG news, bigger than just being pregnant! So, look after yourself and drink lots of water, have that second biscuit because you need the energy and if you don’t want to get dressed for three days on the trot then don’t!
Enjoy this time, these precious few weeks of just you and your new little one getting to know each other. And if you are ever worried about anything then contact your GP or ring 111 for advice; people honestly won’t ever be upset with a concerned new Mummy just checking and getting a bit of reassurance!