I'd literally never heard of this phrase before becoming a mum but I kept seeing it mentioned. The fourth trimester is the 12-week period immediately after you have your baby. Not everyone has heard of it, but every mother and their newborn baby will go through it. It is a time of great physical and emotional change as your baby adjusts to being outside the womb, and you adjust to your new life as a mum.
So what can you expect in the 4th trimester?
Newborn babies are learning to adjust to life outside the womb where it was warm and cosy! They have been gowning inside you for the past nine months and have only ever known you. So they'll want to be with you a lot of the time and it might feel like they're only ever happy in your arms. This might feel overwhelming but it won't last forever. Try and settle in to giving lots of cuddles, a sling or baby carrier can help free up your arms when you need to do things.
Life inside the womb was also calm and quiet, their new world full of noises, lights, smells, sounds and sensations of the outside world. Hello sensory overload! Again, by offering your baby plenty of love and support in their first three months, you can make this transition easier.
Like us, babies have circadian rhythms (an internal clock). Great you might think, they'll fit right into my routine! Nope! There’s a catch you see as their clock doesn’t arrive pre-programmed and very often you'll find your baby wide awake in the middle of the night. This can be exhausting, be kind on yourself and sleep when you can. You can also start building in very simple routines to help them begin to understand the flow of a 24 hour period: daylight in the day and darkness at night and things like warm baths at bedtime can be helpful.
Then there's food! Whether your breastfeeding bottlefeeding or a combination, newborn babies have tiny stomachs so they'll need lots of little meals to help them grow. It's normal for babies to feed eight or more times in a 24 hour period. Cluster feeds can also be common when your baby has a growth spurt. The fourth trimester is also a time when many mums are getting to grips with breastfeeding. Although it can be very instinctive and natural, that doesn't mean it isn't a technique that needs to be learnt by both mother and baby. Talk to your midwife a local lactation consultant or look online for support (we have lots of pointers on our 'breastfeeding support section of our website).
Feeling the change
Don't forget this is also a period change for you and your partner. You've gone from independent lives to needing to care for a newborn round the clock. Throw in post birth recovery, getting to grips with breastfeeding, hormonal changes, a changing body, sleep deprivation, new dynamics in your relationship with your partner and anything else you can think of and these months can be overwhelming. Be kind on yourself, take it slow and don't be afraid to ask for help. Xx
Sources: Babycenter, NCT