The term “fourth trimester” might sound strange, as your baby is already born. Basically, the fourth trimester is the three-month period after birth when your new-born goes through great change and development, adjusting to life outside of the womb.
This is the time when your new-born relies on you for attention, love and loving care. Being used to the confinement of the womb, she is now getting used to adapt to open space with your help and support.
She must still develop significantly over the next few months.
This is the time when your baby will have to get used to light, smells, sounds, sensations and a variety of unfamiliar noises from the outside world.
The mental as well as physical changes she will undergo is just as important as the time she spent in your womb.
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In the first three months of your baby’s life you will notice the following changes:
- She will be developing more controlled movements and breath more steadily.
- She will start settling into feeding patterns and consistent sleep routines.
- She will improve social skills to enable her to interact with objects, music and family and friends for longer periods of time and with more attention.
- By the end of the fourth trimester you’ll notice a change in her physical appearance and mental and social abilities.
The fourth trimester is also a time of change and adjustment for new Moms. Not only will your financial situation change drastically, you will experience a lack of sleep, physical changes to your body and your relationship with your partner will be affected.
You will also get used to your role as a mum.
The following tips can be very helpful in guiding you through this new chapter in your life. Knowing what to expect can be very re-assuring and make your journey into parenthood a little easier.
Fourth trimester tips for new Moms
Rest during baby’s daytime naps
Try to catch up on sleep during your baby’s daytime naps. Sleep deprivation makes it hard to cope during the first few months. If you can’t fall asleep, make yourself a hot drink and relax on the sofa.
When breastfeeding, try putting baby’s cot next to your bed which will make night feeds easier. Get your partner involved by sharing night feeds if your baby will take a bottle, whether you’re expressing breast milk or formula feeding.
It can be difficult to find the time to cook when you have a new-born. Aim for meals that are easy to prepare, but also nutritious.
- Eat foods rich in protein, such as fish, eggs, beans, lentils or lean meat and chicken.
- Eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables to keep your immune system working well and avoid postnatal constipation.
- Eat slow-release carbohydrates such as pasta and brown rice to keep you going through the day.
- Eat regularly.
- Avoid snacking on sweet things. A piece of fruit or a handful of nuts is a better alternative.
Relax and make time for yourself
Taking care of yourself is an essential part of taking care of a baby. Ask a trusted friend or relative to babysit. You can make use of this time by taking a nap, going for a haircut or doing some shopping, whatever is relaxing and giving you some time for yourself.
Confide in someone
During this time the changes and adjustments will also affect your partner. Strengthen your relationship by talking about it. Try not to focus on the things you couldn’t manage to do and rather remind each other of the things that you did achieve.
Sharing your worries with someone else can relieve stress and it helps to talk about it rather than keeping it to yourself.
Start with gentle tummy and pelvic floor exercises as well as short walks while you recover. Wait until you’ve had your postnatal check-up before you start any strenuous exercise.
Exercising can be good for mental and physical wellbeing and can give you more energy.
Babywearing while going for a walk can help you burn more calories and is a great way of keeping baby close while exercising.
Be prepared and have peace of mind
Make sure you stock up on baby essentials, wipes and nappies. You’ll be going through a lot of wipes and especially nappies during the fourth trimester. You can add nappies and wipes on your baby register, because these are items that you can never have too many of. Some retailers are willing to exchange unopened nappy packs (Pampers and Huggies) if you need a different size. By being prepared and having enough stock of essential items, you will have peace of mind when the big day arrives.
Helpful tips for taking care of baby during fourth trimester:
A baby is likely to cry more in the fourth trimester than any other time of her life. You baby will be too young to have a fixed routine, therefore it is acceptable to feed or soothe your baby when she cries.
New-born babies sleep a lot which is good for them. It assists the brain with processing all the sensory stimulation they get when they are awake. Babies have no concept of day or night and it might take a while for them to settle into a sleeping routine. For the moment, it is better to let your baby sleep whenever she chooses to.
Your new-born has a small stomach and needs to be fed little and often. The ideal is to feed at least eight feeds during a 24-hour period.
Helpful cues and signals to look out for when a baby is hungry includes sucking on her fingers, turning her mouth and opening her mouth.
New-borns are too young to have a feeding routine. Feeding them on demand whether breastfeeding or bottle feeding is ideal.
Feeding time is also a great opportunity for parent and baby bonding.
Regular skin-to-skin contact can soothe her when she is fussy and ease crying. It can stimulate her sense of touch, improve breastfeeding and stabilise her heartbeat.
- While in your womb, your baby was constantly “held” by the amniotic fluid. Carrying your baby in a sling or carrier close to your heart can mimic the movement your baby felt in the womb.
- Swaddling your baby may assist in making her feel more snug and secure.
After birth, your baby can move her head about, searching for your breast. She has some reflexes and instinctive responses, but other than that she is entirely helpless physically.
Physical development can be improved by daily tummy time. It encourages movement and build strength. You can start soon after birth.
By the time your baby is three months old, she’ll likely be able to push herself up on her forearms, raise her head and even keep it in position for a few seconds.
Rocking and swaying
In your womb your baby was lulled and rocked by your everyday movements. Rocking and gently swaying while walking around, may comfort your baby when she is crying or fussy. It will be more soothing for her than sitting down, cuddling her.
During the fourth trimester new parents will face changes and adjustments. It can be exciting, stressful as well as challenging. But at the end of the day it is more than worth it. You are welcoming a new little bundle of joy into your family. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Take each day in its stride, trust your instincts and do whatever you know is best for your new-born baby
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