If you're pregnant or had a baby recently, then you've probably heard about or even experienced the "4th trimester."
While the birth of your baby ends your pregnancy, it is the beginning of your new journey as a mother and all of the physical and emotional experiences that come with this adjustment.
Likewise, your baby is entering unfamiliar territory as well-- one that's not as cozy and warm as the womb they've called home the last nine months.
The first 12 weeks of life together, or the 4th trimester, can be a whirlwind and challenge, but can also be some of the most precious experiences together.
Here's how to navigate through, survive and thrive during your 4th trimester...
What is the 4th trimester?
The 4th trimester is the transitional period after birth. It's the first 12 weeks postpartum during when you are adjusting to your baby and they're adjusting to the world. It can be physically and mentally challenging for parents, and is a time when major developmental changes happen to your baby.
While moms may experience postpartum pain, fluctuating hormones and breastfeeding challenges, this time can also be a time when mothers bond with their baby and learn their cues, personality, etc.
Why it's important
A baby's nervous system and brain are not developed fully at birth and it takes time for babies to create synapses that help them react, smile, etc. Every time you interact with your baby (holding, rocking and talking to them), you are fostering activity and encouraging brain-cell connectivity.
By the end of the 4th trimester most babies have:
- better developed senses which allow them to focus on small items, see colors and recognize smells
- increased physical growth
- increased muscular development
- practiced bringing their hands together
- tracked a moving item
- movements that are more active and deliberate like smiling responsively
This period of time can be challenging though because crying and fussing is common, babies prefer to be held rather than set down, their sleep patterns haven't developed yet, and their feeding patterns are still irregular.
How to cope
Your newborn's behavior may not be what you expect or feel like you can manage all the time, but there are simple things to do to make it easier for yourself and your baby.
Here are 4 things to try...
- Babywearing. Babywearing is convenient because you are hands free and the baby is usually fast asleep! Babies are used to being squished in a ball, so a baby carrier like a sling or wrap can help mimic the feeling of the womb. Make sure it supports their neck and that they can easily breathe.
- Swaddling. A swaddle blanket also helps soothe a baby and helps them sleep longer. Invest in a good swaddle blanket that keeps them safe, secure and tight. Check out other benefits and tips on how to safely swaddle your baby in this blog post! Looking for a swaddle blanket? We've got you covered. Check out our soft bamboo and cotton swaddle blanket set.
- Skin-to-skin. Babies have a strong sense of smell and like to be held directly against your skin, feeling your warmth, listening to your heartbeat and feeling your breath. It can also help with bonding and breastfeeding.
- Gently moving. Babies love to be rocked, cradled and carried since constant movement was happening in the womb. Invest in a good swing, take your baby on a walk outside, or wear them in your sling while you get things done around the house. This is an easy way for them to snooze and for you to relax and get a few minutes of quiet time.
While you're in the thick of the 4th trimester, you may feel like the days are long, but watching your baby grow and change in amazing ways is priceless time you won't get back.
It's important to make self-care a priority during this time as well. Even simple things like taking a shower alone or doing yoga can help with postpartum depression, anxiety and more.