What is the Fourth Trimester?
The first 12 weeks after your newborn baby is born is called the fourth trimester. It is both one of the most beautiful and precious times of your life whilst also being a period of adjustment as you settle into life with a new baby.
The fourth trimester is a time to focus on your newborn baby, help them adjust to their new world. Whilst you were pregnant, your baby had everything they needed. They were warm, safe, protected and nurtured. The fourth trimester is an incredibly exciting time in your life but for some can also be exhausting and challenging as you transition into life together and get to know your baby.
Did you know, it is called the fourth trimester because if it was up to your baby, they would still be inside the womb…. I know! Imagine that… It makes 40 weeks of pregnancy, puffy ankles, heartburn and stretch marks seem easy! So essentially, during your newborns first 12 weeks, the goal is to impersonate the womb.
As a newborn photographer, I have the privilege of visiting many homes as they embark on their journey, some within the first few days or weeks of arriving home from hospital. As a mum and photographer, I have many ideas of how to best enjoy this magical time in your lives.
As a mum and photographer, I use and used all of the methods below to help sooth a baby. (I am not called the baby whisperer for no reason!)
Swaddling your baby during rest and sleep times helps to mimic how your newborn felt when they were in your womb. A well swaddled baby feels calm and will stay asleep for longer as they do not yet have control of their arms and will often startle themselves if they are asleep un-swaddled.
You do not need a lot before your baby is born, but one of the best things you will buy (and use a lot of) is a good quality swaddle. Stay away from muslin swaddles, your baby will ninja their way out of a muslin swaddle very quickly. Rather, purchase stretchy jersey style swaddles that you can wrap snug around your babies upper body leaving their legs and hips to move freely. These swaddles have stretch in them allowed your baby to stretch and move their arms within the swaddle without escaping.
Perfecting the perfect swaddle can be tricky, but when you get it right, your baby will be much more settled and will truly believe they are back in the womb.
I used susukoshi organic swaddle blanket. They are 120cmx120cm in size which means you can use them as your baby grows. I have used a few different brands and loved these because of their stretch, size and gorgeous colours.
2. Skin to Skin Contact
Your baby has spent the last 9 months feeling and hearing you. They know who you are and skin to skin contact will only help them to bond further with you. While skin to skin is always encouraged in the moments post birth, it is also recommended that you continue these beautiful cuddles long after you have left the hospital. Your smell, heartbeat and warmth is familiar and a huge comfort to your baby. I treasure the memories of my tiny babies curled up on my chest, these are the kinds of moments that I remember most from my fourth trimester, the ones that I will hold dear to me forever. As a newborn photographer, it is my goal to capture these natural organic moments during every photoshoot.
3. Slings and baby wraps
Newborns love to remember how it felt in the womb and a good sling or wrap around carrier will help them feel just that. I used the Baby Ktan and couldn’t recommend it more highly. I didn’t have the time or patience to start wrapping and winding a carrier around me. The best part about the baby Ktan is that its loop design just slips over your head like a Tshirt, and your baby slides in easily with no fuss (it literally takes 20 seconds to put on). Your baby will feel comfy and cosy inside the carrier as they are pressed up against your chest which is a familiar sensation.
For busy mums on the go, these carriers are a must as they also free up your hands allowing you to fold the washing or get things done while your baby comfortably sleeps on your chest.
Whether you are breastfeeding your newborn or bottle feeding, learning to follow your babies ques are important. Do not wait for your baby to be starving and screaming for food. You will learn their signs as you get to know them. This is also a great time to do skin to skin contact.
Anyone who has been to a photoshoot with me during winter will know I keep the room nice and warm during the photoshoot. Not only because your newborn will often be wearing little rompers or bloomers with their skin showing but also because if your baby is the right temperature, they will feel soothed and settled.
Dress your baby in layers, use warm swaddles, blankets (tucked in safely) and safe infant sleeping bags to keep your baby warm. In summer, make sure your baby is not too hot by using thin swaddles or sleeping bags and light cool clothes and layers.
6. Look after YOU
During this fourth trimester we are often so focussed on our newborn baby that we often forget to take care of ourselves.
Sleep when your baby sleeps, let go of expectations of routines and schedules and make sure to eat and drink lots of water.
Don’t put pressure on yourself to leave the house or meet up with family and friends. You have many weeks, months and years just around the corner for this. Rather, use the fourth trimester to enjoy these quiet intimate moments with your baby at home without feeling any pressure of places to be or things to do. Use your babies nap times to sleep, wash your hair or cook a healthy meal for yourself.
Most of all, it takes a village. Use the help of your partner, parents, family and friends where you can. Be kind to yourself, embrace the change, the mistakes and the learning and remember to slow down and enjoy these moments. The fourth trimester is only 12 weeks long and will be over before you know it!
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