What is the fourth trimester?

So 38-40 weeks of gestation has past, and you're finally a New Mama... well done! Your bub is breathing on its own and is physically detached from your body.

But have you heard health practitioners or friends refer to 'the fourth trimester'? It’s the first three months of your newborn's life, whereby the habits and routines of the pregnancy are mimicked in real life.

Your bub has just spent 9 months in the womb, listening to your heartbeat. Therefore expecting them to suddenly NOT hear your heartbeat at all, would be asking too much of them, and you would expect them to be unsettled if they could no longer hear this familiar rhythmic pounding. The stark contrasts between life inside and outside the womb are why it's potentially beneficial to take around 3 months to help newborns adjust, essentially a 'fourth trimester'.

You may have experienced or heard of skin-to-skin (a technique trialled in the mid 70s and heavily researched since) or Kangaroo Care, which involves the mother or father of the newborn holding the naked baby against their own bare chest, for proximity to the heartbeat and for optimal temperature. Babies are calmer, more likely to want to feed and more likely to thrive if they are premature.

The fourth trimester is a chance to baby to adapt to life outside the womb while having the same needs met as when they were inside.

As a New Mother, I was tempted to follow some scheduling suggestions from early on, until I realised that my baby was most settled NOT when I was forcing a routine, but when me or my partner had him snuggled, skin to skin or in some kind of embrace. It's what he knew already and was most familiar. Sounds obvious, but we've all been in the bright and noisy world so long we forget to empathise with newbies!

Other things to try in your fourth trimester include keeping the environment dark and boring (free from too much stimulation) if you expect they need to sleep. This tip is from Dr Howard Chilton's book Baby on Board. Dr Chilton has been a neonatologist (a baby’s physician) for over 35 years.

Do you have a tip to share from your baby's fourth trimester? Please share it below so New Mamas can try them too.