The fourth trimester: Help your newborn cope

Follow these useful pointers to support your baby as she makes the tough transition from womb to world.

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“My baby doesn’t want to stop
crying.”

“My infant wants me to hold her all the time.”

“My little one will only sleep if she’s lying on me. If I put her in the crib or bed she wakes up instantly.”

Sound familiar? If you’re a parent, you’ve probably made one (or all) of these statements at some point during your baby’s initial months.

Most parents think that life with a newborn is all about walking on sunshine. And while there are good days for sure, you’ll also experience a number of days when nothing you do seems to make bub happy.

Expect lots of bloodcurdling screams and wailing ― sometimes even from baby, LOL!

What is the fourth trimester?

Bubba’s first three months are commonly referred to as the fourth trimester, because, although baby is out in the real world, she’s incredibly ill-prepared for life outside of the uterus. This is especially true when her brain development and basic needs are concerned.

What many don’t seem to realise is that baby’s first three months out in the world is a time of adjustment for her. After all, she just moved from a snug, dark place that was constantly warm, to a bright, new environment filled with unknown faces, plenty of noise and varying temperatures. And this literally happened overnight.

Bubba’s first three months are commonly referred to as the fourth trimester because…she’s incredibly ill-prepared for life outside of the uterus.

Bub is also getting acquainted with new and unfamiliar sensations. She can see, but her vision is blurry. She can hear, but she doesn’t know what these strange noises are. And since she’s not getting round-the-clock nourishment as she did in the womb, she has to get used to pangs of hunger.

Then, there’s the fluctuating temperature ― sometimes, it’s hot, other times, it’s cold ― unlike in the womb where it was a comfortable 37 deg C all the time.

Imagine what a rude shock it must be to experience all of these changes at once. Explains why your kewpie has been a little hard to handle of late, doesn’t it?

Instead of hoping your peewee will just get with the programme and behave “normally”, your duty as a parent is to help her adjust to her new world. At the same time, you should still offer her some of the comforts she’s missing from her time in utero.

Doing so will make life easier for everyone. Parents won’t feel so frustrated and lost, while their munchkins will be easier to handle. Tackle this challenging stage with our go-to tricks.

Tip #1: Keep moving

Newborns love movement. Why? Because every time you moved during pregnancy, even if it was slightly, your little one wobbled on the inside. This is why junior starts crying whenever you try to put her down. She’s used to motion, but she can’t move on her own yet, so she needs you to move her around.
TRY THIS… Watch that frown turn upside down when you bounce, rock, swing, sway and dance with bubba. She will love it! This is also the reason why newborns love to sleep in moving cars, baby swings and a carrier.

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Tip #2: Keep them snug

Imagine how snug your little bug was when in your tummy, especially towards the end of the pregnancy when she was taking up all the space. Must feel strange to not be able to experience that sensation of feeling cocooned now. We hear you, baby, we hear you!
TRY THIS… The best thing you can do is to wrap bub in your arms and hold her close to you. But since there will come a time when you’ll need to take a break, the next best thing is to swaddle them. Use a breathable cloth to wrap your wee one and that snug feeling will transport her back to her happy place a.k.a the womb. Click here for steps on how to swaddle your sweetie safely.

Tip #3: Be noisy

You may not know this, but your womb is not entirely quiet. While she’s in your womb, your sweetie hears ambient sounds ― mainly blood gushing through your blood vessels and the movement of your intestines and stomach. In fact, the noise can be as loud as 90 decibels, which is slightly louder than a food blender (88 decibels). So, while you’re trying to keep everything quiet, so bubba can sleep, she may not be able to drift off because it’s not noisy enough!
TRY THIS… Crank it up! Turn on the vacuum cleaner, a sound machine or put on some white noise (there are plenty of free apps in your phone) and watch your wee one drift to la la land peacefully. This trick also helps to calm down a fussy baby.

She knows you more intimately than you know yourself... So, it makes sense when she freaks out because you’re no longer close by.

Tip #4: Keep them close — all the time

You’ll begin to understand the fourth trimester better when you realise that your little nipper is acting this way because she has literally been attached to you since the day of conception. She knows you more intimately than you know yourself — how you sound, how you smell, what your heartbeat sounds like, even the way you walk and so on. So, it makes sense when she freaks out because you’re no longer close by. Nothing and no one is more familiar to her than you. Sorry, daddies, but it’s true.
TRY THIS… Everything and anything to keep you close to your kewpie all the time during this transition time. Wear your wee one in a carrier or wrap during the day, so that she’s close to you while you still have two free hands to go about your day. Here help on how to wear your baby in a wrap, ring sling and carrier. If bubba is feeling extra fussy, try some skin-to-skin contact. Remove yours and baby’s clothes and put her on your chest. This action produces oxytocin, a love hormone that boosts bonding and will calm your cutie down. Daddies can also try this to increase their bond with junior. Lastly, co-sleep responsibly during nap time and throughout the night. Knowing that you are nearby will give your kewpie the security and assurance she needs to sleep peacefully and for long stretches. Plus, it also helps you nurse on demand if you’re breastfeeding.

Tip #5: Feed on demand

Thanks to the umbilical cord, your cutie was being fed continuously during her time in the womb. Which means she has never had the chance to experience hunger pangs, so, feed her on demand. Remember that your baby may not always want a full feed and sometimes just a snack, so follow her hunger cues instead of trying to put her on a feeding routine.
TRY THIS… If you’re breastfeeding, let bub latch on as much as she wants. At this point you’re milk supply is not fully established, so baby may not always get as much milk as she might want. Long periods of breastfeeding, also known as cluster feeding, is also very normal because your little one is helping you establish your milk supply. Plus, she may just want to suckle for comfort. If you are bottlefeeding, follow the recommended milk intake stated on the formula tin. And don’t be shocked if baby wants a follow-up bottle ― they tend to drink more when going through a growth spurt. Pacifiers also help if baby wants to comfort suck.

Photos: iStock

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