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The 4th Trimester - what is it & why is it so crucial?

new mama Oct 17, 2016

Why is it that you can never seem to put your newborn down? They were happily asleep in your arms and literally as soon as you put them in their crib - boom! Tears galore! The concept of the 4th Trimester (a term used to describe the first 3 months of a baby's life) isn't new, but many new mamas don't spend time thinking too much about those first few weeks and months, as their main focus is on 'THE BIRTH'!

Let's take a step back and think of the environment from which they came. Inside mama, there wasn't a care in the world. It was warm and dark, and all their needs were met. Baby was wrapped up super tightly in the amniotic sac, there were dull noises around constantly, they were carried and rocked all the time, food was supplied on demand, their bums were clean, it was a wet environment, and they had constant contact with mama. And this environment doesn't change - it's constant!

Now, forward on a couple of weeks and holy moly it has all changed. Society norms are to not 'spoil' the baby by holding or rocking them too much; it's baltic out here so baby needs some clothes; baby is put to sleep in a little crib, sometimes not even in the same room as mama, let alone beside or on her; they need to scream or cry to get food and have their needs met, when they have a wet or dirty bum, when they are cold, when they want that warm snuggly feeling of mama again. The difference is stark!

So here are some things I did myself, and also a few other suggestions from other experienced mamas I've met along the years, during the 4th Trimester, to make it easier for mama and for baby:

  • 'Wear' your baby: whether it is in a sling, or you just hold your baby a lot! Now there are whole businesses just dedicated to slings. Slings are amazing as you can keep baby happy, quiet and content, but you then have your hands free for a good chunk of time which allows you to do a few things yourself if you want. Wearing your baby will remind them of being inside you to a great extent - it's warm, they are on you, they are held, it is soft, they can smell you, they can hear and feel your heartbeat.
  • Swaddle: if you feel it's appropriate, and done safely and correctly, some babies are just in heaven when they are swaddled! Again, it's that feeling of being warm and snuggled up tightly. There are some babies who aren't massive fans of being swaddled, so it mightn't work for everyone!
  • Feed 'on demand': even though it might feel exhausting at the start, my personal recommendation is to feed as often as baby wants to. Women like being in control, and sometimes there is a tendency of wanting to do it all 'by the book' and we can become fixated on 'stretching them out' to X number of hours in between feeds. That's all well and good in theory, but a screaming, hungry baby just wants some grub, so I wouldn't be worrying about this for the first few months.
  • Once you have conquered the first 3 basics, then you can incorporate other elements which are lovely to do:
  • Baby Massage - will improve constipation, wind release and will relax and soothe an 'unsettled' baby. With regular practice, it will help get baby asleep, and help them stay asleep for longer.
  • Tiger in the Tree hold - this hold can be a true lifesaver. It can help stop a crying baby, and often some light pressure on their abdomen can help release wind or a cramping tummy.

  • Skin-to-skin contact - if you have an extra pair of hands at home, try running a warm bath and either parent gets into the bath, and the other pair of hands can lift baby in. This is so beautiful and can really help to soothe baby and increase the bond immensely. If you are on your own at home, strip off your top layers, and baby's clothes and jump into the bed. Pop baby onto your chest and make sure you are both lovely and warm. Have a snoozie together for a few minutes, or just have the chats :) Both parents can benefit from skin-to-skin contact.
  • To help keep mama in a good frame of mind, try to get out walking in the fresh air every day. Take a shower, drink lots of water and get out moving - you'll feel wonderful after it.
  • Say YES! Any help that is offered to you, just take it. Now is not the time to be all "Irish" and say 'sure I'm grand thanks'.

Keep on going, you're doing great!

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Helen Plass works with women and their birthing partners to achieve a comfortable, healthy & happy journey into Pregnancy, Birth and Motherhood. She has built a successful business in Dublin, Ireland, as a Yoga Instructor, specializing in Pre- & Post-natal health and fitness, Active Birthing workshops, Baby Massage and Mama & Baby Yoga classes. She is known for her very practical & non-judgmental approach to pregnancy and the crazy times of motherhood! Helen has trained in the UK and Ireland, and is mega proud of coming first in her Yoga Teacher Training (she’s a bit of a swot) at the gorgeous Samadhi Studios in Dublin. She’s a proud wife, mama to two energetic little boys, former corporate marketing professional, keen runner and lover of all things related to sport…and is an avid supporter of Irish Rugby.

When she’s not becoming all teary and emotional with messages from her clients about their gorgeous births, you can find her walking along the rocks and beach with her boys, cheering on the sidelines of football and rugby pitches, experimenting with essential oils, baking and preparing meals for the non-stop-eating men in her life…and in general just trying to keep it all together. Check out all her communication at NurtureMamas.com, and if you are in Ireland, her local business Mumandbaby.ie



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