Your Baby’s First 3 Months, AKA ‘The Fourth Trimester’

“When a baby is born, so is a mother.”

cropped-images.jpeg

You’ve finally had your baby. You’re in a hospital bed, amongst strangers, on a ward which resembles some kind of mad baby supermarket, and you can hardly believe this tiny, pink, squirmy being is real let alone a whole other someone who actually belongs to you. Your entire body aches, it’s a war zone in your pants, you can hardly walk around or even breathe because your innards are still gleefully slotting back into their pre-pregnancy positions, and a six different midwives have given you massively conflicting advice about feeding whist manhandling your breasts and milking you like a confused cow.

It can be a very overwhelming time.

You may be feeling any number of things; madly in love, utterly terrified, wildly excited, or actually quite blasé and more interested in a cup of tea than anything else. (All of these feelings are completely normal, and usually subject to change at 3-5 minute intervals.) And once home, after the craziness that is the milk ‘coming in’ and the oceans of tears you sob throughout the process (again, totally normal but scary and weird all the same), the enormity of this new responsibility is bigger than your huge stash of maternity mattress pads. When the last visitor is finally ushered out of the door and you are alone with your bundle, the task of looking after him may seem very daunting and difficult. But your instincts, if you follow them, will tell you exactly what you need to do.

Looking after a new baby is really very, very simple:

Cuddle, feed, and repeat.

Obviously you’ll have to change the odd nappy to keep his tush dry, (no one likes a soggy bum), but that’s basically it.

“My baby doesn’t want to be put down!” If I had a pound for every time a new parent contacted me with this shocking news I would be loaded. Your baby’s entire existence up until now has been INSIDE YOU. Why would he relish being ALONE?! Think how you would  like it if you were fast asleep wrapped in an organic goose feather duvet on one of those tempur mattresses in a blissful slumber, and then you woke up completely alone on the kitchen floor?  Or if you were happily going about your business here on planet earth and then someone shot you up into space and expected you to get on with it. It would be ridiculous of you NOT to object. In the same way, it is understandable that your newborn would be utterly livid in what is relatively speaking, the same situation. As amazing and incredible your newborn is, he has no idea that he has been born, (no one bothered to tell him he was ever leaving the womb after all), and so although he will adapt to these new, colder, brighter surroundings with impressive speed, at first, all he needs is to be warm, fed, dry and close to you.

Cuddle, feed, and repeat.

All baby mammals are needy but human babies are needier than all the others put together. Ever wondered why a baby foal can skip off moments after birth, when it takes a human baby six months just to learn how to sit up? Or why a baby sheep can skip and hop minutes after plopping out of it’s mother when it takes our little munchkins a year just to learn how to walk? Well, when we were aping about on four legs, our gestational period was 12 months long. We carried our babies safe and sound inside us for a whole year, and then they were born, ready to face the world. But we evolved and started walking on our feet, which meant our posture changed, and our pelvic opening narrowed. There was nothing for it but to expel our young sooner rather than later. So from then on our babies were born relatively undercooked. Really babies could really do with a little more time in the oven but no one is in a hurry to make childbirth any more intense than it already is and so out they come after only nine months of baking. Quite harsh really – they’ve been shortchanged by three whole months! So what we get now are totally and utterly helpless infants. Human babies are born when their brains are less than 30 percent of an adult brain in terms of size, and as they then continue to develop outside of the womb, their brain size nearly doubles in their first year.

Your newborn hasn’t had to so much as breathe by himself before now, and suddenly not only is he expected to find his own food (you want me to latch onto what? Where? How? What?) but also to spend time alone. One minute he is squished up against your internal organs and the next he is all on his tod in a John Lewis moses basket and being expected to enjoy it! We really do expect a great deal from our little people don’t we.  

So make life easier for him and for yourself. Act like he is still inside you. If you do this for at least the first three months of his life you are achieving two things. Firstly you are making his (early) transition from womb to world as smooth and gentle as possible. By keeping him close to you by carrying him around while you go about your day, (in a sling if you want to free up your hands), holding and cuddling him while you watch tv in the evenings, and  sleeping close by him at night, you are soothing him and making him feel secure. Research shows that simply meeting your baby’s needs will make him calmer, and help him to grow up to be more confident.

By feeding him whenever he wants to be fed, (now being referred to as ‘responsive feeding’ rather than the slightly terrifying phrase ‘demand feeding’ – what is he doing, holding you at knifepoint?), you are mimicking the womb environment. For a kid that came out of it too early this can only be a good thing right? (New babies’ tummies are the size of a marble and they need to refuel these little tanks often. Breast or bottle, at first you will feel like you are feeding all the time and it can seem relentless. But those little marble tummies grow, and it gets easier.)

Secondly, you are making life MUCH easier for yourself. Many new mothers nowadays are hell bent on getting their babies INTO A ROUTINE DAMMIT, as soon as the placenta is out. Either because their friends swear by it, because they want to prove to themselves and/or to other people that their baby is completely controllable (YAH, right), or because they read a book (mentioning no authors except that she rhymes with Shina Shord), which insisted that they do so from day one. Reality check – NEW babies are COMPLETELY INCAPABLE of learning a routine. Their brains are so ridiculously underdeveloped that they simply cannot retain that kind of information. So whilst a routine is an excellent idea for your older baby, or for your toddler who likes to know that after Peppa Pig it will be bath time, enforcing it on your newborn is utterly pointless and therefore highly stressful. In truth, you would have better luck getting a woodlouse into a routine than you would a newborn baby.

Extensive research shows that a baby who has had all his needs met will very quickly become a secure, alert, and happy baby. So a mother who has met all her baby’s needs will very quickly become a relaxed, calm and happy mother. She will very quickly get to know her baby inside out. Like no book ever could.

Babies know when they are tired. Books don’t. Babies know when they are hungry. Books don’t. Babies know when they’ve crapped their pants. (Books certainly don’t know that.) And being tired, hungry or covered in crap are usually the only things that healthy babies get upset about. Sort that out for them, and you’re sorted.  By reading your baby rather than the books, you’ll figure everything out much quicker.

Be confident. When you are told that because you ‘let’ your brand new baby fall asleep on your chest he is ‘learning bad habits’, remember – new babies cannot learn habits, bad or any other type! When you are told you are ‘making a rod for your own back’ know that your tiny baby is NOT plotting and scheming wicked plans in order to manipulate you. Can you imagine! It is completely impossible to ‘spoil’ a baby with too much affection. So go easy on yourself!

There are a billion really hard things about being a parent. Sometimes from the very beginning. There may be colic or reflux. There may be other illnesses or hardships. There may be money worries, relationship problems or Post Natal Depression. Most likely there will be sleepless nights. So make life as easy for yourself as you can. Give your baby his fourth and final trimester. It’s as simple as that.

22 thoughts on “Your Baby’s First 3 Months, AKA ‘The Fourth Trimester’

  1. Wise words. I am 62 with a 41 year old boy and a 39 year old daughter. I SO wish I’d known this back in the day. I DID think my baby was ‘playing me up’ and I did think I was making a rod for my own back, etc. I was so wrapped up in the rights and wrongs. I forgot to enjoy it. Such a pity because, to quote a cliche, it goes do very very quickly

    Like

    1. Hi Tina and thanks for your message. It is so hard to know what to do for the best – we are very much influenced by what people say and tell us to do and when your children were young things were different. However I am sure that they are absolutely wonderful people and a credit to you! Much love X

      Like

  2. I was that new mum, certain I had this whole parenting thing cracked as I had read every book out there and surely had covered all bases? Wrong! It was only post partum I discovered the truth of the 4th trimester, and I am so sad it took me so long to accept it, as I know I missed out on some precious moments early on trying to get my baby to “conform”. I shudder at the thought, and can’t wait to be more relaxed and open minded about the whole process when we get our second chance in a week or so’s time 🙂

    Like

  3. I am so glad that my daughters can read this and enjoy their babies instead of trying to conform to what their friends say ! xxx

    Like

  4. I love this. When my daughter was born (7 years ago yesterday in fact!) I was a young, single, terrified mum. I had no idea about babies. So I listened to my nana and my mum, who had listened to my nana with me, and was told not to hold her constantly, not to ‘let her win’. I honestly think this is the reason I never fully bonded with my baby until she was 6. That’s years by the way, not months. 6 years.
    This baby growing in me at the moment is going to be patented how I feel is right. My nana has already started the “don’t nurse them constantly…” Bullcrap. I just nod and agree but know I’ll not be taking their advice 😉

    Like

  5. My daughter has just finished her 4th trimester. Thanks to having you as my antenatal teacher, I’m very happy to say I barely got frustrated with her. I really remembered your wise words that “the babies are too small to manipulate us” and I remained calm and patient and graceful a mother. Thank you!

    Like

  6. I loved the article but got a little frustrated when I read your neg advice on not starting a routine until later. I tried very hard to do ‘baby led’ but it broke me, I had a baby who ended up feeding constantly!!! Tiring, frustrating, uncontent bebe!!! It was the routine that gave me my life back, my baby became the calmest little guy around who fed properly and slept like an absolute dream. It meant I could have a life while meeting ALL my babies needs before he screamed for them. It was the best decision, absolutely, for both me and my wee man. So, I think putting mums off routine from an early age isn’t quite fair.

    Like

    1. Hi and thanks for your comment. All babies are different. They do need to feed pretty much constantly at first though, and yes it is very tiring. You do not say when you started your routine but glad it worked out well for you and your little boy. A

      Like

  7. Being a grandmother now I can say that I agree with the fourth trimester except for the four legs to two bit (yes I’m a Christian) however my daughter found that by 12 weeks her little boy needed to self settle so we started it together at that point. Before that however she did exactly what you recommend & life was much easier for her than many of her friends. Routine at that stage meant meant reading her boys needs & responding to them with consistency rather than imposing her idea of what he should be doing when. The routine changed to suit him not the other way around. But by teaching him to self settle (yes ‘controlled crying’ – 2 minutes maximum) he slept so much better when he was ready to sleep. He didn’t sleep right through until recently (12 months) however he was easy to settle with a quick feed & back to sleep without endless rocking. Motherhood can’t be that difficult, millions of mothers do it all over the world without the stresses our so called ‘enlightened’ nations put on ourselves. Chill out, accept your little one for who they are. Babies like people are all different, we all have different sleep patterns & so do they!

    Like

  8. Thank you so much for your thoughts. My son (firstborn) is nearly 11 weeks old and I’ve struggled with deciding whether/how to ‘do’ a routine. Reading your blog has made me realise I have sometimes let my agenda or others’ opinions (housework, outings, routine etc) interrupt the time I spend with him. As I type I have him close, in a sling, sleeping soundly – much more so than if he was in his crib! And its delightful. I’ll definitely be slowing down and consciously enjoying these early days.
    At what age do you think a baby is more capable and needs to be a little more independent? I only ask because I hope we haven’t reached that quite yet, I want more attachment time!

    Like

    1. I loved your message Fiona! Especially the bit where you said he was sleeping soundly and it was delightful. Warms the heart. Thanks for getting in touch and huge congratulations on the birth of your little boy! With regards to independence – just follow his lead. If you carry on doing what you are doing you will find he slips into a pattern all on his own and then you can just follow it. Don’t worry too much about independence – he is tiny and although highly capable in lots of ways, he will be dependent on you for a good while yet. Have as much attachment time as you want! The more the better – physical affection and interaction with your baby is essential for social and emotional development. That’s not sentimental mush – that’s just scientific fact. Plus the more secure he feels the more confidence he will have. And with confidence anything is possible! You are his mummy, you are in charge, and no one else’s opinions matter. It is hard when other people seem to have the ‘right’ way of doing things but there actually is no ‘right’ way! Do things the way you want to do them. If it feels good, it’s probably perfect. It’s actually much easier to be flexible about daily timings as it means you can do whatever you fancy. With your baby strapped to your chest you can be out and about as much as you want because he will just snooze whenever he needs to. No rushing back from the cafe because the book says he is supposed to be in his cot! All babies are different but one thing is certain – if you stay relaxed and calm he will too. At the end of the day – the happier you are, the happier he will be. Easy peasy! Thanks again, so much, for getting in touch. I wish you all the very best. A xxx

      Like

  9. Just found your post thanks to clients who shared it. Excellent. Let’s keep it up. I’m also an Antenatal Teacher and have written on this subject for colleagues and midwives (Essentially MIDIRS, May 2014 if you’d like to look it up). I’ll bookmark this post to share with future clients. Thanks!

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s