Thursday, 8 September 2011

The 'fourth' trimester

I've found this idea - 'the fourth trimester' - has cropped up a number of times and from various different sources, it's an idea that helps to make sense of those first few very demanding months. This is what it means to me from what I have read;
  • It usuallly concerns the period of time from birth to 3 months
  • Basically our babies are born too soon, although they have to be because our big heads (or more accurately 'brains') would be too large to pass through our hips if they stayed in there any longer!
  • Think about the huge difference between human babies and other live born mammals, such as a new born lamb quickly getting to its feet and learning how to function in its new environment. Compare that to the incredible dependance of human newborns, who are utterly helpless. It seems like they have been born too soon.
  • How we care for babies during the first few months involves using techniques that imitate being in the womb to sooth and comfort.
A couple of authors who have have picked up on this theme include;
  • Dr Harvey Karp in 'Baby Bliss' who talks about the evolutionary reasons for the early 'eviction' linked to the size of human brains. Also the need to mimic the womb environment to sooth baby who is faced with many new challenges such as hunger, wind and an unfamiliar environment. He particularly attributes colic to this theory arguing that those babies in particular need to feel as if they are still in the womb with it physical sensations soothing their tummies. It seems that cultures that carry their babies all the time e.g. strapped to them as they work the fields, experience no colic arguably because of the constant jiggling. 
  • See the 'sleep' tab above for Karps 5 S's to help sooth new babies.
  • Source
  • Also a book by an American author Amy Einhorn titled 'The Fourth Trimester - and you thought labor was hard.' Check out this great intorduction from the author;
The thank-you note real moms in the Fourth Trimester would like to send:

Dear ________ :
Thanks for sending us ________ . I’m sure __________ will love it as soon as _______ can do anything besides eat, sleep, cry, and run up the stock price on Pampers. Having recently entered the Fourth Trimester, right now my goals in life are to sleep more than three hours and shower before 7:00 p.m. So please excuse this impersonal note.
I’d love for you to come over and see _________ . But no helpful hints, no critiquing of the fact that I
(1) breast-feed without a cover-up;
(2) do not breast-feed and use formula;
(3) allow my child to use a pacifier;
(4) use a Swyngo-matic to hypnotize my child into a state eerily similar to an Ecstasy trip.
Do not tell me that __________ looks cute. I know that __________ looks like a cross between E.T. and Yoda. And no comments about my figure. I am not Cindy Crawford and, yes, those are maternity clothes I’m still wearing.
Bring rain gear and you’ll be well prepared for the nonstop torrent of liquid escaping from __________ and me. Can’t wait to see you -- of course, these days I’m even looking forward to having my mom and mother-in-law visit. I’ll take whatever adult company I can get.

So in summary...
  • Baby wanted to stay inside for a bit longer, that's why those first few months are so demanding.
  • Mimicing the conditions of the womb via swaddling, rocking, holding baby close and white noise or shhhing can help sooth baby and maybe even relieve colic.
  • Your new baby can't be spoilt during the first few months, they need lots of love and physical attention.
  • Thinking about the your baby in this way might make the challenges and anxieties a little easier to cope with as you get used to being a new parent.

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