Your baby is early by 3 months!
Going from 0 to 3
The “4th trimester” refers to the transition period after childbirth when infants are adjusting to life outside the womb and mothers are adjusting to new parenthood.
This critical period is marked by significant biological, psychological, and social changes.
Multiple issues intersect during this critical time: maternal mood and emotional well-being; infant care and feeding; sleep and fatigue; physical recovery from childbirth.
Newborns need months of intense, “womb-like” nurturing for optimal growth and development. They need to be cared for and hugged.
This promotes growth, weight gain, temperature regulation, feeding readiness, bonding between mother and baby and reduced crying.
Why can’t our babies take care of themselves?
A colt can trot shortly after birth; a kitten leaves its mother to forage on its own when it is just a few weeks old.
Human babies are dependent for many years on their elders for sustenance, protection and education.
Why is this so ?
The answer is simple: we evolved from being quadrupedal to being bipedal.
We walk upright on two legs. This freed up our hands to do complicated/intricate tasks using our hands and fingers.
But walking upright comes at a cost!
All the while our primate ancestors evolved to walk on all fours and had a relatively small head. An upright gait required narrower hips, constricting the birth canal — and supporting big head during childbirth was getting tougher.
A decently developed human brain was too large to pass through the birth canal. Death in childbirth became a major hazard for human females.
Women who gave birth earlier, when the infant’s brain and head were still relatively small and supple, fared better and lived to have more children.
Natural selection consequently favoured earlier births.
And, indeed, compared to other animals, humans are born prematurely. Many of their vital systems are still underdeveloped.
Nature packs only those things that your baby will absolutely need to survive in the outside world.
The bare essentials include — life support controls like breathing, heartbeat, blood pressure and so on, sleeping state and awake state, reflexes like sucking, swallowing and crying, muscle control to touch and interact with the world.
For the first few weeks, your baby’s daily activities are restricted to suckling, looking, sleeping, peeing, and pooping. Agreed that — human babies can perform only limited tasks at birth.
But they posses the most powerful ability — the ability to learn !
Every moment their brain is absorbing, storing and forming connections. Before you realize, your little one will outsmart you and keep you on your toes!
What can you do to comfort your baby through the 4th trimester ?
You need to emulate your womb environment to carry your baby through this 4th trimester.
The extra warmth and cuddling through swaddling will help the baby remain snug — just like in mother’s womb.
You might think that absolute silence will help babies sleep well.
On the contrary, babies are used to loud whooshing from blood pulsing through the uterine arteries (they don’t hear your heartbeat).
Hence, playing some white noise will help them calm down.
Also, babies are being swayed while they are in the womb as the mother walks.
Hence, swaying/ rocking/ swinging the baby is also a good simulation of the womb.
You need to ask for help !!
Most mothers are sleep deprived because of frequent feeding cycles and baby sleep being sprinkled in bits and pieces.
Babies have shorter sleep cycles and wake-up often. This leads to fatigue and irritability. It is recommended that “mothers should sleep when the babies sleep”. But this is not possible always as, they have to attend to daily chores, cooking and cleaning while the baby is asleep. This impacts their energy levels and mood.
Proper rest and care of the mother post childbirth is very important. Your milk production depends on how well rested you are! So it is important to not be stressed and stay calm.
This is the time when you need help and support.
Generally having your mother and grandmother with you is the best. Their experience can guide you in baby care and take rest between baby feeds while they handle the baby.
Both the partners need to share responsibilities too and build trust through this challenging phase. Fathers are the best when it comes to calming the babies. This not only reduces the stress on the mother but helps in family bonding.