fourth trimester

What is the Fourth Trimester?

We all know the pregnancy trimesters, First, Second, Third.. But what is the fourth trimester? 

The fourth trimester is the transitional period between birth and 12 weeks postpartum. During this 12 week period, your baby is adjusting to the world, you are healing from pregnancy and birth, and adjusting to life one another. The term was coined by paediatrician Dr Harvey Karp in 2002. Dr Karp suggests that new mothers and parents, for the first 3 to 4 months postpartum, should try to recreate, the same kind of environment your baby had in the womb. 

Here are our Four Tips for surviving the Fourth Trimester. 

1) Enjoy the Newborn bubble

There is no doubt you will want to be showing off your beautiful baby to everyone. But give it time. Enjoy the quiet time at home with your family and keep any visitors to a minimum for at least the first week or two (or more if you feel like it!). Take a slow pace, so you can conserve your energy for healing and bonding with your baby. Don't worry about calling everyone, responding to messages etc. You won't be able to re-live this time and its best if it is spent in a calming relaxing environment.  

2) Sleep may be difficult. 

Newborns don't tend to have a routine until they are closer to 6-8 weeks old, and their stomach's are very small so they need to eat quite regularly - sometimes every hour, or even a cluster feed. You might find they that want to be awake during the night, when is when you would want to be sleeping. Like most things with babies, it's just a phase, and they will soon learn to spend more time awake during the day and sleeping at night. Just make sure you take as many opportunities as you can get your rest -  be sure to take up any offers of help, if you have them available. 

If you're really struggling to get the baby to sleep, the following may help:

Babies spend 9 months in a confined and constantly moving environment. So swaddling them, you help them feel more secure and it may help with getting them to sleep for longer periods of time. 
Bath time
Having a warm bath is often a relaxing and comforting experience for newborns. Floating in the water is like being in the womb. So introducing a bath before bed time may help them sleep for a longer stretch. 

3) Continue to practice "Skin to Skin"

Skin to skin is becoming an increasingly popular concept in the "golden hour" post birth. However, there is research to suggest this should be continued during the fourth trimester, as it delivers several benefits like:

    • Calms and relaxes both mother and baby.
    • Regulates the baby's heart rate and breathing, helping them to better adapt to life outside the womb.
    • Stimulates digestion, an interest in feeding 
    • Skin-to-skin contact with your baby can help to increase your milk supply because it stimulates prolactin and oxytocin. Both of these hormones help your body to make and release breastmilk.


4) Make time for healing

The fourth trimester is just as important for the mother, as it is the baby. You have just endured a life changing event and your body is working overtime to heal, and if your breastfeeding, it is working hard to produce milk for your baby too.

Regardless of how you feed your baby, finding time to heal might be difficult, in between feeding, or preparing bottles, changing nappies all whilst not getting much sleep. Just remember to take things slowly, and don’t be afraid to ask for help or say no to visitors. Staying hydrated and eating well is very important. Stay away from the tempting sugary foods, and opt for high fibre high protein foods, that will keep you fuller for longer. Remember, that Motherhood is a Marathon not a race.