Remembering there is a Fourth Trimester
Pregnancy is a journey of growth for mother and baby. You live the healthiest lifestyle possible during those nine months to yield the healthiest possible outcome: a sweet and strong baby. That, however, is where most books and classes end. For some reason, there is no manual on what comes next. No one sends you home with a “How-To” handout on being the best parent for your child. While that is okay, you will find your way as the weeks turn to months and the rhythm of routine settles. The problem is that our society has gone against mother’s intuition and has set expectations for these babies who have just entered the world. For example, sleeping through the night in their own room from just weeks old, or using every new shiny contraption to hold baby so parents don’t have to… or the best: not picking up a crying child for fear of spoiling them. Please. Please. Please. Ignore the comments and advice. Trust your gut. A mother’s body instinctually provides what is known as a fourth trimester for both itself and baby. The fourth trimester is a period of time after pregnancy has ended and when motherhood begins. It is a smooth transition to the world for baby and a time of healing for the mother.
The Fourth Trimester For BabyThere are several key elements to helping baby adapt to the world. Keep in mind that while baby was busy becoming a baby, several factors played into his environment and daily life. These elements are drastically different once he arrives “earthside.”
MovementWhen you were awake, baby was constantly feeling movement in the womb. A laid down baby is typically an unhappy baby. The easiest and most natural way to incorporate movement is by babywearing. You might also love a vibrating bouncer or swing while you take a shower. Skin to skin regulates body temperature, steadies the heartrate, balances breathing, brings baby close to the heart, and comforts and soothes. Spend as much time skin to skin as you can during the fourth trimester (and longer! Any fever, illness, cranky mood can be turned around this way).
Being held/wearing babyOur society generally sticks baby in a generic “banana hammock” style carrier, if a carrier is used at all. Let’s be real, typically you see parents carrying the dang carseat everywhere!! (or clicking the carseat into a stroller without ever moving the infant!) Please invest in a good carrier. A ring sling, an ergonomically correct carrier, or learn to wrap. This leaves your hands free, keeps baby happy, and helps prevent your infant from having a flat head (seriously). Babywearing also presents a great barrier and prevents others from touching, grabbing, or commenting on your little one. While babywearing, there are a few points to remember to keep baby safe:
Sleeping within arms-reachSIDS is scary. SIDS is real. SIDS can happen to anyone. However, there are a few things you can do to reduce the risk. Placing baby on his back to sleep, keeping his sleep area free of bumpers, blankets, pillows, and toys, sleeping with a fan on, breastfeeding, and being close enough to touch baby all lowers the risk of SIDS. It is recommended to room-share (or like us hippies over here, bed-share) for at least the first 6 months.
Deep bathingThe womb was a warm, amniotic-filled, perfect home. There is a reason that warm baths calm crying babies. Go beyond the wash cloth and sponge bath. Get in the tub with baby (skin to skin!) and fill the sucker up! Hold baby deep into the water with the face completely out of the water. Watch the magic of the water take over.
NoiseYour baby listened to your heartbeat for nine months. He also heard muted noises, words and music. Be aware of sounds, either overstimulating noises or unnatural silences that may affect baby. Use a sound machine or wear baby throughout the day close to your heart. Keep baby moving and have background muted noises on.
Feeding on demandYour baby has never experienced hunger until now. When in utero, he was constantly being “fed” nutrients. Hunger pains are new – and painful – so learn his hunger cues. Nurse him on demand, not on your clock. Look for clenched fists, wiggly movements, bobbing head motion, or fists toward the mouth. These are all signs that he is giving you before he starts screaming, “FEEEEEEEEED ME!!!!”
Outside Fresh AirThere is something that happens to a crying baby when they are taken outside into fresh air. The thought behind this is that there are not many smells inside the womb, but our homes and indoor areas are FULL of smells. The fresh air seems to be enough to cleanse baby and calm him.
The Fourth Trimester For MotherThe body just GREW A PERSON over a nine month period of time. You will not heal overnight.
BleedingTaking sitz baths can help with lochia.
Sitz blendTo 3 cups simmering water add:
- 2 tablespoons comfrey leaf (Symphytumofficinale)
- 2 tablespoons St. John's wort flower (Hypericumperforatum)
- 4 tablespoons calendula flower (Calendula officinalis)
Postpartum Sitz Bath
- 2 parts plantain flower (Plantago major)
- part calendula flower (Calendula officinalis)
- 1 part comfrey leaf (Symphytumofficinale)
- 1 part burdock (Arctiumlappa)
- 1/2 part violet flower and leaf (Viola odorata)
- 1 part yarrow flower (Achilleamillefolium)
- 1/2 part lady's mantle flower and leaf (Alchemilla vulgaris)
- 1/2 part lemon balm leaf (Melissa officinalis)
- 1 part uvaursi leaf (Arctostaphylosuvaursi)
- 1 part shepherd's purse leaf, seed (Capsella bursa-pastoris)
- 1/2 part myrrh gum powder (Commiphoramomol)
- 1/2 part garlic (Dried or fresh. If fresh, use 1–2 cloves. Use whole; do not cut or smash as fresh oil can be very strong and irritating.)
- 1/2 part comfrey root (Symphytumofficinale)
- 1/2 part sea salt (optional)
- 1 cup sea salt
- 1/2 cup plantain leaf (Plantago major)
- 1/2 cup calendula flower (Calendula officinalis)
- Use six cups of water.