So we know that pregnancy has been divided into three lots of around three months or trimesters, but have you heard about the concept of the FOURTH trimester?
Human babies are said to be born much more prematurely than many of our mammal counterparts, on account of our overdeveloped frontal cortex and proportionately large heads. This has been the trade off, allowing us to continue to birth our babies vaginally - so our giant heads can still fit through the human pelvis
While other mammal are up and walking just hours after they are born, baby humans are relatively helpless. They seem to be born months early - seemingly the first three months of your newborn's life is as if they are still in the womb. This gives us an idea of their needs in the first three months so we then need to ask ourselves HOW can we replicate the womb environment for our babies?
Within your womb, your baby is at a constant temperature and snuggled in tightly to your constantly moving body. Your heartbeat and the sound of your circulation and gut providing constant background noise. Your heart provides the circulation which nourishes your baby through the placenta, which is then replaced by your breast (if you choose to BF). This is where baby-wearing comes in, what better way to replicate this environment;
Warmth of your body
Snuggled in tightly
Rocked by your movement
Close to your heartbeat
Close to the breast
There is also the added bonus of keeping baby close if you are not keen on handing them around when you are out and about, and also being hands-free for attending to other children or just getting things done around the house or when you're out shopping. Baby-wearing also helps to settle baby with less crying, helps to keep them upright in the instance of reflux. check out these links below for more information. I also have a small selection of baby carriers and wraps available to try on during my Fourth Trimester class
Skin to Skin
This simple measure provides the best stimulus for baby transition earthside, to bond with you and to initiate your first breastfeed. It is during these early moments that your baby has the most incredible honed instincts and reflexes to feed - making this time invaluable to the establishment of breastfeeding and provides so many benefits;
Regulate baby’s temperature,
Regulate baby’s blood sugar,
Increase the likelihood of baby attaching well to the breast,
Improve baby’s vital signs and oxygenation
Reduce baby stress levels post birth
Baby to be colonised by the family's helpful bacteria
It is just as important throughout the first few weeks as it is in the first few hours - if ever your baby will not settle, it is the first thing I would do!
When in the womb, your baby never feels hunger as nutrient rich blood is continuously circulating through the placenta catering for their every need. Once the cord is separated, they no longer have this intravenous feeding and then rely upon you for sustenance. Their stomach is only very small, so they need unrestricted access to the breast to ensure they get adequate colostrum. This is your first milk, perfectly packaged to give maximum energy and nutrients & seed their immune system but in small quantities so as to not overwhelm their tiny tummy - which has never had to actually digest food for survival before
After a few days your milk transitions to a different composition and gradually increasing in amount - the more your baby removes, the more you will make. Breastfeeding is based upon a supply/demand system so ensuring you are feeding baby by their demand and they are removing milk optimally is vitally important. Having good support is crucial to establishing feeding, your Midwife will be able to support you with the basics but sometimes a more tailored approach is required and definitely worth the investment - the help of a Internationally Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) is the next step. Consider enlisting on the services of one, before you throw in the towel. Sometimes just a small tweak to your technique can make a huge difference!
It is common to come up against feeding challenges, but things do get easier!
My feeding journey with each of
my kids has been as unique as they are. My first baby was a breeze - I went into it with the expectation that I would just get on with it, I had no doubts about my ability but I also did not prepare for it. I am not too sure what would have happened if I did face challenges - I certainly did not account for that
I had issues with a painful latch and over-supply with our second baby but after that initial pain it was smooth sailing. I was studying at Uni, prac placements and attending births, so I did a load of expressing and had issues with bottle preference and low supply when she was around 8 months
Baby number 3 and I had my first experience with cracked and bleeding nipples and needing to rest and express within the first 3 days, I also had over-supply . We got through it and she ended up feeding well after her 2nd birthday
Our fourth baby was trouble from the start - I had huge over-supply and forceful let-down (she was gaining over 400g per week and was super grumpy), I had nipple vasospasm and very painful latch, cracked nipples, and she had reflux. What I did find with all of my babies was that everything tended to get easier by the 6-8 week mark - once they emerge from that intense fourth trimester. Here are some links to helpful sites for specialised breastfeeding support;
https://beststartlactation.com/ (Bateman and virtual)
https://latchlovegrow.com.au/book-now/ (Perth Metro and virtual)
https://bundleandme.com.au/ (Northern Suburbs)
https://www.healthy-beginnings.com.au/ (Southern Suburbs)
https://www.motherandmidwife.com.au/ (Fremantle & surrounds, Armadale & surrounds)
https://themilkmeg.com/ (Great web/facebook page, virtual consults)
The Elusive Sleep
I have never been someone who follows the rules, this also relates to baby sleep too - when our first baby was 10 weeks old, my husband deployed with the defence force for 7 months. This meant that our king sized bed felt very empty and I had a baby who was feeding a lot, it made sense to me that she would be right next to me. This contravened all of the advice and 'rules' that are everywhere (especially over 14 years ago). I am not going to tell you what to do with your baby, but I am going to remind you that it is YOUR baby and you need to do what you feel is right for you. Many cultures around the world keep their baby's close, even at night. If you are going to sleep in the same bed as your baby, there are some things to consider - check out the safe sleep seven. A large number of parents do not intend on sharing a bed with their baby and it ends up happening inadvertently and sometimes in not to safest of circumstances. Check out the link below;
During the fourth trimester, at the very least sharing a room with your baby will help them to feel secure. They are designed to need you to be close for their very survival. Here is an overview of how babies sleep, around the world;
A Postpartum Doula
They are your guide to those early weeks, especially when you're are discharged from hospital rapidly and often without much home support. Your Doula will be able to fill in those gaps in care and support you during the huge transition to becoming a parent. They can be that person you can contact if you have any questions or you need anything clarified, they can help you with establishing feeding, leaving the house for appointments or shopping or even to while you have a massage, prepare family meals, be your snack-bitch and do general home tasks - anything to help you to focus on being a new parent
The first weeks with your baby can make a lot more sense when you think in terms of it being an extension of the time within your womb. You also need to bear in mind that you technically should still really be pregnant - in which case, those final weeks are best spent focusing inwards, resting and looking after yourself. This still applies during the fourth trimester too!
I'm Hayley, I am a mother of 4 and have been a birth worker for over 10 years. It is my life’s work to help new parents have the best birthing and early parenting experience as possible by providing a birthing & postpartum Doula service, & birth education. Let me assist you in navigating this journey with confidence and help you settle into life with your new baby
I am based in the Perth Hills and cover the Perth Metro area, regional areas by arrangement