My baby is 11 weeks old and it hit me that the "fourth trimester" is almost over. I have been enjoying every bit of living in the fourth trimester. What is the fourth trimester? I believe I first heard the term from Dr. Harvey Karp author of The Happiest Baby on the Block. Pediatrician Dr. Harvey Karp has a theory; babies are born a trimester too early and the fourth trimester is the time between birth and three months old. Babies are used to being in the warm womb with every need met and then thrust into our environment upon birth. The fourth trimester is a time to help them transition to life outside the womb.
Realizing our babies come from the womb where the temperature is perfect, they are held perfectly all the time, and every need is met it makes sense to let go of expectations and embrace the fourth trimester. This is something I had to learn after my first baby was born. I wondered if she should be eating on a schedule (every two to three hours I thought), sleeping a certain way and at a certain time, having a bedtime routine etc. Of course I wondered about this because we are bombarded with messages telling us what to do as soon as our babies are born. Once I embraced the fourth trimester theory and let go of any expectations life became easier. She was my first baby so I still did not totally embrace it, but with my second baby I did and I am especially with my third and last baby. I'm actually a little sad that this stage is almost over.
I have been carrying, wearing, and hanging with baby number three every day. From morning till night she has human contact. Sure it can be tiring, and especially hard with two other children, but that's where baby wearing helps. I know now how fast it goes by so I have been trying to enjoy this fourth trimester time. A few ways to get through the fourth trimester:
Wearing baby in a sling, Ergo carrier, or wrap is the best way to have your hands free and keep baby happy. I love it and can't speak to the benefits enough. Now I will admit, there are times it can still feel constricting such as humid 100 degree weather, but it's still better than a crying, unhappy baby so I deal. This allows me to get things done around the house, play with my other kids, run errands. You name it; baby wearing can help me get it done. I have even started attempting to work out while wearing the baby.
Feed on demand
I have always fed on demand and seriously it is the easiest. Forget trying to remember when baby last ate or how much she ate. I just feed whenever she needs and it works out. As long as your baby is gaining weight and having plenty of diapers, feeding on demand is fine and works best for breastfed babies.
When I say co-sleep I mean room share or bed share. Your choice. I do a combination of both. The term co-sleeping has come to have different meanings and can mean either. The AAP recommends room sharing with your baby in their own safe sleep space within the room until six months. Bed sharing is sharing the bed with your baby and while the AAP does not recommend it I personally have come to the belief that it can be done safely. As I said, I do both always keeping my baby near me at night. I know many women prefer to move their babies to their own room right away but this was not for me. Having your baby so close at night makes it easy to respond to their needs.
If not bed sharing swaddling works to create that cozy womb feeling.
Basically, let go of expectations, don't worry about schedules, and meet your baby's needs on demand. This is the best way to live in the fourth trimester and get through the period of time when our babies are so dependent on us and transitioning to life outside the womb. Let me know, how did you get through the fourth trimester?