Finally, the moment you’ve been waiting for – your baby is here! This is a vitally important time for you, your partner and your baby. So, let’s get off to a good start with these 20 tips and hints to help you to deal with the fourth trimester.
1. Understanding your newborn in the fourth trimester
Before you do anything, remember this: your baby has never been touched before, never seen clear light, heard clear sounds or been on dry land. Everything is a mystery, apart from a few things. You and your partner’s voices and your smell. From birth, your baby will choose your smell over anyone else’s and even respond to your voice. If your baby is born prematurely, pop any item of your clothing in with your baby safely. Some studies have shown that this may decrease the length of time babies spend in special care.
2. Say no to too many visitors
Everyone is so happy for you and wants to see your beautiful creation. But, this can be distressing for your newborn baby and I really recommend as few visitors as possible for the first week. Your baby won’t look much different in that time but this will just allow him/her to adjust to their very new surroundings.
3. Your face
By just 3 weeks old, your newborn baby has a recognition memory and he/she can recognise your face.
4. Brain development
The most rapid period of brain development is in the first 3 years of life. Your newborn baby’s brain is like a sponge absorbing everything. Early experiences shape the architecture of the brain. For example, if you have a garden (or live near a local park) – perfect! Walk around and allow your baby to experience the changing shapes and sensations, such as wind, trees and clouds. These all facilitate healthy brain development.
To further this point, neuro pathways in the brain that are used a lot get strengthened and the ones that aren’t used disappear. Baby’s brains have extra little side pathways compared to adults to explore – this is called neuroplasticity. Ability of the brain to change with experiences.
5. Forget about the house work!
Too many times, I see new parents really upset about the state of the house, piles of washing etc. Rest when your baby does because you really need it, especially if you are breastfeeding. Put your feet up and relax because stress hormones inhibit milk production.
If you’re breastfeeding, note that between day 3 – 5, your baby may be cluster feeding and you may feel a bit tearful and emotional. This is very normal and try to just go with it, have a good cry if you need to. Let it out, it’s mostly both tiredness and hormones. However, some women say they feel the need to come to terms with the fact that life as you knew it has now gone and a lot has changed. You may need a short while to process that. Don’t feel guilty about it, allow the feelings to come and go.
You may notice that your baby wants to feed more at night. This is because your milk production is at its peak and you may get night sweats with this hormonal peak. Night feeds can be very tiring but they do really help with your milk supply so do try and feed through the night if you can manage it and sleep when your baby sleeps.
This is truly vital for breastfeeding mothers. You really should be drinking at least 2 litres of water per day. When you feed, try to build getting yourself a pint of water into your routine. If you are dehydrated your milk quality and supply can be reduced.
9. The cord
Studies have shown that using mild soap has minimal effects on skin bacterial colonization in the neonatal period, so plain water is sufficient. Avoid bathing until the separation of the umbilical cord is complete so you don’t disrupt the flora at the base of the cord and potentially hinder the natural process of cord separation. This can take up to 10 days.
Have baths with your newborn: babies LOVE water. They’ve been in it for 9 months! Take them back to life inside you and bathe with your newborn, skin to skin. There’s nothing more relaxing for your baby than the sound of your heartbeat whilst immersed in water. It’s a chance for you to relax and enjoy too!
11. Introducing chemicals
I usually tell new mums to ask themselves ‘would I eat this or rub it into my lips?’ If the answer is no, simply don’t use it on your newborn. Their skin is 5 times more absorbent than yours, so all unnecessary chemicals seep into the skin and blood stream very quickly. This increases the risk of eczema, psoriasis and other more serious conditions later in life. The skin is the body’s largest organ so look after it from birth. Expose your newborn to as little as possible for as long as possible. I recommend a minimum of 4 weeks because that’s how long it takes for your newborn to build up natural enzymes and skin barriers.
I am often asked, ‘what’s the best washing powered to use for my newborn?’
I’ve got a secret for you. It’s cheap, a good stain remover and natural…baking soda! Pop two tea spoons into a bowl, mix with a little water to make it into a paste and add a few drops of lavender for the calming scent, or go unscented if you prefer.
13. Skin to skin
This is most important at birth but the weeks after birth will also help your baby settle into the fourth trimester and it’s great for bonding.
It’s normal for all babies to have ‘physiological jaundice.’ Your baby’s iron levels are more than double yours and it can take them a little while to break down the components that make up red blood cells, leaving something called bilirubin behind. This can cause that yellow discolouring of the face. If your baby is alert whilst awake, waking for feeds, weeing and pooing then that’s fine. If your baby is lethargic, not very alert whilst awake and the yellow colouring spreads to the abdomen or is getting worse, then you need to call your midwife to perform a special test and see how high those bilirubin levels are.
This is a very controversial subject and the best advice that I can give is for you to do your own research and do what is best for you and your baby. Look only at credible sources of information and speak to a variety of practitioners and or other parents to find out what is best for you. This will help you to then make informed decisions.
Brand new and credible scientific research shows that strong self-esteem allows children to fail and have confidence to repeat a task. Self-esteem starts at birth, just being there for your baby’s needs builds confidence and self-esteem from birth.
17. You are the first and best teacher
Being a parent is exhausting but it’s your chance to put your child on that trajectory for life. You are doing and will continue to do an amazing job; have confidence in yourself and your choices. Your newborn really doesn’t care what you have bought for them, nor do they care if you are important to other people. You are so important to them and that’s all they care about. The comfort and the love from you is what makes a newborn thrive into a healthy person. Being there and being responsive to their needs is key.
‘Affection is like the electrical tape that bonds neurons together. Once the connection among neurons is established, affection comes in and makes the binds so strong it can never be undone.’ – Dr Flavio Cunha.
Sometimes you may want to have adult conversations and it’s hard because you have to reconcile your identify as a mother with your own identity (which you may feel you are losing.) It’s normal to feel like this, so do try and get out and about with your newborn – join support groups and network with other mums. You’ll lean on each other and look out for one another which can be a great help when you or your partner goes back to work.
18. Around 33% of women go through baby blues
This isn’t post-natal depression but emotional change or turbulence. These symptoms resemble actual post-natal depression but it’s a lot rarer at 10% and can be very serious. If you think you’re developing postnatal depression, please talk to your midwife, GP or health visitor sooner rather than later.
I find a lot of women are quite alarmed by the amount of blood they are losing and the length of time the loss goes on for. Some women do bleed for up to 2 weeks after birth and the loss may seem quite heavy. You need to contact your midwife as soon as possible if you lose clots bigger than a 50 pence piece and if you have very heavy bleeding suddenly, call your local hospital.
20. Your pelvic floor – don’t neglect it!
If you can, get into the routine of doing pelvic floor exercises whilst feeding. Mix it up, do holds and pulses re-strengthen the muscles which will prevent bladder weakness now and later in life.