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The Fourth Trimester

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The Fourth Trimester

Twinmommy101

I feel like it’s important for us to take a step back and  look at some overall newborn basics so we can have a better idea of what’s going on with babies when we finally get to meet them. Not only will this allow you to have a better understanding of why your baby may be “acting a certain way,” but having this info in your back pocket can help you decide what to put in your “mommy (or daddy) tool belt!” The goal of this post is to outline a few key pointers that will hopefully help alleviate and prevent some of those newborn parent jitters. I also hope it helps allow you to be able to enjoy your time with your new baby as much as you can, because this phase passes by so fast!

What Is The 4th Trimester?

In my experience as a first time mom, let alone of multiples, nobody once mentioned to me the concept of the “4th Trimester.” The 4th trimester is the idea that a baby’s first 3 months of life is an extension of life in the womb. (Technically babies haven't fully developed gestationally until 9 months after birth, but I'll save that conversation for another day.) Given the fact that babies are carried around for up to 40 weeks and live with their mom's voice and heartbeat to soothe them 24/7, the fact that-at birth- they have had no concept of hunger, and have never been “alone,” it makes sense that babies will need some help adjusting to their new world!

When babies are first born, they don’t have the brain maturity to deal with the outside world. They depend on their parents for basic survival, but also for soothing, because they just don’t know how to soothe themselves until they are about 4 months old.
— Jennifer McArthur, co-director of the Northwest Association for Postpartum Support.

It is important to remember that you CAN NOT SPOIL A NEWBORN! They are incapable of having wants and only have NEEDS. They are not ever trying to "manipulate" you. I feel like our society places more emphasis on independence without shedding light on the fact that secure independence is built around the ability to be dependent at first. Think about it: when you learned a new skill, how much more "at ease" were you able to be about it after having adequate support? Having the ability to ask questions and make mistakes without a fear of "messing everything up?" Babies thrive and survive on love and attention, but boy can it be EXHAUSTING fulfilling all those needs! 

How To Make The Early Days Easier:

Newborn Growth Spurts

Did you know that babies triple their birth weights and that grow 10 inches in length on average in the first year of their lives? Welcome to the wonderful world of growth spurts (no sarcasm WHATSOEVER!). Growth spurts (often referred to as the WONDER WEEKS) not only refer to physical growth, but also to MENTAL growth! (Which is why I recommend being familiar with them! It’s always nice to know as much as I can about what the girls are going through!)

The first few growth spurts commonly occur around 10 days old, 4-6 weeks, and again around 3 months.They continue on through 4 months, 6 months and 9 months (more or less; but they keep going all the way through toddlerhood!) Growth spurts usually last 2-3 days, but can sometimes go on for a week or so. Now since babies can’t read calendars your baby may do things differently, BUT it is helpful to have some idea of when to expect these so that you can determine if a sudden change in behavior has growing to blame.

Signs that your baby is having a growth Spurt:
-Baby eats NON STOP! Cluster feeding will become your new best friend
-Baby sleeps SO much! Consider dream feeds if needing to monitor feedings
-Baby is up more frequently at night! This is where our routine and dream feeding can really help out
-Baby is cranky and wants to be held ALL THE TIME! Babywearing is a GREAT way to get a win-win out of this situation. 
Read more about growth spurts HERE! 
 Kellymom discusses growth spruts and breastfeeding

Babywearing

More times than not babywearing has saved the day! And we are talking from infancy through toddlerhood! (Don’t forget to browse our babywearing journey as well!) Babywearing is one the of the best ways to provide your baby with a “space” that allows them to reap SO many benefits needed in the 4th trimester (and beyond).

Not only does wearing your baby put them in a "pouch" that recreates the womb, but it gives you FREE HANDS!  Taking into consideration that during growth spurts especially, your baby will go through times where they are going to want to be held constantly…. and then taking it up a notch and adding a second baby (twins) into the mix and it can get to be REALLY challenging until…. BAM! Up they go! Taking walks all wrapped up is one of our favorite pastimes, especially in the early days when I was pretty limited being able to take the girls out because they were preemies. Read more about the benefits of babywearing HERE. (The post MY FIRST STASH has more details for those who are looking to venture out into the babywearing world for the first time. From covering info to help you decide which carrier/wrap options are best for YOU to providing you with tips, tricks, pointers, and additional resources to help you, this place is your ONE STOP SHOP for all things babywearing!)

Implementing Routine

First off, it is SUPER IMPORTANT to remember that routine DOES NOT equal schedule!!! For us routine is all about WHAT ORDER we do things, NOT WHAT TIME we do it. For example, we may not have always had the same bed TIME since birth, but the girls know that a diaper change, lotion/oils massage, and story means bedtime is just around the corner! (This kind of consistency can REALLY help the time pass when you are in the middle of a wonder week or when you have to implement some temporary cluster feeding!) Remember that it is not atypical for babies to have their days and nights mixed up! Doing certain things like keeping a dark/dim lit room for middle of the night feeds and diaper changes can help guide them to relearning your schedule from the “outside.”

When suggesting a routine in regards to feeding, ON DEMAND should always be priority!!! There are TONS of apps out there as well to help you keep track of the events (feedings, diaper changes, sleep) of the day. In case you are are pencil and paper kind of person, be sure to check out THIS awesome tracker! (Mention that you heard of them through me for a discount!) When the girls first arrived, I had to make sure the girls ate every 3 hours max to ensure they consumed enough daily calories. Keeping a log of everything really helped make life so much easier! It makes packing for outings, or trying to make plans for your own day SO much easier. (The chores don’t do themselves, and I don’t know about you, but I HATE being knee deep in something and having to stop!)

Following Your Baby’s Cues

This is the one thing I can not stress enough!!! No matter how much you read and prepare, your baby is a tiny human who will have needs that need to be met at their own pace. The best thing you can do is make sure you go with the flow and follow your instincts. Oprah had a guest one time that did an AMAZING job of breaking down the different cries of a baby. CHECK OUT HER “MUST WATCH GUEST” FOR NEW PARENTS! (Not to say you need to memorize them and take notes, but having and idea of these can definitely come in handy when your babe(s) is/are having a cry fest and you are at your wits end!) In addition to following your baby’s cues, TRUST YOUR GUT!!! YOU are the only expert on your baby!

Tummy Time

It’s advised to begin tummy time at birth. (Pending circumstances of course. Sometimes you may have to adjust according to baby's comfort, if they were born prematurely, and don’t forget to take things like their umbilical cord into consideration!) I started this from day one by just having the girls lay on my chest. Especially considering their preemie status, I decided to kick it up a notch and do skin to skin as well. This not only helps them regulate breathing and body temperature, but it helped increase my colostrum production! And honestly, having the girls look up at me from my chest, and knowing that they were listening to my heartbeat (like they had for the last 8 months) was more than I could have asked for. (READ MORE ABOUT SKIN TO SKIN!)

Did you know: Babies can benefit from skin to skin for a whole year! Preemie babies benefit for TWO years!

The benefits of tummy time not only include giving baby the opportunity to strengthen their neck and back muscles while getting a “different” view of the world, but it can also contribute to baby hitting mobility milestones sooner! The MayoClinic has some GREAT info about the importance of tummy time.

You don’t need a fancy/cutesy tummy time mat. (We started using ours-gifts- after about a month or so) You only need to aim for 5-10 minutes a day in the beginning, but as always use your judgement! Only you know what YOUR baby needs best! And don't forget that if you babywear, you are allowing your baby to work the same muscles as tummy time. YOU become their gym and add the benefit of being close and hands free. Plus when they are so up close, you can engage in conversation with them, which helps with brain development!

Swaddling

Swaddling is defined as: “Swaddling is the art of snugly wrapping a baby in a blanket for warmth and security. It can keep your baby from being disturbed by her own startle reflex, and it can help her stay warm and toasty for the first few days of life until her internal thermostat kicks in. It may even help to calm your baby,” according to BABYCENTER.COM If/when you swaddle, pay attention to the arms and hands of your baby. Babies are very heavily reliant on their sense of touch and not all babies like to be swaddled. STOP swaddling your baby once they start rolling over! Remember that babies need to sleep on flat on their backs! Don’t prop them up to sleep. (Their necks lack the muscle control needed to prevent asphyxiation. They can also accidentally roll over!) I stopped swaddling when the girls started rolling over. 

DID YOU KNOW: The babywearing world is not the only place that you need to know about hip dysplasia ! Swaddling too tightly can contribute to HD! Learn more here! 

Overall, it seems apparent that preparing for and welcoming your new baby into the world can be an overwhelming thing. The best thing you can do is stay calm. There are PLENTY of resources out there for you to tap into. Take everything one step at a time and just remember that you can do this! Doing a little research about what to expect developmentally can really go a long way and save some sanity along the way. Just remember that your baby relies on you to meet their needs and to follow your instincts! 

Check out this great article for a more indepth read about the 4th trimester!

I'd love to hear your thoughts about the 4th trimester and any of the info that this article covered!