During your pregnancy, time was divided into periods of 12 weeks, or trimesters. After three trimesters (or so), your baby was born. According to a theory developed by Dr. Harvey Karp, this is about 12 weeks – or one trimester – too early. Dr. Karp coined the term “Fourth Trimester” to refer to this period of both infant development and maternal recovery.
The healthcare providers at Bay Street Pediatrics know that this Fourth Trimester calls for unprecedented care, including 24/7 attention, feeding, diaper changes and nurturing.
What is the Fourth Trimester?
The fourth trimester is the first three months following the birth of your baby. Dr. Karp says, generally, when a baby is born full-term, their heads have grown to the maximum size that can fit through the birth canal but their brain development would actually benefit from another 12 weeks in the womb.
What happens in the Fourth Trimester to Baby?
The fourth trimester is a time of transformation. You’ll see leaps and bounds of growth and development in these three months that you will never see again in your child’s life. Your baby will build on their initial instincts to startle, suck, grasp, and root for food. In three months, these instincts will develop into hunger recognition, reactions to outside stimuli and increased muscle strength.
In these twelve weeks, your baby will open their arms and legs to a relaxed, full-length baby who can hold up their head. At birth, your child can see in grey-scale just 8-12” away. At three months your baby will typically see a full spectrum of color, all the way across the room. They will recognize and react to you, siblings, caregivers, and favorite objects.
Because your newborn baby would still benefit from time in the womb, it’s helpful to mimic that in utero environment whenever possible. Following the 5 S’s of the fourth trimester will help baby’s development and comfort:
- Swaddle: Keep newborns swaddled to keep them warm and mimic the cozy feeling of being in the uterus. As soon as your baby begins to turn themselves over, stop swaddling at night.
- Stomach or Side Position: Being held stomach-down, supported by your forearm or on their side, can help soothe your baby. This position is only for holding your baby; place your baby on their back when they are sleeping.
- Shush: In utero, babies heard a constant sound of blood rushing around the body. Using a white noise machine, or playing white noise sounds outside of the womb can help calm your baby.
- Swing: During pregnancy, babies felt frequent motion, being swayed back and forth by the rhythm of your walking and movement. A swing can help recreate the feeling of perpetual movement when you need to rest.
- Suck: Sucking is an inborn instinct and a source of comfort and reassurance for babies. Ask your Bay Street provider for help in determining when your baby needs to feed and when they would like to suck a pacifier for comfort.
Neonatal Care is Four Trimesters, Not Three
Be sure to take your baby to all pediatric appointments, especially during these first three month. Your Bay Street healthcare provider will ensure that your baby is healthy and developing as expected. We’ll begin the immunizations needed to protect their health for years to come and will address any and all questions you have during these appointments.
Fourth Trimester Care Should Include Mom Too
Moms require just as much care after birth as your baby does, and for just as long. Hormone levels have just dropped dramatically, increasing the risk of depression and anxiety. You may still be healing from a caesarean birth or from an episiotomy. Sleep may be in critically short supply. Ask for help from your partner, grandparents, friends and family. Say “yes” when someone offers to cook, clean or run errands for you. This is their way of caring for both you and for your baby.
Bay Street Pediatrics is proud to announce upcoming New Mom Wednesdays! These regular Zoom meetings, from 10:30 am to noon, will provide all new moms a non-judgemental space to get mother-to-mother support and guidance during the first year of your baby’s life. A Bay Street physician will drop in to answer questions. Topics we’ll discuss may include:
- Wide range of “normal” in babies’ personalities and development
- Different parenting styles
- Infant safety
- Feeding issues
- Postpartum moods, depression and issues
- Changing relationships with partners
- Sibling relationships
- Adding a new baby to your family
- Family management
- The ups and downs and ins and outs of parenting
- Nearly any topic you bring to the table!
Watch our website and social media for our Fall start date and more details!
When you need additional resources such as soothing techniques or help with breastfeeding, ask your Bay Street provider. We would be delighted to provide information about topics such as baby care, post-delivery care for moms, and lactation techniques.