What Is the Fourth Trimester? A Story of Parenthood
What is the Fourth Trimester, and how does it impact you and your baby?
A woman has many divine transformations in her life. One such transition is motherhood! You will surprise yourself with the amount of mental, physical and emotional endurance you have. You are in a rush to know it all about trimesters, labour and life after delivery. There is an ever evolving paranoia you experience with each passing trimester and it just doesn’t end after delivery; therefore, it is often referred as the Fourth Trimester, which is nothing but extended maternity except for the fact that your baby is in your lap instead of your womb.
What happens during fourth trimester?
Fourth trimester begins as soon as you deliver, and your life is never going be the same again. The upsurge of emotions (no matter the happiness or anxiety) brim your eyes with tears. It’s a time when you’re clueless and seek support. Your anxieties about their development and your fears: whether I’m being a good mother, am I able to produce enough milk, when will he/she recognize me… such thoughts keep hovering around and it gets overwhelming. This phase is woven around your child; your new centre of universe.
Sleep deprivation takes the better of you. When your baby cries, you are bound to get anxious because initially you don’t understand whether they need a feed, burp, cuddle, warmth, lower temperature or another diaper change; you find yourself crying in sync with your little one… As much as you find yourself stuck in chaos, believe me, your baby could vouch he’s feeling worse, only if he knew how to express it! He is at his most vulnerable here (and you are fragile, too… but you don’t get time for yourself initially and that’s alright).
A new mother immediately takes the roles of a provider and protector; we create glass walls between the ones who give advice (wanted & unwanted). However, to run, you need to learn to walk first. There will be times when you’ll feel your celebrity status has been rolled out, this little being is your centre of universe and that’s adaptable, but things can turn ugly when everyone’s just telling you what and what no to do without asking you how you feel for once. No matter how much of a brave face you show up, you break down more than once a day in front of your baby. I therefore, made a month by month list for women like you and me.
Baby Milestones: Vaccination & Check Up Your Nutrition and Well-being
• A baby is born near sighted, vision is not developed fully until three months, but he’s able to assess your smell, heart beat and warmth, that’s why it’s most soothing for a baby when they are in their mother’s lap.
• To express any displeasure, a newborn cries, but you can comfort them with your voice, your touch & assessing their needs.
• Involuntary responses like REM (random eye movements) and clenched fists are normal for babies.
• Your baby can’t control its temperature and breathing, so always provide him a calm place & dress him at least with TWO MORE layers of clothing than you are wearing.
• At birth, Zero Day vaccines are administered along with all details of your baby’s anatomy, blood group, name for any formalities etc. It’s always better to finalize a name for the child before birth.
• Vaccination chart is provided at the time of discharge with all mandatory vaccines & due dates where your baby’s routine checkup also takes place.
• Natural birth or a C-section, your body has undergone a lot. You must take sufficient rest & continue your dose of Iron & Calcium until you are breast feeding.
• Eat food that’s easy to digest and that’s a good source of all nutrients. Avoid consuming a lot of spinach and sour fruits as it will lead to your baby’s upset stomach.
• Abstain from junk food, alcohol & smoking.
Weight Gain & Feeding
• Weight gain is directly linked to the number of feeds a baby takes. A breastfed baby needs a feed every 2-3 hours i.e. approx 8 to 12 times a day. A formula fed baby requires less i.e. around 6 to 10 times a day.
• On average, a baby gains around 1 kg weight every month till 6 months gradually slowing down to an avg. increase of 250- 500 g per month till 1 year of age. As a thumb rule, your baby should gain three times their birth weight on their 1st birthday.
• Baby knows how to suckle but you need make him latch onto your breast for a proper feed. He should be able to breathe properly during the feed. Satiating sound will make you aware when he’s done feeding.
Colic, Constipation & Loose motions
- Reasons are unknown why babies develop colic, but to give relief, you need to give them a little tummy time. Learn to massage their tummy gently and how to make your baby burp/pass wind.
- Loose motions occur due to indigestion or gas or some infection in their gut. But we need to remember a baby’s gastro-intestinal tract is not developed enough to digest complex protiens, carbs and fats. So you need to eat such food which doesn’t supply excess of these in breast milk.
Relaxation & Exercise
• You won’t attain your pre-pregnancy body in a week’s time and don’t even rush for it. After the fourth trimester, your body will heal and you can start with easy workouts.
• Get a whole body massage everyday or weekly. Female chiropractors are available for you and your baby as a part of post-natal rituals.
• You can learn to gently massage your baby to bond better with them.
• You will find your breasts leaking for at least 2 months. Your body accommodates slowly with your child’s demand.
Size & Head circumference
• A baby grows one to one & half inch every month in first trimester and there should always be a positive growth in terms of his head size, as per paediatricians.
• At completion of 1 month, give ample tummy time (10-20 minutes a day) and let him try raise his neck, call his name, make pleasing sounds. This will strengthen his muscles and will support head control.
Other health issues and allergies
- Paediatricians are a very supportive group of doctors when it comes to first-time parents. When conditions seem out of control, always seek their help.
- Before you give the love back, love yourself first. Embrace your situation wholeheartedly.
- Talk to your partner, divide duties and initially you won’t want to indulge in intimacy, but try to get into it as soon and as often for your relationship.
- Babies should have at least 4 to 6 wet diapers a day, even if not change it every 3 hours.
- Most babies will have 1 or more bowel movements daily, but it may be normal to skip 1 or 2 days if consistency is normal.
New born Hygiene
- Newborns don’t need a bath daily, just top and tail is also good. However try to give them a bath every week by keeping room warm. Their mouth, gums and tongue should be cleaned once daily.
- More often than not, women feel depressed or there’s passive aggression, you feel anxious, dull and on the verge of breakdown. Sometimes it is due to sleep deprivation but when you start distancing yourself from your baby and get suicidal thoughts, immediately seek medical attention and talk to your closest people.
I would be lying if I say I was okay in the 4th trimester with sleeping only 2 hours and getting up for almost 45 minutes during night for feeding my son, but I wasn’t sulking either. There were times he would lose his temper and cry inconsolably if feed was delayed and refused to feed! Then there were times of reboot. He was aware of my presence; he could recognize my voice and expressions. I was unsure if his vision was blurred, but believed the books. His eyes were the most beautiful, mystic and transient ones I’ve seen, with the blends of stark grey and a dotted halo around the iris (they turned dark brown by 6th month or so)… I feel like a poet describing the beauty of her son; but that’s what happens during the first month of the fourth trimester. You can’t help but cherish your little bundle of joy, comparing their size with your arms, trying to fit your finger in their tiniest of fists, just watch them in awe when they smile in their sleep and those REMs are the times you can’t help but wonder the beauty of creation!