The "Fourth Trimester" refers to the first 3 months of your babies life. For some people, it can be a wonderful time, full of so much love (and hormones!). However for most, it is also incredibly difficult and often overwhelming, especially for first time parents! Not only do you have to heal from giving birth and overcome the challenge of postpartum emotions and physical ailments, but you have to care for your new small human.
Humans are actually born 3 months too early, which is why we refer to this time as the "Fourth Trimester." If babies had their way, they would stay in the womb for 3 more months! Cleary that isn't possible, there just isn't enough space in there for them to grow any bigger! So when they are born, they are not quite ready to be out in the world yet. It is BIG, bright and loud, very different than their cozy life inside your belly. It's no wonder that they want you to hold them 24 hours a day! They are likely frightened and unsure, and they rely on you to comfort them and make them feel safe and secure in their new reality.
Thankfully, newborns sleep a TON! It is totally normal for them to sleep up to 17 hours a day! And when they sleep, they sleep HARD! Newborns only have 3 sleep cycles (after 3 months they will have 5, just like you!), which means that they fall asleep very easily and stay asleep. You can (and should!) be loud while they are napping in a common space. I used to vacuum around my babies and they wouldn't even stir! This will help them adjust and become great sleepers that are un-phased by the hustle of life that continues around them while they peacefully catch some zzz's!
So what does sleep look like for the first 3 months? It will probably be pretty unpredictable. One nap may be 30 minutes and the next 3 hours. You'll need to be flexible and allow them to lead. They will also probably start out by sleeping on YOU. You may find for the first 2 weeks or so, that it is very difficult to have them sleep anywhere else! Soak it up my friend, this phase goes by way too fast and you will look back on this time and wish you could get it back (trust me!). After those first couple of weeks, it is a good idea to start working on putting them down for sleep. It's not particularly safe to have them sleep on or with you, especially if you are sleep deprived yourself. In this stage of life, it is okay to use a rocker, baby swing or the stroller, to help them sleep on their own. They are great tools for newborns, but I recommend phasing out the swings as you approach the 3 month mark because it can then start to become a sleep prop for them (see Sleep Prop Blog for more on this!). You can also start to instill some healthy sleep habits at this time, by practicing laying them down drowsy but awake. It is likely that they will resist your efforts, but the more you can introduce the concept to them, the more comfortable they will become!
Tummy time is also a great tool! Not only does it help with motor skills, muscle growth, and eye coordination, tummy time gives them the opportunity to get more comfortable being outside of your arms. Work a few minutes of tummy time, a few times a day into your baby’s schedule. Everyone will benefit!
Newborns are emotional creatures. To be honest, that continues beyond the newborn stage, but I am sure that come as no surprise! Your baby will need your help to regulate their emotions. You may find that they get so worked up that they become inconsolable. These times are when many parents struggle most. I remember crying and yelling, "WHY are you crying? What do you WAAANT!??!" Sometimes they have a physical need (they are hungry, wet, uncomfortable, or sick), but other times they just need your help calming down. If you have ruled out their physical needs and you still can't seem to settle them, then you want to go back to basics. What do I mean by that?! Well, remember that they are supposed to be in the womb still, so your goal is to replicate the womb as best as you can. There is a technique called the 5 S's that is an UNBELIEVABLE tool that ALL new parents need to know! Watch my YouTube video below to learn how to execute the 5 S's. And while you are there, please give it a Like and Subscribe to my channel! I will be posting more helpful videos soon :)
I hope that you found this blog helpful! If you are struggling with your newborn, I have a very useful Newborn Sleep Guide (email support also available!) that will give you all the tools you need to help your newborn become a better sleeper. You are not able to sleep train until your baby turns 12 weeks, but you can start to teach them healthy sleep habits right away! Message me or head to my Services to learn more!