Alongside the adjustments you are making, your little one is adjusting to life on the other side too! The 12 weeks following birth have now become known as ‘The Fourth Trimester’, and it really makes perfect sense that your baby needs time to settle into their new world just as much as you do. At the very least, twelve weeks is a realistic time frame for you and your baby to get used to the new rhythm of life. When responding to your little one’s needs, consider how much they have to adapt once they are born.
- Warm (at body temperature)
- Dark (with a pinky hue)
- No awareness of gravity
- Muffled sound due to amniotic fluid
- Sounds and vibrations of heartbeat, breathing, umbilical cord pulsing, digestion
- Surrounded by water
- No hunger
- No tiredness
- Constant rocking and moving
- Contained and cosy
- Has never had their skin touched by another human
- Aware of feeling hot/cold
- Different levels of brightness and darkness
- Loud sounds
- Aware of hunger
- Aware of tiredness
- Often still
- Uncontained and able to stretch out
- Touched and held by others
The changes that a baby goes through are huge. Some babies seem to make the transition smoothly and appear to be calm and settled from early on, but don’t be alarmed if your baby seems more sensitive to the change in their environment. They are little bundles of senses and we need to give them time and gently support them as they adjust.
If you have had a long, rough night with your little one, we ask that you refer back to the lists above and think about all the changes that they are adapting to. Every time someone says, ‘I wouldn’t rock them to sleep if I was you, you will end up doing it every night,’ consider the fact that your baby has never experienced complete stillness before and they might find it uncomfortable.
If you sense they may be feeding for comfort rather than hunger, contemplate the notion that in that moment they are feeling calm because of the sensation of being held and relaxed as they pacify themselves with their sucking reflex. If you find that they scream like a banshee every time you undress them for a nappy change or a bath, remember that they are getting used to the sensation of cooler air on their skin.
Enjoy helping them navigate this strange new world and revel in the fact that you are getting to know their little personality as they grow and develop day by day. They will get there, but we need to be kind to ourselves and stop doubting our natural response to the needs of our little one and acknowledge that it will take a little while for them to get used to their new home, out here in the big wide world.
Excerpt from The Little Book of Self Care for New Mums by Beccy Hands & Alexis Stickland (Vermillion, £12.99).