The Fourth Trimester - this is a phrase I use often and followers/fans of the gentle or attachment parenting approach will no doubt be very familiar with it - the phrase refers to the initial 3 month period of a newborn babies life.
It makes perfect sense to me to consider these first 3 months as a fourth trimester of the pregnancy/birth experience rather than expect that because the baby is now in your arms rather than in your womb that it should automatically have adjusted to the world it's suddenly found itself in and be ready to just get on with life.
The world is a noisy, bright and chaotic place when compared to the dark, quiet and calm environment of the womb which is all that baby has known up until now - it stands to reason that finding itself in this new environment would be scary and disconcerting for the baby and that he or she would need to be eased through the first months with understanding, love and time.
A lot of people find that new babies - some more than others - are never happy unless they're being cradled in arms and this can lead people to refer to them as a "bad" baby when really they're just trying to adjust and needing a little comfort and security to get them through it. Of course it can be draining on a parent when baby is awake all night, nobody is getting much sleep and baby is then demanding cuddles all day long too - we all have tasks that need to be completed and as nice as it would be to be able to do nothing but cuddle a baby all day, it's not always going to be possible...but there are ways to make the transition through the fourth trimester a little easier on both mum and baby.
Obviously everybody is different and has their own ways of parenting, but I personally have adopted more of an attachment style with Sailor than I did with the previous children and I've found this to be really beneficial.
Here are some of the things I've been using and doing this time to get us through the fourth trimester.
I tried baby wearing briefly with both Tyne and Noah, but I didn't find it very enjoyable with Tyne..probably because he was my first child and I didn't see a need to have him in a sling or carrier as I preferred to simply hold in my arms and had no real need to have my hands free for other things, I managed well enough without the carrier and so I didn't use it.
With Noah a carrier would have been handy but although I tried for a good few weeks to use on, he was never a fan of it and would always end up more upset so we stopped trying...funnily enough he still doesn't like to be cuddled which I guess goes to show that some babies are different!
But with Sailor it's worked out well - he is never happy to be set down in his crib for longer than 5 minutes at a time, and he will scream the house down if you put him in it and nip out to turn the kettle on! But when he's in the baby carrier, he is always happy and content - he sleeps soundly on my chest and will stay there happily for hours.
This not only means that Sailor is happier, it also enables me to spend time with the other children and have my hands free to play with them and it allows me to get household chores and work done too.
Studies have also shown that babywearing can help to keep post natal depression and anxiety at bay, as skin to skin contact releases oxytocin - aka the Happy Hormone - giving off a feeling of calmness and happiness to the mother. Studies also show that being kept skin to skin can help to steady babies heartrate and temperature.
I have certainly found that keeping Sailor close to me in the sling leaves me feel a lot less stressed and generally happier...so its win win!
At the moment we are using the fabulous Amawrap sling - this comfortable and easy to use wrap has been a lifesaver for us in these first few weeks and we use it every single day without fail. The instructions inside on how to wear the wrap were quite easy to follow and I managed to get it on correctly first time - it did take me a few days to get used to putting it on without needing the instructions but after a few practises I soon had it sussed and now I can throw it on in seconds without needing to check the instructions.
Amawrap's are made from 100% soft cotton and are so comfortable without any of the bulk I have experienced with other carriers I've tried, they're so easy to wash and dry, and they come in a variety of colours.
They are so compact and easy to carry out (I just pop mine in my changing bag!), they meet all safety standards and can be used from birth up to 15kgs. They're also one size fits all, so perfect to swap between family members too.
To find out more about these wraps, visit www.amawrap.com
Co-sleeping can be quite a controversial subject, and I read today that almost half of all new parents will lie about co-sleeping with their baby for fear of being judged.
Well I will openly admit that we co-slept with our first baby for the first 6 months or so of his life - it wasn't something we actively decided to do or even particularly wanted to do, we had bought a lovely moses basket for him which had been personalised and made to look beautiful! Did he care? Of course not! He didn't like it and he wasn't going in it...it was that simple!
If we tried to get him to sleep in it, he screamed bloody murder for hours.
We tried different kinds of baby beds but he didn't settle in anything at all. Until one night, absolutely exhausted from weeks of little to no sleep - I fell asleep with him on our bed, and he slept. We both slept well for the first time since his arrival and it was a revelation!
But of course I'd read all about how dangerous it could be and I was terrified...but so desperate to be able to get some sleep too.
In the end, I looked up all of the best practises on co-sleeping, purchased a baby breathing monitor for him to wear at night so we would be alerted if anything was to go wrong and we continued to co-sleep with him from then on. I always felt that he was safe, I slept with my arm around him in such a way that I wouldn't be able to roll over him, and we positioned the bedding so that the duvet and pillows were nowhere near him at all.
When he got to 6 months, he was much happier to go into his cot and from then on that's where he stayed.
With Noah we had learned that babies don't always like moses baskets, and decided to try something different...we bought a Chicco Next 2 Me co-sleeper and used that until he was 6 months old - he was always happy in there and has never once come into our bed.
We now use the Chicco Next 2 Me for Sailor and so far it's going well. The co-sleeper attaches to our bed and we have the side down, so he is always right next to me and can see/smell me easily...he isn't too settled in the co sleeper of a day but of an evening when I'm laying next to him he's much better.
We have also been using the Cocoonababy which really seems to have helped settle him of a night.
The Cocoonababy from Red Castle is an ergonomic cocoon which is designed to almost replicate the womb by allowing babies to be back in the semi-foetal position. It helps to eliminate many new babies issues such as flat head syndrome, food reflux (as baby is slightly raised) and the moro (startle) reflex ...the moro reflex is something Sailor experiences a lot and often wakes himself up with it, but the cocoonababy has solved this problem for us of an evening.
It's easily transportable and can be used in a cot or crib, playpen etc as long as the sides are higher than baby sits within the cocoon - we use this in the Chicco Next 2 Me co sleeper and it's a perfect companion.
It's suitable from birth up to 4 months, and retails at £129.90 from John Lewis, Amazon and Jojo Maman Bebe.
So that's how we're finding our way through the fourth trimester together - what things did you find made your first few months with a newborn easier? I'd love to hear from you!