Most of us know that pregnancy consists of 3 trimesters, each often seen as big milestones to reach in the pregnancy journey, but have you ever heard of the 4thtrimester? If not, you’re not alone, as all too often not many of us have.
The 4thtrimester is the term coined to the settling in period for baby as their move from their world in the womb, to the world on the outside. It generally refers to the first 3 months of a newborn’s life. This time is crucial for supporting baby emotional and physically, and supporting the bonding time with parents or care givers.
It seems that despite the hundreds and thousands of “baby manuals” and the multitude of parenting advice from health professionals, somewhere along the way we have lost the age-old knowledge that babies are not born ready to self-soothe. That’s right, baby’s need US to help them with this part of their development. Self-soothing requires OUR support in order to allow them to later become independent in this, and the way forward is with LOVE.
Imagine this, you are woken from the most comfortable, cosy place you’ve ever known, where you never felt too hot, too cold, you never felt hungry, had never smelt smells, noises were muffled, it was dark, you never had to wear clothes, you had never been touched by anything other than the soft walls of your tranquil home – to suddenly being exposed to all the elements in this bright, noisy, smelly, rushing around environment where you have to wear a nappy, digest your own food for the first time, and be expected to sleep in a huge cot with not one familiar aspect of your previous home life. Talk about overwhelming and scary? Yet often this is what we expect from our little ones, that they shouldn’t be rocked to sleep, that they shouldn’t be held all the time, or that we may spoil them if we respond too readily.
None of this is true, in fact scientific research has proven that a baby’s brain develops on all scales – emotionally, socially and physically – when they are responded to with love and nurture. So many parents feel relieved and empowered when they know that listening to their own instincts is exactly what they and their baby needs. And that it is completely normal for babies to want to be held, and how in the beginning it can almost feel like you will never get out of the house again (you will I assure you). It’s really important at this stage to try and get us much help us possible from family or friends in order to have a rest yourself. Not many people turn the chance down of having snuggles with a baby whilst mummy or daddy (or both) have a nap, or chance for a bath. Lean on your network, connect and don’t be too proud to accept help. It will make you feel more refreshed and able to be available to your baby.
So the, how can we help our babies with this major transition? Firstly, let’s remember that:
Babies LOVE movement
Babies LOVE Skin to skin
Babies LOVE Touch
Babies LOVE Eye contact and smiles
Babies LOVE your voice
Closeness to a parent, particularly the mother, but also the father gives the baby SO much more than you may realise. Womb world comforts, such as hearing Mummy’s heart beat, having a gentle sense of movement, hearing the sound of her breath and voice, the softness of her skin, help baby to feel safe and secure and therefore relax, regulate their breathing and their temperature which in turn helps to soothe and settle them. This is all created for your baby just by holding them, particularly skin to skin, as well as being responsive to their cries.
Being held helps to give the baby womb-like pressure on the body – sending calming messages to the brain with ‘proprioceptive feedback’ and giving baby a sense of where they are in space, as well as increasing their body awareness. Imagine, it must be very unnerving to suddenly feel “space” after 9 months tucked up in the womb. Parents can create a womb like environment for their baby by dimming lights, using white nose, minimizing distractions/other stimulus in the room. The use of baby wearing via slings is an amazing way or recreating the feeling of a ‘womb world’. Also tuning in to your baby’s cues will have an enormous effect on their ability to later self- soothe. By feeling loved, secure and well attuned to a parent, they trust that the world is a safe place to be and over time learn to independently self-regulate.
As well as aiding transition into the world, this type of responsive parenting – showing a genuine interest in baby with eye contact, touch, speaking to baby, responding to baby’s cues- your baby experiences positive connection with people. These positive exchanges of interaction actually enable the brain to develop to feel empathy, to create and maintain lasting friendships and relationships, and promotes the ability of your baby to one day parent their own children in a more loving, connected and responsive way, thus passing on the love throughout generations for hopefully years to come. Womb to world nurture and care can bring love not only now, but love into the future too.
To learn more about how you can help transition your baby from womb to world, learning nurturing, loving and practical techniques, check out my Womb to World ? Newborn Nurture Massage sessions available as one to ones in your own home or as workshop style with a group of friends/antenatal group. I would love to share with you the power of nurturing touch.
by guest blogger Carly Sherborne