Learn how to help your newborn adapt to the transition of life outside the womb and find out about the essential baby care skills that every new parent needs to know.
So here you are, you and baby have made it through those three trimesters of pregnancy – welcome to the fourth trimester. More and more childbirth professionals are considering the 12 weeks post birth as a fourth trimester. They believe that it’s important to help baby adjust to the outside world after nine months in the womb and maintain that mothers should consider themselves as a ‘walking womb’ in the first three months after birth.
How do you replicate this ‘womb world’ post birth? The following advice can really help to calm your baby and help her to get used to life outside of the womb.
Every time a pregnant mother moves around or a practise contraction occurs, the baby moves around inside. This is why post birth babies love movement. Try gently swaying your baby from side to side, put her in the pram for a walk or into the car seat for a trip in the car.
Make some noise
Babies love to listen to different sounds, but white noise is the most calming, as it recreates the noises they hear while in the womb. Shushing also helps to relax baby, as it is similar to the sound of the continual whooshing sound made by the blood flowing through arteries near the womb.
Newborn babies bond through touch and smell. This why your baby is placed on your chest after birth. Research has shown that skin to skin contact helps mothers to release endorphins, the hormones that help you to feel calm and responsive to your baby’s needs. The practise, also known as ‘kangaroo care’ is often used in premature babies, but studies are showing it also helps to calm babies born full term. It helps with bonding but also improves your baby’s ability to breastfeed. Skin-to-skin is a brilliant way for dads to bond with baby too.
Swaddle your baby
Safely swaddling your baby can be an effective way to create a sense of security just like she felt in the womb. Be careful not to wrap your baby too tightly, as this has been linked to hip dysplasia. Ask your midwife how to swaddle your baby properly.
Sleep in the same room
Sleeping in the same room will give you more time to get to know one another. Once you get home, spend as much tim e as possible with your baby by wearing her in a sling or carrier, rocking her on your lap, or singing her a song. Your voice and touch can be very soothing.
Breastfeeding your baby is perfect for skin-to-skin contact. As well as giving her nourishment, you can determine her mood too. Study her facial expressions and body language. Giving your baby lots of attention helps her to learn to trust and be comforted by you.
Transition from womb
The transition from womb to the outside world is massive for the baby. We know from research on brain development that babies are conscious and aware of their environment in the uterus during the birth and after the birth and what this means is that after they are born they are in a period of adjusting to this new world. While in the womb the baby had all his needs met; he was always warm, never hungry, fully supported and surrounded on all sides rocked and swayed by mum’s movement, hearing her soothing rhythmical heartbeat. The world after the birth is very different and takes some getting used to!
The absolute best thing a new mum can do to help her baby with this massive transition is give her baby lots of skin-to-skin time and breastfeed. Scientists describe the mother’s chest as the ‘correct habitat’ for a newborn baby, meaning that this is where the baby needs to be in order to thrive and survive. When a baby is on her mother’s chest we know that their heart rate stabilises, the breathing stabilises and the blood sugar metabolism stabilises – in essence the baby says: “ahhhh, I am safe.”
When the baby is in this calm and happy state they then can get on with breastfeeding, which is the next step in their move to surviving in this new world. Clare Boyle, BSc, RM, IBCLC – midwife and breastfeeding consultant.
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