The first 12 weeks of life in a totally new environment - it's all change for you, but it's a whole new world for your baby.
During the pregnancy trimesters, you’ll probably have tracked your baby’s ‘fruit-like’ development (we love when they get to the size of a grape, a lemon and eventually grapefruit!) and felt all sorts of changes as they were busy becoming their own unique person. And when they make their way into the world, well, there’s nothing like it. But their first 12 weeks of life in the outside world – the fourth trimester – is even more life-changing. For you and them.
From womb to world
Your baby arrives with an unspoken brief for you: love me, feed me, keep me safe – just like you’ve done for the past nine months.
Ah, how simple it sounds! And yet how different must it all be for your baby (as well as you: now owner of a brand-new human being)?
They’ve gone from constant warmth, food on tap, rest when they wanted it and a soothing wall of sound to… all the elements of the outside world, wearing clothes, being wiped, held in arms, needing to let you know when they’re hungry, hearing their own cry – even crying in itself must feel exhausting!
Bearing all this in mind, think: what does my baby know?
While you can’t replicate the warmth and safety of the womb, you can provide many of the things they’ll have grown familiar with now they’ve made their ‘outer world debut’ (and, of course, more now that you can actually see them, smell them and delight in everything about them).
Babies have mature hearing from around 35 weeks' gestation, and when your baby was born they already knew your voice and the voices of the other important people close to you. So, talk to your baby from day one, the topic doesn’t matter, but the soothing sound will be music to their ears.
While your baby’s vision is less developed than their other senses at birth, they can focus on things that are close to them – around 20 to 30cm away. Babies love looking at faces and your newborn will recognise yours from very early on. Feeding is an ideal time to gaze at each other, but getting close up at other times so they can see your face will boost that bond and reassure them even more.
Newborn babies can identify familiar smells, and they recognise their mother’s smell as soon as they are born. Keep holding, cuddling and having that skin-to-skin time as often as you can in these next 12 weeks (and beyond).
Your newborn baby has been aware of touch since around the eighth week of your pregnancy. In fact, touch is their first sense to develop, and your baby’s skin is their largest sensory organ (it’s thought that among its sensory receptors is one that responds to stroking – linked to mammals licking their newborns). While we're not suggesting that you lick your baby – delicious and gorgeous as they may be – studies suggest that touch might help your baby to regulate their emotions.
Gently touching your baby as you play with them, dress and bathe them, or when you change their nappy, will help them to associate touch with your presence and comfort. Gentle baby massage can also be great.
You can find out more about this, as well as those all-important topics of sleep, feeding, bonding, and, yes, we’ll say it: COPING, during your fourth trimester, on our app.
Download it to enjoy the journey!