Newborn security by Roma at Calmfamily West Norfolk

Imagine this, you are warm, suspended weightlessly, surrounded by fluid; there is a constant, relaxing, whooshing sound in your ears and a calming steady beat vibrating through your body. The light is a soothing red glow. You can hear familiar mumbled voices and one in particular rumbles through you often and sings and talks lovingly to you. You are never hungry, thirsty or feel any needs at all. This is all you’ve ever known and it is your life.

Then one day you are squeezed and squeezed by muscles and the fluid drains away and after a very squishy journey through a small tunnel you are thrown out into the world!!

This is the beginning of a newborn’s life and the reality of their habitat in the womb and how it might feel when they are born. Quite a lovely sounding place in a womb isn’t it?
Now let’s think for a moment about how it compares to the world.

The world can be cold or hot, it can be very loud or deadly silent, it can be incredibly bright or pitch black, gravity pushes us onto the earth and we aren’t able to float around weightlessly, there are smells and new tastes, there are so many things to see, faces and voices and noises. And we feel hungry and thirsty and have to expel our own waste; we have no umbilical cord to deliver us nutrients and remove waste. The world is a big, scary place sometimes and as grown adults we can often find it overwhelming. If we imagine how this stark contrast feels for a newborn and empathise with them we can begin to understand why they cry so much and need us to comfort them constantly in the beginning of their life.

Fourth Trimester

Newborn babies have it pretty tough when they are born. Birth can be quite uncomfortable and stressful for them and then they have to deal with all these new feelings they’ve never felt before. Their senses are bombarded with new things and they are so small and helpless! Even their own crying is startling for them as they’ve never had to use their voice before so they use it a lot to try and communicate with us as it’s the one thing they have!!

Wow! Just reading that makes me feel a bit overwhelmed, so it’s easy to see how crazy it must feel for a newborn. A newborn baby hasa few things they know and are familiar with though. They have mummy’s voice, mummy’s heartbeat and her warmth and even her smell. Baby will instantly feel safer and calmer on mum’s chest and you will often notice this a favourite place for newborns, either on mum’s breast, if she’s breastfeeding, or lying constantly on her chest listening to that familiar heartbeat and soothing voice.

 

We often forget to empathise with newborns and forget that not only were all their new needs met inside the womb, they actually didn’t have any needs at all. When they are born, not only do they experience the discomfort of both physical and emotional needs such as hunger or loneliness, but they are also experiencing these needs for the very first time as well! And I’m sure you can imagine the feeling of needing a poo, and actually having a poo, must be a pretty disconcerting if you’ve never experienced it before!

So, taking all this into account, we can see how important it is to let babies be close to us and let them slowly and gently take in the world, bit by bit from the safety and comfort of our arms. The first 3 months of a babies life is often referred to as the fourth trimester as we are born so helpless compared to other mammals and almostseem like we aren’t ready for the world at birth. There are various theories which aim to explain the reason babies are born earlier. Some say it is due to the head size in comparison to our pelvis size and if they stayed in utero longer they wouldn’t be able to come out, or that the female human metabolism purely cannot cope with being pregnant longer than 9 months; but we don’t really know why, we just know that this is the reality of a human newborn and it’s hard for babies, and their parents in fact, to adjust. But there are ways we can help support our babies transition from womb to world.

Baby wearingFirst and foremost holding our babies and keeping them close as much as possible is one of the most comforting things we can do for them. Holding a baby all the time and cuddling them on our chests, although lovely, isn’t always practical to do for 3 months straight, so one tool that can be incredibly helpful is using slings and carriers. Slings enable us to keep our babies in that important place on our chests, but free up our arms and hands so we can still have a little bit of freedom to do stuff for ourselves, even if it’s just make a cup of tea and open the biscuits! Babywearing has so many proven benefits for baby and mum. Baby may cry less, sleep better, and often for longer, in the sling compared to trying to put baby down in a crib or other sleep surface. The close contact also helps to establish breastfeeding, aids bonding and it produces lovely calming hormones for baby and mum including oxytocin “the love hormone”, which has been linked to helping reduce the chances or effects of postnatal depression. You can learn more about the benefits of babywearing here and the various studies into it.

Wearing your newborn baby means you can usually carry on with your day, mostly as usual, and talk at normal volume, do the housework (if you really want to), go shopping or go for a walk. Babies in a sling usually sleep through all this commotion as it’s much like being back in the womb, especially when we combine it with movement. And what’s even better is that Dad or partner, or another relative or trusted friend can even put baby in the sling and take them for a walk and as long as they are fed and changed beforehand they will often happily drift off to sleep, so mum can have some much needed time to herself. Slings are such a great tool and stretchy wraps are especially good for newborns as the recreate the soft, flexible support of the womb and are extra comfy for the wearer if mum is feeling a bit tender. Babycalm workshops and courses cover the use of using slings and the different types in more detail. You can also visit a local sling library to try before you buy and get all sorts of help and advice.

Slings aren’t the only option though, there are many other things you can do to make the fourth trimester easier for you and your baby. These can include, but aren’t limited to, baby massage, breastfeeding, different sleeping arrangements, skin to skin, different ways to hold baby and many other forms of containment and connection which can help baby feel calm, safe and secure. Babycalm classes talk more about these things too; we separate fact from fiction, talk about what is biologically and psychologically normal for babies and we discuss the pros and cons of different popular options, always using current research to help parents make informed choices on what will work for their baby and their family! So please do check us out if you want to know more.

Most importantly though, the easiest thing that we can do to help our babies is simply just cuddles, cuddles and more cuddles. You can’t cuddle your baby too much and it’s impossible to spoil a baby with love. They need it and they thrive on it. Simple cuddles, close contact and loving touch from their parents makes that scary, overwhelming, confusing, multi-sensory explosion in to our crazy world just that little bit easier; and a calmer, happier baby, usually means a calmer, happier parent!!

Written by
Roma Malone fromCalmfamily West Norfolk

Calmfamily.org/roma-malone

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If you have a new baby and want to know more about the fourth trimester and learn about using slings and other tools to calm baby as well as do some baby massage and meet other new mums then please book onto our next Nurturing Baby 6 week course starting on the 1st of September in Kings Lynn. More information about it can be found here.