What to Expect During the Fourth Trimester | Piece of Cake Parenting | The first three months with your newborn comes with many challenges for new parents. In my post, I explain some of the challenges you can expect and share tips on how to make this stage easier so you can enjoy the newborn days with your baby. #fourthtrimester #newborn #babytips #newparents

What to Expect During the Fourth Trimester | Piece of Cake Parenting | The first three months with your newborn comes with many challenges for new parents. In my post, I explain some of the challenges you can expect and share tips on how to make this stage easier so you can enjoy the newborn days with your baby. #fourthtrimester #newborn #babytips #newparents

You finally delivered your perfect little baby and breathed a huge sigh of relief that the hard part was over. No more heartburn, backaches, or never-ending trips to the bathroom. But then you start to learn about the “fourth trimester” challenges and wonder what you can do to make these days easier and happier for your new little family.

Keep reading to learn more about what to expect during your first few months with a newborn. You’ll also find some easy tips you can use to survive the challenges of the fourth trimester and enjoy the newborn days. 

Leave a comment at the bottom with your favorite fourth trimester survival tips!

What is the Fourth Trimester?

The “Fourth Trimester” is used to describe your baby’s first three months after she’s born. Even though your pregnancy is over, your baby’s complete dependency on you is far from finished. And truth be told, your baby would have preferred to stay with you for another trimester. 

I know that you are extremely ready to be done with your pregnancy symptoms and finally meet your little baby. But even after nine months, your baby isn’t quite ready to be born. Although her brain is becoming larger and more developed, her body is still mush and she still needs a lot of development before she’s really ready for her new home. 

When your baby is born, he encounters an enormous period of change and development. He transitions from a fetus that is totally and completely dependent on you, to his own person who’s expected to eat, sleep, communicate, and more. And he simply cannot adjust to all of this right away. 

Hence, the fourth trimester. The time when your baby gets used to his new world, which can often be one of the most challenging and unexpected phases for new parents. 

Happy sleeping newborn

What to Expect During the Fourth Trimester?

As a reminder, your baby isn’t ready to be born when he finally makes his grand entrance. Try to remember this and be patient with him as he figures out his new world. Keep reading to learn about what you can expect during this time and how you can make the best of the newborn days.

Dependency

I’m not sure why, but this part of raising a newborn surprised me the most. When your baby is born, she is completely dependent on you. I mean completely dependent.
 

Obviously, your baby can’t eat by himself and will need you to help change diapers. But you might not know that your baby will need you for much more than that. 

Your newborn doesn’t know how to fall asleep by herself and often has her days and nights mixed up. She doesn’t know how to entertain herself and will need a lot of your attention all day long. Her muscles aren’t developed and she can’t even pass gas on her own. The list goes on and on!

The fourth trimester can be exhausting for parents because your baby is completely dependent on you. Knowing this beforehand can help you to mentally prepare for this phase of parenting. Also remember that although it can feel long at the time, your baby will learn an incredible amount during those first three months and soon she will be much less dependent on you.

The other bright side is that your baby will also need a lot of cuddling during this time, and newborn cuddles are the sweetest thing in the world. My husband and I would joke that it was time to get our dividends. Do all of the hard work that comes with raising a newborn, and then soak up your dividends and cuddle as much as you can!

Crying newborn at the hospital

Crying

Newborns cry a lot. They will cry more during the fourth trimester than any other time in their life. They typically start to cry more when they are about 2 weeks old and continue this period of increased crying until they are 3-4 months old. 

Although it can be frustrating, generally crying is good! If your baby didn’t cry at all, that would actually be a bad thing. Remember that your newborn will cry for two main reasons: 

First, he cries as his main form of communication. In order for your baby to tell you that he is hungry, tired, cold, bored, etc., he has to cry. Instead of getting frustrated, try to understand what he is trying to tell you. Adapting this mindset and parenting style was life-changing for me.
 

Second, this is a way for your baby to block stimulation that is overwhelming for him. Sometimes your baby encounters too much visual stimulation, noise, or feelings that are too intense to process. So he will cry as a way to block that outside stimulation. Crying is great because it’s your baby’s way of learning to cope with things.

Your newborn will cry a lot but that’s just part of being a baby. As you build your relationship with your baby and she becomes more used to her new home, this crying will decrease significantly.

Sleeping

It also surprised me just how much newborns sleep. They typically sleep for 16+ hours a day and I was constantly worried that Baby J was sleeping too much.

But don’t worry. Sleeping is absolutely vital for your newborn because this is how she will process the information that her brain takes in. In fact, your baby probably won’t spend more than 2 to 4 hours awake and will spend the majority of the day sleeping. 

During our fourth trimester, Baby J would be much crabbier and have a much harder time sleeping if he stayed awake for more than 2 hours or so. I quickly learned that I should start to cuddle with him and help him to fall asleep around the 2-hour mark. No exceptions. Pay attention to what works best for your baby and remember that they really do need a lot of sleep during those first few months. 

Sleeping newborn drinking a bottle

Eating

This was another area of the fourth trimester that really caught me off guard and frustrated me at first. Your baby will spend so much time eating.

When your baby is born, her stomach is teeny tiny. It only holds a few drops of milk. During her first week, her stomach will get a little bigger, but she still can’t drink very much at a time. Because your baby’s stomach can’t hold much milk, she will need to eat very frequently. They often say that your baby will eat every 2-4 hours and should eat about 10-12 times a day. But she might eat even more often during all of those growth spurts in her first few months. 

During this time, your baby is also learning how to eat. Although there are a few things you can do at the hospital to start nursing more successfully, while she learns, she might spend a lot of time on each meal. In fact, newborns often nurse or drink their bottle for up to 30 minutes each feeding. And then they might be ready to eat again after only a 30 minute break.

Mentally prepare to spend hours each day feeding your baby. Understand that cluster feeding isn’t meant to drive you crazy. Instead, it’s to build mom’s milk supply and help your baby grow big, strong, and smart.
  

Diapers

There are so many diapers during the newborn phase! I used to change Baby J every time that he ate and every time he would have a dirty diaper!

During those first few days with a newborn at home, you want your baby to have 3-4 (or more!) dirty diapers a day and 5-6 (or more!) wet diapers a day. Because your newborn has super sensitive skin, always try to change as soon as possible after a dirty diaper. This will help to prevent skin irritation and diaper rashes.  

Prepare to go through a crazy amount of diapers and clean up a handful of baby blowouts during the first couple of months. You’ll probably feel like you’re constantly changing diapers throughout the day AND night. But within a couple of months, you can start to spread out your diaper changes during the day and skip most overnight changes. 

Sleeping baby

How Can you Survive the Fourth Trimester?

Although the first few months with a baby have some challenges, there are a few easy tips that can make it easier and more enjoyable for you! After all, you want to be able to enjoy these fleeting days as much as possible!

Remember the 5 S’s

Remember that your baby feels like he has been born too early and wishes he were still nice and warm in the womb. One of the best ways to calm your baby and make the fourth trimester easier is to mimic the womb. Mastering the 5 S’s (swaddle, side/stomach position, shush, swing, suck) can make a world of difference for you and baby!

Have patience and understanding

How would you feel if you were evicted without notice? You would probably be pretty stressed, emotional, and on edge.

Now imagine how much more intense this is for your baby. He’s not only leaving everything he’s ever known for a completely new and overwhelming environment. He also goes through tons of huge developmental leaps and growth spurts.

Have a little patience as he goes through all of these changes. And remember that your baby isn’t doing these things to make your life difficult. It’s just part of the fourth trimester. 

Enjoy the time that you have.

The first three months go incredibly fast. By the end of the fourth trimester, your newborn will seem like a completely different baby. She will transition to more consistent sleep and eating patterns. Soon she will learn to self-sooth and begin to entertain herself. She will be much more interactive with family and toys and pay attention for longer time periods. And she will grow so fast!

Snuggle with your baby during these first few months and embrace that your baby really just wants to spend all of his time cuddled up with you!

What surprised you about the fourth trimester? Did you have any tips that helped?

Leave a comment below to help other new moms and dads! I can’t wait to learn from you!