Most of us know pregnancy is broken up into 3 trimesters. The first trimester is from conception to week 13. Second trimester includes weeks 14 to 26. The final trimester of pregnancy is from weeks 27-40 (or 42 allowing for babies to be baked until ready). So if pregnancy is only 3 trimesters, where does a 4th come into play? Let me explain.
The 4th trimester is based on what many mothers have known for centuries instinctively. It encompasses the first 3 months of an infants life as those months should really be spent inside the womb still making pregnancy 52 weeks. Oh my! Yes, one year is the average gestation for all other mammals but in order for humans to be upright on two legs, the female pelvis is narrower requiring an evacuation 3-4 months earlier of human babies before their heads grow too large to pass safely through the birth canal. Many scientific and evidence based facts support this theory. For instance, upon birth, our brains weigh only 25 percent of our adult brains leaving us extremely underdeveloped compared to most other mammals born with 60 to 90 percent of their adult brain size. This is the reason they are born ready to stand, run, and swim allowing them to be functional with instincts creating greater chances for survival in their environments.
Human babies on the other hand are born with minimal basic reflexes: sucking, swallowing, breathing, stepping, startle, and grasping. All of which serve a purpose but are not alone enough for survival or self soothing. For 40 weeks, give or take, they were rocked gently to sleep, soothed by rhythmic noise, nourished without an effort and kept warm and safe in the security of a snug womb. They are born with an inability to lift their head, move purposefully about, keep their temperature and breathing regulated or feed themselves. Their relaxing, soothing environment in utero has changed to bright, cold and noisy surroundings with many different sensations stimulating their immature nervous systems all at once. Imagine how scary it would be to have no control over your body, be at the mercy of those around you in a foreign environment and have only the ability to cry out for help with needs that used to be met automatically. For these reasons alone, and many more, is why babies are happiest and safest being treated as if they were in the womb until ages 3-4 months.
How can we do this? Well, lets think about what its like in the womb and how we can remedy that in the outside world.
- It’s warm and snug: Swaddling provides warmth and security for the baby. Many parents think their baby doesn’t like to be swaddled because they wiggle around and get their arms “free”. However, babies are used to being snug and cramped in the womb but still enjoy moving and wiggling, stretching and kicking, punching and rolling. They are simply mimicking their in utero movements now that they feel safe being swaddled, reminded of the comforts of being snug and secure.
- It’s loud and soothing: Research has revealed the volume of the womb can be compared to a 1950’s Hoover Vacuum! According to varying sources, the sound environment of the womb is very rich with various interpretations of sound levels creating range of 30-96 decibels. Just as a comparison, a whisper registers about 30 dB, a normal conversation about 60 dB and a rock concert about 115 dB. However, sounds in utero are rhythmic and buffered; moms heart beat, placental perfusion, moms stomach gurgles, moms voice and voices around her belly. The sharp, sudden noise of the outside world are startling and scary at times. Introducing white noise to an infant during sleep and soothing times can yield 1-3 more hours on average of sound sleep.
- It’s rockin’!: Have you heard moms say, “Everytime I sit/lay down, the baby starts kicking!” This is because when mom is walking, working, climbing stairs and going about her day, she is rocking that baby to sleep. It is a constant jiggling/swaying motion and it’s extremely comforting. Wearing your infant and keeping them with you will provide the same comforts of movement they are used to and your hands free.
All of this makes one happy, healthy baby and mama!