The Fourth Trimester is a fantastic theory and practice for calming your new baby. I use aspects of it daily in the studio to ensure my newborn clients are happy and content throughout their photo shoot. Here is what the fourth trimester is and how I use it:
Life in the Womb is dark, wet and warm. A cocoon that beats with the loud rhythm of your heart and the swoosh of your blood. Every minute of every day for those first nine months is comfortingly the same. Your baby is never hungry, and the temperature never changes, the rhythm never stops and they are never put down and left alone. Until their very first birthday this is all they have ever known. Then they are born.
Suddenly life is unpredictable. It is bright, quiet, unfamiliar. The heartbeat has gone, they are no longer enveloped in their safe warm world. They can be hungry, cold, alone, everything is different and every moment from one to the next can be different.
It’s no wonder being born is a shock to your baby’s system! It would make me cry, in fact I think it did, a lot.
The idea of creating a fourth trimester is all about empathising with the changes your baby has experienced and using this empathy to make their transition into the world easier. By recreating a semblance of womb life and familiarity you give your baby the chance to adjust to their new world at their own pace. You create a mock womb for the first few months.
How I Use the Fourth Trimester Theory
I hope you’ll find the following tips make a lot of sense. This is the fourth trimester theory and practice I use to keep babies calm and content for portraits in my studio. It’s tried and tested and well researched.
If your baby is hungry, no amount of tricks or techniques will calm them. Listen to your baby, learn their cues and feed them when they ask you rather than trying to stick to a routine.
Babies also love to suck and they are really good at it. Give them the opportunity to do what they are good at, it helps them relax and gives them comfort.
The constant rhythm of white noise is of tremendous comfort to your baby and I’ve written a whole blog piece on this here. Treat yourself to an old school radio that you can un-tune and play static through it, your baby will love it! Or if you want to be a little more 21st Century try the app Sound Sleeper; this is what I use in the studio and it has every white noise from wombs to waterfalls.
Position and Hold
The feeling of contact is an incredible soother for your baby; after all if they were in the womb during their fourth trimester they would feel contact all the time. So if the baby I am working with is starting to stir or get a little restless I find that placing one hand on their head and the other on their nappy I can create a calming sense of containment that lulls baby back into their relaxing sleep.
The Tiger in the Tree is a baby yoga pose that has magical calming qualities. Baby lies chest down on your arm with their head in your hand and snug to your body.
When I’m working on the posing beanbag though I want to avoid lifting baby away completely if I don’t have to. With a bit of research I’ve found that pediatrician Dr Robert Hamilton’s version of this hold is also a wonderful soother and I can place baby in the pose whilst they are still ‘sitting’ on the beanbag.
To create our fourth trimester we need it to be warm. Wonder why baby cries when you unwrap them or change their nappy? They don’t like being cold.
For our classic newborn portraits we want baby to be happy unwrapped, so I’ve invested in an overhead heat lamp and a trusty hot water bottle to keep your naked baby perfectly snug on the studio posing beanbag.
My clients and I often talk about temperature and how do you know if baby is too warm or cold. To decide if the temperature is right for your baby, think about whether it is right for you. If you are cold and need an extra layer then baby does too. And if you notice your baby has damp hair, flushed cheeks, rapid breathing, or a heat rash, your baby may be too hot and over heating.
Baby’s love to feel your skin on theirs. Feeling your warmth and smelling your smell is a wonderful soother for them. For this reason a lot of my baby with parent poses involve skin: Baby cradled in your arms or hands or snug on Daddy’s chest.
You are your baby’s world and they follow your every lead. They experience everything through you and your emotions, if you are tense or nervous your baby will be too. But if you are relaxed and believe in yourself they will feel safe and loved and content.
This Fourth Trimester theory does wonders for my baby calming in the studio, but above all I love that it gives you permission to stay home and cuddle your baby for a good three months. So if baby has arrived and you’ve had a fractious day, I recommend that you get your pyjamas on and snuggle up to a 10 hour You Tube sample of rain falling. Your baby will love it and I think you may too! x