Sleep during the fourth trimester

As my first blog for the wonderful Kids O’Clock I thought I would start right at the beginning.

The fourth trimester

This time is a HUGE ADJUSTMENT for all of you.

As new parents, or adding another little one to your flock, it’s a big shift for you as well as for you little one.

Try not to forget that and accept help, so that you can also be looked after where possible. I know this isn’t always easy but do remember, we were never meant to parent alone. Accepting help doesn’t mean you are failing. 

For your new little one, the transition from womb to world is a massive change.

They’ve had food on tap, a pure feeling of safety, and are cosy, confined and warm…

Then they are born. It’s colder. Then warm. Then colder again. What is this changing temperature?

They feel hunger and thirst for the first time. And they feel it frequently.

Bright lights.

Lots of stimulus.

Being put down.

Safe to say, it’s a lot.

You may feel some pressure to do things a certain way.

“Start a routine, make sure they’re sleeping in a cot, don’t spoil them.”


What is to be expected?

Most don’t like being put down. You are simply their safe space. Please don’t see this as something is wrong. We are carry mammals so it’s natural for babies to want to be held and close to you. Carry mammals (humans, apes and marsupials) birth the most immature babies compared to other mammals and so their babies are totally dependent on them. 

They are used to the regular noise, cosiness and movement of being in your tummy, so being held and walked/rocked is regularly their preference. 

Frequent feeding. They have tiny bellies. So they feed regularly. This isn’t normally a comment on your supply. If you ever have feeding concerns please see an IBCLC.

Cluster feeding is also normal. Commonly in the evening. Again, not a comment on your supply.

Very short awake windows. And a lot of their wake time is spent feeding.

Their circadian rhythm (body clock) isn’t in place yet, so day and night is one and the same for them.

Image courtesy Michal Bar Haim


Here’s some advice

Don’t feel pressure to start routines or really achieve anything much in these first few months.

Take the time to bond with your little one, establish feeding, and focus on your little one’s cues. Getting to know your own baby’s rhythm is a far better route than worrying about generic wake windows. Every little one has a different level of sleep need. So while some will fit into these patterns, many won’t. The stress of trying to crowbar your little one into a routine that wasn’t made for them can be intense. 

Do naps in daylight and keep night time dark and calm to help aid the body clock anchoring into place. Light is a strong trigger for the body clock so is the simplest way to differentiate day and night.

White noise can be very soothing so give it a go.

Swaddling can be very helpful for some but it can be a transition to get out of it so do what works for you.

Sleep positioners and nest/pods are not deemed safe.

Bed-sharing is safe as long as following the guidelines (please see The Lullaby Trust and La Leche League for all safe sleeping guidelines; bed-sharing or otherwise).

Visit your local sling library to get yourself a good carrier that suits your body. Being able to keep them close, while also having the use of your arms can be a huge game changer. Especially if this isn’t your first child.

Fresh air and daylight are the simplest remedies for both you and your little one. I know it can feel hard some days, but try and get outside at least once a day. You will inevitably feel better and it can be a quick fix for a fussy little one. 

Don’t worry about how you put your baby to sleep. Feeding to sleep, rocking to sleep, or even if they magically go to sleep independently in their sleep space – all are absolutely fine.

It’s absolutely fine to try and put your baby down once they are asleep but please don’t be disheartened if they sleep far better on you.

My top tips for transferring a sleeping baby

  • Make sure the cot is warm so a colder surface doesn’t wake them. A hot water bottle or warm towel. Remove this a minute or so before transfer so it’s just warm and not hot
  • Lower them down sideways then transfer onto her back. Our startle reflex is much stronger back to front than it is side to side
  • Make sure they are fully asleep before attempting the transfer and then maintain physical contact for a few moments before letting go
  • If they stir immediately, see if you can support and reassure them with physical contact in the cot to fall back to sleep rather than scooping them straight back up. Of course if they fully rouse and are in any way upset, simply pick them up to support them
  • You truly don’t need to do this over and over again. If it’s not working, have a contact nap and try again another day
     
  • A nap doesn’t have to be in a cot for it to be a nap

Image courtesy Omar Lopez


And finally…

You are not spoiling your baby by holding them all the time.

You are not spoiling your baby by feeding on demand.

You are not spoiling your baby by using a sling.

You are not spoiling your baby whatever you are doing.

It is impossible.

It’s not a rod for your own back. Don’t let anyone tell you it is.

Your baby. Your parenting choices.

If you are worried about anything and are struggling with your little one’s sleep then hop over to my website to explore my support options. For daily hints and tips, follow me on Instagram.