If it weren't for the size limitations of the human pelvis, babies would stay developing in the womb for considerably longer. As a result, when human babies are born they are incredibly vulnerable, especially in the first three months of life. In an effort to emphasise this vulnerability, it’s often called the "fourth trimester".
Every parent and their newborn baby will go through this. It’s a time of great physical and emotional change as your baby adjusts to being outside the womb. This can be very confronting for a little one they’ve gone from a dark, warm, fuzzy, cozy place to somewhere that is bright, cold, loud and harsh. No wonder they are more at ease when cuddled up against Mum or Dad – this helps them feel safe, it reminds them of the good old days!
Long before this term was adopted in the west, other cultures have practised a version of it. Postpartum confinement refers to the traditional practice where a mother and child are secluded and given special help, care and attention to assist with the physical and emotional needs after birth. Depending on the culture, it can last anywhere from one month to 100 days. This is vastly different to the pressure many mothers in the west feel to “bounce back after baby” or be back at work quickly.
Things you can do to ease the transition for both you and your baby:
- Skin-to-skin contact
- Baby wearing (carrier, sling etc.)
- Swaddling (if you baby finds it comforting, not all do)
- Contact Naps (hold or cuddle your baby while they nap)
- Movement (bouncing, jiggling, rocking, swaying – this mimics the womb)
- Feed on demand (hunger is a new and scary feeling for them)
And most importantly - lower your expectations. You won’t be able to do things like before, not straight away. Why? BECAUSE YOU BIRTHED A HUMAN PERSON. You created life… from your body. If that doesn’t mean you don’t deserve a rest, I don’t know what does. Call on your village, you will need help. You were never designed to do this alone, no one was and no one can.
You got this mama xo
References: Tully, Stuebe & Verbiest 2017; Matambanadzo 2014;
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