For the first few months of a baby’s life, as they acclimatize to life outside of your belly, baby’s love all things that mimic the safety and security of the womb. This is why this time is referred to as the 4th Trimester. They like to;

  • be held and cuddled A LOT (including, for many babies, while they sleep)
  • feel your heartbeat against their body
  • be fed often so they stay full and comfortable
  • have their temperature kept stable and
  • experience safe and secure movement like rocking and gentle bouncing in your arms.

So imagine having carried a baby in your womb for 40+ weeks and then giving birth. YOU have just run an ultra marathon, you need time to rest and recuperate; time to recover both physically and emotionally. As a mother now, you have just experienced the biggest transition, both emotionally and biologically of your life and you too are moving into your own fourth trimester.

While the baby’s fourth trimester is all about safety and security, the mother’s is about recovery, rest and support.

Traditionally, mothers were cared for during the fourth trimester so that they could focus on meeting the intense needs of their newborn. In our modern, western society though, mothers are expected to bet back to their normal life as soon as possible after their baby is born and basically take care of themselves! The new mothers needs are being neglected. This cuts short a new mothers recovery and leaves her exhausted and depleted going into the very demanding first year of her new baby’s life. This rush back to busyness leaves many mums struggling to meet their baby’s fourth trimester needs.

So we now have an exhausted and depleted mother who hasn’t had the opportunity to recover physically, emotionally or socially and has unmet needs. We also have a baby whose early need for continuous safety, security and comfort has been cut short. This can lead new mothers to feeling like something is wrong with them as a mother or that something is wrong with their baby.

I hear these mothers say;

  • I can’t put my baby down as they just cry or wake up instantly.
  • My body can’t make enough milk for my baby.
  • I have all the swings and bouncers but my baby won’t settle.
  • Everyone else is coping, why can’t I.

Because many mothers haven’t had their fourth trimester needs of adequate rest, recovery and support met, they therefore have less capacity to soothe their inner child (the newborn in them), so that they can cope with the massive needs of their new baby.

It is when our own needs have not been met (in childhood or during times of stress or significant life transitions) that we struggle to meet those needs for our baby.

If new mothers were fed and nurtured, heard and validated and supported to rest and recover during their fourth trimester, they would have a lot more capacity to cope. They would struggle a lot less with their baby wanting to be at the breast constantly, waking through the night and crying when they put them down.

While these things are all biologically normal behaviors for newborns, mothers are triggered by the intensity of meeting these needs because they haven’t had their own needs met during their recovery.

It is at this time that many mothers Inner Child is also activated, seeking love, connection and security that may have been missing from their own childhood. This adds stress to already overwhelmed new parents, and basically leaves them in a cycle of unmet needs.

Cycle of unmet needs

This cycle doesn’t happen because something is ‘wrong’ with a mother or their baby, it happens because our society doesn’t value the fourth trimester needs of new families.

So while we work on changing a culture, wink, what can you do right now?

  • Uncover the roots of your parenting story, learn what your inner child needs and create a framework for the parent you truly want to be.
  • Plan a fourth trimester that meets your needs. When a mothers fourth trimester needs are met by other adults, a mother can meet the fourth trimester needs of her new baby (this means getting okay with asking for help!)
  • With your partner, explore your core beliefs about the ‘big three’ – feeding, sleep and crying and how you will support each other towards a connected and joyful first year with your new baby.

I can support you during pregnancy, the 4th trimester and beyond – Find out more at www.rootsofmotherhood.com.au

Join us in the Roots of Motherhood Community on Facebook to explore the roots of your motherhood story and become the parent you truly want to be.

Emma Holdsworth is a mother of 2, Family Counsellor, Parenting Educator and pregnncy and postpartum Doula. Emma is passionate about supporting pregnant and new mums to feel empowered to become the parents they truly want to be. Emma supports parents to explore the deeper aspects of themselves, and understand how their childhood experiences, past relationships, values and beliefs will shape their future parenting experience.