What do I need to know about the 4th trimester?

Women cradling her baby in bed

The 4th trimester is the unofficial time from the moment your baby is born until they’re about 3 months old. It’s a period when you experience your baby’s rapid development. Their senses become refined, they learn the smell and touch of their parents, and they start to interact with their environment. By the end of those 3-4 months, you’ll have watched a remarkable physical, mental, and social transformation in your baby. Here are the major things to expect:

1 – Sleeping

Your newborn is going to sleep. A lot. Especially in the early weeks. In fact, don’t underestimate how much they sleep they need. Most experts suggest that in the first few weeks, babies sleep an average of 16 hours a day [1]. Unfortunately for most parents, that’s not long periods of uninterrupted sleep. Instead, it’s 1-2 hours at a time. Babies don’t usually fall into a routine sleep pattern for the first few months. Don’t be alarmed if they’re sleeping at odd hours all the time.

2 – Feeding

Newborn babies have small stomachs. The general rule of thumb is to feed little and often. This includes at least eight feeds every 24 hours (feedings every 2-3 hours) [2].

As time goes on and you get to know your baby, you may catch on to certain cues or signals of hunger. Crying may be the most obvious example. Sometimes the clues start off more subtly with sucking on the fingers or turning their head and opening their mouth. If they do have these telltale signs, try to pick up on them if you can.

Feeding time also gives you a chance to sit down, relax, and bond with your baby. Try not to get distracted by other—thingscell phones, tablets, TV’s etc. and just enjoy the quiet time together.

*Important Note: if you’re breastfeeding, don’t forget to take care of your own nutrition. You’re the baby’s primary source of food so what you eat matters. Make sure you incorporate looks of fruits, veggies, carbohydrates, and proteins into your diet. Stay hydrated. If you’re not able to get your daily recommended intake of vitamins and minerals, talk to your doctor about taking a supplement.

3 – Crying

It’s inevitable. Be prepared for a lot of it. Crying tends to peak at around five weeks to six weeks and usually eases off by 3 months.

Once again, newborns at this stage won’t have a fixed routine. It’s encouraged that parents feed and soothe their babies as soon as they cry [3]. Contrary to some beliefs, this doesn’t spoil your baby. It helps them feel more comfortable and secure [4].

4 – The baby’s senses

Every day, more and more research discusses the activity of babies in the womb, as well as their development. Babies are born with the ability to smell and taste. For the first few weeks of life, it’s likely that mother’s familiar scent provides the most comfort. Especially because their eyesight is not fully developed.

Initially, a baby’s eyesight is blurry. They’re not able to see more than a few inches in front of them [5], but it does develop rapidly. By the end of the second month, most babies can usually tell the difference between two objects. By the end of the third, their vision is almost the same as an adult’s.

When it comes to sound, your baby is ahead of the game. They already recognize your voice. Research shows that fetuses in the third trimester recognize their mother’s voice [6]. A famous study conducted in 1988 even suggested that newborns recognized the theme song from their mother’s favorite soap opera [7]. While this part may be questionable, there is no doubt that, even in the womb, babies do hear and recognize their mother’s voice. That’s why they tend to feel soothed and comforted by familiar sounds and voices.

5 – Skin to skin

Do not underestimate the importance of regular skin-to-skin contact with your baby. Studies show that it

  • stimulates their sense of touch,
  • soothes fussiness,
  • eases crying,
  • stabilizes the heart rate, and
  • improves breastfeeding [8].

Tips for soothing your baby:

·       Babywearing. This is the practice of wearing or carrying a baby in a sling or in another form of carrier. It can help mimic the gentle movement that babies experience in the womb.

·       Safe swaddling may help ease crying and fussing in some babies. Make sure you know how to swaddle safely. The first time you do it, ask your midwife or doctor to show you how it’s done.

·       Swinging and movement. Walking around while you hold your baby may actually be more soothing for them than sitting down and cuddling. In the womb, babies are rocked and lulled by mom’s everyday movements. Mimicking this gentle swaying and rocking may help to comfort your baby.

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1,2) WebMD. 7 Questions About Your Newborn Baby’s First Week.


3,4) The crying baby. Australian Family Physician. Hiscock, H. Volume 35 Issue 9 (2006 Sep)


5) American Optometric Association. Infant Vision: Birth to 24 Months of Age.


6,7) Science mag: American Association for the Advancement of Science. Babies learn to recognize voices in the womb. Beth Skwarecki. August 2013


8) Cleveland Clinic. Kangaroo Care. 2016


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