Slow Parenting: The 4th Trimester

You've spent the last nine (10) months nourishing, nurturing, connecting with the little being that grew inside of your womb. Society would suggest that now that baby is here, anyone can step into these sacred parental roles, freeing you up to “get back into the game”. You find yourself wanting to crawl into bed with your little one and watch them coo and gurgle away the days. Despite the demands that modern society puts on us, that is exactly what you should do.

But I’ve got a different perspective for new parents to consider. The “Fourth Trimester” is a term used by is a term used by Dr. Harvey Karp to describe the first few months of an infants’ life. He says that infants are born “too soon” based on their underdevelopment when compared to other mammal babies. If human babies were born when they were developmentally ready, we would have yearlong pregnancies and 3-month old sized newborns. American babies tend to cry more, have more digestive issues and generally are unhappier than other babies around the globe.

America is the only industrialized country in the world that does not have mandatory paid maternity leave for new parents. This means mothers going back to work 1, 2, 4 weeks after they’ve just given birth. This is equally traumatizing to the mother and the baby. Consequently, we also have the highest rate of infant and maternal death, “colic”, and GERD. Karp theorizes that colic and GERD do not exist in other countries because of the “lying in” period that other cultures encourage mothers to fulfill after birth. For 40 days, moms are waited on, cooked for, taken care of, while bonding with their new babies. This, coupled with 12-50 weeks of paid maternity leave, makes a huge impact in those first few moments of a newborns’ life.

One could theorize that because other parents are getting that crucial alone time with their infants to bond, carry and meet their basic needs themselves, American babies are responding with a loud wail of disapproval. Exploring the theory that our newborns are underdeveloped and our new mothers are physically and emotionally overwhelmed, the following are some gentle ways to promote self-care and infant bonding, even if you cannot fully have a “fourth trimester” period.

*Baby wearing

*Swaddling

*Breastfeeding

Have a “baby moon”. Take your infant to bed and spend several days or weeks simply bonding, nourishing and nurturing your child. Get to know their cues and allow your body to rest and heal in the process.

 My sweet Harvest-Moon and me during our baby-moon.

My sweet Harvest-Moon and me during our baby-moon.

*Nourishing soups

*Foods high in iron

*Lots of water

Nourishing herbal infusions are a great way to replenish your body with vital minerals and nutrients.

Use equal parts (1 oz) of the following:

Red Raspberry Leaf

Nettle

Chamomile

Catnip

Blessed Thistle

Comfrey.

Mix all herbs into a bowl with airtight lid, or Mason jar. Using about a Tablespoon of the mix, put herbs in a reusable tea bag or infuser. Pour just boiled water over the herbs and allow herbs to steep for a minimum of 10 minutes. Overnight is even better! Sweeten with local, raw honey and enjoy. Drink daily.

*Meditate

*Belly Binding

*Mayan Abdominal Massage

Herbal baths are a great way to relax and bond with baby, while healing your delicate areas. Demetria Clark shares these recipes with us in Issue 44 of Midwifery Today.

2 parts plantain flower (Plantago major)

1 part calendula flower (Calendula officinalis)

1 part comfrey leaf (Symphytum officinale)

1 part burdock (Arctium lappa)

1/2 part violet flower and leaf (Viola odorata)

1 part yarrow flower (Achillea millefolium)

1/2 part lady's mantle flower and leaf (Alchemilla vulgaris)

1/2 part lemon balm leaf (Melissa officinalis)

Mix well. You can add sea salt to the mixture if you wish. Add approximately one cup of herb and salt blend to six quarts boiling water, strain and add to shallow bath. You can also use as a compress.

1 cup sea salt

1/2 cup plantain leaf (Plantago major)

1/2 cup calendula flower (Calendula officinalis)

Use six cups of water.

Alternative ways to use herbal baths:

Brew with the above ratios and add to a Peri Bottle for use after going to the bathroom.

Pour some pre-brewed herbal mix on to pads and freeze for a pain relieving ice pack.

Use a diluted mix around baby’s cord for healing.

*Ask for help

*Take photos of these first sacred days

*Journal your birth experience

Taking this time to your family is self-care that we should expect and encourage of every new mom, always. 

 

*originally posted on Sacred Whisper OKC