You survived pregnancy, endured childbirth and now you’re home with your adorable newborn in your arms. Welcome to the 4th trimester!
Here’s your To-Do List for the next 12 weeks:
Take care of yourself
Take care of your baby
These tasks might seem simple on paper, but in reality they can be overwhelming.
The first step to taking care of yourself and your baby is to bond. Forming a close, loving attachment is so important and it has tremendous benefits for you both!
Check out these suggestions for bonding strategies:
Is your baby’s belly full and bottom dry? Then you’re off to a great start! Just accomplishing these two tasks takes up a big portion of your day, not to mention burping, bathing and outfit changes! While you're nursing and changing wet diapers, you’re demonstrating to our little one how much you care. Babies, like all children, spell love, T.I.M.E.
Your newborn might be too young to look at pictures and understand a story, but her brain is developing at a rapid pace and the more you engage with her by reading out aloud, the more she will learn. By reading to your baby you are establishing a connection between learning, love and fun (Lewis, 2019). You can even read one of your novels or your favorite magazine aloud! At this stage it doesn’t matter what you read, but how you read. Remember that scene from Three Men and A Baby when Tom Selleck (what a man!) reads Sports Illustrated to the baby? Your newborn will be soothed by the sound of your voice. Or, if Tom Selleck is available for story time, give him a call!
Practice Skin-to-Skin Contact
Practicing skin-to-skin contact has been scientifically proven to be one of the best ways to spend time with your newborn (Seitz, 2018). Simply find a comfortable spot and hold your baby against your chest, bare skin to bare skin. This loving act relaxes you both while helping your baby adjust to her new world. The close contact stabilizes her heartbeat and breathing, increases her oxygen levels and improves brain development. It also strengthens her immune system and leads to greater breastfeeding success. Skin-to-skin contact should not feel like another obligation; make this an enjoyable peaceful part of your day because of the incredible benefits it provides. It’s the optimum bonding experience!
Carry Your Baby
Babywearing allows you to keep your baby close and get things done. It’s a dream come true for new moms! Plus, imagine how much more your baby learns from having a front row seat to everything that you see and do, compared to laying in a crib staring at the ceiling. The increased stimulation of babywearing is wonderful for brain development as well as for attachment. Look for a baby carriers designed for newborns. Make dinner, switch the laundry, or drink your morning coffee while your baby is pressed safely and snuggly against you. Is there anything better than the reassuring weight of your baby soundly sleeping on your chest?
According to research, your baby’s favorite thing to look at is your beautiful face (Alli, 2020). In the first few weeks of your baby’s life, she will memorize the features of your face and recognize you as her primary caregiver. This recognition will make her feel safe and more attached to you. Because her vision is limited, interact with her approximately 8-12 inches in front of her face, which will stimulate her eyesight. That is about the distance from your face to hers while you breastfeed or cradle her in your arms. Coincidence? We think not.
Talk to Your Baby
Talk to your baby about anything and everything. Similar to reading to your baby, talking to your baby boosts brain development and sets the stage for a better vocabulary, a higher IQ and a more positive relationship with you (Medina, 2018). Peggy O’Mara, editor and publisher of Motherhood Magazine says, “The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice.” Fill your baby’s mind with positivity, laughter, lullabies, bedtime stories and endless reminders of your love.
Take Care of Yourself
Moms, you know how important it is to bond with your baby, but you also need to take a shower, walk the dog and have one-on-one time with older siblings. Remember, it's OK to lay your swaddled newborn in the bassinet so you can take a break. When you give yourself time to recharge, you are far better equipped to be the best version of yourself for your children. It's a win-win for your new baby and for you.
If at the end of the day you cared for and loved your baby, then you did exactly what you needed to do.
Alli, R. A. (2020, June 14). How Well Can Newborn Babies See? WebMD. https://www. webmd.com/parenting/baby/newborn-vision#:~:text=Newborns%20prefer%20to%20look%20at,such%20as%20your%20adoring%20eyes.
Lewis, K. N. (Ed.). (2019, August). Reading books to babies (for parents) . KidsHealth. https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/reading-babies.html.
Medina, J. (2014). Brain rules for Baby: How to raise a smart and happy child from zero to five. Pear Press.
Seitz, J. L. (2018, August 9). The Importance of Skin-to-Skin with Baby After Delivery. Sanford Health News. https://news.sanfordhealth.org/childrens/the-importance-of- skin-to-skin-after-delivery-you-should-know/.