You’ve just had a baby who will not be put down for more than two minutes without crying inconsolably.
It’s crazy how after three trimesters of pregnancy during which our bodies are pushed to the limit, we then have to face a fourth.
Hang on a minute? The baby’s evicted at the end of the third, how can there be a fourth?
In your mind you and the baby are two separate people. In their mind, you’re one and the same. Therefore when you put baby down, they are likely to freak out.
They’ve lost their security blanket, their other half, their comfort. It’s scary in this big world for a little person.
Scary as it is for your baby, the fourth trimester is a massive pain in the arse for parents.
The baby has to be put down at some point, right? Everyone needs to sleep? Well if your baby has any say about it – and, let’s face it they basically run this house – they will only sleep in your arms. The car is a second choice, but they’re not happy about it.
So how do you cope with a baby that will not be put down for any length of time at all?
First of all, here’s why the fourth trimester is a thing:
- Your baby is born helpless and defenceless. It’s a natural defence mechanism that they don’t want too much distance between you and them. The closer they are to you, the safer and more secure they feel.
- Your baby craves your scent.
- Adjusting to the outside world is hard. Your baby is used to an environment that was temperature-controlled, small, safe, quiet and pretty much pitch black. The real world is strange, so they crave your comfort as they try to adjust.
- Your arms are warm. When you put your baby down onto their cold cot mattress, they react because they can tell the difference.
Here are a few tips to see you through:
1. Get some extra hands
If you’ve got a baby who has been non-stop clingy for days, it’s time to call in some reinforcements.
The great thing about having a newborn is that you have a very long line of potential helpers desperate to step in.
I know how hard it can be to let your little baby go. With my first I couldn’t do it. But even if you let your other half take the baby out for 10 minutes it can give you a massive boost.
2. Accept not much is going to get done
Embrace it and plant yourself on the sofa or in bed with your little clingy monkey.
Your house will be fine, order a takeaway, forget the ironing. You’ve just had a baby, that and caring for yourself is your priority right.
3. Try a sling
You’ve got no spare hands to get all the stuff done that you had planned today.
A sling lets you go hands-free so that your baby is still close to you but you’ve got both hands to do the cleaning, answer your emails, wash your hands, etc.
There are lots of different types of sling on the market. The cloth ones can take a lot of getting used to as they’re complicated to tie but once you’re used to it they’re comfy for you and for the baby.
I rate the BabyBjorn too, as it is so easy and quick to put on plus it’s adaptable as your baby grows. When they’re little they face towards you, but as their neck grows strong you can have them facing out too.
4. Try a dummy
For some reason this remains a controversial subject. In my personal opinion, there’s nothing wrong with using a dummy to soothe a baby to sleep.
It was brilliant for my first child, who would fall asleep immediately once we gave her the dummy for nap and bedtime.
You can then wean them off the dummy at around six months.
This helps your baby to feel nice and safe, because it simulates the squashed up feeling they had in the womb.
You need to be careful about overheating if you do swaddle, so don’t pack blankets on top of blankets.
Giant muslins are good for swaddling as they’re very light. You can also buy swaddles that you simply zip your baby into, no fuss involved at all.
This does a lot to calm a very fussy baby. Suckling is a very comforting thing for babies as they’re close to you, your skin and surrounded by your scent.
During the early weeks of breastfeeding, your baby will naturally want to suckle a lot, even when they nod off during feeding. This happens for two reasons: Your baby likes the feeling of being close to you and it helps to stimulate your milk supply.
Your baby may seem like they want to feed constantly, and this can feel utterly exhausting. But it’s important to allow this to happen. Take care of yourself by not planning too much and ride out this phase, because it is just a phase.
Having a full tummy helps your baby to relax to sleep, so this can help make it easier to get them into a deep enough sleep so that you can put them down for a short while.
If you’ve had very little sleep for days in a row this can be a lifeline. Your baby gets to be close to you, without waking you up to be picked up.
But please practice it safely. There is lots of advice on the Lullaby Trust website, be aware of the risks. Remember lots of women do co-sleep with no problems.
Do check out my post about safer sleeping and preventing SIDS for more tips.
8. If you have to put them down, just do it
You need to have a wee and shower. Those things shouldn’t be luxuries. Just crack on and do it.
Your baby may cry, but really it’s it going to do your baby any harm to cry for five minutes. They can make it sound pretty awful, but taking care of yourself is taking care of your baby.
9. Tell yourself the magic words; “this too shall pass”
With babies, there are lots and lots of phases. Some are more painful than others. Remember that loads changes in the first year, it will not always be this hard.
Try to remind yourself of this when it all gets a bit much.