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Babywearing and The Fourth Trimester

By Liz Taylor

Newborns. For most of us, the word conjures up images of peaceful, calm, and quiet little bundles. But if you’ve experienced the reality of parenting a newborn child, you will know that sometimes newborns are not what we see in baby magazines and on television. Sometimes, those little bundles are far from peaceful or calm - and sometimes, they are the complete opposite of quiet!

It isn’t unusual for parents or caregivers of newborns - regardless of whether they are first- or fifth-time experienced - to question their ability to care for a newborn child. Newborns can be difficult little creatures. Their only true readable form of how to provide for their needs, is generally through crying. That in itself is enough to strike fear and frustration into even the most experienced of parent’s hearts. What am I doing wrong? He has been fed, has a clean nappy, has had a sleep. Why won’t he stop crying?

The answer to this question can possibly be provided by considering the concept of ‘The Fourth Trimester’. This concept suggests that the first three months of a baby’s life outside of the womb are an overwhelming onslaught of new experiences, which can create confusion and stress to the newborn, as they adapt to their new surroundings.

Enter the practice of babywearing. In our modern and fast paced world, babywearing is often viewed as a convenient tool to enable parents and caregivers to attend to their other responsibilities, whilst still caring for their baby. But beyond this practicality, babywearing provides many of the needs that an infant in their ‘fourth trimester’ requires attention to.

One need that babywearing caters to for a newborn in their ‘fourth trimester’, is a replication of the womb environment. By using a carrier to place baby on your front, they have access to possibly its most familiar of sounds: the heartbeat. This recognition of familiarity is often enough to soothe a baby into sleep.

Another way that babywearing can replicate the womb environment is through the closeness that a carrier provides between a baby and the wearer. A carrier has the ability to replicate a close and secure environment similar to the womb, in that it creates a small, sheltered space between the wearer’s body, and the baby’s.

Babywearing also replicates the movement that a newborn is used to, through being carried for the entirety of their gestation. Often, pregnant mothers will remark how quiet their baby is in the womb when they are mobile; yet as soon as mum wants to lie down for a rest, the baby in the womb becomes alert and active! In the first three months of a baby’s life, it isn’t surprising they enjoy being rocked or swayed. This is mimicking the soothing movements they are familiar with, from their time in the womb. Using a carrier to keep your newborn close provides that constant movement they are accustomed to.

When you consider the rapid and vast development that a baby experiences in their first three months of life - changing from a sleepy, fragile newborn with the inability to hold their head, to an alert and responsive baby that interacts with their environment every waking moment of their day - it is easier to understand the range of emotions that inevitably occurs during this period of time. ‘The Fourth Trimester’ is a concept worth researching and considering, and babywearing is a tool that will likely assist you during this time.

Ankalia respects Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and cultures. We acknowledge past, present and future Traditional Owners of the land that we work on.

DISCLAIMER

Ankalia’s online journal is written and edited by white Australian women. As such, our articles are written from our cultural standpoint.

To understand and improve our knowledge of the practice of babywearing across a varied dynamic, we may seek input from our friends and peers who identify as belonging to culturally and linguistically diverse groups, and groups who are marginalised within our society.

We aim to be insightful, meaningful and respectful of those who identify as belonging to these groups at all times. If we publish something that you feel is inappropriate or offensive, please bring it to our attention promptly. We are still learning and are mindful of our privilege.

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