Everyone talks about the dreaded 4th trimester and the exhausting new born phase, but there's the 5th trimester that nobody warns you about!
Ahhhh, that 4th trimester. The first three months of your new baby's life. It's sleepless. You're clueless. Everything is brand new and your life has permanently changed. The 4th trimester (called that as an expansion of the three trimesters a baby is in-utero) is known for being a doozy and exceptionally challenging. And it is! But I wish someone would have told me about the 5th trimester too. I thought after those first three months, having a baby would get easier. Nope! Wrong. There's something nobody warns you about and it's the 5th trimester, or months 3-6 of your infant's life.
Here's the real deal: Yes, that 4th trimester is tough. But your baby is brand new! You can't get enough snuggles! You're happy to be at home cuddling, posted up on the couch for hours on end. Your body is healing and you're welcoming a slower pace of life. Plus, your baby is a newborn so s/he is sleeping most the day (although probably not most the night...) That means you can get stuff done or nap when the baby is napping.
Unless you're like me and have a toddler/other children. Then, no naps for you!
Likely by the time you get close to the three month mark, you're getting more sleep at night. You've established some sort of nap routine. You've got the feeding schedule down! So how is it that things can actually get HARDER?
Oh, they sure can. And they do.
Around the 4 month mark, we hit a massive sleep regression with Otto. He was up for hours and hours on end. He'd get up some time around 1-2am and stay awake until 4 or 5am. Not screaming, not crying, but just fussing enough so that I'd have to continuously put a paci in his mouth or rock him. I spent more than a few nights in the boys' nursery, attempting to doze off in between paci re-insertions. Keep in mind, I have a toddler too, so while the baby would sleep until 8am, I'd have to be up at 6 for Henry, even though I'd have been up from 1-4 most nights. I was indeed getting less sleep than when Otto was a newborn!
|Baby boredom equals fussy baby|
The 5th trimester marks important brain developments. They're starting to mature, but not yet able to be self sufficient. They're just learning how to self soothe. This means that YOU have to teach them these things. And it takes time. And patience. And a
It's not just at night, either. Babies in the 5th trimester need more stimulation. They're watching and learning and interested. They've discovered their hands but don't yet know how to control them. They're just starting to find their toes, but don't understand where they go when they let go of them. They see toys and hold on to them, but regularly drop them and don't have the ability to pick them up. This means YOU have to entertain your baby and teach him these things while he's awake. Which, by the way, is for much longer stretches now that his sleep routine is getting established. So while at one point you were able to cook dinner or do laundry or work from home while the baby coo'd in the bassinet beside you, you now need to actively play with him and teach him how to play with the things around him.
There went your free time. There went your ability to get nearly anything done!
Babies are just starting to learn how to sit up at this point, too. You might be lucky and get an early sitter, at 5 or 6 months! Oh, to be so lucky. Babies get dramatically easier when they can sit on their own. But until then, you have to practice practice practice. You have to push through the cries and know when to stop when baby is over tired.
Additionally, the ease of tummy time wears off by 3-4 months. Both of my kids HATE (and I mean H-A-T-E) tummy time. As newborns they tolerated it and usually fell asleep but at the beginning of the 5th trimester, it turns into a scream fest. Henry would scream for hours afterwards and Otto seems to be following suit. Tummy time is not fun around these parts. Everyone is miserable. After they can sit on their own, it becomes fun again for them because they work on crawling, but this 5th trimester tummy time puts just about everyone in tears. I think it's because mentally, they want to move but they're not physically strong enough, and that disconnect makes them frustrated. A frustrated baby is a screaming one. A screaming baby is a stressed out mama.
Teething usually starts about now too. I have two early teethers - Henry got his first two teeth at 5 months and I can feel two about to cut on Otto, who just turned 5 months. The amount of drool that a teething baby can produce is ridiculous, and you better believe all that drool is going right on your shirt, moms. Don't even bother trying to look nice in this drooly 5th trimester, it won't last longer than 5 minutes!
Finally, you have to start to think about introducing solids. Most pediatricians recommend introducing solids between 4-6 months (hey, 5th trimester!) and this means you need to spend even more time teaching your infant some skills. Introducing solids is a slow, messy, painstaking task. Feedings, which took 20-25 minutes in the 3rd trimester, now can take up to an hour each! Make a little bit of food, get it spit on you and baby, clean up the table, yourself and baby and then follow with a bottle/breast feed... Jeez! Between introducing solids and feeding a toddler, it's like we're a 24 hour Denny's around here, dishing out food nonstop all day.
|This face sums up our sentiments on the 5th trimester|
Look, the 4rd trimester is certainly hard. It's hard because there's so much adjustment and learning on your end. But the 5th trimester is even more challenging, in my opinion. And nobody seems to be talking about it! You're transitioning from you learning to teaching your baby to learn. It's slow going. It's time consuming. It's messy. But the good news is, after the 5th trimester, it DOES get easier! Once that little baby can sit on her own and grab/play with toys independently, rest assured you're entering the FUN stage of babies.