May 17, 2023

Dads: What is the Fourth Trimester?

Jane Magnani
Jane Magnani
Dads: What is the Fourth Trimester?

The fourth trimester is the transitional period between the birth of your baby and the first three months of their life.  It is one of the most precious but challenging times, especially for dads. It is physically and emotionally exhausting for both parents as you adjust to life with a newborn solely reliant on you for everything!

For both parents, the 'fourth trimester' is the crucial time to create a strong bond with your baby; for dads, this can be particularly hard, especially if the mother is breastfeeding and the baby demands her time and attention.

After birth, how can fathers support their partner who has just given birth immediately? How can they best support them in the weeks that follow?

During those first few months, communication between partners is vital.  Sometimes dads think or believe they know what their partner needs and wants, but this is often not the case.

  • Try and take the time to listen and vent if needed.  We suggest making a plan with your partner, sharing the chores, and sharing the time with your baby. 

  • Take over some routines, bath time, story time, sharing some feeding, nappy changes etc.

  • Praise your partner; her emotions are all over the place, and the whole experience of becoming a new mother is often overwhelming. 

  • It helps for dad to give her time to shower, have a cup of tea or eat her meals whilst the baby is sleeping; try to understand your baby’s routine.

New dads will likely feel different emotions when their first child is born. What emotions do some new dads experience?

From the minute your baby arrives, both parents experience a rollercoaster of emotions.  From primal joy and love to extreme anxiety, panic and loneliness. 

For most dads, there is the realisation that their baby relies entirely on them emotionally, physically and financially.  This can be very daunting. 

Much of this is exacerbated by limited paternity leave - two weeks is insufficient time for a dad to spend with their newborn, as there is so much to learn.  This often leads to dads feeling insecure and left out.

Dad changing nappy

Even for new parents who read all the baby prep books, there is always something they don't expect. What are a couple of things that always surprise new parents about their baby?

Sleep deprivation! All parents know and understand that a baby needs 24-hour care, and they will experience sleep deprivation during the first months of their baby's life. However, when the time comes, for most parents, what surprises them is how sleep deprivation affects their daily life. Everything seems topsy-turvy; even the simplest thing, like making a cup of tea, seems challenging.

One of the other biggest surprises is how quickly the baby develops and their routine changes. Many parents are just getting to grips with a daily structure; then there is a regression or developmental leap which throws everything up in the air!

Many new mums can nurse their baby to help form a bond. How can new dads form bonds with their new baby?

It is important that dads spend quality time with their little ones to bond the same way the mother does.  Some ways in which a dad can bond include:

  • Spending quality time with your newborn, even just cuddling them, rocking them, singing to them.  Being present.

  • Taking over some of the routines, sharing feeds, bath time, story time etc.

  • Bathing with your baby - skin-to-skin contact is for mothers and fathers.

  • Play with your baby; your little one is learning from you even in the first three months.  They follow movement with their eyes; they start strengthening their neck and shoulder muscles through tummy time.  

  • If your baby is crying, don’t be afraid to soothe them.  Within the first three months, your baby develops the ability to recognise different faces and voices.

  • Baby massage is another great way to bond with your baby - it is a sensory activity that calms and soothes a baby.  It helps them with self-awareness and muscle development.

How have you seen your partner's relationship change after a new baby? Is there a good way to deal with the stress of a new baby without negatively impacting the relationship?

Sleep deprivation, anxiety, hormones and loneliness all happen simultaneously and put any relationship under pressure. The best way to deal with the stress of a new baby is to be present, listen, talk and share the workload.  


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