The term fourth trimester is believed to have been coined in 2002 by a pediatrician named Harvey Karp, MD. He believed that human babies are born about three months too early to allow easier passage through the birth canal and that you should try to recreate the kind of environment that your baby had while still in the womb. Skin-to-skin contact, swaddling and rhythmic moving are ways to mimic that environment.
It’s normal to feel a range of emotions as a new parent. One moment you’ll be elated, the next you’ll question your ability to raise a child. During the fourth trimester, you can expect fussiness and crying from your baby and very likely exhaustion for you. These effects, plus the lack of sleep, can cause you to feel stress or anxiety, or to have mood swings. Many moms and dads will experience a feeling of the “baby blues.” If this feeling is prolonged, lasting more than 2-3 weeks, it may turn into postpartum depression. If you are feeling helpless, hopeless, or unable to take care of yourself and your baby, seek professional help. Postpartum Support International (PSI) offers a phone crisis line (800-944-4773) if you need guidance during this time.
But, there’s good news! The first few months of your baby’s life is a perfect time to create an everlasting bond with them. Infant massage helps enhance that bond, decreases mood swings and postpartum depression, increase parental confidence, and instills a sense of trust and belonging.
Studies show that the love and nurturing we give our infants does more than create a strong bond between parent and child, this loving interaction actually helps our babies brains develop. While regular holding and cuddling is good, specific massage techniques can enhance your baby’s development.
Of all the sensory experiences, touch is how your baby first knows he is loved and cared for. It is the source of comfort and security. When our skin is touched a signal is sent to our brain telling it to grow and make connections. Through the use of infant massage, a baby is receiving the appropriate input, stimulation and one-on-one interaction to help facilitate healthy brain development.