A mother looks lovingly at her newborn baby. (Photo by John Ryan)

A mother looks lovingly at her newborn baby. (Photo by John Ryan)

One can never be fully prepared to be a parent.

The nine months, thereabouts, that your baby spent inside your belly will not prepare you for your new life ahead. Along with excitement over your baby’s arrival, you may experience anxiety, fatigue, sleep deprivation, hormonal imbalance and, sometimes, just plain confusion.

On the other hand, your baby who was used to the consistent and perfect environment of your womb now has to adapt to his new home, the world. This is the first time he will experience hunger, thirst, warmth, coldness, noise, air, space, and brightness.

The three months after childbirth is also known as the “fourth trimester.” This is a period of adjustment and adaptation for you and your baby. If this parenting thing is new to you, imagine what this life thing is to him. Understanding what both of you are going through will help you deal with and appreciate this precious stage in your baby’s life.

Dr. Anthony Calibo, pediatrician and newborn care program manager at the Disease Prevention and Control Bureau of the Department of Health, teaches about the importance of the fourth trimester in making the baby grow healthy among expecting parents.

These are what to expect after your baby’s birth and some tips to get by according to Dr. Calibo:

Changing sleep patterns. Your baby has no concept of time yet. As a result, the time and duration of his sleep will be unpredictable. Take turns with your partner or another caregiver in taking care of the baby at night. Practice safe bed-sharing or co-sleeping arrangements. Keeping the baby near you will allow you to respond to his needs earlier.

Watch for hunger cues. One advantage of rooming-in the baby after giving birth at the hospital is that it allows you to closely observe your baby. Signs that your baby is hungry include wakefulness, alertness, mouth opening, mouth protrusion and salivation. Responding to these early signs is easier than calming a crying and very hungry baby.

Crying. Lots of it. Crying is the language of the baby. There are many reasons, other than hunger, why your baby cries. He could be looking for his mother’s scent, heartbeat, voice or warmth. He could be in discomfort due to ambient temperature. He could also be in need of a diaper change. Soon, you will be able to distinguish one cry from another know what to do.

Colic, possibly. Colic involves crying spells in infants that may last anywhere from one to four hours and peaks at baby’s third month. While some attribute this to gastrointestinal concerns, there is no proven cause of colic. Not all babies who cry loudly and continuously have colic and it is important that a pediatrician rules out more serious conditions.

Urine output. What comes in must go out. Your baby’s peeing is an indicator that he drank even if you don’t see an obvious breast milk flow. This is an encouraging sign for moms who may doubt their milk supply. Monitoring your baby’s urine output in the early days can reassure you that your baby is feeding well.

Changing stool pattern. Don’t be surprised when you see your baby’s first poop. The black, tarry, sticky substance is called meconium and was left in your baby’s gastrointestinal tract at birth. Over five to seven days, your baby’s stool will transition to dark brown, light brown, dark green, light green and, finally, yellow. Breastfeed your baby early and on demand to ensure good motility of your baby’s gut.

Weight gain and length increase. “Don’t be too anxious,” says Dr. Calibo. He recommends that you consult with a health worker twice in your baby’s first month—before baby’s 7th day and 28th day. The health worker will monitor your baby’s growth, assess baby’s feeding, counsel you on breastfeeding and check for other health concerns.

Avoidance of sickness. Don’t forget to take care of yourself, too. Maintain a healthy lifestyle, practice frequent hand washing, eat proper food, and try to get enough sleep. Keeping yourself healthy and sick-free will benefit your baby’s health as well.

How did you adjust in the first three months of your baby? Share them at the comments below.

Crash Course in Breastfeeding:

Step 1: 8 Breastfeeding Facts to Get You Started

Step 2: Unang Yakap: What You Deserve on Your Baby’s First Hour

Step 3: Fourth Trimester: What to Expect After Birth

Step 4: Breastfeeding Myths

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