Fourth Trimester and Optimal Age for Human Baby and Puppy Cuteness Optimization Are the Same

Fourth TrimesterWith two new baby grandsons, the difficulty of the new parent experience is relived.  This Grandma equates it to being a hamster on a treadmill that never ends.  The new baby requires care every two hours or so around the clock, with a breast fed baby eating more often than a bottle fed baby, my daughter told me.  The new parents do not have a break.  This is an exhausting period, with little reward for all the hard work.

There are so many new theories. One that has gained traction is that pregnancy is usually divided into three trimesters, but studies show that there is really a “fourth trimester,” or the three months after a woman gives birth. This coincides with the reality that health issues, like “present considerable challenges for women, including lack of sleep, fatigue, pain, breastfeeding difficulties, stress, new onset or exacerbation of mental health disorders, lack of sexual desire, and urinary incontinence,” require intervention and assistance for the mother, but really for both parents and the family.

Finally, the “fourth trimester” has formal medical acknowledgment. May 2018, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists issued a committee opinion and recommendation for redefining post partum care, recognizing and providing detailed and specific new guidelines for this “fourth trimester,” which is worth reviewing in full at this link.

Yes, the major new intervention is that intervention and assistance for the new mother and new parents is necessary for the physical, mental and emotional wellbeing of mother, child, father, and family.  The new recommended “team” approach includes us grandparents, as well as professionals, baby nurses, night nurses, doulas, and more visits to the doctors caring for the mother and baby.

As several decades have passed since this grandma was a mother, a postpartum doula was a new concept to me. “Postpartum doulas are different from birth doulas, who support a mother during labor and delivery, and have different training than night nurses, who typically watch and feed a baby while parents sleep.”  “The Rise of the Postpartum Helper,” is the subject of an excellent Washington Post article by Rebecca Gale, August 9, 2017.

Read more about the services of a post partum doula at this link.

Grandparents who are able have served as postpartum doulas without knowing that it is a professional service.  Professional postpartum doulas, like baby nurses and night nurses, are not covered by insurance, and make a wonderful baby shower gift or new baby gift.  See this Grandma’s 2012 post about ideas and tips to help new parents with your precious grandbaby, much before the recent action by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists:  “The baby nurse–the best EXPENSIVE gift you can give your newborn grandchild.”

So, the concept now professionally recognized seems to be that parents need assistance with a newborn.  Really!  It took until May 2018! This Grandma always says that when parents are ready to throw the baby out of the window as they are so exhausted without reward, THE BABY SMILES.  All of a sudden, when the baby is about six to eight weeks old, the baby smiles, becomes cute and responsive, and the parents forget all of the sacrifice of the previous weeks when they receive this positive feedback.  Then the baby keeps smiling and the parents feel they can make it.

Today, my coveted Science Daily email arrived.  See previous post, “What We Should Know About Science Daily, Tell the Parents of Our Grandchildren about It, and What Is Reported About when To Introduce Foods to Babies.”

Not an animal lover, unless in Africa on safari, I normally would skip over a study about dogs, but it was about puppies, and the title was intriguing, “Optimal Age of Puppy Cuteness Optimized.” 

Just read this quote from the author of the May 15, 2018 study, Clive Wynne, professor of psychology and director of Arizona State University’s Canine Science Collaboratory, on the age puppies become attractive to humans:

“Around seven or eight weeks of age, just as their mother is getting sick of them and is going to kick them out of the den and they’re going to have to make their own way in life, at that age, that is exactly when they are most attractive to human beings,” Wynne said. . . .”I think that the intelligence of dogs is not the fundamental issue,” he said. “It’s this tremendous capacity to form intimate, strong, affectionate bonds. And that starts at maybe eight weeks of life, when they’re so compelling to us.”

Wow! The optimal age for human baby and puppy cuteness optimization are the same!

Just when the human parents have reached their maximum exhaustion and are at the point where they think the treadmill will never end, at around six to eight weeks, recovering from the birth of the child, the baby’s responsive smile shows the same “capacity to form intimate, strong, affectionate bonds. . . .when they’re so compelling to us.”

With a puppy, the bond begins when the puppy is leaving the mother.  With the baby, truly intimate, joyful life as parents begins with that first responsive smile.

We grandparents, in addition to helping the parents through the period to reach that smile, should remind them that the “fourth trimester” shall end, and the smile will come.

I loved seeing that first smile with the new grandbabies, and now the first laugh and first belly laugh. . . . and all of the baby milestones to come. . . .with parents who are recovering and can enjoy the  intimate, strong, affectionate bond with their baby.  To be honest, although they still look exhausted, I think I loved seeing the smiling faces of the parents as much.











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