Establishing the maternal gaze: The 4th trimester and life outside the womb

Project commenced:

Pregnancy is well known as consisting of 3 gestational periods; however very little research has been conducted that explores the postpartum, 4th trimester. The 4th trimester refers to the 3 month period post-birth, and may extend up to a year depending on social, physical and emotional issues related to birthing and motherhood. The 4th trimester is crucial for the psycho-social development of babies as they adjust to their new life outside the womb.

This summer internship research project will explore the factors that influence Māori mother’s wellbeing in the 4th trimester. In particular, what are optimal conditions for mother and pepi in this crucial period that enhances wellbeing and contributes to the maternal gaze? The maternal and baby gaze – where a mother and baby fall in love with each other is influenced by experiences in pregnancy and childbirth, and the support mothers receive postnatally (Cargo, 2016).

Optimal environments are needed to enable mothers to establish a loving bond with her baby, yet mothers are often left to care for their babies while exhausted, nutritionally starved, stressed, or unwell. In these states, they may also be pressured to cope, to socialise and share their baby, return to work, or to deal with social and WINZ services. Conflicting and inconsistent cultural advice on sleeping arrangements, breastfeeding and managing fussy babies also impact on wellbeing, and contributes to mental health issues, and difficulties bonding. Advice for Māori mothers is vital if we are to understand the importance of the 4th trimester for infant development.

Intern - Marisa Rota
Tainui
University of Waikato
Supervisor - Waikaremoana Waitoki
University of Waikato

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