The Merriam-Webster Dictionary has added the term “fourth trimester” to describe the first months of a newborn’s life, which they say is “more fetus-like than baby-like.”
The addition was coined by pediatrician Dr. Harvey Karp who wrote a guide for new parents called, The Happiest Baby on the Block about 20 years ago.
In a press release about the new addition, the dictionary company wrote, “the fourth trimester is the first three to four months of a baby’s life after birth. The word ‘trimester’ implies that the baby is still a fetus…and that’s on purpose! A newborn’s brain and nervous system are not fully developed at birth, making them more fetus-like than baby-like.”
“Dr. Karp first heard the term in the late 1970s when he was working on the child abuse team at UCLA. At that time, he saw so many babies come in who were severely injured—even killed—for the simple offense of crying. He became deeply curious about what medical doctors had not been able to figure out—the cause of colic (severe persistent crying seen among babies 1-4 months of age),” the press release explained.
“He found that, thanks to evolutionary changes, human babies are born about three months before they’re technically ‘ready.’ In fact, they had to be born three months early because a baby’s developing brain and skull have gotten so big by the end of the third trimester that they can barely safely fit through the birth canal.”
The dictionary recently caused a stir when they subtweeted about the Kyle Rittenhouse case.
“The term ‘crocodile tears’ (a superficial display of anguish) comes from a medieval belief that crocodiles shed tears of sadness when killing their prey,” the account tweeted.
The term ‘crocodile tears’ (a superficial display of anguish) comes from a medieval belief that crocodiles shed tears of sadness when killing their prey. https://t.co/tkuVCEbBRa
— Merriam-Webster (@MerriamWebster) November 10, 2021