Having a baby and being responsible for another human being is a biggie!
Often family, friends or strangers feel the need to comment on how we parent;
‘Have you tried putting her down, she needs to learn to go to sleep on her own’
‘I think he’s hungry …. ’
‘You’re feeding her too much’
‘Leave him to cry, he needs to learn he can’t have you all the time’
‘She needs to learn to be put down….’
‘He’s completely spoilt … ‘
The thing is these questions, comments and observations are maybe meant well, but they all undermine our confidence as parents to decide what is best for us and our babies.
Babies have spent 9 months in-utero being ‘held close’, hearing our heart-beat, and being rocked as we moved around. Almost immediately they enter this world we are encouraged wrap them up and put them in a cot, pick them up to feed and change nappies and then we put them down again.
But why is this? and what happens in other cultures?
We often believe that what we do in the West is progressive. But by looking at other cultures and traditions from around the world we realise that not everything we do is necessarily the best.
Take crying for example…..
Our aim of leaving a baby to cry is often that we could give ourselves more freedom and time-away from the baby if they can ‘learn to stop on their own’. But many mums notice how much time and anxiety is used trying to achieve this, and it can lead to feelings of ‘failure’ when you ‘give in’ and pick baby up….. oh and someone will always point out to you that baby ‘has won now!’
Babies aren’t out to ‘get us’, they’re not sneaky or trying to ‘wrap us round their little finger’ they need human touch, they need YOU for warmth, comfort and food, and often the crying will stop when these needs are met.
I’ve never liked the term ‘demand-feeding’, it has connotations of an angry infant making ‘demands’ on our time. Other cultures see crying as a cue whereas we often consider it an irritation that can lead to feelings of stress and hostility.
I know we’re very different in the West, we don’t live in extended families where mum is allowed to rest whilst others take on the domestic chores. Where the baby is held and passed around amongst family members and never left alone. But sometimes it can be the language that we use or the expectations of others or ourselves that can dramatically change the way we perceive a situation.
We live in a society where parents can feel a sense of failure if their babies seem to cry excessively. But it mustn’t be about self-blame it’s about holding true to what you feel is right for you and your baby. It’s about changing the narrative around crying and seeing it for what it evolutionarily is, ‘a call-and-response’ system.
So, crying is your baby’s only way to communicate his needs; feeding, rocking, massaging, soothing and singing are your side of the conversation. Many other cultures see no harm in holding, feeding and loving the closeness of a baby in your arms.
It doesn’t last for ever but while they can’t articulate their needs in any other way, please feel the love, hold them, cuddle them, feed them and totally ‘spoil them rotten’ because MUMS KNOWS BEST ?
Photo credit: Isaac Quesada