Trust baby to be able to tell you what he wants — even as a newborn.
They may seem helpless, but babies can communicate with you through their gestures, noises and cries. In fact, psychologist and author David Chamberlain reports in The Mind of Your Newborn Baby that studies have shown newborns can tell you what they’re thinking well before they can speak through their actions, like baby reaching out his arms (“hold me”), giving you a curious look (“tell me about that”), grimacing or screaming (“I don’t like that”, or “I need that!”), cooing or gurgling (“I love that”, or “that feels good!”) or gasping (“I’m excited!”). “Believing babies are competent as opposed to helpless fundamentally changes how you interact with them,” advises Deborah Solomon author of Baby Knows Best. You need to learn to speak baby.
Don’t push baby to do things beyond her ability.
Newsflash: You’re not in a competition with some arbitrary milestone tracker. She hasn’t rolled over? That’s okay; she’s not ready. He hasn’t figured out the whole potty training thing yet? He will. “Sooner is not always better,” says Solomon. “Of course some babies need more support, but let your child reveal that to you first.” It’s very easy to get caught up in the pressure of what’s happening when — especially when you hear other moms bragging about their babies — but resist the urge to worry. So how do you know when your concern about a missed milestone goes beyond feeling competitive and is something you need to talk to your doctor about? If baby isn’t smiling by around two months, rolling over by six months, sitting unsupported by nine or picking up small pieces of food by 12 months, definitely let your pediatrician know.
Give baby some personal space.
Kiss the I-didn’t-play-enough-with-baby-today guilt goodbye! You think you have to do so much, but you don’t. Baby just came out of the womb and all of a sudden she’s got a parachute over her head and bells and songs in her ear. All she needs are the simple things like air on her cheeks and to see a leaf move. Everything is new to baby, says Solomon. Some alone time to quietly experience her world around her from her crib or her blanket gives her independence, a longer attention span, and you a break from being her main entertainer.
Let baby make mistakes (like letting her fall down sometimes!).
“When a child first starts to walk, she’s going to fall,” Solomon notes. “You could assume she hurt herself when she falls, but maybe she’s just startled. And if you respond with a gasp and an ‘oh no!’ baby will take that cue from you. Instead, calmly and empathetically say what happened: ‘Oh, you fell — I bet that surprised you,’ and wait and see. If she really hurt herself, she’ll let you know she needs comfort.”
Tell baby’s what’s going on.
Imagine going to a doctor’s appointment and the doctor just goes about your exam — without talking. We prefer knowing what’s happening (i.e., “this is going to be cold”), and baby does too. When you tell baby what you’re doing (“now you’ll feel the diaper cream go on – it’s creamy and cool!”), she’ll grow up with less anxiety since she can anticipate what’s coming. Her language will also develop as she listens to you narrate everything that’s going on. Not that we’re putting any pressure on you as far as how many words she knows.
Take your time to get to know baby.
Just because this is _your _baby doesn’t mean you know everything that’s going on with him. Sure, he may have hung out in your womb for the past nine months, but he is kind of a stranger and that’s okay. “You can’t possibly have all the answers as the parent of a new baby. When he cries, chances are you’re not going to know what he needs,” Solomon encourages. Parents are in such a rush to soothe a crying baby, they sometimes miss the point. Change the goal from stopping baby’s cry to finding out why he’s crying. You have a go-to list of things it could be: he’s hungry, tired, too hot (or cold), overstimulated, needs a diaper change, wants to be held or doesn’t feel well. Don’t use a pacifier to stifle baby’s need to tell you what’s going on.
Take time for you.
There’s no doubt taking care of a new baby is a 24/7, all-consuming job. Sometimes the effort of finding someone you trust to watch baby and the guilt you feel about your time away are overwhelming. But Solomon warns, “If life is only all about taking care of baby, eventually parents can become emotionally and physically depleted and even resentful.” So make a pact with yourself — no more mom guilt. Time for yourself will rejuvenate you mentally and physically to help you meet the demands of baby care. Getting the chance to miss home makes you a more grateful and patient mommy!