Author: Fatima Shah
HOW many times have you heard these statements from a new mummy?
- “My baby is only happy in my arms, the minute I put her down she cries.”
- “He sleeps really well but only when he is laying on my chest, he hates his cot.”
- “She cries every time we lay her on her play mat.”
- “He does not like his pram, he cries when we put him in it.”
- “My baby is going to be spoilt if I hold him all the time.”
Let’s rewind to when baby was in utero.
Little Abdullah had the perfect place to sleep. It was warm and comforting with a built-in rhythmic sound and a shock-absorbent rocking motion most of us can only get close to on trains or airplanes. With this constant lulling, Abdullah experienced absolute security and comfort. But one night, his world suddenly changed. The darkness he was accustomed to was replaced with glowing light. The liquid warmth and comforting sound he had come to trust were gone. Noise, voices and motion were no longer buffered or rhythmic, and the tight security of the womb was replaced with blankets and cuddles in his mother’s arms.
The day of Abdullah’s birth was magical for his parents and other loved ones, but his response was to go into a state of deep sleep — a self-preservation mechanism that helps babies turn off all the new stimulation, mentally check out, and sleep off the stress of being born. When babies are born they do not have the brain maturity, to cope with the outside world. They rely on their parents for survival and for soothing.
What is the fourth Trimester?
The fourth trimester is the idea that the first three months of a baby’s life is an extension of the life in the womb. Baby has spent 40 weeks or thereabouts in the womb, where hunger wasn’t known, where she was rocked and lulled consistently to the beating of the mother’s heartbeat. Knowing this, it is very unrealistic to expect a newborn to conform to a feeding and sleeping schedule. And this why most attempts by the parents leads to frustration. To fully understand we must appreciate the enormous transition they have made. Some make the womb to world transition easily, others less so and it is this latter group in particular “the clingy babies” we can learn so much from through this concept.
Dr. Sears a well-known paediatrician sums this up perfectly when he says, “Birth suddenly disrupts this organization. During the month following birth, baby tries to regain his sense of organization and fit into life outside the womb. Birth and adaptation to postnatal life bring out the temperament of the baby, so for the first time he must do something to have his needs met. He is forced to act, to “behave.” If hungry, cold, or startled, he cries. He must make an effort to get the things he needs from his caregiving environment. If his needs are simple and he can get what he wants easily, he’s labeled an “easy baby”; if he does not adapt readily, he is labeled “difficult.”
The key to help baby make the transition
The following tips help babies with the transition.
Skin to skin contact: Nothing beats being placed on mummy’s chest feeling her skin and hearing her heart beat. This is also one of the quickest ways to calm baby down. Being in contact with your warm, naturally (un) scented, skin is heaven for a baby, it helps to stabilize their body temperature, heart rate and stress hormones and stimulates the release of oxytocin – the love and bonding hormone – in you both.
FEEDING: Regardless of how you feed your baby – breastfeeding, pumping, or formula – feeding a newborn on demand is key not only to baby’s happiness but also to baby’s growth and well-being. Just like adults, babies’ calorie needs change from day to day; during growth spurts, babies will need to eat more and more frequently. Instead of watching the clock, learn to watch your baby for hunger cues. And don’t be surprised if your newborn wants to eat an hour or less after her last feeding. Newborns have tiny tummies!
Snuggles and Rhythm: Babies are born been used to the rhythmic movements of mum while she was in the womb. Therefore it makes sense that some babies protest at being placed in a stationary bassinet or cot. Swings and bouncers certainly have their place but nothing replaces mommy and daddy’s arms. Carrying a baby all the time is not viable especially if you have other smaller children running around. Investing in a baby wrap or sling is ideal. Baby is kept close and the mother’s hands are free to do other things. The upright tummy to tummy position gives much relief to babies who suffer from gas and reflux.
Let go of sleep expectations: Sleep is always the number one concern for parents. Of course, mummy needs to sleep too – and that’s where much of the concern over “sleeping through the night” comes from. Adjusting your expectations about sleep may also mean changing some of your sleep habits. If baby has her longest stretch of sleep from 8pm to midnight – maybe you need to adjust your own bedtime temporarily to take advantage of that. Sharing a sleep space can also help with the mother’s sleep deprivation since it cuts down on the amount of time mummy has to be awake and most likely will help baby sleep longer stretches too. It also helps to remember that this stage won’t last forever. All babies will sleep longer stretches eventually. If you let go of the expectation that your baby should sleep 8 hours or more straight by 2 or 3 months, it’s a little easier to handle those night wakings; it feels much better to consider your baby’s behavior as “normal” instead of trying to figure out what you are doing “wrong.”
Think Routine not Schedule: Just because you’ve decided to follow baby’s cues doesn’t mean your life will be devoid of order. Babies are pretty good at falling into a routine so try to do things at the same time everyday.
Don’t Worry About Creating “Bad” Habits: Yes, it’s true – you cannot spoil a newborn! No matter how much you rock, cuddle, wear, or hold your baby, she is going to turn into an independent little person. Children are not spoiled by love and affection; they thrive on it.
The fourth trimester is a time for the mother to heal and for a newly expanded family to get to know one another. The fourth trimester shouldn’t be about schedules or expectations. Instead it – and our babies – should be greeted with patience, wonder, and most important, love.
Reference: The Attachment Parenting Book (2001) Dr. William Sears
….Where Practice Makes Perfect
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