Sunday, March 15, 2015

Judy - Surviving the First Year #9

A wise woman once said, “The thing about having a baby is that from now on, you have a baby.” If you were like many of us when we were younger and tried to hold someone else’s baby, it always cried, and we never knew what to do with it. So we’d quickly give it back to its mother. You may worry that now with your own, you still won’t know what to do. Believe me, it doesn’t work like that.

One of the best things Dr. Spock said in his landmark book, Baby and Child Care, was, “Relax. You know more than you think you do.” You’ll probably find that you know enough for your own child just because you know her so well. When you are together constantly, you are familiar with every little sound and movement. Parents often say they can differentiate between the different cries for hunger, wet, tired, hurt and even cranky. And you will know what to do for each of them.

The baby’s job during the first year is to eat, sleep, grow and learn. Your job during the first year is to teach your child that the world is a good place, that it can be trusted. You teach him this by responding to his needs immediately. When he’s hungry, you feed him. When he’s wet, you change him. When he’s fussy or tired, you soothe and calm him. You hold him, talk to him, constantly stroking, touching, and looking at him. You are the one who teaches that child about love, trust, warmth and kindness; that he is part of and connected to the whole family of man. If a child learns these momentous lessons while still very young, he won’t grow up to do terrible things to other human beings because he will feel connected to them.

When babies are small, their needs are exactly the same as their wants. You can’t  “spoil” a little one. One of the saddest things I ever heard was when Lloyd’s grandmother said to me as I was holding one of my babies, “I wish I had done more of that. We were told by the experts to stick to a strict schedule and if they cried between times for feeding, to just let them cry or we’d  spoil them.” Can you imagine? Here were mothers wanting to cuddle their babies and babies in need of comfort and they were kept apart by the “experts.”

Towards the end of the first year you can begin to set limits for them, which will be in a future post on toddlers. Remember, you are the grown-up here and they depend on you completely. I get a little annoyed when I hear mothers of young children say, “But I have needs too.” Yes, you do, but being a parent means--for a while--that you have to put your children’s needs first. The mysterious thing is that when you do, you fulfill needs of your own you may not know you have. And the rewards are more than you can imagine.

Even I have to admit that sometimes your child’s infancy is not all fun and games. Someone once described a baby as an alimentary canal with a loud noise at one end and no sense of responsibility at the other. And there’s sleep problems, but that’s for next time.

Always know there are definite compensations along the way. I call compensations those fleeting moments of joy when your heart crinkles with foolish love for that baby. And then they grow up in the blink of an eye, and all you’re left with is the memories of those moments.

Next: Sleep Issues

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