My friend is pregnant, she is going to have a baby. I am excited for her. It has made me reminisce about my time as a new parent trying to cope with all the change, responsibility and confusion. I thought I knew it all but as time went by I realized there was so much I did not know. It really helps to have someone around who knows the ropes of parenting. Thankfully, I managed to survive the initial hiccups of becoming a parent.
Honestly, forget about the unnecessary expenditure of going in for things like a separate room (utter nonsense), baby cot and a whole lot of unnecessary paraphernalia that you don’t really need. Focus on things that matter.
Here are some simple, practical things every new parent must know. I really wish I knew these things.
1) Respond To Crying Immediately
Crying is the way babies communicate. He is not trying to be difficult. A cry is a call for help, so respond immediately. That’s how you build trust between you and your child. Leaving babies to cry releases the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol which is toxic for a baby’s developing brain. Furthermore, neglecting a child impairs the proper development of the attachment and emotional centers of the brain.
A child learns to trust when he experiences responsive care from his parents. When his parent/s responds to his cries he learns to trust and feels loved. This eventually shapes his perception of himself and the world.
2) Plan for Attachment, Attunement
Yes, attachment and attunement are the musts for a baby’s development. The first two years are critical for the right brain development. But, you just cannot be available 24 x 7. You need to plan who will take over in providing the safe cocoon of holding environment a newborn needs. Now that joint families are passé, couples need to work this out. Plan how they are going to manage chores, work and now the baby. Bribe, pay, emotionally blackmail, etc, but do get someone to come and help bring up the baby.
The first 3-4 months are crucial for the development of a strong parent-child bond. The child needs to feel safe at all times. So if you have left to go the washroom, is there someone to attend to your child if he wakes up.
And invest in a baby wrap, papoose, baby sling whatever it is called. There a number of options to choose from. Or if you are innovative enough you could learn the ancient art of baby wrapping. However, remember babies need to be at least 4-5 months old before their neck muscles are strong enough to support their head. So make sure your little one’s head is adequately supported.
As the baby is touched, and has skin-to-skin contact, and is breastfed, his nervous system calms down, the biological clock organizes, and the vagal tone develops. Responsive, loving, warm care in the first weeks and months of life can even turn on or off the genes that regulate a baby’s stress.
By three months, patterns of reciprocal interaction are well-established and babies settle down but only if you do right for the first 3 months.
3) Breastfeeding & Weening Food
Breast is the best and it is cheap in comparison to formula feeds. Your child does not need extra milk if you have adequate milk, not at 6 months, 1 year or even 2 years. By 6 months, they can be weened by giving normal everyday food. You don’t at all need expensive weening foods.
I will always be grateful to the friendly neighborhood grandmother who advised me to give overcooked dal-chawal (rice with lentils) and a little clarified butter. My son till today loves his dal-chawal. Taste buds get used to what one first eats as a child. And most weening foods are loaded with sugar and other additives which are simply bad for a child.
Because he did not taste sugar in the early months, my son refused to eat sweets in his childhood. And he never had teeth problems.
4) Let Your Child Crawl and Explore
Crawling is vital for a child’s brain development. crawling helps develop the baby’s body for upright activities by building the muscles of the shoulders and hips. It develops synchronicity and fluidity of movement and also core strength. While, on the mental side, crawling develops the corpus callosum the important pathway between the brain’s hemispheres. This connectivity between the right and left hemispheres is crucial for the intellectual development of a child. It is the superhighway for learning. Lack of connectivity could lead to learning difficulties.
I still wonder whether putting my son in a walker when he was at the crawling stage was responsible for his dysgraphia.
Also, please don’t keep a crawling child on a bed without barriers he will fall down. Keep him on the floor and keep dangerous things out of harm’s way. Your child is exploring, he is bound to put things in his mouth, grab things Keep your expensive Ming vase out off reach. If anything breaks it is your fault.
5) Cool Down The Fever
Babies become ill and the first sign is a rise in temperature. A fever usually indicates that the white blood corpuscles are helping your child fight the infection. Most parents panic and start them on an unnecessary course of antibiotics and paracetamol. They have their uses but first, opt for a simple method of sponging with water to bring the fever down.
Use lukewarm water [90°F (32.2°C) to 95°F (35°C)]. Do not use cold water, ice, or rubbing alcohol, which will lower the child’s body temperature too quickly. Sponge for 20 to 30 minutes. Stop if the child starts to shiver. Most importantly, keep the forehead cool. A baby’s brain is delicate and a quick rise in temperature could bring on febrile convulsions which could have life-long consequences.
I really wish someone had told me this. My son ended up having a febrile seizure at 1 year due to malaria which made him susceptible to convulsions with even the slightest rise in temperature. After homeopathic treatment things settled but it may have affected his gross and fine motor skills, another probable cause for his dysgraphia.
Common Sense and Plenty of Time
Having a child means your priorities change. Your devotion is to this tiny human miracle. Yes, your child comes first, not your career. And you have to show this by investing your time and energy. They have to feel it deep within that they matter to mom and dad. Parenting is a slow mindful exercise of creation. Relax and enjoy the process, You simply cannot rush it
Remember, you don’t have to hover around like a helicopter or become a doormat.
Babies too need their space to understand and take in all the information. Don’t overdo the stimulation with educational toys and gadgets. Give them the opportunity to be content on their own or to explore the environment on their own terms. Once they settle down they are just happy lying next to you simply observing. Enjoy those beautiful moments.
The secret to great parenting is not too much, or too little, but knowing how to be good enough
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