I'm gonna say this as loving and encouraging as possible, although frustration may inevitably come thru as I am very passionate about what I'm about to say.
I'm not a parenting expert. Just because I have more than the average number of children, doesn't make me a parenting guru. I do, however, consider myself pretty comfortable and knowledgable about babies.
This post is for all of the brand new moms and moms-to-be out there. Your baby will not/is not manipulating you.
I've recently personally heard of two instances where brand new mothers were beyond frustrated (and shocked) at their baby's behavior. One instance in particular, the mother considered her newborn child a "spawn of satan" simply because the baby didn't want to go all night long without eating [even though the mother fed every two hrs during the day]. As if this is some magic formula that will guarantee a new mother a good nights sleep.
Simply put, the baby is hungry. The baby cannot feed him/herself and her cries are the communicator to get you to feed her. Easy solution. But some parents are insistent that this new little thing won't barge into our lives and suck all of the sleep out of us. And that's the desperate attitude that some parents have. Then that hole of desperation to find a solution is filled with contempt and annoyance towards their child. Your answer is not in a book, a blog, or a doctors office. Your answer is to meet that child's need.
Then I heard another new mom refer to her new baby as a "spoiled brat" because the child would cry almost every time the mother put him down. In addition, she was further frustrated that he actually seemed to want to suck on something most of the day too whether it was to nurse or use a binky.
First, with very rare exceptions, babies are mostly all the same and predictable in their behaviors. The three things you MUST understand are:
1)Babies LOVE their mamas. They love your touch, your heartbeat, your warmth, your voice, your smell...babies just LOVE mommy and that's TYPICAL!! No, we can't possibly hold our babies every waking moment. We have to do other things that would require us to put our babies down, such as shower, use the toilet, or just to give our arms and back a tiny little break. But, if you are a first time mom, especially in those first few weeks, hold and snuggle your baby as much as you can. Get a carrier. Wear your baby when you do dishes and laundry. Do whatever you can to keep your baby close. YOU WILL NOT SPOIL her!!!
2)Babies LOVE to suck. If you're nursing, baby will probably want to be attached almost constantly at first. Why not, right? It's pure bliss to a baby to feed and be comforted by their mother.
Isaiah 49:15 ESV
“Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb?"
For whatever reason, some mothers can't nurse their children, and some mothers simply chose not to even start. That's not even something I want to debate. The important take away here for both nursing and non-nursing mamas is this: your baby finds comfort in sucking. It's their favorite thing to do. This world is wild and big to them, and sucking helps them cope. It also is the only way they can receive nourishment. So allow them to nurse as often as they want. Give them that bottle when they protest your other attempts at comfort. Give them that binky...you will NOT spoil them!!
3) Finally, understand mama, that babies are NOT aware of your busyness, your schedule, your desire to get this or that checked off your "to-do" list today. They are completely, and understandably so, self-centered creatures. They won't fall in line easily with your attempts at putting them on a schedule or adding a wrench into what they are actually trying to communicate with you.
The exception I've personally found myself immersed in was when I had a NICU preemie. Babies in the NICU aren't allowed to have their way constantly. They are put on a rather strict feeding schedule to fall in line with their peers and to help the nurses to best care for the multiple babies in their pod. But you'd better believe that after that month of my daughter living in the NICU, I brought her home and completely threw out that rigid timetable they had her following. Some of you would probably have thought I'd gone mad. My baby was on a schedule afterall. I let her run the roost (when she got home) and I wouldn't have had it any other way. I even had two other small children at the time as well and just let that little princess get her way everytime she needed anything. Why? Because I wanted her to trust me completely. I wanted her to know that she would be cared for promptly and thoroughly and wouldn't have to wait anymore as she did in the NICU days.
That's the key, mamas. Trust. That's the goal here. Your baby has been nurtured constantly in the warmth of your womb and it's all they've ever known. Birth brings some scary detachments; a first feeling of cold, and sounds that are unmuted. Even a baby's own cry can startle them. Your job as a new mother is to nurture, provide, and help your baby transition to life outside of the womb.
Don't live in a bubble of frustration and keep your head stuck in a stack of books about how to have a "happier" baby.
Don't be afraid to be your baby's answer to whatever is frustrating her. Learn together how to navigate this new life.
Personally, my fifth baby is going to be five months old next week. She eats whenever she wants during the day, her longest stretch of sleep at night is 5-6 hrs (yes, she wakes in the middle of the night because she's hungry!!), she'd rather snuggle more than play. Did I teach her to be that way? No. But she rarely cries, she's a happy little thing, and I know it's because she trusts me. She trusts that I will come to her as quickly as possible to meet her needs. That's not the easiest thing to do with four other little ones, but just doing my best is what matters here.
Most of us actually do have the best of intentions with our new babies. This is not a post to debate our methods. We all mother just a bit differently from one another. Out situations vary like the colors in a prism. The goal is to understand our babies better. The goal is to not see our babies as the ultimate manipulators and time-suckers. Your baby may do one thing for two days and then completely start another routine on a whim. If there's one thing I've confidently learned about raising babies is expect change. A lot of change. They certainly keep you on your toes!
Make sure you're doing all you can to make baby as comfortable as possible in the first weeks and months. Don't fight against baby's needs, but amidst the foggy haze of new parenthood, rise up to serve your little one to the best of your ability. We're all learning. We won't have all of the answers all of the time. New motherhood is exhilarating, exhausting, and exasperating. I encourage you to not complicate things by pushing your own agenda on your baby. It will only lead to deeper frustration and likely, an unhappy baby. And you're too tired to have an unhappy baby, anyway. <3
What advice/encouragement would you give to new mothers? Share below!