Birth in the Know

Your Baby Doesn’t Come With A Manual


You have probably heard this before. And, you have likely heard or read about all the ways that you get your baby to sleep more, or breastfeed better, or cry less. It is all out there to take in.  The real truth is that you are the expert on your baby.  When you take the time to bond with your baby and get to know her, everything changes.

Frustration turns to patience, the “I don’t knows” turn to “I got this.” Although your baby is unique, there are certain developmental milestones, and behaviors you can learn about, either before your baby arrives, or with your baby, as you pay attention and see patterns.

Think of it this way. You have a tiny human who needs everything from you. Literally, everything. If babies can’t talk, how do they tell you? Body language and sounds. Interestingly, even grown-ups communicate with body language. In fact, body language counts for a bigger portion of communication than actual words.

The question then becomes, “What do I watch for with my baby, to get to know what she needs?”

Crying is a late signal of hunger. Of course, babies eat a lot, so it is really good to know when your baby is hungry. Some of those signs are mouthing, rooting, sucking on hands. Feeding your baby before the cry, when possible, is key.

When you play and interact with your baby, and they begin to turn away, and start wiggling and squiggling, it may be time to stop playing and start settling down for a sleep. If your baby begins to draw her knees up, and makes a few grunting noises, there could be some trapped gas.

You get where I am going with this? Although your baby does not have a manual, and is a unique individual with a particular temperament, you can figure out her needs.

One thing I learned along my journey as a postpartum doula is something called the 5 S’s. You can look it up. Take what you want and leave the rest. Shush, swaddle, side, suckle, and swing. I think sleep, and sling need to be added to the list to make it 7 S’s. These techniques can work with a fussy, challenging to calm, baby. Nothing I write about or share on this blog is ever meant to be a one size fits all.

Many parents have gained confidence by using these tools, and have also gotten more sleep. When you go from winging it, to using practices that produce results , it is amazing. With my first son, Matthew, I knew nothing, and I listened to advice from my mother-in-law, at the time, and thought nothing of it until later.

She told me to let Matthew cry after he was fed and changed and I had laid him down for a nap. It was heart wrenching, and I still did it. It was probably only a minute or so, and it felt like an eternity.

Fast forward to when I learned about attachment and bonding, and crying it out. Talk about guilt!! Of course, when I had my second son, James, I was determined I would never do the same thing. He was the baby who wanted to nurse all the time, and cat nap for 30-45 minutes. I was so sleep deprived, and I did not know the 5 S’s. I would rock and walk, and wear James in the sling. Then I would quietly try to lay him down.

Usually, he would be up in a short time, and we would do it all over. If I had known about the side, and the magic of the safe and appropriate swaddle, I guarantee that we would have gotten more sleep, and I would have felt much more confident and capable.

There are many who call themselves experts, and even baby whisperers. I do believe it is vital to have support, and people you can call on that know more than you do. I also believe that you know your baby better than anyone, as long as you are watching, listening and willing to learn.

Your baby is only a baby for a blip in time. It can be overwhelming, and you can get frustrated, and feel angry or sad. Or, it can be fun, joyful, and transformative. You have the power to be present with your baby and your feelings. Asking for help is okay.

Next time you want to ask someone else what you should do, start with yourself, because you probably know the answer.


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