Newborns come in all shapes and sizes… and they all have the same basic needs. Milk, burps, nappy changes, and sleep are the common ones. They also need touch and warmth – both emotional and physical- did you know that touch stimulates a baby’s immune system?
I was struggling to think of something original to say, I know there is a lot of information out there about what to do with a baby; there is less of anyone suggesting “being” with your baby. For some it comes naturally, and others, it takes some time.
I have a holistic approach to life and babies. It’s all about balance. I want a new mum to enjoy her new child as much as she can. The whole experience, not just the happy times. You might think that it is not possible that the babies in my care rarely cry. They do have their moments, few and far between, but there are never any extended periods of crying.
I often get asked why I can intuit things that the baby’s own mother cannot. Partly this is because I see things time and time again, so I know what I am looking for… Mostly though, it is because I have learned how to “be” with a baby. By this I mean that I can stay relaxed through the tears and the noise and listen and feel what the baby is telling me.
“Being” with your baby starts with the first touch, that first hold, and continues throughout your child’s lifetime. You have learnt over time to “be” with other adults, and now with this new arrival it will be a time to learn to “be” with your child. Don’t be frightened by this, it will come to you if it is not instant. My intention is to help you to spot the need for it sooner than you might see it for yourself.
Babies sometimes don’t need you to “do” anything. Imagine you have already fed, burped, changed the nappy – and, they are not planning on going to sleep without a fuss, this is the time to “be” with your baby.
The easiest way I find to calm a fractious baby is to make them feel secure. I do this by taking them into a low-light (or dark) quiet space, swaddling them firmly – arms down. I then pick them up and pop them into the crook of my neck, if they are squirming and fighting, as they often do, I might gently put a hand on their head and bounce slowly on my toes (or a swiss ball if there’s one handy). If they have a dummy, I would use it, a sucky baby may throw their head about trying to find something to suck, and so gently holding their head stops them from getting cross about it. (Alternatively, a clean and short nailed little finger is a good option here if you are not loving the idea of restricting your baby’s head movement).
This whole process is mimicking the experience of the womb. It makes them feel secure… and even if they are fighting me hard out to start with, in a few short moments, they calm down and start to feel warm and secure. I might stay like this, just being with them, for a short period of time, or if they were very upset to start with, for a little longer.
I am helping to release any wind by having them upright with gentle pressure on their tummy, I am helping to release any tension in their tiny body by the warmth and movement of mine, and I am telling this child that it’s OK, I am here for as long as you need me, take your time.
When that baby calms down, and, typically goes to sleep, I might (or might not depending on how keen I am for this baby to stay asleep) carefully loosen off the swaddle with them still tucked into my neck, and then I’ll look to put them down. It depends on the individual situation, but I might have seen this coming and know that this child struggles to settle. In this instance I would have a sheepskin permanently under the sheet, and have put a hot water bottle / wheat sack on it to keep it warm.
Then, I would put the baby down on it’s side (for now, and roll onto the back when relaxed) with my hand still under the head, and my arm firmly resting on their side so that they are still experiencing my touch. Next I would slowly remove my hand from under the head, and just keep my hand on the baby’s arm, not length of body. If they stir, I would put my head near to them to reassure that I am still there. Then, as long as it takes to keep that baby relaxed and asleep, I would pat or rock slightly intermittently for half a minute, slowly weaning off the need for touch with movement, to just a touch. Then to finish off, I would take my hand away for a little bit, then back on and so forth for another 20-30 seconds. A firm tuck-in with a suitable blanket, and, fingers crossed, away they go to dreamland.
So, although what I did above, sounds a lot like “doing” something, it really is about being something or someone to that baby. Someone who will help with their woes, who will help them to feel better, and be someone they can depend on. For me, I leave that baby, and the family increases their role in being that person, but for a few moments, I get the privilege of being that person. It’s such an honour and I love it.
(The example above will only work if your baby is satiated- a baby will keep waking up after short periods of time if they are still hungry. Similarly a baby who struggles to digest their milk will also wake after short bursts of sleeping – try raising the head of the bed to a 25% angle, and make sure your baby is at the foot of the bed when sleeping)