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)

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Jayne has over 18 years experience in caring for children and has worked in both New Zealand and the UK. She has a vast range of expertise and can offer help and advice if you are struggling with your children. You can read more about Jayne on her website- Everything But The Stork. Jayne writes regular columns for Kiwi Families and will also answer your questions about babies and children

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Hi Jayne I really enjoyed what you had to say here and I have found the approach very helpful with my 9 week old who is resisting napping. I was womdering if you had some tips on getting him to nap longer? He will only ever nap 30-40 minutes at a time and I am swaddling (he is pretty strong so can sometimes break out of this a bit) and using a white noise app. At nIght he almost always sleeps for 3 hours in the first stretch and 60-120 minutes thereafter, waking for feeds and generaaly sleeping fairly quickly… Read more »

Jayne - The Baby Listener

Hi Sally, Thank you for your comments.  It is nice to hear that it has an impact and has been helpful to you.   I do find it a bit tricky to answer questions without wanting to ask a load more, but I will try with the information given here.  Firstly, it sounds like you’re doing some great things already.  One thing that may work for you is to loosen off the swaddle once he is nice and relaxed and going to stay asleep.  Then you can use that as a “tool” later in the sleep cycle.  I would recommend… Read more »


 Hi Jayne, thanks for spending so much time responding.  What you have said raises some more questions so I will try not be too demanding on further time but it is helpful to get your expert opinion on what is going on.  Firstly he is very healthy – almost 6.5kg at 10 weeks and was a healthy birth weight and 16 days overdue.  So there should be no physical need for him to be up so much. Secondly, we didn’t put him down to sleep for naps at all until he was 5 weeks and then very seldomly until he… Read more »

Jayne - The Baby Listener

Hi Sally, the very nature of consulting on babies is that the question always provokes more questioning, and without seeing the whole picture it is very difficult to say how best to move forward.  The way that I work is to try to get all the variables and provide tools or solutions based on what I hear/see.  I work with the subtleties, so can you see the difficulty I face here?  I would suggest that you only do what I recommend if you genuinely feel comfortable with it, not just because I said so.  I have let this sit a… Read more »


Hi Jayne, yes I see the difficulties you face in the subtleties, I’ve been thinking since I wrote all of that how it probably doesn’t help you at all :).  I appreciate your responses and will keep plodding along – and perhaps will be in touch via your website.  Many thanks again!  Sally

Rochelle Gribble

Hi Sally, 
We’ve had a couple of people review the Love to Swaddle Up recently and have been really impressed with it: http://www.kiwifamilies.co.nz/review-category/love-to-swaddle-up/ Maybe something like this might help? 




Thanks for the suggestion, Rochelle.  I have this swaddle but unfortunately it hasn’t made a difference in nap times.  It does have other benefits though, because he can’t break out of it 🙂

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