Nurturing Your New Baby (and Yourself!): 8 Simple Steps
I am eight months pregnant and I don't have experience with new babies. I have three months of maternity leave and I want to take this time to get to know and enjoy my new baby. I'm just not sure what to do. What are some ways I can nurture this new little soul?Question:
You have already started nurturing your baby. It sounds like you are using your pregnancy to begin your bonding with your baby and to start imagining and planning for what life will be like when baby gets here.
Ellen Galinsky in her book, The Six Stages of Parenthood, writes about the time before baby comes as an important stage of parenting. It is a time for dreaming, envisioning and planning.
Pregnancy (and the adoption process) can be a wonderful time for preparation. During pregnancy we usually discover that we can't control everything that we previously could. We can't predict when, or if, we will get pregnant. We don't know what to expect of labor, when it will happen or what our baby will be like. If you can learn to ride these changes with grace and flexibility, you are well on our way to being prepared to nurture your new baby.
Here are some tips for both now, and when your baby arrives:
1. Take care of yourself. You are entering a time when your focus will shift from keeping yourself together to keeping another human being together. You will be amazed at how much time and focus it takes just to get through the day with an infant. Some days you feel lucky to get your hair brushed. It is important during this time to plan in little breaks for yourself. Maybe a friend or relative could stay with the baby while you take a 15-minute walk or a 20-minute bath or an hour date. Every parent has different timetables for when, how long, and how often self-care should happen. Setting up something short and simple to begin with is a way to start.
2. Slow down. If you haven’t spent a lot of time around babies, it takes a little while to get used to “baby time.” In order to match your dance with that of your baby, it takes time and practice. If you simplify what you try to get done in the day and try to slow your pace down so that you can read your baby’s clues, you will discover a whole new world from your baby’s perspective.
3. Focus on what is really important. Often, as new parents, we can get swept up in having the right equipment, reading all the right books, going to all the right classes, buying all the right toys, having a perfectly clean house. The addition of a new baby to your family is a time to relish the magic of life, the joy and newness of getting to know your baby, as well as yourself as a parent for the first time. Magda Gerber, an infant expert and founder of “Resources for Infant Educators” says that babies don’t even need any toys for the first three months of life, because they are so full and busy learning about the world, their families, themselves and their bodies.
4. Seek information and support. There are lots and lots of classes, books, Websites, videos and other information available to parents. Don’t try to see it all, but if you find a helpful book, article or Website, it can be a wonderful resource. Feel free to hunt around until you find information that feels “right” to you. There are dozens of opposing viewpoints out there. You don’t have to adopt a “parenting strategy” or philosophy that you aren’t comfortable with. If you don’t know where to start looking, you can ask a parent you admire for a recommendation.
5. Plan for uncertainty. No matter how observant, slow, attentive, prepared, and well-read you are, there will be many times as a parent that you feel you don’t have a clue about what is going on with your baby. This is normal. Periods of confusion and uncertainty often signal the beginning of new growth or understanding. This is as true for parents as it is for babies. During these periods you can tell yourself, “Wow, this is confusing. It’s going to be a relief when we finally figure this one out.” rather than, “I’m totally confused. I’ll never understand this baby.”
6. Get to know other expectant/new parents. Sometimes, new parents find that their old friends (especially those who don’t have children) can’t relate to their experience as new parents. It can be supportive and helpful to get together with other new parents who share so many of your interests now. Hearing other parents’ stories, observations, struggles, discoveries and resources can provide the most important support to new parents.
7. Respond to your baby’s cries. You can’t “spoil” a baby by responding to her cries. This doesn’t mean that you always have to pick her up when she cries, but if you go to her and calmly pay attention to her, you may be able to figure out what it is that will help her feel better. If you try all of your ideas and she is still crying, you can provide a safe, supportive place for her to have her feelings. You can hold her or lay down next to her, make eye contact and let her know that you hear her and will stay with her until she feels better. Keeping yourself calm and centered will help her feel less overwhelmed by her feelings and her crying. If we get anxious or panicked and feel unsuccessful because we can’t “stop the crying,” we may inadvertently give her the message that there is something wrong with her or her feelings. Most significantly in the first year, babies are learning that the world is a safe, responsive place where they can get their needs met and where they have the ability to influence people and events around them.
8. Trust yourself and your baby. You and your baby are perfectly equipped to figure out this parent/child thing. Both of you are invested, ready, perceptive, and resourceful. If you can relax and trust the process, you and baby will be much more able to access all the wonderful resources each of you bring to the relationship.Answer: