Gentle Steps Foundation
ADJUSTING TO PARENTHOOD
Julia Mitchell-Hoffman, Behaviorist
Many changes happen when a baby becomes part of a person’s life. For most parents this is a joyous time and a time of celebration. For others it could be a time of confusion and conflict. Still others are facing some very difficult times ahead of them. Change is not easy and learning to place the needs of another before your own can be a hard learning experience.
Most of the changes that are required of the new parents are welcomed. Some may seem easy while others can be much more challenging. The fact here is that your life will change and some of these changes will not be anticipated.
Here are a few issues parents will probably face after your baby is born:
Total exhaustion: Many parents are aware that will be tired but the truth is many parents are not prepared for just how tired they become. Giving birth is hard work. Babies have their own schedules and they rarely sleep for more than a few hours. They have needs that have to be met for them to survive and they are normally not quiet when waiting for you to attend to them.
While partners of the one who gave birth may think they will have it easy they will be in for a surprise. Their schedules will be dictated by the “little bundle of wonder” as well. In addition they will be responsible for helping the mom as much as possible.
It is critical that caregivers get the rest they need and should be on the lookout for signs of fatigue in their partner and in their own self. Fatigue can show in our physical, mental and emotional states.
Here are some common things to look for:
• Chronic tiredness or sleepiness
• Sore or aching muscles or weak muscles
• Slow to respond
• Difficult time making decisions and/or concentration
• Changes in appetite
• Feeling unmotivated
• Closing off from social activities
The next area that I like to tackle is the well-meaning advice you will get from everyone on parenting. In some cases others may tell you what you are doing is wrong. Base your decisions on facts and what works for your baby. One example may be that when your baby is crying and you go to pick her up someone may say to you that
“You are going to spoil her. Just wait and see. All she will have to do is whine just a little and you will give in. Yep, mark my word; you are going to have one spoiled child on your hands for the rest of your life.”
Let us look at this a bit. Now the person can be your mother-in-law (sorry but it is always easy to pick on the in-laws). She grew up at a time when they really believed a baby could be spoiled. They also were told by others things that were not based on facts. They may seriously think they are correct that a baby can be spoiled by picking the baby up when the baby cries.
Now let us look at the facts.
Newborns cry because they have basic needs. Their needs at this age are the same as their wants. They include: feeding, holding, comforting, and loving. Your role as the parent is to see to these needs. As you do thus your baby is learning that they are safe and that they can trust you. They are also developing a secure sense of self.
These little ones cannot manipulate. First to try to control someone else is just way too complicated for a baby to accomplish. They simply want what they need at that moment handled. Your child will come to know that you will be there when they need you. Thus you are developing a beautiful bond with your baby.
Let us now look at an area that many would like to sweep under the rug, but it happens and that is having negative feelings about your baby. Overwhelmed with life demands from many different variables and a crying baby that you cannot seem to calm can leave anyone feeling many dissimilar and difficult emotions. Having these negative feelings and emotions is normal when life seems upside down.
It is important for others to NOT dismiss the feelings and emotions of a new mom. She may be feeling like her baby is the only baby in all the world that screams an cries as much as her little one. Parenting education and support groups may help a parent that is feeling like this. Knowing that they are not alone and that there are ways to handle this stress in a positive and effective manner can prove helpful. In addition, having a good support system of people that the new mom and dad can trust is essential in providing a nurturing and safe environment.
New parents may not know how to care for their babies. Parenting takes practice and the knowledge will come through experience. No parent is perfect and no one should ever expect that they will be the “perfect parent”. It will take time for your baby and you to get to know each other. As you sing, play, read to and see to your baby’s needs, you are your baby will bond.
During the first few weeks new moms can feel either overwhelmed or isolated. If there is no one there to help mom care for her newborn for long periods of time she may begin to unattached and alone. Many new moms feel this way – so do not feel guilty. There are many different changes that are happening and it is normal if you are feeling lonely. On the other hand some new moms have too much help from well-meaning family and friends and would like to have more quiet time with their baby. My advice is to with compassion and kindness let your family and friends know what you need from them.
For those who are caring for the new mom and dad: please ask what they need from you and be open-minded and compassion as you actively listen to their answer. This is vital for the new mom and dad.
Changes will continue to happen as your baby grows and you will be better equipped to handle change as it occurs. Take care of yourself so you can take care of your baby. Seek help when needed and know there are many people out here who are here for you. I am one.
Julia Mitchell-Hoffman, Behaviorist
Julia Mitchell-Hoffman, Behaviorist
One of the most essential things an infant needs is an environment that stimulates them. A child needs to be surrounded by many interesting things to do, see, hear, touch and taste. The positive interaction between parents and their baby during the first year of life motivates their child to develop physically, emotionally, socially and intellectually.
This interaction also provides the child with a sense of being important and allows for the parents and the child to grow closer together. Stimulation is a form of play and play is fun for the parents and their child. As an infant is stimulated they are inspired to use their bodies and senses.
As you change your baby’s diaper he becomes stimulated by your gentle touch. In response he may smile at you and this gives you to opportunity to interact by smiling back at him. It is also a great time to talk or sing to your baby. Your baby will respond when he hears your voice. You may find that your baby reaches out and if you reach your hand toward him he may decide to grab your finger, gripping it tightly and drawing your finger to his mouth. Taste is how babies explore many things. In this example we can see how your baby will be stimulated by touch, taste, sound, sight and by interacting with you.
Keeping in mind that stimulating interactions need to be enjoyable for both the parents and the baby, parents do need to watch for possible signs of over stimulating their child.
As you come to know your baby you will be able better identify the signs of your baby becoming over stimulated. Some basic signs can include:
• Changes in his color (from normal skin color to pale or bright red)
• Changes in breathing (from slow and regular to fast and choppy
• Changes in movement (from smooth movements to jerks and tremors)
• Suddenly looks away from her parent and stares into space
• Turns away from your face again and again
• Moves from alert and engaging to drowsy or sleepy
Loving a baby comes naturally for most parents and this loving provides your baby with what they need to thrive as they grow. Your relationship with your baby is essential to their development and to them gaining a sense of acceptance and trust.
Throughout the day you will have many different opportunities to bond with your baby as you talk, sing and play with your infant. These interactions will help to develop a way for you and your baby to communicate with each other. As you come to know your infant you will begin to distinguish between the different cries and sounds they are making and be better able to meet their needs.
As this bond or attachment matures you will also come to understand what your infant likes and does not like. Your baby may let you know that something interest them from the smile on their face; the sounds they make or the how their eyes capture the moment. At the same time your baby may not like something and let you know by the sounds they make or they may show signs of withdrawing.
This time of stimulating your baby should be a time of joy for you both.
As your baby interacts with you they will let you know when they just need time to their little selves. Sometimes even infants like to entertain their selves. Babies will let the parent know when enough is enough. If your baby wants to play allow them to direct the play time.
A simple game like peek-a-boo can be very fun for a baby and while you will begin the game by covering your eyes with your hands and saying something like: “Where’s Susie?” and then taking your hands away and gently touching your baby’s nose you might say “There’s Susie!” (Watch for how your child responds). If they smile or laugh you will know they will probably want more of this game. If they begin to fuss or cry, stop and do not frustrate your baby or yourself. Infants have a very short attention span.
Lastly remember as a parent it is important that even your infant as young as they are looks to you for approval. Hug, kiss, cheer, and clap for your child. This allows them to know they are loved and safe, which leads to them understanding that they can trust you.