Which Finish Line Are You Talking About?
“Start how you intend to finish” is something I’ve read and heard even more. Or the similar “don’t create a rod for your own back” line dished out to every new mother. Why are these so damaging? Because they make absolutely no sense!
When exactly are you talking about finishing? Am I meant to be parenting this newborn like I envisage parenting my 18 year old? Should this little baby be expected to make their own lunch, have a job and do their own laundry?
No, that would be ridiculous. Then why do you expect me to parent a newborn like something other than a newborn? We are we told that if we cuddle to sleep now they’ll always want to be cuddled to sleep.
That statement implies that children never want independence. Which, I’m sorry, if you’re a parent of a toddler you already know that is absolute bollocks! They want to do everything themselves. From putting on their clothes, to drinking from an open cup to asserting every request with a resounding “no!”.
Feel free to picture my almost 2 year old daughter trying to put her leggings over her head, after I took off her shirt because she spilt water all down her front from a cup while defiantly shouting “NO” at me when I ask if I can help.
She’s fiercely independent at times. And then she gets frustrated, hurt or lonely and comes back to her mummy for a cuddle, maybe a bit of “booey” and some reassurance I’m still here for her.
Give them the Fourth
I am a big advocate for providing a Fourth Trimester both to a new baby and a new mother. The fourth trimester is a concept about making those first 3 months of life after baby is born as close to pregnancy as possible. Providing a gentle transition from womb to world by providing “womb service”.
Think about it, when your baby was inside the womb they were never cold, always cuddled and rocked, never hungry as they had a constant supply of food from the umbilical cord or drinking amniotic fluid, they always heard your heartbeat, digestive sounds and, during the day, your voice. Light and sound was always muffled and muted through the skin of your tummy and clothing.
Then birth happened. Welcome Earthside little soul. Bright lights, cool breezes, new smells, sounds and sensations. Don’t treat this baby as anything except the underdeveloped, defenceless little squish that it is.
Big Brains, Immature Babies
Humans have very large brains. With those brains come very large heads. In order for our babies to fit through our pelvis and be born safely, we birth our babies after 37-42 weeks of gestation. When you look at any other mammal species, our babies are born incredibly immature. Fouls and calves are able to get up and walk hours after birth. Dolphins start swimming seconds after birth. Our babies are pretty much completely useless. They can’t do anything for themselves.
Telling a new mother to treat this baby like an older child and force them into independence with strict feeding or sleeping rules isn’t fair on that mum or baby. We are hard wired to nurture our babies. I felt physically ill when my baby cried. Every fibre of my being wanted to race over and pick her up and soothe her. Thanks raging hormones, you made me protect my baby in a very primal way. So yeah, I went and I picked her up every…single…time.
Babies brains grow and develop best when they have skin-to-skin contact, eye contact and interacted with. You want to raise an intelligent child? Cuddle the heck out of them! Read them books, put down the phone and stare in their deep blue eyes. Massage them, get in the bath with them, take off your shirt and snuggle under a blanket with them. You’ll create a powerful bond and their little brains will be exploding!
Be As Consistent As You Like, They’ll Still Change
Children go through the most phenomenal growth and brain changes in their first few years of life. If you’ve had a baby you will remember being absolutely blown away with what they couldn’t do yesterday and all of a sudden what they’re doing today! They leap. They spurt. Nothing is linear, nothing is consistent. Raising a child is like a crazy tango neither of you know the steps to. It’s two steps forward, three back, one to the side and then jump!
You think you’re on to a winner doing something until one day they turn around and respond in a totally different way.
What do you mean this isn’t your favourite book anymore? We’ve read this book 6 times every night for the last 2 weeks. I thought you liked playing with blocks? No? You’d rather wrap your dolls in blankets and eat dog food?
It’s almost impossible to keep up.
Let’s not even touch on sleep routines or dinner time. You think you have this worked out. You bath them after they run around in circles after dinner, you massage with some lavender oil, read that same book 6 times in a row before you put on pyjamas and then breastfeed. She’s sleeping 6 hours straight!!! Nailed it!! We’ve finally worked out what works!
Get the champagne, start that movie (because I’ll definitely get to watch the end of it this time). BAM…tears over the baby monitor. What?! She’s only been asleep for 45min. Hmm….maybe she just needs a bit of an extra cuddle, a boobie top up. Surely she’ll sleep now just like she has done for the last 2 weeks straight. Nope. She woke up 8 more times that night.
You can be as consistent as you want and these little humans will keep on changing.
So what’s my point?
Forget the finish line. Parent for the moment. Don’t worry about this supposed problem you’ll have in the future. That’s future you’s problem…or it won’t even happen. Who knows?! Cross the bridge when you need to. Our babies and toddlers are constantly changing, growing and developing. They need our support not exclusion.
Pick them up. Cuddle them until they push you away. Boob until their eyeballs are floating…I think my bubba would keep on boobin’ even then! It’s hard, it’s intense. But you know what? When you surrender to their needs and just go with the flow, it is easier than swimming upstream, fighting their primal desire to be close to you.
I think the finish line will come all to quickly anyway.