25 June, 2009


Parenting Babies

stork sign

Forget the eagle…the stork has landed!
The blessed day has arrived. Peaceful evenings and sleep are a dim memory. Possibly the most glorious and the most terrifying time of your life. Here are some useful tips.

The arrival of a baby, whether it's your first or twenty-first, will take a certain amount of adjustment. Just as your body is trying to recover from the most stressful event nature can throw at you, you find yourself being subjected to sleep deprivation and exhaustion. For most new mums this is a time when you appreciate the support and advice of your own mother, and the assistance and loving care of your partner.

If your partner or husband is a Service person, however, it is likely that your mother is hundreds of miles away, and quite possibly your partner is on, or about to fly out to, a British warship or join a unit in foreign parts.

People who say they sleep like babies obviously don't have them! Research shows that new mothers are highly likely to suffer from sleep deprivation due to the demands of their baby. This is unsurprising considering babies wake throughout the night and place considerable practical and emotional demands on their mums. This doesn't mean that having a baby is all doom and depression. There are practical methods to reduce the stress you experience and to develop a positive nurturing relationship with your baby.

Develop Support Networks
This may be having someone to take your other children to school, or having a neighbour available to chat to or a friend who will sit with baby whilst you take a nap. In the early days, your body will be readjusting to the recent birth and you will be tired for a lot of the time. Having a friend look over the baby whilst you nap may give you the confidence to have a break. Remember, if you don't look after yourself, you will be less able to look after the baby.

crying baby

Communicating through Crying
Babies cannot talk, and very few of us are psychic, therefore the only way babies can tell you they need something is to cry. Your baby may be hungry, thirsty, have a dirty nappy, be tired, or just need a cuddle. If your baby is still crying and you've checked all these basic needs, try the following:

  • Cuddling - picking your baby up and giving him or her lots of cuddles is NOT spoiling them, it's showing them love and in this big wide world this may be what they need.
  • Gently rocking the baby in a cradle or pram - this smooth rhythmic motion can help settle the baby.
  • Singing - this is not karaoke and no one will complain if you are out of tune, but your baby will find your voice reassuring if you sing softly.
  • Walking up and down with the baby in your arms (or in a sling) - closeness to you combined with rhythmic motion can help settle baby.
  • Playing music - background noise, as long as it's not too loud, can also serve to reassure baby that things are fine.

Coping with Crying?
There may well be a time when you try everything and baby still screams. This can be a highly stressful time for you, especially if you are alone. If you feel that things are too much to bear...

  • Take a deep breath and let it out slowly.
  • Put the baby down in a safe place - a cot or pram is good.
  • Go into another room and sit down for a few minutes. Have a cup of tea and try to relax.
  • When you feel calmer, go back into the room with your baby.
  • It's likely that your baby will sense that you are calmer and therefore feel calmer itself. Remember when you are stressed you tense up. The baby can sense this and may find the tension unsettling; therefore by taking a break you are actively trying to settle the baby - not running away. This doesn't, however, mean it's all right to leave your baby home alone or unsupervised for long periods of time.

Ask a friend to visit. They may be able to take over for a while, or at least be with you. You are far less likely to lose your temper if you are not alone.

mom and baby sleeping

Having those "Special Moments"
Your baby is more than just a screaming machine - it's a person - a person you created. This little human will want to communicate with you. Holding him or her close as often as possible, skin to skin where practical, will help develop strong bonds between you both. Here are some little 'games' that will help you both interact.

  • Slowly, deliberately stick your tongue out and see if your baby copies. Don't panic if he or she doesn't do this straight away.
  • Stroke your baby's cheek gently. His or her head will turn, as if to find the nipple. This is called rooting.
  • Hold you baby up, supporting him or her under the arms, and your baby will 'walk'. This reflex will stop after a few weeks.
  • See how you newborn grips onto your finger, when placed in his or her hand.

Handle With Care
Babies have their likes and dislikes. These often vary as they are after all little people. However there are some things most babies like and dislike, and some food for thought:

How babies like to be held -

Up Close - Cuddles up close, snuggling and close physical contact are reassuring and comforting for babies. It provides them with reassurance and a sense of safety. Close contact also helps develop strong bonds between you and your baby.

In your arms, looking over your shoulder (with head supported) - an ideal position if your baby has wind, this position offers supportive close contact, enabling you to rest your cheek against your baby's head. Also allows your baby to look over your shoulder and have a good look around.

In a sling - slings holding your baby close to your chest, whilst freeing your hands can be very useful. They support the baby's head and keep them close to you, allowing you to talk to your baby, feeling them close, whilst being able to walk around and have your hands free.

There are numerous other ways in which you can hold your baby. They also enjoy gentle massage and stroking, which can be soothing should they be distressed. The main thing to remember is to hold them close to you and have their heads and necks supported.

playing with baby

What they don't like -

Being held at arms length - babies like to be held close. This gives them a feeling of security. Holding them at arms length has the opposite effect. It is also unlikely that you would be able to safely hold a baby at arms length for any length of time without the risk of dropping.

Being picked up suddenly - they may be crying and you may be anxious to comfort your baby, but don't be in too much of a rush. Grabbing your baby, or picking her up suddenly may frighten her, or even injure her if you fail to support your baby's head and neck properly.

Very rough play - toddlers and school age children often like a little rough and tumble, but your baby is unlikely to do so. Remember you baby is at a vulnerable age, and needs to be treated gently.

Rough handling - being grabbed, held too hard and gripped hurts, especially if you are only 2 months old and the person hurting you is mummy or daddy. Having a dummy pushed into your mouth can be equally painful and frightening. If you are feeling frustrated, stressed or angry, count to ten, calm down and begin again (see Coping with Crying).

Being held without support for their neck or head - comparatively speaking, your baby's head is very heavy compared to the rest of its body. This, as well as under-developed neck muscles, leave babies vulnerable to head and neck injuries. Your baby is precious - support it -protect it.

Shaking - the big No No. Shaking your baby can cause severe, permanent injuries and possibly death. Even if your baby appears to be ill, or you think he or she may have stopped breathing, do not shake. Shaking your baby will NOT help. Shaking your baby will probably cause further injuries, and could kill him or her.


If there is an accident
If your baby is hurt, if you drop him, or lose control and shake him, get medical help straight away. You may be afraid of what people say or think, but delay can be fatal.


Who can help?
Discuss any problems with your GP or Health Visitor. In an emergency call 999. Additionally, NPFS or RM Welfare can offer support to families experiencing difficulties.

Phone Icon Phone: 0870 444 8707 - Practical Breastfeeding Support

Phone Icon Phone: 0808 800 5000 - NSPCC (24 hr)

Phone Icon Phone: 0207 404 5011 - Cry-sis Helpline (Open 8 am - 11pm)

info More Information: Dealing with Parental Stress

info More Information: NPFS / RM Welfare

info More Information: RNcom Help Desk

website Web site: Home-Start

website Web site: Parentline Plus

website Web site: National Family & Parenting Institute

website Web site: NSPCC

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