15 Mar Listening to Your Gut
The first few days of life as a new mother, is often a heady mix of adrenaline, awe, disbelief, amazement, tears, pain and vulnerability. By the end of the first week your milk most likely will have ‘come in’ and the exhaustion and hormones could well have hit nuclear.
Now picture this – your baby starts rooting with his mouth, smacking his lips together and could start to cry. His last feed was just 1 hour ago.*
Things could go one of two ways. You either feed him or you don’t. Do you listen to your gut instinct and go with it, or do you try and hold off? Do you leave him to try and supposedly learn to ‘self-settle’?
According to some baby ‘experts’ he couldn’t possibly be hungry already and is merely starting to learn how he can get his own way. If we don’t start letting them know who is boss, we’ll be heading straight off down the slippery slope of breeding demanding and clingy children, whilst trailing around after them, exhausted and beaten.
Yes? No. In fact this really couldn’t be further from the truth. Aside from the myriad of feeding issues which can be avoided by feeding a baby on cue, this opinion completely goes against everything that we know about a baby’s development and a mother’s instinctive need to respond to them.
So, myth buster No. 1…..Babies are not manipulative
They absolutely 100% categorically are not. Although even newborn babies are remarkable in what they can do and learn, they simply do not have the cognitive ability to think for themselves, consciously understand and interpret a situation, or react in a pre-meditated way.
They will never be thinking “I fancy a cuddle ….mmmmm, now what shall I do to get their attention? Ah yes, I’m going to bawl the house down”, or, “I’m a bit hungry. Now what works….ah ha, I know. Hear this suckers….Whaaaaaaaaah”.
These young babies are merely responding to their INSTINCTIVE needs for survival:
- to be fed
- to be warm
- to feel safe and loved
Myth buster No. 2…..Babies don’t need a schedule
A baby thrives on having their needs met, as and when they arise. It means holding them when they need comfort, feeding them when they are hungry and helping them sleep when they are tired.
Parents and babies alike, have a much happier time in the early months, by listening to their instincts or intuition.
Babies cry less. Mothers cry less. Fathers can breathe a sigh of relief!
The stress we feel is so often down to ‘fighting against instinct’. Love them or loathe them, mothers have hormones for a reason! That pull a mother can feel to be near her baby, is nature’s way of ensuring their survival. If it feels right to hold, soothe and feed your baby at a certain moment, this is because it is right. However, if this instinctive need to respond to a baby happens to fall at times when a prescribed schedule is suggesting otherwise, then stress can often ensue.
Introducing gentle patterns, such as a bedtime routine (eg feed, wash, music/massage, bedclothes, feed, lights low), is not the same as parenting to a schedule. Bedtime routines are great but just don’t expect your baby to immediately fall asleep for a long chunk of time (or at all) when you’re done in the early weeks and remember to be flexible day-to-day about the timing!
Myth buster No. 3…….Responding to your baby will not breed a spoilt brat!
Babies who are nurtured in this way are NOT going to become needy and demanding as a result. In fact, responding to your baby’s instinctive needs helps them to develop in a way which fosters resilience and confidence, so that they go out into the world with a greater sense of trust, independence, self-esteem and even intelligence.
It sounds tiring and yes, there’s no getting away from it. Being a new parent is tiring. The mantra of “this too shall pass” is true – this isn’t permanent. Life will settle down and as the first few weeks and months pass, some predictability and flow to the day will naturally emerge and can be gently encouraged. Mamas: remember to share the load and take some time out! Even when a mother is exclusively breastfeeding there are many, many things that a partner or anyone else can do, to help her feel more rested and bond with the baby themselves.
*newborn babies do feed frequently. Their stomachs are tiny and the milk is easily digested. However, continuous very frequent feeding, in the presence of other signs, may indicate ineffective feeding and is worthy of a breastfeeding assessment. If you are concerned, always seek professional advice. I am available for online, phone & local consultations. Please see my website for further details.
MN, MSc, IBCLC, RHV, RNC, CIMI
Lactation & Early Parenting Consultancy