Why Your Baby Is Smarter Than You Think!
Get your baby into a routine! Teach them the difference between night and day! Stop picking them up every time they cry!
Crikey - you’ve just given birth and can barely remember your own name and now you have to teach your newborn a whole heap of stuff when, frankly, you haven’t even learnt how to read their cues yet … scary isn’t it?
Well, relax: your baby’s got this! Yes you heard me - you don’t need to be teaching your baby anything right now because they have it all sorted for you. They are way smarter than you are at being a baby and, if you pay attention to your baby, they will teach YOU how to be a great parent!
Your baby has evolved over millions of years to survive and thrive, and women in particular have evolved over that same time to respond instinctively and appropriately to their baby’s cues … if they listen and watch.
Wind back to the earliest days of humankind’s time on earth - that primitive woman was just as clueless and worried as you and babies had to be able to get through those early months whilst mum got her act together and figured out what to do. So basic reflexes and behaviours in the baby developed t o ensure they were never went hungry … or cold … or forgotten and left behind in the forest for the bears to get them.
The more women responded to those basic behaviours, the more likely their baby was to survive, and so these deep-seated behaviours are babies and the emotions and responses in women remain today. It is what we call ‘bonding and attachment’!
Let’s have a look at how your highly evolved baby behaves and how, when you just give in to your instinctive responses, everything will settle down.
Every time you pop your baby into their crib, within minutes they start to fidget and grumble. Then the fists start flying to their mouths and ‘rooting’ begins. Next the legs start cycling and it looks and sounds as if your baby is in pain. So, you pick them up and pop them to your boob and … after a short while your poppet will ease.
Once fed you pop them back in their crib for a sleep. But, in no time at all it all repeats. Again, and again, and again. Every time you pick them up they ease and every time you put them down, they start up again. And every cry sounds the same - how are you supposed to know if they need food, warmth, a clean nappy or just a cuddle?
In order to survive, babies need to feed, drink, sleep, pee and poo and stay warm and safe.
Happily, evolution has made all these things possible to achieve all at the same time without parents having to work out which need is which. The solution? Being in arms! And because, for the few months the cries and behaviours look and sound much the same, parents pick baby up and toggle through each of the basic needs - do they need a nappy? Maybe they’re cold. Could it be wind? Are they too tired? Hungry AGAIN? In this way, all the baby’s needs get met frequently and parents get lots of practice and get better and better and more and more confident.
It’s tempting to think that, if you give in to these behaviours, you’ll make trouble for yourself further down the line but that simply isn’t true. Babies who have more time in arms in these early months show up in later years as more confident, more sociable and more independent because they have had their early needs fully met. Try to fight evolution and you will lose. Go with it and everyone wins!
So how can you live with this little one who simply needs to spend so much time in arms? Rather than thinking about how you can make your baby adapt to you, think about how you can adapt to them.
A good sling will allow you to get on with your day and even breastfeed on the go - killing two birds with one stone! Being skin to skin soothes babies and also protects them against infection and SIDS, so try nuzzling them into your neck whilst out for a chat with friends over a coffee, and the car or pushchair ride home again will happily replace your rocking arms for now. You will quickly learn that your baby sleeps in short bursts rather than ‘proper’ naps and they have longer sleep bursts in the morning and very short ones in the evening. You don’t need to guess when they need a sleep burst or for how long - close to you, baby will take exactly what they need when they need it whilst you get on with your life.
White noise can take the place of your heartbeat when you simply can’t carry them, and bottom-patting a baby whilst you bounce on a yoga ball and watch TV will fill them and you up with calming endorphins.
And when you’re all out of ideas, nature has ensured that there is one place where all the basic needs can be met in one fell swoop - the boob! Tucked up your T-shirt, they stay skin to skin, warm, near food, the suckling eases gut pain and helps them pee and poo, and your heartbeat lulls them to sleep. No need to watch the clock and decide when your little one needs to feed because, just like with sleep, your baby knows what they’re doing and can self-regulate perfectly - even being able to turn the flow of milk on and off at the boob so they can choose to feed or just soothe without you having to do the guesswork! If your baby is doing at least six pees a day and at least two poos then you know they’re getting enough. So you can’t put the baby to the boob too often - it is the place where everything gets done all at once!
Overnight, clever evolution ensures that the high hormone levels that come with breastfeeding help mums cope better with broken nights (yes, breastfeeding mums get far more good quality sleep no matter how many times they are woken) and, by keeping a little skin to skin with your baby overnight by holding their hand or stroking them then their highly evolved brain will know they haven’t been left alone in the forest for the bears to get them!
For partners and for those mums who don’t breastfeed, using a dummy after feeds whilst keeping your baby in arms to nuzzle, pat and rock will help soothe your little one whilst that fabulous bonding takes place whilst you go about your day.
So you see, your baby really IS smarter than you and is highly evolved to be just perfect at being a baby. You really CAN’T cure a baby of being a baby. The time will come for you to do more thinking and to set routines but, for now, stop trying to wrestle your baby into a shape they simply can’t achieve, give yourself a break and just hang loose, learning as you go from your highly evolved and instinctive little expert.
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Next Live Stage Talks by Rachel FitzD
Having a new baby is joyful, exciting and scary in equal measures and, although we have read all the books, the reality is quite different. In this talk we will explore how our baby is highly evolved to safely make the transition from 'womb life' to 'room life'. We will look at how we can work with, rather than against their natural instincts and start to relax and enjoy parenting with more confidence. This talk will look at the subject from the point of view of how a baby behaves, and how mum can adapt to that in order to survive that phase.