Parenting and the Anxious, Stressed mother
So you have a new baby – What a huge responsibility!
What a wonderful Joy.
How marvellous that you have created this little being as a gift and a miracle.
This child’s future is in your hands. Scary! Stressful! Frightening!
It does not have to feel that way.
In this Parenting Anxiety and Stress series, we look firstly at the needs of the precious little baby.
Nine times out of ten, your baby will be easy, sleep well, feed well and be healthy.
Even these healthy babies can at times not feel that good for a few reasons we will discuss, so they may niggle.
Babies are generally happy and content if they are fed – ie they are not hungry. As a first time mother I breast fed easily and fed my first child for 14 months. When my second child was born, I expected the same experience. I fed him as I did the first one, but he just kept crying and was difficult to settle. I began to think there had to be something wrong with him. It could not be me – after all I had successfully fed the first one.
Fortunately for me, and my son, a nurse friend came over and she saw what the problem was – he was hungry. I was not producing enough milk – there was a stressful situation at home , my job was demanding and nothing was as easy or simple as when my first child was born.
She indicated that I needed to supplement the breast feeding. I was arrogantly not interested – I was a firm believer in breast feeding.
She wisely asked me if I was open to a test. If she bought a bottle and formulae milk – would I give him one bottle to see if it settled him.
Well my poor starving baby gobbled that bottle down in seconds. Had a few burbs and fell asleep as he had not slept for weeks.
So a few theories went out of the window that day. I was not able to breast feed this baby. I was not a failure. Circumstance made this baby different.
It is not about my needs. It is about what makes the baby happy, satisfied and comfortable. (and indirectly, then my needs can be met!!) We have to get out of our own way and think about their needs.
What are their needs?
- To have enough food to make them feel full enough to stop hunger pangs.
- To ensure the food is digested, and not leading to tummy cramps and colic.
- To be warm in cold weather and cool in hot weather – so be appropriately dressed. My first child was a winter baby and I overdressed him so much because I felt the cold – to this day my friends laugh at the photos of him swaddled in many many layers of warm clothing and blankets. He now hardly wears many clothes!! Think I overdid that one.
- To be touched gently and feel love through the skin, tone of voice and sensory feelings.
- To be comfortable. Have dry nappies to be dressed and wrapped up comfortably to enable them to sleep.
Lets talk about the issue of crying. Do you let your baby cry itself to sleep if it is niggling?
The message your baby gets from you right from birth is the difference in their attitude to the world. If their needs are met, they perceive that the world is a safe place and they don’t have to cry and scream to get their needs met.
If any of the above needs are not met, the child will learn very early that it needs to scream and cry to get heard and get its needs met.
This behaviour can be seen in supermarkets when kids scream when they want something. They have been conditioned that this is the way to get their needs met. This is harder to unlearn than ensure it is not a behaviour that becomes a habit.
It is really that simple. If a baby niggles – check, hunger, nappy, wind, clothing comfort and most times – they will sleep.
SO NOW TO THE MOTHER.
If it is the first child – there is possibly fear about getting it right. Getting it right is simply checking the 4 points.
If it is not the first child, it makes it more complex as there are other childrens needs to consider.
If however the mother is anxious, stressed and unsure, the baby will pick it up and as part of their sensory radar – will perceive something is wrong and elicit behaviours – like crying, screaming and not settling to sleep because they feel insecure.
They have magical radar. They don’t miss a thing even though they are a few days old.
So how on earth does a working mother, with other children and loads of other responsibilities create this needed calm façade.
There is no magic solution but there is a way to minimise the transmitted feelings to the baby.
New mothers often neglect themselves at the expense of the new baby
YOU NEED TO TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF.
By ensuring that your basic needs are being met. You get enough sleep – go to sleep when the baby sleeps . You eat well, you get help to take a bit of time out to exercise. You ensure your nutritional supplementation is adequate for this stage of your life.
Ensure you have a few minutes each day to spend on you. Reading a book, a manicure, a massage, meditation or time with a friend. If these things cost money – so be it, this is a fantastic investment that can eliminate problems in the future.
So be kind to yourself. In doing so you will be kind to your baby, who in turn will be kind to you and the world.
It sounds simplistic. It is.
We overcomplicate things.
Read next articles to ensure your parenting can be as Anxiety Free as possible.