"She's acting like I just dipped her in acid. Is that normal?"
I had just shown up for the night's postpartum visit, and bath time had just ended. The baby was not calm, relaxed, and ready for bed like the book said she would be.
"Is this how this is supposed to go?
"The book is telling us to set up a routine. Do we have to go through this every night?"
Mom and dad are trying to do the right thing. It is evident in every move and every choice they are making.
The baby gets dried off. A diaper is put on. A bottle is given. Baby is bright red from the night's activities. Massive tears, high shoulders, and tight fists.
Dad looks down at her and looks horribly worried. "She already hates me."
This is part of the trials of being a parent. Making choices, seeing how they go and adjusting. There are no manuals for how to care for your child. Sure there ARE manuals, but no guarantee it's for your model of baby if you get what I mean.
DOC doulas can show you how to swaddle your baby, and we can talk about more comfortable ways to bathe and dress your child. And of course, we can help you understand how to help calm a fussy baby.
There are predictable developmental stages most children experience, and having an understanding of what your child is learning, can understand, and is experiencing can help make better-informed decisions.
But it can still be hard even if you know what is happening. Some days you are banging your head against all those parenting books. Some days it's almost impossible to remember that you are the adult and you are supposed to have the answers.
What I've learned as a parent of two and doula, is that making choices, trying to meet your children where they are at, and trying again when things don't go to plan are what matter.
Being a safe place for your child to rest and show love is essential, being deliberate and consistent are crucial as well.
Regardless of age, kids need quality time together with you.
When your child is an infant, quality time looks different than when they are older, but this early foundation is so important. The bond you form with your child in the first three years is what creates the connections that are tested - wait for it - when your child is a teenager.
You've heard parents complain, "My baby wants to be held all the time!" or "She is asleep, and as soon as I put her down she starts screaming."
Building trust, letting your baby know that you will be there to provide and care for their every need, even if it is just to be held, is the beginning of a trusting relationship.
So no, your baby doesn't hate you.
It's that she has no idea what is going on. She has no way to control her emotions. And she is easily overwhelmed.
One possible thing is your child can form trusting relationships with multiple caregivers. There will be no way to replace you, but there are people that can help make it a bit easier.
For breaks, affirmation, tools for transition, and sleep let us help. We may not have the specific manual for your baby, but we have the tools to help you get started with writing your own.
Sleep. We all need it, and babies need a lot of it! So...why do they seem to fight it so hard?
Passing out from exhaustion is not a sustainable way to ensure your body has the rest it needs, and that is why helping our children learn how to sleep is an important part of their first year of life.
For babies younger than 4 months, it is not recommended to introduce sleep teaching, or sleep training. But don't fret - there are still ways to help your littles. Here are some not-so-secret secrets to helping your baby while they are in their first months of life!
Routine VS. Schedule
For parents who are weary and trying to understand how they can help their infants with sleep, one way to give them comfort and increased secure attachment to his or her caregiver is to have a routine. A routine is not a schedule.
A routine is a predictable plan that your child can become accustomed to. It helps them understand what is going on around them, it can introduce them to words that are associated with specific activities, and it can prepare them for what is coming next.
For instance, infants older than a month, and younger than 4 who are at a healthy weight can usually begin a generalized routine of sleeping, eating, and "playing." Playing can also be awake time where your child is exploring their surroundings.
This gental routine does not need to have specific times associates with it to be effective. A routine is not a schedule.
When sleeping, try to place your child to sleep in the same location and beging a sleep routine. You can tell them it's time to take a nap, then draw the drapes together, turn on a sound machine, change their diaper, swaddle them for comfort, and lay them down.
When it's time to eat, you can feed them in the same chair or location of the house.
When it's time to be awake, it is not in the area where they sleep to help signify the difference.
It may seem silly, but your baby will pick up on these cues!
Watch for Signs of Sleepiness - And Make Naps a Priority
Babies need a lot of sleep! And they will let you know when things are beginning to be overwhelming if you watch and learn to interpret the signs.
A tired baby may start to be irritated, may not be able to settle, or may make more obvious cues like yawning and rubbing their eyes. If these occur, begin your sleep routine!
Babies from 0-3 months old need a recommended 14-17 hours of rest a day, including naps! For young babies, it may feel like they are sleeping again right after they ate - which is not a typical - eating food can mean they are expending an incredible amount of energy!
In line with learning cues - being sensitive and aware of how easily a baby can become overtired is a way to help them learn to sleep without needing a bottle or nursing session to settle down.
Having several restful sessions of sleep during the day will help with more restful sleep at night.
It may seem counterintuitive - but sleep begets more sleep for young ones.
Having knowledge that your baby is satisfied nutritionally can give peace of mind to know they are not fussy because of hunger. If you are a nursing mother, it becomes important to make it clear when your baby is nursing for nutrition, and when they are nursing for comfort.
There are many ways to keep track of feedings both electronically and traditionally (with paper!)
Tools we love are Baby Connect - available for both iPhone and Android, and Everyday Mother*.
*Discount code for 10% off Everyday Mother order: "BAARIEL"
Try to Avoid Comparisons
While having feedback from other parents is helpful, and recommendations for what you should do can be a great guide, your baby may not respond well to what worked for another baby. Even if it was a sibling! The first months are not only for your baby to begin to understand the world around them, but also to learn and develop trust in you! You also are learning about this new individual. Guides are just that - guides. Just like one position may not be good to help burp your baby, it makes sense to try a new method, not believe your baby is broken.
Your baby may need help to figure out to sleep soundly, but you are there to offer comfort, preditability, and safety. You can do it!
Patience and Help
Learning your baby will require patience. To have it, you may need help to delegate other responsibilities, or to have a break yourself.
As the adults, we have the cognitive ability to reason, and choose how we want to respond in situations. We we are tired, it makes responding appropriately more difficult.
If you need sleep, you need help. Help to re-prioritize, help to complete tasks, or help to reduce the worry and possible shame associated with life a new expanded family.
Nannies, doulas, family support, and regular self care are ways "successful" parents have learned to acquire the help needed. The myth of the "do-it-all" parent simply won't go away. That parent is hanging on by a thread. We want to help you weave a healthy and stable safety net of support so both you and your child have what they need.
Written by Ariel Swift
Ariel Swift (she/her) does most of the writing around this blog, but we love having guest writers and visits!