First published on www.facebook.com/breastfeedingtogether on 15/1/2019 as part of the Topic Tuesday series.
“Aw, how lovely a new baby, what’s their name, how heavy were they……..”
Wait for it, wait for it…..
“Are they good for you??”
Are they good?! What does that mean? What is a ‘good’ baby?
What people mean is does your baby sleep and do they not really impact upon your life very much, but why does that equate to being good?
A favourite answer was always ” they are very good, they haven’t robbed a bank today” which tended to leave those asking slightly confused as they couldn’t see why their innocent question was met with slight sarcasm.
We are so used to the idea of a ‘good baby’ being an actual thing that we don’t really think of the impact these words have, particularity on sleep deprived new parents.
If our baby ‘isn’t good’, if they don’t simply feed and sleep, are they somehow ‘bad’? And if I have a ‘bad baby’ am I somehow a bad mother/parent? What am I doing wrong? Is my baby broken? Have I broken them?
The thing is these babies are not broken, a ‘bad baby’ is actually perfectly biologically ‘normal’. Our babies are born into an alien world. For the last 9 months they’ve been held, they’ve heard a heartbeat, they’ve never felt hunger, never felt thirst, been at a constant temperature, it’s like the perfect 9 month all inclusive! Then they are born into a bright, noisy, dry environment where they have to work for food and are expected to settle alone without the reassuring touch they have become used to. It’s no wonder that the majority of babies won’t simply feed, settle and sleep, but instead make their needs known.
Babies don’t sleep for long stretches, and we don’t really want them too. That frequent waking is a protective factor against SUDI. They are supposed to wake frequently for food, and many babies will need to breastfeed (even just a couple of sucks!) to get back to sleep. Some babies are better sleepers than others and will sleep for longer, sooner; but it’s a rhythm they find themselves. We can’t teach babies to sleep- it’s simply a developmental milestone.
Babies feed very frequently at the breast in the early days because of their tiny tummies and the fact that more feeding means more milk production. We shouldn’t be expecting or wanting babies to go long periods without feeding. Frequent feeding actually helps babies to control their own appetites, keep their blood sugars stable and not overstretch their tummies.
New born babies generally don’t want to be put down. They are not trying to be ‘bad’ or manipulate you, they just don’t feel safe, after all you have been their home for 9 months, in your arms they hear your heartbeat and feel safe and secure.
Babies cry. It’s how they communicate their needs for love, comfort, reassurance and food. They have no other way to do it. But by always responding to these needs, you create and reinforce a secure attachment between you both, so in time they do become more settled and confident that you are only a cry away should they need you.
It’s not always easy to meet these needs and it can be overwhelming, so always seek support, but remember, your baby isn’t broken, they are just adjusting to life on the outside.