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Nurturing, It's A Natural
April 2002 - You and Your Newborn

Having a baby can also stir up feelings inside us from our own childhoods. It's tricky to be a great parent if our own parents were not around or did not know how to nurture us.

The world looks different through a child's eyes
Babies don't say much, but they are thinking and observing and taking things in all the time. I think that if they could talk, these are a few of the things they would say: "Talk to me. I don't understand the words, but I can tell you love me by the sound of your voice." "Give me food when I am hungry and cuddle me when I cry. Don't worry, it won't spoil me."  "I'm not trying on purpose to make you tired or drive you nuts, I'm just a baby!" And most of all, "Play with me! I am learning new things every minute, and I love to play. Let's play that game where we look in each other's eyes, or you walk me around to show me the world, or you disappear for a second and then say peek-a-boo."

Giggle Time
Here is a riddle: What is the best toy for your newborn baby, doesn't cost anything at all, and is always available? Answer: You! Babies love faces, and staring at your face will probably be her first activity besides sleeping and eating and crying. Later, she will make faces that you can copy, then she will copy your funny faces. After a few months you can start playing peek-a-boo, one of the simplest and most fun games ever invented.

It's perfectly normal
Just about every new parent I have ever talked to is exhausted, and first-time parents have a million questions about how to take care of this new baby. It can be very hard for mothers and fathers to have any time or energy left over for their relationship. Don't worry. It's perfectly normal to be tired, to be worried, and to need help. Trust yourself, trust your baby, and trust that you'll eventually get some sleep!

What do YOU think?
What is it like so far with this new baby?
What's great about being a mom or dad? What's hard about it?
Do you get any time for a break, to take care of yourself?
Who is taking good care of you while you take good care of the baby?

Especially for Dads
Did you know it's never too early to talk to your child? They don't understand the words yet, but they love the sound of your voice, and it's a great way to have special snuggling time with the baby. Some Dads have a very hard time with crying babies. That sound is worse than a fire alarm, and it feels terrible to not know what to do to make it stop and make the baby happy. To make things worse, you might have been ignored or even punished when you cried back when you were a baby or young child. All a crying baby needs is a quick check to see if he is hungry or wet or uncomfortable. If you take care of those needs and he is still crying, he may just need to be held and soothed--talk to him quietly and tell him how much you love him. Crying actually helps a baby feel better, if they are being held and comforted while they cry.

"I don't know what to do!"
You cannot make a baby stop crying if he or she needs to cry, no matter what you do. Punishing, hitting, or yelling usually just makes babies cry louder and longer. It's hard to listen to a crying baby, but if they aren't hungry or wet or cold, they probably just need to be held close and loved. Keep on comforting the baby, and if you reach a point where you cannot take the crying anymore, make sure the child is safe in the crib or with another adult, while you take a needed breather.

Having a baby can also stir up feelings inside us from our own childhoods. It's tricky to be a great parent if our own parents were not around or did not know how to nurture us. There are lots of great books that can help, like Dr. Spock, or What to Expect the First Year. Or, one of the best ways to learn how to be a good parent is to find a friend or relative who you think is a good nurturer, and watch how they do it, and ask them for support.

I asked a friend of mine what she remembered about going home from the hospital with her first baby. She said, " I was madly in love with him, but I got nervous when he cried because I didn't have confidence in myself. Penelope Leach's book, "Your Baby and Child," saved me. She helped me understand that I should start by listening to his cues, to imagine what he must be feeling and to respond to that. We have been great ever since. He's now 20 and we have such a wonderful relationship. " The key to parenting is to see the world through your baby's eyes, and respond to whatever your newborn needs. And make sure that you get your own needs met too--you need rest and emotional support and help with all the diapers.

Larry Cohen
phone: 617-713-0568

email: larjack@playfulparenting.com

Larry Cohen
1680A Beacon Street | Brookline, MA 02445 | Tel/Fax: 617-713-0568

email: larjack@playfulparenting.com