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Serving the Greater Los Angeles area
Serving the Greater Los Angeles area

BEING WITH YOUR BABY

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Orit Wernor has a degree in Early Childhood Education, has worked with children for 15 years, been a career Nanny for 8, worked with many different parents, and cared for many babies. 

Parenting/caregiving is the hardest most important job in the world. A new baby comes into the world with their own blueprint, but how that individual blueprint is nurtured is based in the emotional space of the home. 

In my humble opinion, being with your baby/child’s emotional experience is what good-enough parenting entails. This boils down to working with yourself, thinking about how you work with your own feelings of stress, anger, helplessness. Understanding these feelings in yourself will help you understand and care for your baby. 

A baby is completely helpless. Good childbirth preparation classes will prepare you for this. For the first 6 months to a year, you are on the rhythm of your baby. If you have been told to get on a schedule, or if you are wondering when the earliest age is when babies can learn to sleep through the night, I want to respectfully urge you to let go of these concerns. One of the hardest parts about parenting/caregiving are the feelings of helplessness and loss of control. Adapting to your baby’s rhythms means that you will not be in control, your baby will. Work with your feelings about this. Acknowledge that you will need to let go of being in control. This does not mean that you will not feel overwhelmed, furious, frustrated, frantic, anxious, exhausted. You may feel these feelings and they are normal. Surround yourself with kind support. I think parents try and control things like feeding, sleep, baby’s rhythms to counter the helplessness they feel, because I will say again, for at least 6 months (generous) you should adapt to your baby’s rhythms. Instead of worrying about how much sleep or food he is or isn’t getting, just enjoy your baby. 

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Look at your baby. I mean, really look. Watch him or her, and be curious about him; be curious about his emotional world. He will show you when he is tired. He will show you when he is hungry and when he is all done eating. When he cries, he is communicating to you. Many people think babies are solely physical beings and part of this is true, but this does not imply that they don’t have feelings! Babies are also feeling beings (not thinking). They cry because they may have physical needs that need to be met, (hunger, gas, need to burp…), they may also want/need to be held; they may be overstimulated with a new outing, new people. Babies cry because they need to. Talk to your baby in full complete sentences, narrate what you do throughout the day and how you feel and how you think they feel “I hear you crying. You need to be held. I am here and I will hold you. I did not know my friend was going to stay that long and you may have felt mommy getting a little overwhelmed by her presence.” This may sound silly, but I would absolutely talk like this to a baby. They don’t understand words, but they understand the feel of how you talk, how you hold them, how you welcome all their feelings and are curious about how they feel and what they are experiencing. 

Eventually, there will be more of a consistency of routine, but I believe this will come out of the baby’s own natural rhythm. You may read books that will tell you to wake up the baby if sleeping xx hours (some pediatricians even say this), or at xx age baby should be on xx schedule. I personally do not believe in imposing our own schedules onto a baby. At the end of the day, trust your instincts. If you are being told something but your gut is telling you something else, go with your gut. You will be anxious and overwhelmed. Be honest with yourself about all these feelings. All parents are anxious. Babies and children are anxious because they are so small in a huge overwhelming world. It is our job to notice and care about their anxieties and about our own. Babies and children feel when they are truly seen and understood. 

Comparing to other babies and other families is not useful and it’s part of the reason why many of us are anxious. It is hard not to compare, but it can lead us to feel that we are not doing it ‘right,’ that others have it figured out but not us. Remind yourself there is no such thing as ‘perfection’ or doing it ‘right.’ When you are at a park with a new Mom friend and your baby is crying and you feel helpless, maybe embarrassed because your friend’s baby seems quietly content in the stroller, take a moment to look at your baby who is having feelings. “I see you crying, I hear you and I am with you.” If you are feeling/thinking “goddammit, why can’t you just be quiet like (other baby),” look at yourself and think about what is happening for you in that moment. A baby is helpless and is only communicating feelings. This does not mean it is not distressing to hear your baby cry. A growing baby cries because they are trying to get their feeling to you, and it is your job to welcome those feelings, not immediately distract or make them stop. If right now you are thinking, “yeah, but for a new baby, how is this so important,” trust me, when a baby becomes a toddler, school age child, a teenager, they will turn up the volume of their emotions. With thoughtful, sensitive parenting, starting in infancy, a child learns that their whole Self (all their feelings), are cared about emotionally, and this, I believe, is the most important foundation in caring for a baby. Watch your baby, and be curious. Give focused attention. The type of stroller or carseat, diapering technique, products, schedules – do not matter. Follow your baby and accept him, while soothing what is stirred up in yourself.

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