Imagine being a baby. For nine months, you’re cocooned in a warm, dark and cosy environment, listening to the steady beat of your mother’s heart. You’re never hungry, you’re never too hot or too cold and you get bounced around a lot. It’s perfect.
And then you’re born. After the chaos of labour, you’ve emerged into a strange, frightening place where everything is huge, bright and loud. Worst of all you can’t smell or hear your mummy or her heartbeat anymore!
It’s really no wonder newborns are easily upset. That’s why it’s instinctive for a mother to pick up her child the moment it cries. As a mother, you somehow understand that the baby needs you to make sense of this scary new place.
So why are new mums constantly pressured to put their children down?
New mums all have at least one person in their lives assuring them that if they pick a baby up as soon as it cries, it will grow up spoilt and needy. If parents should respond to a baby too much, it will most certainly become manipulative.
And this advice is dispensed as soon as the baby is born! The “good” baby apparently, is one that lies down in the cot or bouncer, uttering no sound and making no movement.
Contrary to this popular myth, child development experts argue that it is impossible for parents to hold or respond to a baby too much.
Their needs have to be met
Infants need constant attention not because they are being manipulative, but because they have basic needs that need to be met – to eat, to sleep, held, comforted and loved. Crying is the only way she has to let parents know of her needs.
Meeting those needs helps to give them a solid foundation to grow emotionally, physically and intellectually. Babies that are held and responded to cry much less and expend less energy this way. They sleep more deeply when held against the body, as many parents who carry their babies in slings or carriers will know.
Babies who are held grow up to be happier, more intelligent, more secure, more independent, more loving and more social than babies who spend much of their infancy in infant seats, swings, cribs, and other plastic baby-holding gadgets that don’t provide babies with human contact.
They learn to trust the world, and other people because they know that help will come should they need it. These early feelings of love, security, and respect will become ingrained in a child’s mind and will be what they look for when ready to form adult relationships.
Research also shows that babies grow faster and learn about their world more readily when they are at the adult’s level. There’s more for the baby to see when he is with you while you go about your daily business than when lying flat in a crib or bouncer where the view is pretty static.
When you think about it, babies want to be held for such a short period in their life. As soon as they can walk, they’ll want to be off exploring the world on their own. So listen to your instincts, mummy and hold that adorable baby of yours for as long as you can!