Your baby expects what? – You must be joking!

(This article is also available in an audio format)

By Hettie Grove – Advanced midwife, SA certified perinatal educator, SA certified lactation consultant

Everything in life comes with an instruction manual or almost everything.Yes babies unfortunately don’t have a manual, nor do they have an on or off button. Moms expect to parent the way they were parented – yet there are so many different parenting styles. But what does a baby know about parenting styles and what is the babies expectations. Is it instinctive or is it learned? All babies have instincts and reflexes whether they are from China, Kenya or South Africa, and these instincts and reflexes are the same as they were thousands of years ago. Babies are born but they are not helpless. They are eager and skilled for the world that they enter and are born into. A soon as we start changing the world for them we create problems and make it difficult for them. Obviously we don’t live in caves anymore but it would help if you knew what your baby expects about how the start of life should be.

Entering Birth

Babies don’t expect to deal with drugs! All drugs / medications do affect them no matter what your birth option is. Some of these drugs can have effects for a few days after birth. Parents don’t expect this and that’s one of the reasons one should actually educate yourself before the birth. Even parents don’t always expect drugs in labour as it is a natural process. If babies are born surgically (by caesarean) that’s also okay because our goal is a safe mommy and a safe baby. Remember then that those babies didn’t go through their normal rite of passage and might need a little helping hand to aid them with some of those deep hugs they missed out on as they passed through the constricted area of the vagina during birth.

Wow world I am born.

Your baby expects to stay with you, not to be whisked away to another pair of gloved hands and a hard surface. After spending some time in his natural habitat which is his mothers own chest, getting used to all the different smells and sounds and the greatest work of breathing, he will start thinking about his very first meal. He responds to the nine instinctive stages and actually crawls his way to the breast. Remember the areola (the pigmented area around the nipple), which has darkened during pregnancy, is going to excite his visionary skills in order to get to the bulls eye. The tubercles of Montgomery – those little bumps on your areola secrete a scent that will initiate his smell senses to start his very first crawl of life. This crawl will help him to latch on and start to have his very first meal all by himself.

If he was taken away and bathed, weighed and measured, or if he was exposed to drugs, all these instinctive activities might be influenced and your own motherly instincts might be changed. Breastfeeding will work in all kinds of environments and after all kinds of birth, but this is the easiest part and it will most certainly enhance your mothering skills.

My little tummy is full what now…

Babies little tummies have a capacity of about 5 ml in the first days therefore he needs food frequently. But after this first feed he will take a deep rewarding sleep especially if he is with his mother cradled by her, close to her. This is where your baby wants to be. He expects to be with you. He was with you, heard your breathing and tummy noises, felt your warmth continuously for the last nine months, therefore his breathing, heartbeat and blood sugar will be better if he stays in touch with you.

Hospital staff might want him to drink more, wake up more, so you might fight nature a bit to encourage more frequent feedings at first. But very soon he will wake up easier, eating when he needs it like other mammals.

Is this our home Mommy?

Baby still expects to be very close to you, you are his security and his warmth. He knows you and remembers you – familiarity soothes. All mammal babies have a way of protecting themselves, they camouflage, have safety in numbers. But our little human babies protect themselves by being held. While being held he feels the safest and the calmest next to you, where no lions can eat him, nor rodents can get to him. He expects to set his own pace, eating more than you expect, he also expects you to respond quickly to his sounds and he expects not to have to cry for what he needs. His biggest expectation of life is to be near you Mommy, day and night and he will most probably sleep better if he is a bit closer to you.

Think about your baby, think about his expectations. He expects to be in your arms close to your heart, and he expects you to listen to HIM not a clock or a parenting book. If you meet his expectations life will be easier on all of you.

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