What your doula wants you to know
We’ve all had that annoying relative or friend who complains that we’re holding our baby too much. Warning us that we’re spoiling them, and that our babies most probably will still be in our beds by the age of 18.
Well, I fiercely disagree with such ‘advice’. What these lovely relatives or friends have not yet completely understood is that they are not helping you to find your true way of parenting.
Comments like this can definitely get under your skin as a new parent, especially at the beginning. You know, when you sort of don’t know what the heck you’re doing and you’re a hot mess of doubt, worry, insecurities and full of hormones.
Our society today isn’t helping
Our society today is focussed on soothing babies on their own as soon as possible. Sleeping in their room, sleeping through the night on schedules, cry it out methods and sleep training has become the new norm.
When your baby isn’t the ‘good baby’ as fast as possible, you start to think there is something really wrong and start researching what might be wrong with your baby.
Well, the point is that we have stopped listening to our maternal instincts. Deep down, we know what’s best for us and for our babies, and that’s conflicting with everything we read and hear from others around us. We end up seeing normal baby behaviour as a problem.
Touch is a cornerstone of positive infant development
As a doula, I encounter many mums that came to believe that ‘the book way’ is the way. And no matter how much I love books on all kinds of topics, I’ve had mums throw away the so called ‘perfect parenting books’.
Placing new parents under so much stress and expectation is just plain brutal, besides the point that they make money over your insecurities and worries.
Every mum and every baby are unique. And so are their ways together as a team. Because that is what mum and baby become, a team. Everyone that has done team sport knows very well that you don’t become a team in one day. That you have to do ‘tryouts’ based on your gut instincts and check what works for you and your unique baby. The same goes for motherhood.
No one parents exactly like you
No one has your instincts. You and your little one are unique. And this takes a unique way of parenting.
With all the families I’ve supported over the years as a doula, I’ve learned one thing very clearly – to listen and observe first.
Seeing and sensing mum and baby together, I then ask questions and check mum’s needs. I put all of that together in a unique doula mix and help mum to ‘write her own rulebook’. In the days following I’m there for feedback and support.
What I do is simple: empower mum to know that she is capable and that she can trust her instincts. Eight out of ten times, I don’t have to come back for ‘a problem with the baby’, but merely to support mum in her postpartum phase. Then I’m making sure she rests, eats well, and focuses on the most important thing in the world, getting to know her baby.
The good thing
The good news is that study after study has proven that holding your baby is not harmful in the least. It is actually a vital part of caring for babies in the early days, with long-term impacts on health and development.
Just a few months ago, a study came out showing that early skin-to-skin contact leads to improved neurodevelopment, higher IQ, and lower rates of aggression.
Skin-to-skin contact has also been shown to increase breastfeeding success and can even make certain medical procedures less painful for infants.
A gentle touch
Skin-to-skin contact is just one of the most important things parents can do for their babies.
In other words: All you new mums and dads out there can breathe a giant sigh of relief — and ignore everything you’ve ever heard about “spoiling” a baby with attention and cuddles. There is just no way to hold a baby too much. Really and truly. No freaking way.
Of course, even if parents intend to shower their babies with endless hugs and kisses, it’s not always possible. No one is saying that you can never put your baby down, or that your own needs should be pushed completely aside when you have a baby. It comes down to balance.
Trust your gut instincts a million times over.