Image by: @karlarowsell
Written by Tori Srour
If you are reading this while life is blooming inside you, I want you to just take a moment and sit with just how amazing that really is.
Right now your baby is curled up within the amniotic sac in your uterus. They are living in an aquatic world enjoying the buoyancy of fluid, the darkness of the uterus, soothed by the loudness of blood pumping through your body, and the rhythmic vibrations of your beating heart. They are yet to understand what hunger is, as the placenta provides all the nutrition they need without a lift of a finger, and they certainly don't understand what it's like to be cold.
But then they are born into the world. Where it is bright with fluctuating temperatures, where there is an overwhelming amount of smells, where they are now in a big wide open space, not a safe small space, and instead of lavishing in that 24/7 placenta food buffet they now have to work for it.
If this transition wasn't big enough, they are also born into a world that can have crazy unrealistic expectations on them. From sleeping in a cold hard cot, having the ability to self-soothe, being an expert at breastfeeding on day one, to sleeping through the night and all the rest of it that comes with having a “good” baby.
Gosh it’s tough being a newborn, isn't it?
So how can we put this toxic idealism aside and support our babies to have the gentle and loving welcoming into this world that they deserve? Firstly we need to start acknowledging that their transition from womb to earth is larger than we can imagine. By creating an environment that is as womb-like as possible for at least the first 12 weeks of their life can support a gentle transition for your little babe. We like to call this time the fourth trimester.
These are my four techniques to nurture a calm transition:
Image by: @bethmcqueen_
Number one: The swaddle.
For the first 3-4 months newborns have a Moro reflex where the movement of their arms produces a startling effect that can cause overstimulation and wake your baby. Swaddling will help hold their arms tight to their chest to prevent this reflex from waking them up and bring them back to the comfort of being in a small space (like the womb).
Pro tip: when swaddling we want the arms nice and snug within the wrap, and the bottom of the wrap to be nice and loose to allow flexion and movement in the hips and legs.
Click here to see a simple swaddle technique > https://www.instagram.com/p/CPZszqLAz4u/
Number two: Encourage movement and noise.
Your baby has been moving with you for 9 whole months and the womb is no quiet place.
Babies love and are soothed by movement and noise. Try dancing with your baby or holding your baby upright and gently swaying. You can also try the traditional tap on the bottom, why is this soothing? Well, think about where your baby's bottom was in your pregnancy. Right underneath your heart. The tapping is imitating the vibration of your heartbeat that they have been feeling for the last 9 months (Amazing, right!?).
It can also be a nice idea to have a song that you play your baby in the womb and when they are earthside this particular song can be soothing for them. However, newborn babies will be more soothed by white noise (even a vacuum) that sounds like the womb than a lullaby.
Number three: Babywearing magic.
You cannot cuddle or wear your baby enough! This is a lifesaver. Babywearing acts as a transitional womb keeping your baby close to you, your breathing, your heart rate, your movements, it is incredibly calming for them.
It also gives you the freedom to walk around with two free hands and if that's not a win I'm not sure what is.
Pro tip: To babywear safely think of the T.I.C.K.S acronym. Tight, In view at all times, Close enough to kiss, Keep chin off chest, Supported back.
Number four: Set up positive sleep expectations.
All healthy newborns will wake and signal for their parents at night for at least the first 16 weeks. Responding to this need is a really important part of supporting healthy brain development and setting up positive emotional wiring that says hey when I reach out I get the love and reassurance I need to know I am safe.
Newborns are not long out of the deep darkness of the womb and are not attuned to the sun's rhythms that help to regulate our sleep and wake cycles. There is no need to "teach" your newborn how to sleep. By about 2 months of age, a baby's sleep will occur mainly at night and by 6 months the circadian clock is mature and they will become more accustomed to day and night routines.
Investing in a co-sleeper/three-sided cot can be a safe way to support your baby's sleep transition during this time.
Number five: No room for parent guilt.
(I know I said there were only four, but hear me out).
Being a new parent is a messy business, from the nappy changes to navigating what cry means what, to the dramatic sleep changes and the onslaught of advice, from immediate family and friends to the random lady walking her dog in the park.
You are doing a good job! And only you know what's best for your baby as not one single baby on this earth is the same. We are unique beings which makes us beautiful. Hear advice but only apply what feels right for you. You, my dear ones are all your baby needs, they choose you and you are enough.
GET IN TOUCH WITH TORI:
Tori is a registered midwife working in the northern NSW area, she is passionate about supporting families to be informed and empowered during their birth and parenting journey and provides private birth classes for the Byron shire community.