Modern day society presents new mothers and their newborns with many different challenges. Many women are trying to fulfill their role as mom, wife, professional, student, daughter, sister, etc in a fast paced world influenced by instant gratification, social media, and technology. I find that it is increasingly difficult for a new mom to care for and nurture her child and their unique bond the way nature intended.
When my first child was born, I was overjoyed to become a mother. I had anticipated his arrival for 9 long months and he was finally here for me to care for! However, I did not anticipate the identity crisis that I would face. I was used to working full-time as an occupational therapist where I had a set schedule and daily plan.
After the birth of my son Jack, out went my comfortably predictable routine that allowed me to engage as a professional, colleague, competitive runner, and wife. Suddenly my identity solely became Jack’s mother, and I found this very intimidating. My reaction was to try and figure out a way to give Jack everything that he needed while fitting him into the fast paced predictable routine I was craving. It seemed that many other mother’s and father’s were feeling pressure to do the same due to the plethora of books that gave me a formula for how to get my newborn on a schedule. These books provided reassurance that babies needed to fit into the life of a modern day mother. “Yeah!” I thought to myself, “I’m the one in charge here!!”
These books suggested that my newborn be on a set schedule of eating, play, and nap time. It strongly recommended that newborns learn to put themselves to sleep as well as be able to occupy themselves for a certain amount of time thus allowing us to go about our business. This idea of finding ways to fit babies into the hectic lifestyle that we now live in was fiercely supported by the numerous pieces of equipment available to put babies in to calm and occupy them including swings, bouncy seats, vibrating chairs, cribs, bassinets, pack and plays, strollers, etc. I could spend the entire day moving my baby from container to container. Everything I could ever want or need was a click away to research, rate, and order. I felt empowered with the notion that I was getting my identity back by establishing a schedule that fit in with current expectations of parents. I threw my brilliant plan into action right away!
After a few days and many tears later, it became abundantly clear that the way I was approaching motherhood went against my most basic instincts to hold and coddle my baby. Although it was a shock to the system, my primary role now was to be a mother and I wanted to embrace it wholeheartedly, especially during his precious first few months of life. I threw away those books preaching the importance of molding a self-reliant baby, limited his time in “containers” and found resources that supported my motherly instincts.
Time With Your Baby is Priceless
What I began to realize then and know to be true now after having two more children and working for 13 years as a pediatric O.T is the fact that our time with our newborn baby is priceless. It is during those first few months of life that our baby depends on us the most. A newborn baby cannot be spoiled. On the contrary, studies show that a baby under three months of age whose needs are quickly met grow up to be more confident and resilient toddlers. Don’t get me wrong, there is a time and place for discipline and working towards getting a baby on a reasonable schedule that fits into the needs of the family. Dr. Harvey Karp, pediatrician and author of the “Happiest Baby on the Block” sums up this notion perfectly when he explains “…before four months, you have a job that is one hundred times more important than preventing spoiling; your job is nurturing your baby’s confidence in you and the world.”
Before you know it, what was once your helpless infant will be rolling away from you and wanting his thumb instead of your breast! She will turn away from you to enjoy exploring all of the brightly colored gadgets on her exersaucer! All joking aside, after four months a baby learns to self soothe and depend on us less and less making it easier for us to resume our other roles and responsibilities. My advice to new parents is to savor this time with your newborn. Trust me, it goes way too fast!!
Kate Molyneaux, MOT-OTR/L