My baby is 18 months old today. It's such an interesting age - some days more baby than boy, other days more boy than baby, most days a combination of both. So far I've said the same thing with each passing month: "This is my favourite age yet." It just keeps getting better.
His transition from baby to boy (coupled with an influx of newborn babies in our church and amongst some friends of mine) has had me thinking about his first year and the things that really made a positive difference during that time.
The first, likely, was that I completely ignored 90% of the advice I received.
(The best advice I ever received, on the other hand, was from an old man in the elevator. He told me to "just give that child lots of love, 'cause it's a crazy world out there." Truer words have ne'er been spoken.)
In the spirit of being offered unsolicited advice and immediately dismissing it, here is my advice for the first year:
Baby Advice #1: Stay Calm.
Seriously. Do it. Stay calm.
Deep breath in. Now let it out.
You know how they say animals can sense fear? Well, that squalling little bundle of pink perfection in your arms can sense it too. Along with frustration, and anger, and "holy crap, I don't know what I'm doing!" And she will respond to that.
I see it so often - she cries, you bounce, she cries harder, you bounce harder, she cries louder, you shush louder, and soon you're both worked up in a crazy frenzy and things are going bad fast.
Stop bouncing and start swaying. Stop shushing and start cooing. Quietly. Whisper words of comfort and songs of peace. She might stop crying. She might not. But either way, your blood pressure will be lower, your breathing will be slower, you will be calmer. And nine times out of ten, she'll respond to that more than anything else.
I've found this to be true right from birth, through babyhood, and into toddlerhood - and I'm guessing it'll be true right on through the rest of the stages. When Mom's calm, the rest of the household just seems that much calmer too.
I've found this to be true in all manners of situations as well. Crying newborns, frustrated babies, angry toddlers - everything goes better when Mom stays calm. Go about doing what you need to do to take care of the situation - but do it calmly.
What's more, the things being stressed over often aren't worth stressing over in the first place. It's okay if your six month old isn't eating three square meals a day. It's okay if you have a period of sleep issues - they often resolve themselves in short order. It's okay (and quite normal!) if your baby isn't sleeping through the night by the time she's a month old - or six months old, or even nine months old! It's okay if your baby doesn't roll over, sit, walk, or talk as early as your friend's baby did. It's okay, there's no need to stress over every little bump and sneeze and waking.
It's okay. Relax.
Just stay calm.
Baby Advice #2: Baby Your Baby.
Because, well, they're babies. It's what they're made for.
Two Harvard researchers said it better than I ever could.
Baby your baby. Save independence for later. Give them the foundation they need for independence now.
Your baby will not become spoiled if you carry him often and if you respond to his cries. Those are the very things that will give him the security he needs now to become a healthy adult later.
Consider co-sleeping with your baby. Snuggle him while he nurses. Invest in a good carrier and wear your baby.
Most of all, just hold and comfort that little one - your touch and reassurance is what he needs.
Bonus Advice: Have Fun!
That's all - just have fun. That first year will go by so fast. Enjoy your baby - which, really, is half the point of the first two pieces of advice! Stay calm, don't stress, hold your baby, and comfort your baby - enjoy your baby.