Thursday 16 October 2008

Advice for the first year

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.

Just relax.

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.


  1. that "calm" thing is so true. I'm amazed at how much more quickly I can get control of classroom by quietly walking around the room and saying "I need your attention. It's time to get quiet and listen" until they all hear me than I do by yelling at them to be quiet.

  2. What lovely advice. I don't have kids yet, but I do babysit. And the calm thing is totally true!

  3. Thank you! I needed this! I don't stay calm as much as I should. I just feel like I'm not a good mother. Sometimes I don't know what Daniel wants. I baby him a lot! ha! Mike thinks I'm gonna baby him too much. Nonsemse though!

  4. I'm glad I have friends like you who have "been there."

    You'll be proud to know that I'm ALREADY ignoring 90% of the advice I'm getting! ;)

  5. Now that's some new baby advice that should *not* be ignored! :)

  6. Hey, I also wanted to say that I read your circumcision post and it was awesome! I have been considering doing a post on circ for months, but I don't personally have a son. Also, you said it all so well, with so much grace.

  7. I saw your laundry comment over on Learning, living & loving Simply and thought I would say hello! Your baby advice is awesome, I wish someone had told me those things when my two were little. The one thing I really know I did right was to breast feed as long as possible (my son weaned himself off at around 10 mos. He was simply not interested anymore, I was so sad!). I wish the "wear your baby" trend had been around then because I would have done that too.