Updated: Oct 2, 2020
For the first year, do what ever you like, whenever you like, if you listen to any advice its do what you want, hold your child for as long as they will let you and or you want, do not put them down just because you are feeling pressure from people that you should. They are coming from a place that I am going to touch on , in this blog. Sleep with them , next to them , when they do, all of the above. If they are crying , grumbling or out right screaming , go straight in if you want to , hold them , pick them up. The first year is for you and your baby to bond and your family to find their rhythm and thats it. No pressure.
But as time goes by .... Its time to start thinking about boundaries. And thats where those people who are giving you 'looks' are coming from. They have forgotten the bonding year and thinking of the rod that they either made for their back or manage to side step and want to help you too as well. I am speaking from experience, my wee one is 11 months and is communicating as only a wee one that doesn't have words can, she points and uses volume to get my attention. And when she is unhappy she has started screaming in her bed, which with my nannying background is a red flag that now I can't go in. If I do , she learns really quickly that , that volume will get Mummy to come. I had to wait till she had stopped and calmed down before I could go in. I didn't and you don't want that kid, that screams to get attention, that screams in the playground when you're trying to leave. That screams is communication that we as parents don't want .
Its time to learn their language and teach them how to use it back to you and Im not just talking English. Im talking , non verbal and verbal communication. *
Want you vs need you !
But first you have to learn the difference between the cries. Don't worry you will instinctively know them and then you have to listen to yourself and trust yourself. Even when other, namely husbands who aren't as in touch with babies cries, are giving you a look across the room. Older babies are clever, the know the difference between their cries and what reactions they can get from you. And you need to learn them too and so you give the right reaction to the right cry or behaviour. Babies start off life with needing you , for everything, so every cry is for help. I'm hungry, wet/uncomfortable, tired and cant quite get over. This communication moves in to using their voices to literally voice their everyday actions. Half of the time, they don't actually need you. The other half they do. You will know the difference , think more of a whinge verses a sharp cry out that you instant perk up to. Here is some ways of helping your wee ones to get things done themselves when it is the former not the latter in voicing their opinions.
Give it a minute
let it play out , most chances are after certain age it's a I DON'T WANT to be doing what you want me too yell . What ever time of day it it, be it play time or bed time. The yell out can just be a vocal manisfastion of an emotion. Mostly frustration. Think baby swear word. I have found don't go in straight away , give it a minute ( proverbial, can be 60 secs to a couple of minutes etc trust your gut on timing ) but make sure you are listening in every way of communication that is on offer from them as to what they want or need. Hear them , and respond sometimes by not responding at all. The vocalisation is just that and your assistance is neither wanted or required . In jumping in immediately we aren't encouraging them problem solve and achieve goals on their own. Ive found this want you verses need you gets played out mostly at sleep times. Obviously if the need you cry comes then straight in, but sometimes giving a minute allows both of you to see if the problem, what ever it might be cant be fixed by themselves. Can sound a wee bit harsh but if you think about if you set up the soft boundaries now then you can side step the battles that some have later in life with bedtimes and tantrums, extra glasses of water requests and never ending stories and silent bed ninjas in the middle of the night . Children at night , need to get out the last of the days energy. Thats why its good to have a routine to follow ( what ever you want it to be ) so they know to start expelling the build up fizz. Bath time , quiet stories, dull lights etc, but you will notice even from a young age they will wiggle and almost thrash about. Some mistake this as they are not tired and keep them up. Its not true, they are tired and its the bodies way of expelling any left over juice in the muscles so they can relax. Same with settling down older babies, they like to squirm around, get everything just right before settling , they will call out but not need you to do this. Think of us fluffing the pillow or the cat doing endless circles before plopping down. By giving them a minute to sort it out, we build confidence and a safe space for them to figure things out for themselves. My wee one likes a yell at bedtime, but if I went into her, I would set her countdown clock back to zero and throw her out of her familiar pattern, hence she actually needs to start again. Im not doing her any favours. It is a skill you will learn with time.
Another way my wee one is communicating with me, is physically. This comes in the form of indicating what she needs from me to help her, She uses her whole body but lately she has picked up hand gestures from pointing to moving my face to the direction she wants to go or what she is trying to get to. I am mimicking her mincing me to reinforce that she is doing it right. I call this method
Pointing it out
My wee one has started to use her body to sign what she wants. We have been trying to use sign language for food, water and nappy change which has had limited success but she is now starting to point. With her whole hand and wrist . Not quite mastered fingers yet. She is letting me know she wants to go over there or wants that object. This is great and us as parents need to mimic back their signals to tell them they are on the right track. I point like she does to things and get a smile from her when we connect. I also use my fingers so she can copy back. She is getting the hang or hand of it and soon she will be able to link desire to obtain through direction. Im also making sure to name everything. I do sound like a mad woman if people heard me as it would seem like I'm talking to myself. But if she wants the cup I say it over and over. Same for colours and numbers . Now is the time as her brain is developing to cram it with as much information as I can.
Another way to encourage them to communicate with you and tell you what they want and need is to give them the tools to do so. Yes showing them , speaking to them and hearing them, but also give them the actual tools, ie cutlery to allow them to do what they see. I have a gift saying when mums come to me saying he or she is frustrated at meals times, won't eat or grabbing for the spoon, what do they do... I say
Have an Extra set
Feeding time can be experimental at the best of times , and I have found that if you have an extra set of items that wee one can use then it helps to encourage them to do it themselves and for you to actually get food / drink in and less fussing. I gave my wee one the cutlery while having my own , she tries her best to get the spoon in there. While I am quickly popping amounts in her mouth. Same goes for her beaker , she is now holding it herself which is great but to begin with we had two on the go at meal times. The instinct to want to control the situation and to do it themselves is overwhelming for them . And should be encouraged. The confidence boost they get when they actually do get to feed themselves and feel like they are choosing the direction of the meal is so good for development. It comes in handy later when you have not so wee one who is flexing their independent muscle. Letting them choose between the things you have set out already allows them to wiggle within the boundaries and it sidesteps tantrums. Although you can ruin their day with giving them the wrong plate colour , trust me! But if you get them to help choose it sometimes they will feel a sense of control even when they are not. There is definetly arguments for both letting them choose and letting them know they are not always going to get their way. I personally have felt that allowing them to choose between prescribed choices works for me. ie water or milk, they are choosing the drink but within your choices of what they can have to drink.
Encourage encourage encourage.
With your wee ones beginning to have thoughts and opinions on how they think their life should be even if they don't know why they want it like this or that can be very frustrating at times for everyone. But by using some mind maps above to help them navigate and move within the boundaries they feel and you have, can help them to establish ways of relaying or processing information to you or from you. Once both of you have a handle on the I need you or I want you lanes of interaction. The allowance of a time and space to figure 'it' out for themselves and the tools to achieve what they are after. Its time to encourage discourse in every form, verbal, physical, indicated by actions or by not reacting. Every family has a unique way of working and talking with each other. A family rhythm that suits them and their lifestyle and your baby is learning to slide nicely in to that. Giving wiggle room to adjust to their learning curve. Knowledge and fluidity on your part to allow them to communicate to you and for you to show you understand. I am a firm believer in having a structure after the first year for wee ones. That bonding year, will have put you in very good stead and set all of you up with a wonderful base of trust and understanding, that they can talk to you , you will talk* back to them and everyone can grow in the relationship in a safe and open space.
(* talking - verbal , and non verbal , communication. responding to their needs , hearing they wants and watching and listening in every way physically and emotionally and mentally to their desires ( this age it is solely set in desires, they have no reason yet ) initiating boundaries and building trust )