Blogger and early childhood adviser Kirsty Foster shares her top tips for happy babies.
1. Use care moments to have quality time with baby. When you are feeding baby, gaze into his eyes and share a tender moment. When you change his nappy, talk to him and tell him what you are doing and why. When you are feeding him solids, be emotionally present - smile and chat away to your baby. Care moments provide the perfect time for connection and bonding.
2. Give baby independent time. Babies are on a mission, whether it be learning to move their hand or trying to roll, your baby has a goal he is trying to achieve. You love your baby to bits and want to kiss and cuddle him always, but he needs time to develop his latest skills – allow him that time.
3. Respect baby’s physical development – if your baby could talk he would be saying, “Please can I have some time to practise my rolling/crawling/grabbing/walking?” The more time baby has on the floor un-restricted (ie not in an exercaucer, jolly jumper, bouncinette) the happier he will be in the long term. Your baby will learn how to spend his time following his own learning schedule and won’t need external entertainment to be happy.
4. Look, listen, and respond to baby - your baby is very good at telling you what he needs and wants. Sometimes we just don't look and listen as carefully as we could. Similarly, acknowledge your baby's emotions. When he is upset show him that you know what he is trying to communicate. Say, "I can see that you are sad about having your face wiped, I'm sorry about that."
5. Treat baby as a person (not an object) - it's easy when you are in a rush or trying to get things done, to carry your baby around without explaining what is happening. Imagine how you would feel if you were dragged around and bumped up and down with no warning. Take the extra few seconds to look at your baby and tell her what you are doing and why. For example if you are putting her in her capsule, "I'm just going to put you in the capsule now so we can go in the car to pick up Daddy". She will appreciate the courtesy.
6. Be careful not to over-stimulate. Baby classes can be a fun outing with your baby, but be cautious that these are not too overwhelming for your baby. When your baby is young, just looking at her hand is interesting - she doesn't need music and dancing or even lots of noisy flashing toys to entertain her. In fact, these experiences may just over-stimulate her little brain and make her feel upset down the track. Try to give your baby some downtime in her routine... dim lighting in a quiet space etc. so that she can get back to her equilibrium and learn to entertain herself on her terms.
7. Do things with baby, not to baby. Respect your baby as you would any other person. You wouldn't go up to someone and wash their face without warning them, or start spooning food into someone's mouth without telling them first. Treat your baby the same way. Tell her what you are going to do and invite her to join in eg “I'm just going to take off your nappy, can you lift your bottom?” You'll be surprised at how quickly babies can respond to your words and begin to participate in these sorts of situations. Care moments will become beautiful bonding times that you will both look forward to and your baby will be learning new vocabulary at the same time.
8. Talk, talk, talk to baby and try baby sign. Your baby learns language from you. The more you talk, the faster he will learn. If you know more than one language then speak both as often as you can - your baby will be making new brain connections every time you do it. Running out of things to say? Simply commentate what you are doing... "I'm just going to cut up the carrots for dinner."
Do some research into baby sign language. Try using simple signs such as 'food', 'drink', 'more', 'all-finished' as you are talking to your baby. These will allow your baby to communicate with you and let you know his needs and wants before he is able to do so orally. Baby sign will certainly ease frustrations down the track and it will also speed up your baby's acquisition of oral language.
9. Support, don’t rescue. If your baby is crying, don't always rush to him and pick him up. Observe for a second first and think about why he is crying. Sometimes he might just need verbal reassurance, sometimes he is frustrated that he can't reach something and you picking him up is just moving him farther away. At times it can be enough to just lie next to your baby and talk to him. Picking him up every time he cries is teaching him that he needs rescuing and that he can't solve problems himself. Of course there will be plenty of times when you definitely do need to pick him up - he might just need a cuddle with his mum or dad, but just think of his needs first.
10. Immerse baby in nature - babies LOVE nature. They love watching trees sway in the wind and birds flying past. Try to allow your baby time to observe nature every day. This could be out on a walk or at a park. You can even pop her on a blanket outside or position her by a window if it is a rainy day. You will be amazed at how calming fresh air and nature can be for your baby (and you!).
First published on Blogga Mumma, shared with permission from the writer, Kirsty Foster.
Kirsty is a mum, wife, teacher and early childhood adviser. She offers in-home consultations and one-on-one advice on parenting. Read more at teamfoster0.wixsite.com/blogga-mumma