Chances are you’re thinking things newborn babies need refers to literal “things,” objects, stuff.
Diapers. Clothes. A newborn car seat.
Yes, all those “things” are important, but let’s talk about the intangible stuff. The things that only Momma, or a primary caregiver, can provide.
5 Things Newborn Babies Need
(from Momma and other primary caregivers)
#1 – Skin-to-skin Contact and Physical Affection
Research in just the last few decades has shown the benefits of what some call “kangaroo care,” or:
“…holding your diapered baby [wearing no other clothing] on your bare chest (if you’re the father) or between your breasts (if you’re the mother).” // March of Dimes
Skin-to-skin contact has shown benefits like keeping Baby warm, regulating Baby’s breathing and heart rate, helping Baby gain weight, and helping Baby stay in deep sleep longer.
It’s also been shown to increase your chances of successful breastfeeding, increasing your breast milk supply, reducing stress, and improving your emotional state.
And it should begin immediately after birth.
A recent study published in Biological Psychiatry points out that separating Baby from Momma right after birth is stressful.
In fact, in animal research, researchers separate newborns from their mothers because they know it’s stressful. They use this opportunity to study the damage done to the developing newborn’s brain as a result of this stressful event. (source)
While standard maternity care in the Western world is eager to separate Baby and Momma right away, the truth is Baby needs to be next to you! He needs to be cuddled. He needs skin-to-skin contact and lots of physical affection.
It helps Baby regulate his biological systems. It helps him sleep better. And it will probably make you a little happier.
#2 – Baby-Led Feeding and Sleeping
Let’s look at this with a little common sense and empathy, shall we?
In the womb, Baby was perpetually warm. Baby didn’t experience hunger because nourishment was constantly available. Physical touch was (obviously) constant. In fact, feeling hungry, cold, or lonely are experiences that didn’t exist until after birth.
Now, imagine that you grew up in a tiny town of 700 people. There were no cars, just one store, and certainly no televisions or cell phones. Then one day you were shipped off to Times Square in New York City at 11:59pm on New Year’s Eve.
Where do you go? What do you do? A little overwhelming right? Confusing? Scary? What do you need most in this instance? A map? Some money? Even better – a patient, understanding guide!
It’s an exaggerated analogy, but I hope you get the picture.
Baby needs you to be his guide. He needs you to understand that he doesn’t know what it’s like to be hungry so when he cries to be fed he’s not trying to be fussy. He’s just hungry and confused.
And when he’s tired, if he’s crying to be held and rocked and soothed he’s not trying to manipulate you. He’s sincerely trying to sleep in a world that’s loud, unfamiliar, and uncomfortable.
So follow your baby’s cues. Feed Baby when he’s hungry. Help him sleep when he’s sleepy. Tone down the stimulation when he’s tired.
It may sound weird, but be respectful of this person’s needs and experiences. Sleep may be hard at first, but it’s temporary. You’ll get through it!
#3 – Predictable Routines & Sportscasting
Again, in this new, uncomfortable, scary world it’ll help calm your baby if he knows what to expect.
Change Baby’s diaper the same way every time and talk him through it (sort of like a sportscaster!). “I’m taking off your diaper now. Here comes the wipe. It’s cold! And wet! Now here’s a soft towel to dry you.”
Whatever you do regularly, make it a routine. Make it predictable and talk Baby through every little step. As a result, you’ll have a less fussy, more focused baby.
Practice routines as often as possible. Change Baby’s diaper in the same place every time. Sing the same lullaby before nap and bed times. Open the curtains wide first thing every morning and close them by sundown every night.
All of these things will help your newborn acclimate to the world around him.
#4 – Freedom of Movement and Visual Stimulation
Since newborns are basically nearsighted, they’ll spend much of their time honing in on your facial expressions.
Get in close with Baby. Offer him lots of smiles and loving, caring facial expressions.
Laugh a lot. Giggle. Sing. Make eye contact.
And get Baby out of that car seat / carrier / bouncer / swing as often as possible! Babies need to move their whole bodies. They need to stretch their muscles. They need to have visual stimulation from all angles to encourage them to move their heads and use their eyes (and prevent flat-head syndrome, flat-headedness, or plagiocephaly).
Keeping Baby in a carrier limits his side views and discourages the turning of the head. Laying your Baby on your lap while sitting in a rocking chair is perfect for a newborn. Practicing floor time instead of tummy time (check out this fabulous video about floor time!) once Baby’s a little bit older is the best way to encourage movement and the strengthening of the muscles.
#5 – The Natural World
Babies don’t need much to stimulate their senses.
A cool breeze on their face.
The sound of the wind through the trees or a breeze through a wind chime.
A flower or some leaves to gaze upon.
Turn off the light-up, singing, noise-making, twirling apparatus put Baby in a carrier, and get outside!
Instead of taking a stroller, trying wearing baby outside. Take a walk and chat with your neighbors. Listening to adult conversations at eye level in a carrier (not in a stroller, as they can’t focus on your lip movement or facial features) helps Baby develop his language skills.
Having to flex his muscles while holding himself upright in the carrier (as opposed to laying flat on his back in a stroller) is the precursor to holding his head up and rolling over.
The rocking motion and the bird and wind sounds will quickly soothe a fussy baby and the walk will boost your feel-good hormones.
All of the above are things newborn babies need, and they’re all things you just can’t buy.
Baby needs YOU, Momma (and Daddy!). Baby needs you to be patient, responsive, respectful, attentive, and present.
No swing or bouncer or toy or pacifier can take the place of that kind of love.
First published at www.montessorimischief.com.
Featured image source: www.pixabay.com