“Do you have a good baby?” Says the sweet-faced old lady to you in the shopping centre.
Just to be clear, this is code for “Does your baby sleep for long periods of time and not feed too often or at inconvenient times?”
How to answer? She means well, so perhaps “Yes, she is. She cries when she is hungry and sleeps when she is tired” is a bit abrupt.
Instead how about giving her a short enlightening lecture?
Here are the critical points:
- Babies are just foetuses who are outside the womb. In comparison to other mammal babies, they are remarkably immature. Hence they need constant protection, care, food and love without reference to the time of day.
- Trying to teach them to alter their behaviour in the first months is a waste of time. They do not have to ‘learn’ to sleep alone in a cot, or settle themselves. Babies can’t ‘manipulate’ their parents.
- The other side of this same coin is they cannot be spoilt. There is no such thing as excessive caring behaviour from a parent. Caring for your baby to keep her contented will never create ‘a rod for your back’.
- Babies regulate their appetite spontaneously by feeding on demand. In the breastfed this produces the correct volume of milk for the babies’ metabolism. It also helps them feel secure and loved, and prevents later eating disorders and obesity.
- Generations past were brought up to believe that enforcing routines, rather than responding to their babies needs, produced quieter, better-disciplined children. This belief has been now been comprehensively debunked but we are still stuck with these ‘givens’ rooted in our culture.
- Some babies are more needy than others. Not responding or delaying your response to their needs makes the situation worse, not better.
It is true that some babies are easier to manage than others. That’s just good luck, not a good baby.