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Respecting Your Baby

¬©2000 Diane Wiessinger, MS, IBCLC 136 Ellis Hollow Creek Road Ithaca,NY 14850 

     Babiesare brilliant, sensitive, inexperienced people.  They learn rapidly,from before birth, even though they don’t speak our language.  Inrespecting your baby’s body and abilities, you set the stage for a lifetimeof mutual respect.  

     MouthYour baby senses the world largely through her mouth.  If her veryfirst mouth experience feels like an assault (vigorous suctioning, forinstance, or a forceful finger or bottle), she may not willingly draw abreast into it for some time.  Ask her permission before putting anythingin her mouth, and respect her wishes if her mouth doesn’t open. 

     AppetiteWhen a newborn expresses a need to suck, she’s saying she wants food, nota pacifier.  Respect her ability to know her own appetite and thirst. If you feel she’s never satisfied, check with a breastfeeding specialist.

     EarsBefore you kiss your baby directly on his ear, have someone kiss you onyours, so you can see what the volume is like.

     HandsHuman hands are especially sensitive.  If a baby’s hands are washedimmediately after birth, he loses the smell and taste he has always known,and may not nurse as readily.  If his hands are kept in mittens “toprotect his face”, he’s unable to comfort himself with them or to makenormal connections with his world, and may not feed well.

     CryingSome babies cry for reasons we just can’t figure out.  If that’s thecase, your baby will certainly appreciate being held while you try to help. But most crying is simply for lack of nursing or holding. Vigorous cryingis hard on a baby’s heart and does nothing to “exercise his lungs”. Respect your own instincts, and respond to cries.

     PenisIf you want to circumcise your son for other than religious reasons, considerthat you will be permanently removing what would become more than 5 squareinches of highly sensitive skin from someone else’s body, without his permission. Circumcision can be performed at his own request later, though very fewmen with an intact foreskin want to lose it.  The health risks ofan intact foreskin are no greater than the health risks of removing it. 

     Diaperchangesand baths If yourbaby becomes distressed midway, consider whether it’s more important tofinish the job uninterrupted or to take a few minutes to nurse or consoleher.  Soon changes and baths will be among her favorite activities. Until then, imagine what it would be like if you cried for rescue and noone seemed to listen.

     SkinOur skin is our largest organ.  Babies love to feel their bare skinagainst their parents’ bare skin.  With a blanket spread over thetwo of you, you baby will have more effective warmth and more stable “vitalsigns” than in the most expensive hospital warming unit.

     PlayYour baby is most open to play during those “quiet alert” times when he’sneither hungry nor sleepy.  Mimic his own expressions.  Makea face at him, slowly and several times, and he may attempt the same oneback – even to sticking out his tongue.  Some babies remember those”face games” for months – opening their mouth wide, for instance, for alactation consultant whom they haven’t seen since their earliest days. Babies are learning machines!  But they tire quickly.  When yourbaby looks away, yawns, or puts his hands up stiffly, playtime is overand the respectful player lets him snuggle in-arms and enjoy a snack.
 

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