First-Time Parent Takeaways: 3 Things I Could Keep Doing Throughout Motherhood

Just a few days ago, Melo and I were watching Tala play and practice standing, and I can’t help but notice that we have a kid now. “May bata na tayo”, I said. Tala looks and acts more like a toddler than a baby. We looked back to the things we went through in taking care of our first born; from her spitting that peaked when she was 4 months old, to her eczema, and worst the Impetigo Bullosa she had when she was turning 6 months old. It felt like these happened some two years ago.

So far, I am satisfied with how she is developing and growing. I know that we are lucky because we have the privilege to be with her all the time and take care of her ourselves. I also know that Tala is not a difficult baby if I compare our experience of raising her with the stories of other parents. I reflect on the things we do as her primary caregivers. I can’t claim that what we’re doing is the absolute right way of parenting, but I think these three things can be my guide in this journey as a mother.

MAKE BABIES FEEL YOU ARE THERE FOR THEM, ALWAYS

First-Time Parent Takeaways: 3 Things I Could Keep Doing Throughout Motherhood

I have read articles saying it is okay to let your babies cry for a few minutes so they learn how to self-soothe. Just thinking about it, honestly, I know that I can’t do it. I guess it’s because I am highly empathic as a person, what more with my own child. The way I see it is there’s no harm comforting your baby and instantly responding to their cries. As soon as she cries, I carry her, embrace her, and comfort her. I mentioned it before in my other posts that I am doing responsive parenting. I do on-demand feeding, so there was a time when Tala as a newborn breastfed almost every hour. I was practically carrying her the whole day, even while she sleeps. It took a lot of patience and shoulder and back pain. I think it’s exactly what she needed to be able to adjust smoothly to her new environment, one that is completely different from the nine months she was inside my tummy. I think it was all worth it because (1) I am able to make her feel that she is safe, (2) I am teaching her to put trust on other people, starting with us her parents, and (3) it helps build her confidence as she adjusted and learned to explore her surroundings. Eventually and all by herself, she breastfed less and she got more open to being put down during sleep, playing by herself, and being with another caregiver that’s not Melo and myself. I think the time and effort that I invested on building a bond with her as early as when she was still a newborn is paying off.

GIVE YOUR BABIES THE ENVIRONMENT FOR LEARNING

First-Time Parent Takeaways: 3 Things I Could Keep Doing Throughout Motherhood

It is natural for parents, probably more for those at their first time, to be extra cautious, nervous, protective of their babies. The idea of germs, bacteria, sickness is really scary. However, I know from common knowledge passed on from one parent to another that exposure to dirt (just the right amount of it) actually helps in strengthening an individual’s immune system. It is no different with learning skills. One needs to make mistakes, get a couple of bruises and scratches before she learns how to do things by herself. As often as possible, we let Tala crawl and play on the floor. We, of course, keep an eye on her and remove things that can possibly harm her. Now, she crawls fast, practice standing without holding onto something, and she can even climb the stairs at 9 months! All with supervision. Nothing to worry about. We’re not reckless parents. One time, Tala bumped her head so as expected, she cried. I said to Melo, this is just the first few times she’s going to get herself hurt. One day there will be scratches, wounds, and blood. And it’s all part of growing up. Point is we have to give her the space to try things out, make mistakes even get hurt, so she’d be able to gain the skills she will need to stand on her own.

LET BABIES LEARN AT THEIR OWN PACE

We know each baby is different. Although tips and advices give us the idea that babies should be trained how to sleep by themselves or to decide when it’s time to wean them from breastfeeding. I know there are practical reasons for these. In my case though since we had the time and flexibility to do things our way and there was no rush, I learned that babies can adjust and learn by themselves if you just give them time. As I said, Tala used to breastfeed every hour and she wouldn’t allow being put down for sleep, but eventually she did otherwise. It took patience and a lot of trial and error. Until now, in fact, we still adjust things based on what we think will work for her. Tala eats solid food now so she breastfeeds less. We are also able to leave her sleeping by herself in the room. At times, she just shouts to call for attention when she’s already awake, instead of crying. She knows someone will come to her if she calls out or sort of knock on the door. We are actually amazed by the skills she’s showing the past weeks. It seems that she’s advanced for her age but actually when I read articles about babies her age, the skills she’s showing are really expected at this stage. What’s important is that we are able to give her the support she needs, and let her do things at her own pace.

These three sum up what I think I can do as a mother for every stage Tala will be in her growth and development. Aside from being observant and intuitive right from the beginning, I know these are also influenced by the way we were raised by our parents. I think everything will be fine and I look forward to seeing how things will turn out.

Calm your baby, carry her

As a first time mom, I have been advised several times to not let my baby get used to being carried all the time. I think I had the same impression when I was still single, and might have mentioned it to other moms back then. In reality, I held my little girl, Tala, for practically 24/7 during her first few months.

It’s part of my responsive parenting style, so obviously I did carry her whenever she cried. There came a point that I’ve accepted that perhaps Tala was a velcro baby. However, I came across some other ideas online, that it should be looked at as perfectly normal. Babies stayed inside the womb for nine months. When they were born, they’re introduced to an entirely new environment. The only feeling that’s familiar to them is being close to their mother.

I imagined how Tala might have felt every time she cried. It must be scary for her being outside her comfort zone, literally. All of a sudden, she no longer heard my heartbeat, my blood flowing through my veins, and it’s not as dark anymore. There are so many new sounds too that she doesn’t understand and cannot see clearly just yet. On my part, I also felt tired at times and wanted to put her down. There are instances when I thought she’s already sleeping, then she’d wake up and cry when I try to leave her on her bed. I wanted her to adjust and learn sooner. I also have other things I needed to do. After much struggle and inner battle, I decided that Tala comes first. I will help her transition to this world in her own pace. I carry her when she cries to calm her, while I still continue to try putting her down for short periods, then just increased the duration so she’d get comfortable with it.

It didn’t take long. It did felt like forever, but looking back; oh how the time just passed by so quickly. Now, turning eight months old, Tala already wriggles when she’s carried, because she wants to sit, to crawl, to stand, to touch things she’s curious about. She even protests when I hug her tight. She’s also able to sleep on the bed by herself. It won’t take long until she’s busy with her thing, and I’d be the one bugging her for a hug or so we can spend time together just like how we used to. A friend did tell me that science says babies who were held more turn out to be well-adjusted children. I kept that idea to heart so I’m reassured that this is the right thing to do.

I know, I know this can be too much for some moms, especially if you want to keep a work-life balance. I suggest do make the most of your maternity leave. Carry and hug your baby as much as you can specifically in the first few months. I’m certain that you won’t regret it, because those days you held them in your arms are priceless. They will never be a baby again.

Related article: read about Why babies calm down when carried.