Babies are wise! They are very communicative and able to self-regulate, but they need us to pay attention. The holidays can bring on much excitement and many emotions, both fun and challenging. Here are some tips to help Baby feel supported.
Follow Baby’s lead
Allow her to call the shots. When she looks at you and engages with you—yay! Time to interact! When she looks away: follow this flow; be present and wait for her to turn back before continuing to interact.
When Baby turns away
This doesn’t necessarily mean rejection. It is Baby’s way of following his own internal wisdom and taking a break before he gets overstimulated. It’s his way of pausing, of saying “I need to allow my brain to process what I just experienced.” Remember, we’re on baby-sized timing!
Not all kids and grown-ups around you will be aware of this flow of Baby’s self-regulated attention. You may see them try to keep getting Baby’s attention, to get a smile or a laugh. We must consider, does this serve our need or Baby’s? It is our job to protect her need to turn away. This may be difficult when she is in someone else’s arms. Intervene if you can, but make sure she has flow time when she’s with you and she will learn how to negotiate relationships.
Why does it matter?
A baby’s nervous system is new and fresh. It has never met the world before. You and I have adult-sized brains to deal with adult-sized situations (which still are overwhelming to some of us)—and we have coping mechanisms as well. Put yourself in Baby’s experience—“what would this be like if I were experiencing it for the first time ever?” A baby who does not have a chance to turn away can learn to override his internal wisdom in order to please others. This can become habitual and have far-reaching effects on communication, relationships, peer pressure and drug abuse, and more.
What if overstimulation happens anyway?
Life is stimulating—there’s no avoiding it in today’s typical lifestyle. There may be situations beyond your ability to protect Baby’s need to turn away. In this case, some time will be needed later to release and heal. Allow Baby to cry if he needs to. When you get home and settle down, notice if he’s getting fussy or crying before sleep even when all his needs have been met. If he’s not sick or injured, this is likely a sign that he needs to release some stimulation or emotion. Be present and hold him while he does so.
We all need to “turn away” sometimes! Supporting Baby in doing this now will foster his ability to listen to himself and respect his own needs throughout life.
Eliza Parker is a certified Infant Developmental Movement Educator, Body-Mind Centering® Practitioner, Feldenkrais® Practitioner, and Spiritual Counselor.
© Elizabeth Parker 2011, All Rights Reserved
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