It seems the very government of our country has embarked upon a crusade to convince parents that holding their child is detrimental to the baby. Childcare and Day Care workers are discouraged from holding and comforting baby in many states, and that has carried over into home life. But is such an attitude conducive to producing a stable well-balanced individual?
When a baby is born, progressive and competent hospitals now return the newborn to physical contact with the mother as soon as airways are cleared. Often procedure such as cutting the umbilical cord is delayed until contact with the mother is reinitiated. They understand that contact is both important to bonding and comforting. Should it be unreasonable to assume that continued and frequent contact might be important to baby as he or she continues to develop?
Some babies are more nervous than others. Their personalities are visible even before they are born. (Some people like myself believe it is conditioned by the mother’s response to her own environment even more than her nutritional habits.) In any case, some babies require more comfort and reassurance than others, but all need to feel human presence. It has been observed that in early years baby has a tendency to think of mother as an extension of themselves. Is it too much to presume that being cut off from the comfort of others, especially during times they feel stress, would be traumatic?
If a baby could talk and bring its feelings into adult expression, it might say things like “Mommy, I’m over-tired and cold, and I wish you would just hold me.” Would you answer, “No?” Baby is communicating through its various cries and it is not hard to learn to interpret the language. Instincts and common sense go a long way toward answering the question of appropriate responses to babies cries. Think about this. We know that people who are abused as children frequently grow up to be abusers. Children who are demeaned grow up to have low self worth. Doesn’t it make sense to assume that foundational responses such as comfort and reassurance have similar impact in baby’s development?
Of course different babies will need different levels of attention, and after the first six months or so babies who are more timid might use physical contact as a retreat from exploration of their world. This timidity can be compensated for by redirecting baby’s attention to things of interest, while safely in parenting arms. Then baby, with its attention on the object, can be placed in an appropriate crib or carrier for a bit. Adequate reassurance of the infant’s worth up to this time should mean that they are more often satisfied with talking playing or singing as adequate human contact later on.
It is amazing to me that we can recognize a puppy’s need for reassurance when separated from the litter, but cannot recognize it in our own offspring. Baby does need to be touched fondled and kissed. Head, toes, back of the neck are all good places to show loving attention. It not only reassures them they are loved, but also helps them to be in touch with their own body in a positive way. The need of a baby for holding and being comforted will diminish and change, but as a human being they will need others all the days of their lives. I am convinced that lack of attention in the first two years of life, and especially the first six months, is more detrimental than what some people call too much attention. In fact, I am not at all convinced that a baby can be “spoiled” during the first twelve months of life.
Inspiration for this paper drawn from the parenting column “Parent to Parent”
Written by columnist Jodie Lynn
P. O. Box 752
Buchanan, Georgia 30113