Instead, I invite you to think about what such a leap in brain development may feel like for your sweet baby. With the world literally looking different from day to day as their brain builds new pathways, this can be wonderful and exciting, and also super overwhelming and scary. Your baby will cry, because their only form of communication right now is crying. They will only want to be held, because they feel safe when they are in your arms. Our social narratives will try and tell you that your baby is being manipulative in seeking your comfort and that being dependent and clingy is something to stamp out now, or else it’ll just get harder the older they get. Put simply – this is BS that I don’t buy into.
In fact, responsive parenting is incredibly important – a child’s stress reactivity is set in the first year of life and their reactivity to stress can be shaped by how they are supported through it in the early years. A baby who is responded to consistently can have a less sensitive stress response, which sets the tone for the rest of their life in how they respond to stress (i.e. their flight-flight response may be less sensitive). Co-regulation is imperative for our little ones and with consistent responsive caregiving, they will be better equipped for self-regulation later down the track. For now, your baby needs you to be the calm in their storm.
Our social narratives will try and tell you that your baby is being manipulative in seeking your comfort and that being dependent and clingy is something to stamp out now, or else it’ll just get harder the older they get. Put simply – this is BS that I don’t buy into.
Think of the last time you started a new job and what the first few weeks felt like – the feeling of butterflies in your tummy, the anxiety of the unknown challenges, the bulk learning of new skills and information and then the integration of that into a work day. I’ve always had restless nights thinking about how the day went and often dreamt of the new things I was learning (because our brain processes information while in light sleep stages). You probably want to talk through things with your partner and have them listen to your challenges and hug you when you cry because you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed.
Your baby is learning their first job – how to be a human.
Normalising the struggle
In my own experience, everyone told me that the first 3 months was the hardest and I just had to get through the newborn phase, and it would all be easy from there. Then this developmental phase hit at 4 months, and I was literally on my knees crying and wondering what I was doing so wrong, because this was infinitely harder than the newborn phase. I thought maybe I wasn’t cut out for being a mother – and gosh, it still stings thinking of that time now. I didn’t know then what I know now – if I did, I would have had a much better experience. It still would have been hard, but I would not have needed to scrape myself up off the floor so many times.
If you’re in the thick of it right now, with the wisdom I now hold (and the benefit of hindsight), I can tell you: you are doing a great job and you are more than enough. It feels hard because it is hard – and it’s ok to feel like it’s all a bit much right now.
What can you do to survive this phase?
- Be flexible and patient with your baby – their world is changing around them and it is very overwhelming.
- Call on support – if that can be someone physically coming to help you, that’s great, but that’s not always possible, so being able to chat to people and get it off your chest can do wonders. This free Facebook group is a beautiful community.
- Seek lactation support if you think your milk supply is dropping – do this as EARLY as possible.
- Care for yourself – food, water and rest – the housework can wait, lay with your baby and even if you can’t sleep, at least rest as much as you can. My motto is “any rest is good rest”.
- Do whatever you need to get through this time and support your little one’s sleep and development – know that are NOT creating bad habits. Don’t fight the biological norm – feed, hold and rock your little one for sleep and for comfort.
Your baby’s sleep (or your lack of!) is not a reflection of your parenting ability
Sarah is a Baby Sleep & Well-Being Coach and the founder of Blossom and Snooze, supporting parents to understand biologically normal infant sleep and feel empowered on their responsive parenting adventure. With a focus on attachment and the connection between parent and child, the approach of her work is based on simple sleep education and provides solutions which are developmentally appropriate and individually tailored to each unique baby and family. Also an advocate for supporting a mother’s matrescence, Sarah is passionate about helping mums understand the social-cultural constructs which they face along their journey. Sarah is an Australian mum, providing virtual consults to families worldwide: you can find her on Instagram @blossomandsnooze and you can book 1:1 support on her website www.blossomandsnooze.com.