Wed | Dec 7, 2016

Are babies 'new-parent proof'?

Published:Sunday | September 14, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Krysta Anderson, Lifestyle Writer

Scratches and cuts, a fall, any hint of the sight of blood, excessive crying ... .

New parents exaggerate just about any injury, whether major or minor, or a slight level of discomfort by heading straight for the doctor or the emergency room with their little ones, often worried out of their minds.

So, while many new parents focus on the house being babyproof, we have to wonder: are babies new-parent proof?

To help us explore this concern, Outlook sought advice from child psychologist Gemma Gibbon, who shed some light on some dos and don'ts for new parents and their over-anxious effects on their precious baby.

Physical perspective

From the physical perspective, Gibbon explained that a young baby's bones are very soft and flexible, so accidentally dropping him or her is not as bad as parents think, because they bounce. She, however, noted, "Be mindful of injuries to the head. This is a major concern for babies, because they are still in the stages of development. As much as they are small and fragile, they are pretty robust in other places."

Of course, we strongly encourage new parents not to drop their babies, but in the event that it does happen, try not to panic. Thoroughly examine your baby for any bruises or injuries and take note if your baby shows any signs of discomfort or pain.

Teary tantrums

Babies, Gibbon revealed, are very aware of emotions, especially from their parents.

"Babies that are unsettled are a reflection of the parents, so if the baby is crying excessively, a parent's response can exacerbate the situation and the cycle will continue. This is generally seen in first-time parents. Second-time parents have a more relaxed parenting outlook and this can contribute positively to a child's development," she stated.

She highlighted, too, that parents who are more relaxed with their baby can learn to understand the cries a baby may make.

"There are subtle differences that only through being in tune with your baby you can detect, like distinguishing a feeding-time cry, from a diaper-change cry, from a cry for attention. If you continue to pick them up every time they cry, then you may end up doing so for the rest of your life," Gibbon noted.

Sleeping patterns

Sleep for a baby is a critical part of their development, according to Gibbon. "It is very important for parents to have their babies settle and fall asleep by themselves. Try not to run in every time they cry, because this can affect their sleep pattern in years to come."

Also, a common thing she noted that new parents always say: "everyone has to be super quiet so that the baby can sleep". While it is all well and good for anyone to sleep in peace and quiet, this may be the worst thing a parent could do for the baby, in terms of walking on eggshells for the baby to sleep in dead silence, because the baby needs to adapt to everyday life. Life goes on, she said, and if a parent creates that setting, they will find that the baby will not adapt to the everyday life of the family. Instead, the family will adapt to the baby's needs and, pretty soon, the parents will find that they are raising a spoilt child.

Gender inequality

Gender inequality exists from the moment babies interact with their parents. Gibbon informed that scientific findings have shown that mothers do a lot more facial expressions with girls than they do with boys.

"By doing this, mothers are not tapping into their sons' emotions and that can prove to be problematic in the way in which they function in society and even in relationships," she said.

Dads, she affirmed, are also guilty of this, being boisterous and physical with their boys and gentle with their girls. Be mindful from early how you communicate. She highly recommends that parents try to strike that balance by being a little more robust with their girls and a little more gentle with boys.

Touch-and-feel period

Babies, Gibbon declared, use their mouths and hands to explore the great unknown, and it is through this means that they build up antibodies in their system. While it is great to be clean, she pointed out that, if babies do not get used to germs in the house, they will more than likely be susceptible to allergies and asthma in the long run.

Warning signs - cause for concern

Importantly, Gibbon advised new parents that, up to 18 months, if your baby doesn't imitate your smile or other actions, follow eye contact, or giggle and babble, then that could be a sign of some developmental issue, which can be detected from early instead of later on when it may be too late. Pay close attention and, if these warning signs are present, or there is a lack thereof in this case, take your cutie pie for a check-up with a psychologist and/or paediatrician to see how best the problem can be addressed.

krysta.anderson@gleanerjm.com