A Compassionate Approach to Caring for Babies

The Comparison Thing

We live in a society that constantly judges, labels, and compares one person to another. It is understandable and necessary that over time we adjust to the pressures of these comparisons by developing a bit of a thick skin, toughening up emotionally and not letting others’ opinions affect us (too much, at least!). For some, coping with the stress of such judgments is more easily said than done.

Unfortunately, new parents experience this stress in spades, because everyone has an opinion about how to “do the right thing” when it comes to raising a child. Friends and family—and sometimes complete strangers—want you to follow their advice. People will tell new parents all kinds of things—that their own baby did this and that perfectly and that they never had the problems you are having. They will remark about how their baby slept through the night right away. They will even tell lies.

With all of this judging, labeling, and comparing going on, mixed in with the challenges added by raging hormones and sleep deprivation, parents can have serious doubts about themselves and their baby. There is no such thing as thick skin for new parents. These comparisons hurt.

Misconceptions & Misnomers

This kind of parenting advice is so painful because it is wrong. It is unfair and hurtful to judge, label, or compare a baby. Babies don’t have a choice about their behaviors. There is no such thing as a “good baby”—no baby is better than another. Babies, like all people, are unique, and uniqueness cannot be compared.

There is no such thing as a “fussy” baby. Calling a baby fussy is unfair and judgmental and amounts to labeling, a form of name calling or bullying. According to the dictionary, fussy means “concerned with minor things, choosy, [and] easily upset.” Synonyms include “picky, particular, finicky, [and] hard to please.” People who demonstrate these behaviors are attempting to control a person or situation. We can see that “fussy” is an undesirable concept used to describe conscious adult behaviors, not babies’ expressions of need.

Neither are babies “demanding” or “grumpy”; they have discomfort problems. They are not complaining; they are signaling for help in the only way they know how—with grunts and cries. Crying is also a powerful stress reliever. Babies need compassionate cuddling while they cry to feel better. When they are comfortable, they will return to their main activity: charming the world.

Babies do not attempt to control others or to manipulate in any sense of the word. They have limited reasoning ability, so how could they possibly be able to think about controlling someone?

It’s not easy to be a baby. The rapid pace of their physical, mental, and emotional development presents a constant challenge. Loving patience gives babies the courage they need to endure the tummy aches that make them feel restless or the trapped gas that makes it difficult for them to settle down.

Babies do not “fight sleep.” “Fight” is a harsh word that connotes blame. Instead, babies struggle to get comfortable. Using the word “struggle” brings a more compassionate approach to the dilemma. Babies struggle to go to sleep because they are restless and unable to settle down, but they are not this way by choice. It is easy for a baby to feel overwhelmed after a day filled with many sights, sounds, smells, people, and activities. Their little bodies and emotions are over-stimulated, and it takes time for them to settle down. They need to feel safe, comfortable, and loved so they can relax into sleep.

Easy Does It!

Babies do the best they can. If they could, they would always choose to enjoy a meal and then drift peacefully off to sleep, but they can’t. In the meantime, we can offer our support and love while we marvel at their ability to capture our hearts, keeping us spellbound for hours at a time. Babies are a wealth of joy. They need kind and gentle guidance, because this is how they will learn to be kind, gentle, and happy people.

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