According to parenting expert Debra Gilbert Rosenberg, this is one of the many myths that suggest that there is only one chance to do things right as a mother. "Although research has shown that the first few hours of a baby's life are important, your
She says women who have had C-sections, have babies who are born needing immediate medical interventions, or have adopted need not be so hard on themselves. A loving relationship over the child's lifetime will more than make up for those missing few hours or even days or weeks of separation.
Rosenberg says this isn't the case every time. It doesn't make you a bad mom if you can't fix every problem. You and your baby need to get to know one another, and that takes time, she says. (Find out how well you know
your baby's cries.)
OK, they do eat and
sleep a lot, but they still have a lot to do, says Janet Doman, director of The Institutes for the Achievement of Human Potential. "Newborn babies are not the happy little bundles that we like to imagine that they are," she says. "Instead they are very intent human beings struggling against very difficult circumstances to overcome blindness, deafness, and immobility...the sensory and motor pathways grow and develop based upon stimulation."
The reality is that
breastfeeding isn't always easy. Even though breastfeeding is medically best for most babies, it's not always possible, Rosenberg says. "Breastfeeding is a skill that a new mother and her baby need to learn to do well," Rosenberg says. Lactation consultants can help.
There is no preset alarm clock that determines when a baby will
gain a new ability, Doman says. "The sensory pathways grow when appropriate visual, auditory, and tactile stimulation is given with the proper frequency, intensity, and duration," she says.
For example, a newborn usually has a less than perfect light reflex (when Baby is exposed to light and the pupil constricts in response to that light). The sooner this reflex matures and becomes consistent, the sooner Baby will develop the ability to see outline and then detail.
"In most babies, this reflex is stimulated by accident whenever the baby is taken from darkness to light," Doman says. "But mother can arrange for that 'accident' to happen with greater frequency and intensity so that the visual pathway grows more quickly in response to the enhanced stimulation."
These devices actually prevent the baby from learning how to move and explore the world, Doman says. When the baby is given the opportunity to be on his belly on the floor, he will move. But too often the baby is placed in a
high chair, backpack, playpen,car seat, or stationary walker. "The baby should be free to move on his belly as much as possible, and confined, bundled up, or restricted as little as possible," Doman says.
Adults should always use the very best
language and vocabulary when talking to the baby, Doman says. Each day the baby's understanding grows in leaps and bounds. "Baby talk is essentially disrespectful of the intellectual ability of the tiny baby," she says. "The baby has the right to hear his native tongue spoken properly, not in a degraded fashion that the baby will have to unlearn later."
Babies have superb attention, interest, and enthusiasm for everything in the environment. They pay attention to 10 things at once instead of focusing on one thing at a time like adults do, Doman says. This is one reason why they learn so quickly. "They may not pay attention to what we want them to pay attention to, and this may be frustrating to us," she says. "We would do better to find out what interests the baby and pay more attention to that with the baby."
Baby is actually
trying to communicate almost all the time. It isn't easy because he can't make sounds that we adults understand as words. As a result, Doman says, we often assume the sounds he makes are meaningless.
"The sounds the baby makes are not like language," she says. "They are language. All sounds are language. The baby does not waste his breath. Always listen to your baby. Be willing to wait for a response. Accept the fact that the baby decides whether to respond or not; it is his choice. Respond to what he says. Welcome enthusiastically every effort the baby makes to talk. It is vital for the baby to know that Mother knows that he is talking."
"Learning begins at birth or before," Doman says. "The brain grows explosively between conception and age 6.
Learning is actually an inverse function of age—the younger the baby is, the faster he will learn ... his happiness, health, and general well-being are also significantly improved by stimulation and opportunity."
If you're frustrated with parenthood, take heart: The myth that parents are the problem is decidedly not true. If anything, parents are the answer. Being a mother or father is the most important profession in the world, says Doman. "Parents know their own child better than anyone else," she says. "Parents should never compromise or allow themselves to be bullied into doing anything they do not understand or with which they do not agree."