Cradle or Carrier?
Congratulations! You gave birth to a lovely, perfect baby who chose you to be his nurturing mother. Now you have a delema - cradle or carrier?
You might have other children, but once again you are a brand new mother, lovingly caring for this perfect baby who just left the warmth and coziness of the womb. Without any warning, he's suddenly released from the warm embrace and is able to move freely. Strange people are holding him and he's surrounded by loud voices and pungent smells. He's being rocked, poked and prodded, and experiencing the new sensations of heat, cold, and bright lights. He is dressed in clothes that are not natural to him and he hasn't had time to get used to all of this. It is all very frightening.The nightmare ends suddenly when you pick him up, and all is right in the world. During the first few days your smell reminds him of the amniotic fluid that surrounded him in the womb; the sense of your heartbeat against his body helps him adjust his irregular breathing. He hears the familiar sounds of your body and feels the gentle touch of your lips. He is already familiar with bacteria from your skin, because he absorbed antibodies through the placenta. Together with your breastmilk he is well-protected from any external bacteria. However, he is still vulnerable.
His only way to cope with all this newness is to cry. His survival mechanism taught him that every time you leave, his cries will bring you right back to protect and care for him.
Your lap is his new home; your breasts are a source of protection and nourishment, and your voice is a safe haven that he recognizes from his time in the womb.
So, do you really need a cradle?
Every mother has said at one point "He fell asleep while breastfeeding, but each time I place him in the cot he starts crying again and wants to nurse."Your baby is very smart. It's important to know that:
- This does not mean you don't have enough breastmilk or that he wasn't full. On the contrary; he nurses very well and knows that it's good for him, so he wants more of your breastmilk.
- Babies move in between light and deep stages of sleep every 30 minutes.
- When your baby is making the sucking motions associated with a rooting reflex, it does not mean he's using you as a pacifier. These are early signs that your baby has finished breastfeeding, and will soon fall into a stage of deep sleep.
- You are not overindulging your baby by letting him fall asleep at your breast. Children need to develop some language skills before they can be spoiled, and crying is just your baby's survival mechanism.
So, what can you do?
- Touch – no amount of contact is too much. There are a number of carriers on the market, so you can have both hands free while still caring for your baby.
- Breastfeeding on demand – learn to recognize your baby's early signs of hunger; bringing his hands to his mouth, tilting his head, searching for a breast, and sucking sounds. When your baby starts crying it's a sign that he is already very hungry.
- Efficient milk flow – check with a certified lactation consultant to make sure that you are breastfeeding well, and to be sure that your milk flow is not causing any problems.
- Deep sleep in familiar surroundings – hold your baby for a few more minutes after you finish breastfeeding until he enters the deep sleep stage. Then place him to sleep on a shirt that you wore for a few days, so your smell is all around him.
- No gloves – baby's hands and fingernails are his friends from the womb. If you see that he scratched himself, you can drip a tiny amount of breastmilk on the scratches and see another example of breastmilk's healing properties. Baby's hands are also a source of comfort, and each time he touches you it increases your milk-production hormones.
- Secure routine – if you and baby need to leave your home, do it and enjoy yourselves. But maintain the routine you have at home: pay attention to the first signs of hunger, and try to avoid letting strangers hold your little treasure.