It is such a pleasure to see you all so happy with your children. As I close my eyes I see children of all ages, from newborns to teenagers, clinging to their parents, sometimes happy & merry, sometimes sad and crying, some healthy, some sick, some content and pleasant, some irritable and cranky. But one thing is common in all the parents-- their eagerness to help their children. Every parent has numerous questions to ask pertaining to better child care. As a paediatrician I have been responding to these questions for long many years. But now when I look back I feel, much has remained unspoken and unexplained. So in this open letter I will try to address the parental queries that I can recollect.
Newborn -2 months
Let’s start with the young mother with her newborn baby, who is ready to give all for her baby but just doesn’t know what is best. Dear Mom, don’t waste time, start breast feeding as soon as possible and feed her as frequently as she wants, holding her close. The best gift you can give her is your milk and your lap. This will provide not only nutrition and warmth, but also sense of security and gratification.
As the baby grows in your lap, look into her eyes, smile at her and talk with her. Very soon she will start to recognise you and reciprocate with her own cues. This is the beginning of social interaction. Whenever the little baby cries to express any need, respond immediately. This pacifies the baby and gives her a sense of control over her environment. She learns the meaning and impact of her own cry. This is her first exposure to the cause and effect phenomenon.
We must remember that the newborn baby can see, hear and feel too, just like us adults; they are not inert! They can also express their feelings and needs with their cry, their gestures and body movement. It is for us to honour their senses and pay attention to their cues...and the mother is the best at it. Strong or flickering lights, loud noise, harsh touch, hot or cold temperature...all these irritate a baby, whereas he/she is soothed by soft music, soft light and soft, warm touch. This is why the little one is so peaceful and comfortable when mama holds him in her arms, humming a lullaby.
Even a newborn can see and they preferentially focus on human faces. So you will notice that in a few days the baby is looking at your face as you feed him. Look back with a wide, warm smile. Here, we must remember, during the first six weeks of life the baby is much like a demanding, grumpy old man, either feeding, sleeping or showing discontent. He will need frequent feeds and a lot of sleep but doesn’t seem to pay heed to your smiles. Don’t lose heart, your efforts aren’t lost. He feels the comfort of your lap and warmth of your smile and is developing an attachment, though still unable to express happiness.
· Come 6 weeks and he will start showing responses. As you look into his eyes, he will stare back and gradually a smile will appear anytime between now and 2 months. This ‘social smile’ implies that he is beginning to understand human behaviour and can win your attention with his smile. This is the beginning of his communication skills. Your consistent and animated response will boost his confidence and self control. He will learn that his feelings are important and he can affect his environment.
A lot of things you see the baby do during these early days may seem unnatural and problematic. He may want to feed almost every few minutes, he may pass watery stool with yellowish granules upto 8-10 times a day, or, not pass stool at all for a week, there may be peeling of skin all over, big blue patches on his back, a baby girl may have bloody discharge from her vagina, there may be a blister on the upper lip or maybe a tooth or two...these are all normal variants. Do not panic, but consult your doctor to make sure.
Enjoy nurturing God’s special gift for you....and if, in the process, you have any questions for me, mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
I will be back for the baby turning 3 months.