Hey everyone! Welcome back to The Social Nanny. My name is Jessica Jones and I am so delighted that you’ve decided to go on this journey with me. I hope that you’ve stuck to those New Years’ resolutions and are constantly making more goals for yourself!
Last week, I talked a little bit about myself, my background, and my hopes for this blog. My dream is that this will be a place where we can all grow in our knowledge together and learn more and more about the kids that we care for every day.
Over the next couple of weeks, we will open the conversation about kids and their stages in life. Now, I have worked with children from 4 weeks old up to 18 years old, some who have mental or physical disabilities, some who are super rambunctious, and some who are extremely shy. Through it all, I have noticed some similarities in different stages of the lives of kids.
Let’s start with infancy. Babies are so much fun. They are small, easy to cuddle, and smell so sweet. It’s like a benefit to all of the hard work that goes into taking care of a baby… and they are SO MUCH work. They’re completely dependent on you to take care of their every need. During this time, babies need the basics: food, shelter, and attention.
I know that with food, most mothers and/or caretakers put their babies on a schedule of eating every three hours. This works for most kiddos. If you see that the baby is extremely fussy or is inconsolable at most times of the day, try moving their eating schedule around to accommodate for a smaller window of time between feedings. Most babies fuss because they are hungry. And if you find your little one getting hungry faster, go ahead and increase the amount of milk that they are getting during feeding times.
I recently read a post written by a mother in the UK. Growing up in Kenya, she wanted her kids to grow up in her home country. When she became pregnant, she sold her practice, moved back home, and began to read books and articles about babies so that she could be the best mom that she could be. After reading somewhere that African babies don’t cry as much as European babies, she began to observe the mothers around her. She found that the articles seemed to line up with those observations: the African babies did not cry as much! When she asked her grandmother the reason why, her response was that African mothers always want to feed their baby when they start to cry.
Her advice was solid. One thing she said was to offer food to the baby anytime he or she is upset.. Even if you have just fed them. I know that this is not a very popular practice, because mothers and caregivers may be worried about the baby overeating. If the baby spits up after a feeding, most likely he or she has overeaten. You will be able to monitor how much he or she has eaten and then be able to differentiate between hunger and another need. But offer food first! Your baby grows extremely fast, anywhere from 6 to 12 inches in the first year and can triple his or her birth weight in that same year! Because of this, cells are rapidly multiplying, creating copies of itself, and using lots of energy. Your baby may need more food to accommodate these amazing and crazy changes. Especially during growth spurts, food is essential. So always offer food first to your baby.
Another piece of advice given was to read your baby, not the books. Now, I’m not saying that you should abandon all knowledge and wisdom written in books by experts, but I am saying that if you deviate from the books every now and then, your baby will not be in harms’ way. The grandmother said this in relation to feeding times: you know your baby better than the book, so you read your baby’s needs and give him or her food when he or she needs it. I think that this advice can also stretch beyond just feeding. I’ve been amazed at some mothers’ abilities to read their babies. I can remember times when a baby was fussy and the mom would look over and say, “Oh, you have gas, poor thing!”, promptly pick up the baby, pat them to burp them, and then put them back down with the baby now content as can be. Other times, I have seen moms reach for the diaper bag before you can even hear the telltale sound of their baby relieving themselves. Even other times, I have seen mothers turn their babies towards the sound of their voice or use touch to soothe them. A mom’s intuition is like none other!
If you are a caregiver, don’t you fret. You can bond with a baby just like this, too. You will, of course, never replace the baby’s mom, but you can learn to see and respond to these cues as well as the mother does. If you have trouble differentiating between cues, ask mom or dad (or both) to help you decipher. They would love to see you taking an interest in the care of their child more than just doing your “duty” or “what you are being paid for”. Remember that each infant is a life, a human being who is worthy of being invested into.
Another thing that babies need is shelter. You might be thinking, well duh, everyone needs shelter! We do, but babies may need a different type of shelter or their shelter may need to be more regulated. I remember nannying for a family whose baby needed an extremely cold environment to feel comfortable. Now, cold to me is a house set to 72 or 73 degrees, so it may not have been as cold as I am making it out to be. But the point is, if I would have set the house to my liking, the baby would have been so uncomfortable that she would have not been able to sleep, eat, or play. Her daily routine would have been thrown through a loop because she was not given adequate shelter.
Another family I babysat for had a baby that needed to be held at least once every hour for a 15 minute stretch of time. I don’t know if it was because of a medical issue or a psychological issue (the family did not open up about it, so I did not pry), but they knew that in order for their child to feel protected and/or stay healthy, he needed to be held. Skin to skin for 15 minutes every hour (unless he was sleeping). It may sound like a lot, but it is so vital to the health and wellness of a child that his or her shelter is adequate. Shelter can affect the psyche, physical health, and mental wellness of a baby. He or she observes the stimulants felt, and when they feel instability, they react in kind. Sometimes a fussy baby is the cause of discomfort from a lack of adequate shelter.
The last thing that babies need is attention! They need to be loved on, doted on, spoken over, changed, bathed, etc. .. all of those good things require attention. One of the things that I hate to see on babies is a bad diaper rash. I can imagine having a burning rash on my bottom that is covered by a non-breathable material all day. I can’t reach it, I can’t soothe it, I can’t see it, and I don’t even understand why it’s feeling this way. Babies feel the same way. In lots of cases, if caregivers are paying close attention, diaper rash can be prevented. It takes lots of intentional attention, and sometimes other factors come into play, but for the most part it can be prevented!
Babies also need to be spoken to and over daily. The power of positive speaking cannot be overlooked! In their book, Words Can Change Your Brain, Andrew Newberg, M.D. and Mark Robert Waldman write: “a single word has the power to influence the expression of genes that regulate physical and emotional stress.” That simply means this: whatever you are speaking to your baby and over your baby will manifest in your baby’s behavior, body, and personality. Babies need you to joyfully lavish attention on them and as they grow, their little bodies and minds will adapt to whatever you speak into existence over them.
This is also Biblical, and I love it when I can see where faith and science align. The Bible says in Proverbs 18:21 that life and death are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit. Babies love the sound of their caregivers’ voices. They will eat the fruit that is produced from it, and those seeds will produce a harvest in their life. Make sure that what you are speaking over them is good, noble, right, true, lovely, admirable, and praise worthy. Make sure that you are investing into the babies that God has entrusted you with.
There are so many more things to be said about infants, but I would encourage you in this: research. Find some good books written by credible sources: doctors, mothers, caregivers, research experts. Then read the Bible. Find out what God’s word says about how we should be caring for infants. Cross reference them and then run with what knowledge you have. The Holy Spirit will then give you wisdom on how to fully walk it out in the best way for your infant child.
Thanks for reading and I will be with you again to talk about toddlers: 1 year olds, 2 year olds, and three year olds. This is your Social Nanny. Until next week!