Unfortunately, They Don't Come With An Owner's Manual

The other day I read a question on a message from a new mother-to-be. She was only 17, about to give birth, and had no one to give her advice or help her with the baby. She was scared to death. As a seasoned mother of two and a grandmother of four, I felt compelled to I write back with a few things I learned a long time ago when I had my first child. . .

I remember when I was pregnant with my first child. I knew nothing about babies (I did have a mother and a large network of helpful friends and relatives to call on if needed, but I was determined to show them I knew what to do and could do it myself). I had been reading Dr. Spock's book on baby and child care for months. I felt I had the 'book knowledge' I needed and hoped the 'practical' knowledge would just be there.

A few hours after giving birth, I walked to the newborn nursery and looked in the window at all the tiny babies and the nurses who were caring for them. I was fascinated by the activity, and over the next few days of my hospital stay I spent hours at the window, just watching. I took in everything that was happening behind the scenes - diapering, bathing, feeding, burping, dressing. I noticed how relaxed the nurses were while handling the screaming, wiggly, tiny babies. They handled them like they wouldn't break. I was amazed at how they did everything so casually. It gave me confidence that I could care for my baby just as well as they were.

Here are a few of the things I remember thinking:

THEY WON'T BREAK. You can handle them, bathe and clothe them, feed nd burp them and you really won't hurt the tiny beings. Just keep a firm but gentle hold on them at all times as they are slippery when wet and very wiggly most of the time. You can carefully bend tiny arms and legs to get them into their clothing and they really won't break. Just be gentle.

The most important thing is making a baby feel SECURE, SAFE AND LOVED. The nurses 'swaddled' each baby snugly in it's receiving blanket. The baby became a small, solid package, easy to hold and it felt secure with its arms and legs safely tucked in. When passed around to all the loving friends and family - some who had never even held a newborn - the baby felt snug and safe. I continued the practice of swaddling for at least a month, maybe more. My baby didn't cry very much, slept well, ate well and was very content. I feel it was due to her feeling secure and loved; snug and swaddled.

GET TO KNOW YOUR BABY. A baby loves to be held and talked to, touched and cuddled. I held my baby most all the time she was awake and only put her in her cradle when she was ready to sleep. Holding your baby doesn't 'spoil' her or make her fuss more when she is put down. I think it's just the opposite. It makes your baby feel secure and loved and that's the most important thing in the world for anyone to feel.

These three things got me through the days and nights of early parenthood. My Dr. Spock book stayed close to me and I consulted it often and looked up many, many things that first year. My baby thrived and grew and I became smarter and smarter and soon I felt I'd become an 'expert' at motherhood. Believe it or not, you will too!


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