Compared to many other animals, human babies are born very immature. They have very little ‘working memory’ and the thinking, planning, evaluating part of their brain is not yet connected up. It will be months before they can learn about altering their patterns of living, like sleeping longer and feeding less often or responding to a routine.
Young babies react only through their innate body rhythms. It is those body rhythms that parents need to tune in to in those first anxious and delightful early months as they learn about their baby. This is the critical process of ‘attunement’.
This remarkable process actually installs computer-like code into your baby’s newly connecting brain and gives them a solid base of security and an inner knowledge of what love is. This is the very essence of sensitive and appropriate parenting.
Young babies do not have a concept of their identity as separate from their mothers, but their bodies do have a specific rhythm that is unique to them and independent. By observing this rhythm without interference, we can recognise it and work with it.
Try to avoid having pre-set ideas about when to feed or when to put your baby down to sleep. Whatever you do, it’s likely to be okay. Such is her adaptability, the baby will usually comply. However, using the baby’s own body to determine a program is more likely to develop into a mutually satisfying and successful daily routine.
In the early days, many new parents find merely watching their babies very difficult. You may have too many bits of advice coursing through your brain to allow you to just see what works for your baby. Thoughts like, ‘the baby ought to be doing this’ or ‘we should be doing that’ or ‘he isn’t supposed to be doing this’ can get into your head. Instead, try to calm yourself and just concentrate on looking at the cues and signs your baby is giving you.
Essentially, attunement is a process of noticing the little behavioural characteristics of your baby when she is hungry, upset, tired, over-stimulated or distressed. Then deal with those emotions when they arise, using the following Top Tools for parents:
- Common sense
- Trial and error
- Confidence from knowing that babies are inherently pretty tough and adaptable
In the early days, you will probably get it wrong more than a few times. That’s part of the process. Good enough is fine. Your baby is not expecting perfect parents right from the start. Also remember that your baby’s memory is very short, and you will be rapidly forgiven.
Over time, you will feel more confident. Trust your own instincts and act on what feels best and right for your baby.
Head here to read more articles about taking care of your child in the early years.