Mothering an Unsure or Highly Sensitive Baby
Mothering is the same in the beginning for all babies. Newborn babies need to be handled gently to help them adapt to extra-uterine life. Within a few weeks of mothering lovingly, most babies settle in and like to be held and cuddled. They seem content and you would say they are a happy baby. If your baby seems unsettled you might have an unsure or highly sensitive child.
The Unsure Baby
An unsure baby is one that is not sure about life outside the womb. Unsure babies seem fussy and unsettled. The six weeks following birth is just an extension of the womb for these babies. One way to spot an unsure baby is when you unwrap him from a swaddle he protests, or when you change his diaper he cries. He may have a hard time settling in at the breast; he does not tolerate change. This is a baby that isn’t sure about the world yet. One who is not sure he likes being outside of the womb. We have to convince him that this is a loving warm, caring place to be. Babies that start out extremely “agitated” or “fussy” can calm down and can become snuggly, content babies – if we help them adjust to life in a calm and gentle way. At around six weeks, the unsure baby settles in where the highly sensitive baby does not.
The Highly Sensitive Baby
Highly sensitive babies require a different kind of mothering long term. His or her sensitive personality can become an attribute with the proper nurturing care. The Highly Sensitive Child is a great resource in helping you understand and nurture your baby’s heightened perceptions of their environment and reactions to stimuli.
What You Can Do at Birth to Help
We have to convince our babies that the world outside the womb is a loving, warm, caring place to be. We need to create a quiet, peaceful environment with low stimuli.
After he emerges, he should be guided into his mother’s arms and observed. He should not be rubbed roughly or stimulated aggressively (unless medically indicated) –he should simply held gently by his mother. Ideally, the room should be darkened, and everyone should be silent or speak very quietly, so that the newborn hears only his family’s voices.
A dry warmed towel or absorbent blanket can be gently placed over mother and baby to wick away moisture (rubbing roughly is not needed to dry the baby). If he is placed on the mothers chest he will maintain the same temperature of his mother. In a hospital setting the rough drying comes from the personal stimulating the baby to cry immediatly which maybe needed if the cord is cut immediately after the baby is delivers. If the cord is not clamped immediately the baby crying immediately is not as critical and the first minutes can be a gentler transition for the baby
Care Tips for the First Six Weeks
The less stimulation the better for a newborn in their first six weeks. Keep the lights low, noise at a minimum, the television off, conversations at a low calm, and hold your baby skin to skin as much as possible. Playing the same soft music can help some babies with calmness. When you change them, use warm wipes or a warmed washcloth so you do not startle them. Ideally, surround your baby with the same people to create a sense of belonging and stability in their environment. Dress them in the same soft cotton clothing (nothing scratchy) washed with un-perfumed detergents. Your goal is to create an environment for him that is close as possible to the womb.
By creating a low stimulus, loving environment the first few weeks, your baby will soon get used to his world A good indicator that he is adjusting is when he no longer protests when you change his diaper or when he is happy to be unwrapped from a swaddle.
I have found that babies that are unsure are often the babies that have not had a gentle birth, a gentle beginning to their life. Maybe their mouth and nose were suctioned vigorously , or maybe they we dried off roughly at birth. In some manner, they were not treated with gentleness and respect. Each baby is different and tolerates these ungentle procedures differently. Even babies who have gone through these procedures, if treated lovingly and respectfully, will eventually settle in and realize this world is a soft gentle loving place to be.