I need to call rubbish on this one...
So let’s talk about two of the best kept baby secrets:
1. Your baby doesn't NEED to be put down (but actually needs you to hold them)
Why oh why oh why is their such pressure for us to separate from our babies? Why is there victory attached to being able to "put the baby down"? Why are we told repeatedly that babies NEED to learn to self-soothe, self-settle, go to sleep on their own, be able to put down?
Yes know, I get it, it's bloody hard having a baby attached to you all day long. I'm guilty of doing a little victory dance when I get the baby to lay down peacefully for a day time nap. (in fact, I've just done it so I can sit down and write this.) But here's the thing, I boobed her to sleep, and if she wakes up early, I'll roll my eyes and then I'll go and get her. And cuddle her some more.
But for a baby to be conventionally "good" they need to be put down, sleep on their own and not be needy, ideally sleeping 12 hours through the night ASAP. Erm....
So, here's the thing; baby would rather be close, cuddled, on you. Especially in those first few months (and beyond...it’s a gradual thing). Why is it that for almost all babies ever, if you put them down they freak out? There must be a reason for this. There totally is, it's survival. When a baby is born they are born utterly unable to regulate core bodily functions. By being close to you, you help to regulate their little tiny bodies.
Breathing - babies breathe an awful lot more and faster than we do. We can observe that their breathing pattern can become irregular. By holding your baby close, this irregular breathing will calm. (conversely the further away you are the more chaotic it will become)
Temperature - when babies are born they are unable to thermo-regulate in the way we can. That means that if they get too hot they cannot cool themselves down, too cold, struggle to warm back up. Did you know that your body, when skin to skin with your baby can adjust by a degree up or down to help your baby regulate?
Heart rate - your babies heart rate will be significantly higher than yours, and higher still when stressed. Again, when you baby is held close, the sound of your heart beat soothes and calms your baby.
So, by holding your little one close, you are helping to regulate their little systems. (Autonomic Nervous System)
For me, understanding a little of why my babies behave in the way they do helps to cope with their high demands on me.
I want to mention you in all of this. These are intense times. Your baby really does need you. How do we cope? To move from whatever role, you were in before entering this newborn phase (be it working, having bigger kids etc...) is completely life altering. This can be overwhelming. You will get through it. It will be worth it. It won’t last forever. Check out my tips for getting through the fourth trimester here.
2. This WON’T do them any harm! (in fact, the opposite!)
So, going hand in hand with the apparent NEED to put the baby down is the comment that if you don't put your baby down, your baby will become clingy, never settle on their own. Always need the boob, or sling, or bottle, or cuddles.
I want to share with you a little gem I found in the revisions made to the governments Healthy Child Programme (health care provision for 0-5's. revised in 2015) I find it particularly helpful to read this when it should be a guiding document for our health care professionals.
“Skin to skin contact (SSC) are universal interventions. They involve the carer holding the baby so that there is close contact between them. Early SSC appears to benefit breastfeeding outcomes and cardio-respiratory stability, and decrease infant crying, with no apparent short- or long-term negative effects.
Results of a review conducted by Moore et al (2012) also further indicated that SSC may also improve maternal attachment behaviour.”
(SSC can be through full skin to skin contact, or a cuddle face to face, nuzzling your neck, breastfeeding, cuddling while bottle feeding, cuddling in a sling...and isn't limited to the first moments after birth)
NO APPARENT short or long term negative effects.
So they aren't going to be fussy clingy bigger kids!
And the positive effects are, better breastfeeding outcomes, regulated heart rate AND decrease in infant cry AND improve maternal attachment. Good attachement and bonding (not to be confused with attachemt parenting) has positive outcomes for a child as they grow up. This has far reaching benefits even in terms of school work, mental health and positive behaviour.
AND reduced crying. Well I'm all for that. My parenting is pretty much about doing things with the least crying possible (me and the kids, ha).
WHOOP! So those instincts you have to scoop up your baby when they are crying are to be trusted. You are doing nothing wrong. Your baby is not “bad” by crying out for you.
That’s not to say that sometimes a break would be nice. I kind of joke now with new mums that my basic self-care tip is that you get to go to the toilet at least once on your own each day…eek.
For me this is where slings come in. To use a sling means to be able to remain in close contact with my babies during this intense time, and still function. There are slings to suit everyone. You’ll be very welcome at a sling library session where there are lots of slings to try on and borrow if you would like to.
But really, will I ever be able to put my baby down? Well, yes. Often, I’m reminded of this when at sling meets, older toddlers of peer supporters are off, playing happily. Not clinging to mum’s leg. They are fiercely independent little things and yet they were exclusively Babyworn during the first few months of life. They are little ones who know that they can trust in their parents. Parents who will come when they need.
To read more on the healthy child programme go here: (and did you know the original specifically promotes the use of soft slings!) https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/healthy-child-programme-rapid-review-to-update-evidence
Here are some beautiful pics of some lovely SSC going on...all that bonding 💜💜