You are expecting, or just had, a newborn baby. From my own experience, I can tell you that I was equal parts thrilled and terrified, excited and overwhelmed. Even with extended family around, there’s a feeling that the buck stops with me and that I’d better get this right. Do we always get it right? No. Do we understand all of our child’s baby talk? We try, but, no. What’s a new parent to do?
Despite the best intentions of those who’ve been there, done that, first born parenting is by definition a task of learning on the job. Our first borns are always our experimental child, because we are just trying out what we think is the right way to parent, without really knowing what the heck we are doing.
With our first born, I was determined to be the best dad ever. That meant rocking her each night until she was fast asleep in my arms. Then I would transfer her to her crib. Within 30 seconds of putting her down, she would let out a scream that would curl the paint on the walls.
After many nights of rocking her for over 3 hours to no avail, my wise and lovely wife challenged me. She suggested I take the stopwatch out of my testing kit, put our daughter down after 15 minutes of rocking her, and time how long it would take for her to fall asleep. I was aghast! How could I let her cry in her bed for hours on end until she fell asleep? Well, the time is embedded in my brain to this day. 6’36” and she was fast asleep for the night. I learned my lesson. What I thought was her cry of protest was a cry for attention. The more attention I gave her, the longer she stayed awake.
Take heart, new parents. You will soon learn the difference between your child’s “I’m hungry,” “I’m poopy,” I want attention,” “I’m mad,” and the most used, “I’m just messin’ with you” cries. If both parents are available, take turns both to help your child respond to each of you and also to spell each other on the job. And especially, if at all possible, when newborn is down for a nap, so should you be as well. Ask for help. Don’t try to be all things to all people. Learn to translate your child’s baby talk to tailor your response for both your needs and those of your child.