Dr. Josette Abdalla is an Associate Professor of Psychology and Licensed Clinical Psychologist. She earned her PhD from Ain Shams University and was Professor of Psychology at The American University in Cairo. She is currently working in private practice as a Consulting Clinical Psychologist and can be reached by email.
Every baby has his own unique character and his own temperament, but there are things you can do to help your baby become a happier and calmer baby.
According to Dr. Josette Abdalla, associate professor of psychology and licensed clinical psychologist, every newborn has his own temperament and his own character. We as mothers must accept this fact. Accepting your child the way he is, is the first step in raising children. “By nature, there is a quiet baby and there is an active baby. It is not a result of what the mother did or did not do. It’s just that some babies are relaxed and some are extremely uneasy,” explains Dr. Abdalla.
Five ‘first-year’ tips to help in control an uneasy baby and improve his behavior:
1) Give your baby space. According to Dr. Abdalla, a mother should give her baby love and care during breastfeeding and during daily activities such as bathing, changing of diapers, etc. However, Dr. Abdalla warns that during the first three months, the baby’s senses are still not refined enough, so he should not be overwhelmed with attention. For example, if he is lying in bed looking at the ceiling content and relaxed, do not interfere with his exploration of the world by making noises or using toys. Dr. Abdalla explains that the ceiling alone is enough to completely absorb all of baby’s senses, and it is enough stimulation to enhance his growth during this stage.
2) Create a routine. Dr. Abdalla emphasizes the importance of creating a routine because routine gives baby a sense of security. The routine should take the form of a series of daily activities that suit both the baby and the family as a whole, because every family is different in its needs and activities. Dr. Abdalla advises that it’s best if the baby wakes up at the same time each morning, starts by having a feed, and then has a bath. Afterwards, the baby can have some play-time, his next feeding, a nap and then later some more play time. In the afternoon, the activities should slow down to create a relaxing atmosphere to get ready for bedtime. This could include turning down the lights or playing some light music. A routine of this sort, repeated daily and consistently, will create a sense of serenity and security, helping a baby to be calm and happy. Dr. Abdalla adds, “Routine helps the baby eventually know what’s happening next during the day and this helps make happy babies.”
3) Keep your ‘care-giver’ constant. Dr. Abdalla advises that if for any reason a mother will not be caring for her baby all of the time and will be getting help, it is vital that the person who will be helping remains constant, whether it’s a nanny, grandmother, or a teacher at a daycare center or nursery. This will give the baby a sense of security and safety.
4) Create a bi-reciprocal relationship. “If both the mother and the baby are nervous at the same time, you have created a volcano,” says Dr. Abdalla. The mother should try to remain calm if her baby is screaming and crying constantly. “Stay cool as much as you can. You are allowed to get angry sometimes. It is ok for the child to know that sometimes mommy can get mad, but in general stay calm,” advises Dr. Abdalla. 5) Be flexible and sensitive to your baby’s needs. Dr. Abdalla explains, “Some mothers are very adamant and strict. Don’t be so strict with things that can be compensated. Be reasonable, or else it then becomes a war and the person who loses is the mother.” Dr. Abdalla further explains, “Mothers have to be flexible. Don’t focus on the negative aspects in your child, instead think of the positive aspects.” Dr. Abdalla stresses that if the baby is acting up, a mother should try to be sensitive to his needs and figure out what his behavior could be due to. For example, he may be hungry, may need to sleep, or may be hot. If the mother is calm and collected, this will eventually rub off on the baby. Maybe not during the first year, and maybe not even during the second, but eventually the child will catch on to his mother’s calm reactions and become calm himself.