As most of you know, I am a mom of two boys. My first is three years old and my second is 5 months old. I have always been thirsty for knowledge and so I approached motherhood like a science project. I was painstaking about everything I did. I researched every point. For instance, as a coffee addict, I knew I couldn’t have my regular coffee kicks in the mornings but once my pregnancy hit 6 months, I discovered just how many granules of coffee was fine and I indulged in just fewer than that to be extra safe. As a breastfeeding mom, I was quick to unearth the fact that having cappuccino 4 hours before the next feed or pumping session was just ok. And so I would run to the office café as soon as I got to the office or just after pumping.
However there are a number of things I wish I knew about motherhood:
1. Identify and separate the small issues from the big deals
Not everything needs to be fussed about. I have now learned to figure out what my big picture is and focus on that. Now I know what the must haves, nice to haves and not at all important stuff are about parenting and I treat each accordingly. For example, it is nice if I bath my toddler myself but it is not a must. It is however a must that only I or one of my moms bath my infant. It is nice if I bottle-feed my infant myself but it is not so important. If I have to choose, I would rather hand him over to any available adult and spend that time assisting my toddler with his homework. My toddler has real feelings, my infant, not so much so if my older son is asking for my attention and my infant is also crying, I can hand over the infant to his nanny whilst I concentrate on the toddler who is more likely to feel bad and make assumptions about his needs being deprioritized.
Now I know that having every guest who came visiting my newborn march in a straight line to the loo to first wash their hands and thereafter sanitize was ok but definitely not a big deal. Now also I know that selecting an elderly person be a nanny is not really a big deal. What matters when it comes to choosing a nanny isn’t how old she is. Some 23 year olds are more intuitive and love kids even more than some 45 year olds.
2. Fed is best
Breastmilk is great but fed is best. I was so hung up about breastfeeding that I would feed my baby even though I was managing severely cracked nipples. I read books that breastmilk healed the sore nipples but I’m certain they weren’t speaking about bleeding nipples that required me popping painkillers before I begin to breast feed just because I was hell-bent on making it to the 6 month mark. I am in no way saying being fixated on making it to 6 months exclusively on breastmilk is too lofty a goal to have (Beyoncé fists at those who have done it and are doing it), but if like me you have issues with achieving this goal, don’t even feel bad when you have to open up that tub of Similac. Remember, fed is best.
3. You don’t need half of what you buy
Every vendor will market its product as a must have but truth is babies don’t really need so much. I went on a spree with baby Number 1 but with my second, I was much wiser.
4. Drop the intense baby speak from 6 months at the very latest and begin to converse
All that googoo gaagaa cheeky cheeky chuchu chacha should end as soon as a child starts showing the faintest sign that he understands you and is aware of his environment, usually by 3-5 months. It certainly shouldn’t enter into the 2nd half of a child’s first year. At that point, whilst speaking in a sing song voice and exaggerated vowels is fine, all the shaku shaku, booobooo baaabaa must transform to normal language.
I did the baby speak with my first well into age 2 and hardly engaged in meaningful conversations with him. I didn’t speak to him like I was dealing with a person who fully understood me. I treated him like a baby for the longest time. It was after I read up on it, I realized that all those cute speak stop being cute after a certain age. So whilst your 18 month old may pronounce words wrongly, don’t join him in the inaccurate pronunciations. Affectionately pronounce it rightly and engage in conversation as you would with an older child. It will help your child learn how to communicate effectively with you and with others. Raise the bar by speaking with your child like you would with an older child.
5. Read to your kids
This exercise is key and though I had so many books for kids, I didn’t really make reading to him a habit. I got so busy that the thought of sitting down every bedtime to read was totally unimaginable. I was not even home most bedtimes anyways but now I know better. At that young age, reading is not really for them to learn all about the lessons in the story you are reading. It is to expose them to sounds, speech and vocabulary. When you read to a baby, you are depositing into his language development bank. You might not know it, but they are taking in information and beginning to learn about speech patterns. As you point out the brown teddy bear to the baby, his brain is making a connection between your words and the brown teddy bear. The more frequently you read that book to baby, the stronger the connection grows.
Reading to babies helps grow their vocabulary and encourages them to exercise their brain and imagination as it encourages a thirst for knowledge. It promotes their early reading skills. Research shows that specific areas of the brain are affected when young children have reading exposure at home from an early age. These areas are critical for a child’s language development. Reading to a child enhances a child’s concentration.
6. Eliminate or Reduce Screen time before age 2
No matter the educative programme or coloring show you think you are exposing the child to, it just is not worth it. That quick technological distraction may feel like a saver so you can quickly finish up work but research shows it does more harm than good. It is okay for a child to patiently observe you as you work instead of you striving to fill up every moment with activity of any kind. Even when they are frustrated, handing them a gadget that offers immediate gratification discourages them from self-soothing. Give baby a toy, a remote control etc., let her explore.
To be continued