I get a couple of hundred emails and messages a day about babies from all sorts of people.
Most of my emails are from the ‘Cuddlers’ (you are doing a wonderful job!). Others are from ‘Tamers’ or people who have fallen for the nonsense being pushed by ‘Baby Tamers’ . I know there is a whole spectrum between these two ‘ends’, so I don’t generally use labels. But it makes me frustrated and impatient.
I’m not talking about exhausted parents reaching out for help. I’m talking about rude, self-entitled adults who talk about their babies as though they’re objects – inconvenient objects at that. They use words like ‘stubborn’ and ‘manipulative’ to describe tiny helpless infants.
I don’t have time to keep answering questions from people with ridiculous expectations of teeny, tiny babies, so I have made a FAQ (Frustratingly Asked Questions!) list, especially for the ‘Tamers’.
Watch: Questions you have when you don’t have kids: Sleep.
So, if you’re a ‘Tamer’ wanting a quick fix, just check your question here:
1. Why does my baby cry when I leave them in their cot?
Your baby doesn’t know they’re in a posh, safety standards approved cot with a monitor on the wall and anxious parents watching their every peep through the screen on their phone, between comparing your baby to all the peacefully snoozing babies on social media. Tip: There are a lot of parents out there pretending they have it all together because they don’t want to cop it for having a ‘bad baby’ either.
You have a stone age baby in a space age world. They are programmed to expect a sabre tooth tiger, a crocodile or an eagle to swoop and gobble them up if they’re all alone. So don’t leave them alone in the cot if they get upset. If they’re still crying, for goodness sake, pick the poor little kid up before they are overcome with stress hormones that will flood their tiny brain and make them feel terrified and abandoned.
2. Why does my baby cry when I don’t pick him up?
Your baby is trying to communicate with you. If you don’t ‘listen’ when they try to ask you nicely, then they’ll yell louder to make sure you hear. They need YOU to PICK THEM UP! (See #1 – also see these tips to help soothe the tears.)
3. Why does my baby cry if I won’t feed him for four hours?
Let’s see, how long do you go without reaching for the chocolate or caffeine? Or grabbing a sip of water from your water bottle? Or stuffing your face with food? Bet you don’t often go more than an hour or two without sucking on something.
Oh, and are you trying to double your weight? You baby’s gut is tiny – the size of their fist. Go on, check their fist. It’s little, isn’t it?
And how big are your boobs? Yep, some of us have shot-glasses and some of us have jugs. Although it’s not actually about the size of your boobs, but what’s inside them, if you try and refill a shot glass with a litre bottle of water (or gin for that matter!), you are going to need a lot of refills, aren’t you? Well actually, your baby will need around 800mls a day and, just to be clear, that will be a few shot glass refills.
If you have ‘schooners’ (or ‘jugs’), as long as your baby’s stomach is big enough, you won’t need as many refills.
However, whatever size your boob storage capacity is, your baby’s tiny little tummy will be empty before four hours and they will need a refill. And your boobs will need to be emptied to tell them to make more milk too.
Your baby is hungry, thirsty or needs cuddles and touch. Physical connection is just as important for growth and development as the food your baby eats. If you are feeding them breast milk, your baby will digest it really quickly (it’s fuel for their brain AND their body).
Whether you are giving your baby boob or not, they can’t reach the fridge yet so they need YOU to feed them. Watch your baby, not the clock and remember that crying can be a late hunger signal.
4. Why doesn’t my baby sleep for 12 hours?
Why did you have a baby if you want to sleep 12 hours? Maybe you should have got a puppy instead. Or a doll that you can just shut in the cupboard when you don’t want to play any more.
Your baby is programmed biologically to have periods of light sleep (it’s important for their brain development) and will arouse frequently in the early months. These frequent arousals are protective against SIDS and of course, they could be hungry too. (See #3 above.)
So ditch the unrealistic expectations (and the sleep plans that tell you your baby should sleep for 12 hours) and surrender. Nurturing a little person is a 24 hour a day (and night) gig.
5. Why does my baby wake up at 4am (I put him to bed at 6pm)?
If you put your baby to bed at 6pm, that’s 10 hours of sleep. They're either hungry after sleeping without food for 10 hours (see #3 above) so snuggle them up with a boob and go back to sleep – or they're ready to get up and explore the world. You have two choices here – get up at the crack of dawn or if, like me, you don’t ‘do’ mornings (anything before 6am is the middle of the night for me), keep your baby up a bit later in the evening. Be a FAMILY, feed them, play with them and enjoy their company. Then all go to bed together at a sensible time between 8pm and 10pm – and sleep until the sun really comes up.
Listen: Ashton Kutcher spent $1500 on a cot that puts his child to sleep. Ridiculous, or a worthwhile expense?
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6. Why is my baby so stubborn – they cry hysterically and refuse to self- settle?
Because your baby is not an inconvenience, they're a human being. They obviously CAN’T self-settle.
Do you ever fall asleep cuddled up to your partner? Then does he/she wake you up and say, get over to your own side of the bed, we are creating bad habits? Nah, didn’t think so. You probably even make love some nights before you fall asleep or read a bit or have a nice warm cuppa. How about trying to see things from your baby’s perspective – they're not ‘stubborn’, they're an evolutionary survivor and are expressing their needs – for YOU! Give them a cuddle or a boob (yes, really, there’s good stuff in that breast milk that’ll knock them right out).
And, instead of losing your mind over your baby losing theirs, be grateful they haven't given up on you. They still trust you will keep them safe, otherwise they would just shut up and not try to reach out to you. Think about it – do you want them to call you for a ride when they're sixteen and don't want to get in the car with a drunk driver? Or do you want to teach them right now that they're an annoying little sod and they better not bother messing up your life?
Sorry, not sorry if I’ve annoyed you, maybe we aren’t each other’s people and that’s okay. But if you want to learn more about responsive nurturing and how you can survive this intense time (I’m an IBCLC Lactation Consultant and a mum-of-five so I know a few tricks to beat the stress and calm your baby and your world), check out my books ‘Sleeping Like a Baby’ and ‘Parenting by Heart’ HERE and my interviews with experts recording packages HERE.
Pinky McKay is Australia's most recognised breastfeeding expert. She's a best-selling baby-care author and creator of Boobie Bikkies, all natural and organic cookies for breastfeeding mothers. For Pinky's tips to boost your milk supply naturally, download your FREE ebook "Making More Mummy Milk,Naturally" HERE.
A version of this post originally appeared on PinkyMcKay.com and has been republished here with full permission.