When it comes to your baby, you are the real expert.
MORE THAN 345 books are available at Amazon.com on parenting skills alone. On top of all those information sources are baby-care videos and classes, experienced (or not) friends and family, and parenting gurus. But there is only one real authority on your baby: you. “You’ve been the world that has cared for your baby during pregnancy,” says Libby Colman, Ph.D., a social psychologist and the author of seven books on pregnancy and parenting. “Your body has the expertise.” The key, Colman says, is to focus on your baby and learn his rhythms, needs and temperament. She suggests that for the first two weeks after giving birth, you should spend time with just your baby and partner. Later, being around people who have children of similar ages and a similar parenting philosophy can help you reaffirm what you’re doing. “Find people who facilitate your being with your baby without trying to control how you parent,” Colman says.
Keep in mind, too, that you will grow into parenthood. “A first-time mother learns and grows month to month with her baby,” says Kelly Malanga, a mother of four. Books can give you ideas, but time and experience with your baby will teach you how to raise your child.
Books and experts do have their place. They can provide support and ideas to augment your style or offer direction if you’re looking for a new approach. You’ll need expert advice when confronted with something medical or pathological, but even then, let your instincts help determine whether you should ask more questions, do more research or seek second opinions.
“As a culture, we have forgotten that birth and parenting are normal processes,” says Elisabeth Bing, co-founder of Lamaze International. “They are not just learned experiences; they’re in our bodies. It’s a matter of saying, ‘Yes, I can do it.’” You can. Your baby trusts you. Trust yourself.
It seems as if you’re making up your mind [about day-to-day baby-care decisions] in a vacuum, but you’re not. The truth is, you’ve got your own reasons for doing things—and they’re not just instincts, but reasons.
>T. BERRY BRAZELTON, M.D. Pediatrician and author of Touchpoints: Your Child’s Emotional and Behavioral Development