4. Lose the audience.
When your baby is hard to calm, find a place to work it out in private. Not only will this get your child out of a stimulating environment, but it will also protect you from unsolicited advice. If relatives try to follow you, go into the bathroom and shut the door. (Even the nosiest know-it-alls won’t follow you there!) Then turn on the fan—the white noise may do the trick.
5. Be decisive.
Tune into your gut feelings to make decisions quickly and confidently. Start small (regular or lavender baby wash?) and work up. Quickly “try on” your decision before finalizing. “See how you feel—relieved or rubbed the wrong way—and listen to yourself,” says Debra Condren, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist in New York. Once you choose, move on without second-guessing. “Keep reminding yourself: I’m top-dog expert here.”
6. Take notes.
You may know the answers to all the pediatrician’s questions, from your baby’s age to her highest temperature, before you walked into his office, but suddenly you can barely remember your child’s name. Research shows that people under acute stress have difficulty retaining information in their short-term memories. So bring notes to every appointment with your pediatrician and jot down the doctor’s instructions while you’re there.
7. Don’t hide your emotions.
It’s understandable to lose your calm after your baby has been on a crying jag for three hours or your toddler is throwing a tantrum. The surprise is, sometimes it’s good for your baby to see you upset, as long as it’s justified and doesn’t happen too often. As she grows, your child will look to you to learn how to handle emotions. When she sees you sad, scared, mad or frustrated, say what you’re thinking: “I was feeling sad, but I feel better now” or “That was scary. I’m glad we’re safe.”
“Your child is going to run that ‘mommy tape’ in her head the rest of her life whenever she’s feeling emotional,” says Kathryn Oden, Ph.D., a neuropsychologist at Carson-Tahoe Hospital in Carson City, Nev. “She’s going to learn how to self-soothe from you.” Just dial back the drama if your baby starts to cry or look frightened.