INFANT MENTAL HEALTH AWARENESS WEEK 2020
Seeing the World Through Babies’ Eyes
11th June 2020
Babies are great at communicating. Every snuffle, wriggle and cry is a form of communication; and the more you can understand what your baby is trying to say to you, the easier your relationship will be.
Learning to recognise the indicators in your baby’s different behavioural states is a great place to start, and DorPIP, the Dorset charity that helps nurture family bonds, has created some pointers.
Quiet Alert: This is when your baby is bright-eyed and receptive, their attention focused on their surroundings. This is a good time to play games like peek a boo. When your baby begins to tire or feel overstimulated, they my turn their head and avert eye contact for a few moments. Don’t be disappointed, this is natural. Your baby is taking a moment to absorb everything.
Just consider how much information they’re suddenly taking in. For nine months your baby’s entire world was contained within a dark, warm cocoon with comforting muffled sounds gently penetrating through. Now there are bright lights everywhere, loud noises, cold dry air on their skin. Try to imagine what it’s like from baby’s point of view.
It makes sense that they need a minute to re-calibrate (think of it like your computer processing data). Be patient. Keep your breathing regular, allow your baby time to process everything they’re seeing, before they come back to engage with you.
Active Alert: When your baby starts to feel over-stimulated, they might start to whimper, limbs might move jerkily, and their breathing become variable. At this stage it is good if you can keep calm. If you begin to feel anxious your baby will pick up on this and feel more agitated too. If you stay calm and relaxed your baby will respond to this and know all is well. We have these fantastic things called mirror neurons, where parts of our brain literally mirror others’ states.
Crying: can mean a whole variety of things, from your baby being hungry or thirsty, to having tummy pains or feeling cold, through to being bored, scared or needing some quiet time. Learning to understand and interpret your baby’s cries can be a frustrating, tiring process, often leaving you feeling like you want to cry too! It can also be extremely distressing, hearing your baby in a full crying state. The best thing to remember is that crying is their way of speaking to you. They trust in you to work out what they need and help them settle again.
Tell yourself: you’ve got this. You are the expert where your baby is concerned, just as they are your teacher. Building a loving and trusting bond will take time, practice and patience. At DorPIP we help parents navigate their way through. Because, by nurturing family bonds and building a strong and resilient relationship with your baby, you set firm foundations for a lifetime.
DorPIP is currently offering free on-line counselling sessions for parents who are struggling during lockdown. For more information go to www.dorpip.org.uk or call 07813 989 707
For more information contact Viv Allen on email: [email protected]
Article by Jess Thompson and Viv Allen.