Kirstie is the Professional Development Lead Health Visiting and Infant Feeding Lead for Berkshire Healthcare
Getting to know your baby
Getting to know you…
Did you know that every time you talk, sing, or read to your baby, you are helping to grow their brain? By keeping them close to you and cuddling them, you’re helping all the pathways in their brain to grow by an extraordinary amount every minute of every day.
Humans are remarkable. During pregnancy, your unborn baby learns and develops at a very fast pace. Spending time getting to know your baby as they move and respond to you during your day is a perfect way to start building that close, responsive relationship.
Take time out to pay attention to their movements and react to those kicks and punches. Get other family members involved by getting your partner, older children, or other close family members to talk to the baby as they move about. Talking to your unborn baby about your day, what you are watching on tv or simply having a singalong will increase that bond. Reading aloud will be calming for them.
Responding to your growing baby’s needs whilst you are still pregnant begins your journey into being the best teacher your child will have.
Your baby is here!
Consider holding your baby skin to skin when they are born, if you’re able. Skin to skin is such a great way of giving your baby the best start. Not only does it allow your baby to hear your heartbeat and smell your smell, reassuring them, but it also regulates their temperature, heart rate and breathing. It can also provide your baby with necessary antibodies to lots of little germs we naturally have on our skin.
Skin to skin can also kick start natural instincts for breastfeeding, as baby will naturally look out for the breast and try to latch on themselves. This first breastfeed provides both mum and baby with a boost of your happy hormone, oxytocin, which is one of the main hormones responsible for supporting breastmilk production and delivery of milk. If you have decided to formula feed, you can still do this with skin to skin.
Listening to your baby
Keeping your baby close by as much as possible will allow you to be able to respond to their cues. It’s so difficult to read them in the first few days and weeks but these cues are a sign that your baby wants something. You can generally pinpoint it to one of four things in the early days: wet or dirty nappy, wind, needing a feed or simply needing a reassuring cuddle. Responding to your baby when they start to make signs like sucking their hand, wriggling about, rooting for the breast, or trying to latch onto noses or shoulders! Understanding cues will become easier every day as you get to know your baby.
You cannot spoil your baby with too much love. In the past we used to hear people say: “don’t pick them up too much, you’ll make a rod for your own back” or “he’ll get used to being picked up if you keep doing it, you’ll never be able to put him down”. This is not true. Babies are simply not wired that way and are unable to control you in that manner. They don’t know the meaning of routine or schedule for some time to come. The best way to calm your baby is to cuddle and reassure them, responding to their noises and cries. Research shows that babies who are responded to in this way grow into more confident toddlers.
So, trust your instincts. Talk, sing, read, play with your baby. Spend time with your baby getting to know them and you’ll build a close, loving, and nurturing relationship with them. They don’t need expensive toys or gadgets; just your face will do for the first few weeks at least. Respond to them, reassure them, cuddle them, and keep them close to you.
For more information, please get in touch with your health visiting service:
Bracknell: 0300 365 6000 or email email@example.com
Wokingham: 0300 365 7000 or email: DutyHVWokingham@berkshire.nhs.uk
Reading: 0118 931 2111 or email HVWBRDGDuty@berkshire.nhs.uk
West Berkshire: 0300 303 3944 or email: HVWBRDGDuty@berkshire.nhs.uk
The Baby Friendly Initiative has some great videos on building a happy baby here: