I just couldn't let this article "What a Little Love Means to a Little One," go by without bringing some extra attention to it.
It was posted on ABCnews.com on Sunday. I missed it until a good friend and colleague posted it on her Facebook page. If you haven't already had a chance to read it, I encourage you to do so now.
In a world full of children who struggle to connect emotionally, I can't help wondering how much of it is due to what this article addresses - a lack of appropriate love and affection given by the parents in infancy.
Photo by Tostadophoto.com; downloaded from Flickr without amendments
The authors present some numbers that to me are truly shocking: 4 out of 10 US born infants do not form a strong bond with either parent and 40% of US infants live in fear or distrust of their parents.
I understand some of the barriers to giving attention to babies: we are busy with other children; we are distracted by the perpetual voice in our heads ticking off all the things we need to do that day; some of us are stressed about trying to get the bills paid and put enough food on the table; some of us have babies who cry all the time; some of us have undiagnosed or untreated Post Partum Depression.
If being busy with other children is your barrier, I have a simple solution: wear your baby. I know it's hard to carve out time to snuggle baby when you're chasing after a toddler. And sure, babies still cry sometimes even when they are being worn. But this way, they are getting that physical attention they need. And I'm pretty sure if they could speak, they'd say "Mama, I much prefer to cry in your arms than to cry alone in my car seat!" Is it a perfect and complete solution? Of course not, but I think it goes a long way.
Photo by Jasleen Kaur; downloaded from Flickr without amendments
The authors mention that poverty is a contributing factor. And clearly, when money is so tight that you have to decide between food and health insurance, you're going to be over-stressed and less emotionally available to your screaming baby. For those who are that poor, we need to find a way to help you. Here are a couple of links to places that serve moms in poverty (if you don't need this kind of help, please consider volunteering your time or making a donation):
A Wider Circle
King County MOMs Plus Program
For those who are not financially destitute, we need to, with all due respect, get a grip. Whatever we are struggling with should pale in comparison to the needs of this tiny human we've just brought into the world. It might even be time to sit down, snuggle with your baby, put your feet up, and think about how you can re-prioritize your life. How can you change things so that you have more time with your baby, and maybe even more time for yourself? Are you a perfectionist who can't have a messy house? Are you an over-achiever who can never say no? Are you avidly against ever eating take-out? Are you working when you don't really have to? For most of us, there are small steps we can take to reduce stress and have a little more free time. Personally, I had to let go of four things: exercising for as long and as often as I prefer; keeping my house as clean as I like it; advancing my career as quickly as I intended; and always eating homemade food.
Photo by Andrew Dawes; downloaded from Flickr without amendments
For parents of babies who cry all the time, life can certainly be tough. Sometimes, you really do need to put baby down and walk away. Naturopathic Medicine has a lot to offer to babies who have colic. If you think your baby is abnormally fussy or has colic, schedule an appointment with your ND. And here are some resources for help with colic:
http://www.askdrsears.com/topics/health-concerns/fussy-baby/coping-with-colic (NOTE: I recommend against altering your diet without the input and participation of a health care provider.)
Finally, if you think you may have Post Partum Depression, address it now, before it gets any worse. There are pharmaceuticals, vitamins, nutrients, and herbs that can help relatively quickly. They can make you feel like yourself again. They can take you and your baby out of harm's way. But you have to take the first step: go see your doctor.
I know there are barriers I'm not aware of. And I know there are barriers that may seem to have no solution. I think we can all agree on the goal: more babies loved and tended to properly more of the time. I wrote this piece hoping to encourage moms, dads, aunts, uncles, friends, and caregivers to join me in reaching out to whomever you can whenever you can to try to attain this goal. People can put up a powerful facade when things are not going well, so please remember to go out of your way to lend a helping hand whenever possible.