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Some babies just want to be close all the time, others never want to be in anyone’s arms. Some can only sleep on you and others can’t go to sleep on your lap. What should I do?
Do you like routine? Being close to your baby? Both?
We all have different expectations of parenting and of babies. For some of us, fixed times and routines are important to make ends meet. Others thrive best without a clock, where work and leisure flow into each other.
Our preferences certainly govern what we expect from our children. Some expectant parents see a timeless space where the child’s needs are allowed to control the direction of the day. Others know that they need their regular sleep and food to function as people and parents. Another aspect where we humans differ, which becomes important in parenting, is the need for physical closeness.
Different babies need different amounts of closeness
When the baby has the same needs as the parent, there is rarely a problem (assuming that no one else gives unsolicited advice that the family is wrong). There have been plenty of times where I have met parents who wonder if it will hurt the baby if they follow their own instinct and hold them most of the time. There is always some grandmother, father-in-law, friend or forum acquaintance who has told them that problems will arise if they continue as they do.
But actually, there won’t be any problems. If both baby and parent want to be close: enjoy the cuddles!
And if you’re a family member and if you feel a strong need to comment, then praise! “You both look so cozy!” “He must be so comfortable with you” are suggestions that are usually received positively.
When parent and baby are different
Sometimes a parent may have a baby with a need for bodily distance. It can create great sadness and a sense of helplessness. The best thing you can do as a parent of that baby is to give them the space they need. Responsiveness in parenting and the ability to put the child’s needs first, is something to strive for.
As a friend or family member, you have to be supportive and think carefully before you comment. Don’t bring up the topic of conversation yourself. Don’t comment on how your friend or adult child handles their child’s and their own needs differently. If your parent friend brings up the subject themselves: listen and confirm.
Commonly a parent with a great need for their own physical and mental space, will have a child with the same needs. That’s when it is easy. But when the preferences differ between parent and child, difficult feelings and situations can arise.
Feelings of freedom, confinement and never being able to have your body in peace should be listened to. Maybe you have a child who needs more physical closeness than you can give. Is there another parent who can cuddle the child? Or any other close adult? Or can you find ways where you can give the child closeness without feeling cornered or trapped? Maybe you could lie next to each other in bed and you can caress the baby instead?
No matter what type of parent and what kind of child you have, there is, again, no reason for others to comment unprompted on how physically close you should be with your child. It varies a lot. What works in one family, may not in others. Every family that has found a physical relationship that works between parents and children is to be congratulated, regardless of what the cooperation looks like in that particular family.
Read more about co-sleeping with your newborn
Read more about getting your baby to sleep – tips for a good night sleep
Postpartum depression – when it is hard to be a parent