LDS parents can give important counsel to their own children who are about to take that big plunge.
Recently we attended the baby blessing of twins, a boy and a girl. The look of happiness on the faces of the first-time-parents warmed the hearts of all present. These long-awaited-for babies were surrounded by the loving arms of adoring parents and their extended families. The blessings pronounced by the father were filled with promises and expressions of gratitude. What a glorious gift to bring a baby into the world! And theirs was doubled.
However, with all babies, reality sets in almost immediately. These parents were becoming well aware that it’s not all fun and games. It’s work—day and night work. That’s true with every new little life that enters mortality. The good thing is that all the work is punctuated with moments of exquisite joy. Those are the treasured moments that make it all worthwhile, and helps us realize that parenting is the most important and rewarding calling in the world.
Many parents of newborns comment on how cute their babies are when they’re asleep. And it’s true, they are so adorable and fun to hold when they’re sleeping. The reality is, very soon they are awake more than most new parents wish they were, requiring every ounce of energy they possess. To make the most of those waking hours here are some tips you may want to share with your new-parent child, keeping in mind that your most important job is to listen as they express their concerns to you. When it feels right, share your suggestions, all the while honoring them as the new parent. Now for the tips.
1. Baby bonding takes time
Most first-time mothers and fathers feel an overwhelming joy, along with a good amount of fear and trepidation, as they hold their newborn baby in their arms, and then wonder why they aren’t happy beyond words ever after. What happened to that “overwhelming joy” feeling?
When the baby does not behave like your perfect little dream baby, you will get frustrated. That’s normal. Some babies are not as cuddly as others. They all have their own personality. Be patient; take it one day at a time. For most new parents it takes time for that bonding feeling of deep love to become a permanent part of their hearts.
Being a parent will become more and more natural to you as your child grows.
2. Give your baby the gift of a stay-at-home mom
This may take a lot of sacrificing, but it will be an immeasurable blessing for your baby. It takes going without what two incomes can buy. Your baby won’t care a whit about what kind of car you drive, what appliances you own, what size house or apartment you live in, or what fancy toys you can buy. None of that will matter at all. Having a mother there when he’s sick or tired, taking his first steps or saying her first words, or just wanting to be held and rocked—that’s what will matter. No one will care as much about your baby as you do. Never forget that. It takes a willing mother and father to give this gift to your baby.
Along with this, a father needs to be as much a part of his child’s life as possible. After work, even though you’re tired, give your child some undivided attention. Don’t just sink into an easy chair and start flipping channels. Let your wife and children be your main focus. Unwind by filling their lives with your love. It works better than anything, and pays huge dividends.
3. Your baby is going to cry, a lot
Babies cry for a reason. It’s how they communicate their needs, like hunger, pain, fear, need for sleep or a diaper change, feeling too cold or too hot, feeling ill, wanting to be held, to name a few. Some babies cry for hours on end with no apparent reason. There is always a reason; parents just need to exhaust every effort to find it, then do their best to meet the need.
Emily Parks told how her two-month-old baby cried practically nonstop most days, and how a friend came to her rescue. Her friend said, “I hope nobody told you this was going to be fun.” Hearing someone say this was as needed as rain on a parched desert; someone understood how she felt and did not judge her as a bad mother. Her friend reaffirmed that being a good mother doesn’t come automatically, so don’t feel guilty. Then she recommended the book The Happiest Baby on the Block, by Harvey Karp, M.D., which Emily said, “saved me and my husband.” It’s full of secrets to calm the colicky baby. It even teaches the most effective way to swaddle a baby, which also made a big difference. Many mothers claim that with his remedy you can calm the screamingest baby on the planet in a matter of minutes.
Emily’s counsel to other overwhelmed mothers who are ready to tear their hair out is, “Don’t suffer in silence! Talk to someone. You are not alone in this.”
4. You will lose sleep and be very tired for many months.
While you, the mother, are recovering from the herculean task of bringing your baby into the world, your baby is adjusting to being out of the womb and into a totally new, scary environment. It’s a rare baby that sleeps all night and takes long naps. Those kinds of babies do exist, but if you have one don’t tell other new parents. They will hurt you (never tempt a sleep-deprived new parent). Those babies are not the general rule.
Give yourself some time. As another mother, Laurie Hatch, put it, “Getting used to a baby— no sleep, feeding schedules, sore bodies, etc—can be very taxing. But if you can find a way to see the newness of it all as one of the greatest blessings one can have, you will enjoy it more. I learned to enjoy watching TV at 1:00am and 3:00am (and 5:00am), and enjoy holding and smelling my new baby (there’s nothing like it). Don’t watch the clock as you spend hours every day staring and smiling and talking to your baby. I wish I could go back and do it all over again! There will never be anything in life that can replace those first-time-parent moments.”
Sleep when your baby is sleeping. Dishes can wait. Resist the urge to clean house while your baby is napping. You desperately need to get as much sleep as you can. During this period of time the house has to come in second. Your health is vital. Daddies need to pitch in and help do what needs doing. To chastise his wife for not doing it all while he is at work is like whipping a horse who has collapsed from an exhausting race, thinking it will make the horse get up and run faster. We all know that’s stupid. So roll up your sleeves and help out. It takes two responsible parents to make this work.
5. Babies need their own bed.
You’ll need to keep the baby in your bedroom in a cradle or crib for a period of time. But letting him sleep with you in your bed is a big no-no. It’s tempting after nursing to just let him stay, but resist. The baby will get used to it and later won’t want to sleep in his own bed. Besides that, it’s dangerous. Babies can be accidentally suffocated by a sleeping parent. Your baby needs to learn to sleep in his own bed, and, as soon as possible, in his own room.
As they grow, when they have a nightmare and want to jump into your bed, take them in your arms and comfort them for a short time. Then take them back to their room and be near them until they go back to sleep. If you do that, no bad habits of sleeping with mom and dad are formed.
You and your husband need to enjoy each other as soon as possible without a sweet little intruder in the room, which leads to the next point.
6. Don’t let your baby knock your spouse off the top of your list.
In the midst of showing this new baby all the love a newborn needs, don’t forget your spouse. Keep in mind that the greatest gift you’ll ever give your child is a mother and father who love each other. So keep that love alive. Let your baby see you hugging, kissing, speaking tenderly and doing kind things for each other, but keep the intimate part private. Just be sure it happens.
A young boy recently told his mother, “There are two kinds of parents, the fighting kind and the kissing kind. I’m sure glad I have the kissing kind.” Be sure to kiss your honey daily, in plain sight. The kids are watching!
Be aware of each other’s needs. We were impressed with the report of one young mother when she said her husband takes over a few hours one day a week to give her a break. She can do whatever she wants during that time. Visit friends, shop, get her nails done, whatever she wants, within the family budget. She said it has saved her sanity. She adores her husband for it. And he has a happier, more loving wife—a blessing every man enjoys.
Wives need to spoil their husbands, too. Cook his favorite dinner, rub his back, kiss him with passion. Pecks on the cheek don’t count for much. Treat each other with love and tenderness. That old saying, “What goes around comes around” is true.
7. Follow your instincts.
Catherine Sagers, a wise mother of a growing family, said, “I would tell a new mom just to follow her instincts. Moms know best when their baby is sick or crying. 99% of the time your instincts will be right.”
That fact is born out in this message from Rebecca Welker, a mother of four young children. “Doctors are not always right. Learn to do what your heart tells you. Our daughter would not have survived without her mother pulling for her. During a life-threatening illness our doctor said a shunt was a possible option but was not right for her. I had no idea what a shunt even was, but that gut feeling is hard to ignore for a reason. I had to convince him against all odds to do it. I just knew it was what she needed. Stand up for your child, no matter what, and follow your feelings. I insisted, and that shunt saved my daughter’s life.”
Besides our natural instincts, which are powerful, we have been given the gift of the Holy Ghost. Pray to hear and follow those spiritual promptings.
Talk to your baby, and keep it up as they continue growing and developing. That’s how they know you care. Talk with a smile and animation in your voice and expression. Babies, especially girls, need a lot of eye-to-eye contact. Little boys, on the other hand, don’t engage in as much eye-to-eye communication. There’s nothing wrong with him, he’s just a being a boy. Still they need the interaction with you to learn communication skills, so just keep talking and smiling, and don’t let it bother you. Male and female brains are wired differently.
8. Discipline your child with kindness.
Don’t yell at them, unless the house is on fire or they’re running into the street. The rest of the time, as you discipline speak in a calm, yet firm voice. Remember the scripture, “A soft voice turneth away wrath; but grievous words stir up anger.” (Proverbs 15:1) Sometimes you may need to take your child’s face gently in your hands, look into her eyes, and calmly tell her what needs to happen.
Definitely don’t hit or shake your baby or growing child. You can cause serious physical and mental damage. One wise grandma taught, “Every time you try to hit one devil out you will hit ten in.” We don’t know how true that is but think about it. Children become angry and resentful when they’re hit (frankly, so do we), and feelings of distrust and hatred can be formed. It doesn’t work. Discipline in kinder more understanding ways.
President Gordon B. Hinckley said, “Do not beat your children. I do not think children have to be severely punished. I was blessed with a good father and a good mother. I can never remember their laying a hand on me or any of their other children. We probably deserved it, but they did not do it. They sat us down and talked with us. That was enough.” (Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley, Deseret Book, p. 422)
Consider the meaning of the word discipline. Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it as “training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character.” You can’t possibly teach moral character without displaying it. It must be done with love, respect, and follow through.
There are many parenting books out there to help you. A couple of excellent ones are Parenting With Love And Logic by Foster Cline and Jim Fay and The Discipline Book: How to Have a Better Behaved Child from Birth to Age Ten, by William and Martha Sears. [Also our book I Don’t Have to Make Everything All Better, can be helpful, particularly Chapter Seven: How Validation Works With Young Children.]
Make a date night of going to your local bookstore or the library and browsing through the parenting section. You’ll find many good books, and enjoy an evening out in the process.
9. Read to your little ones.
Even babies love to be read to. It’s comforting. And it creates a love for learning. They enjoy all kinds of colorful, fun books that help them learn about the world.
But that’s not all. Jennilyn Jorgensen, a wise and loving mother, said, “I read out loud from the scriptures to my babies. I especially loved reading from the New Testament and had a very special experience with one of my daughters. She had just learned to walk and still couldn’t say any words.
One day I said, “Where’s Jesus?” I wanted her to point to the picture of Jesus on the wall; instead she went into her room.
I thought she had just lost interest and didn’t follow her. Moments later she came out of her room, walking the best she could and carrying the scriptures to me. I started to cry and hugged her! She did KNOW where Jesus was!”
Children learn early to love what you love. If they see you enjoying reading the scriptures and patiently including them, they will learn to love them, too.
Nyla Kent, the mother of five grown children, counseled: “Listen to their ideas and thoughts–take them seriously. My children have always been the most interesting people I have known from the day they were born. Teach them the Plan of Salvation and that their Heavenly Father loves them. Let them know that you love them no matter what they do.”