My newborn wants to be carried all the time. My newborn doesn't like to be put down. My baby won't sleep. My baby keeps crying and I don't know what to do.
These are common cries for help from new parents, and the clever thing about nature is that your baby's distress causes you distress - so you act. Or not....
Last weekend I saw a father pushing a pram down a pretty steep hill towards the beach. The pram was covered over with a swaddle wrap so I couldn't see his baby, but the whole street could hear her/him. This highly distressed, very young baby was crying its lungs out. On the dad walked and walked, determinedly pushing this pram, getting faster and faster, and you could almost see him cursing under his breath. The baby's cry was a a fever pitch, it was literally screaming crying.
I could feel this father's anguish, stress level and, perhaps, anger. It occurred to me that he would be considering letting the pram go in his frustration and distress.
After all, we were all upset to hear this terrible crying.
So, I was feeling my own stress levels rise waiting for dad to either give the pram a good shunt down the hill or pull the pram to the side of the footpath, lift this poor baby out and cuddle it and calm it down.
But no, on we all went, three of my girls and me and my husband, trailing behind the unhappy pair as he marched on.
Then, relief, he pulls the pram over.....and adjusts the swaddle, then keeps on storming ahead and around the corner, until we lost sight of him and could hear only the distant screams of little bub.
If you find yourself in this situation, the first thing to remember is to breathe...and my advice is to become present to your own instinct. In this case, my instinct would be to pick the baby up.
For some reason, and I count myself in this group, some of us don't automatically pick up our firstborn when it cries like this. We convince ourselves that the baby is tired, and, with enough pushing about in a pram, will fall asleep. That is quite often exactly what will happen, but these babies are crying themselves to sleep, possibly from the sheer effort of screaming to be picked up.
So, why do they want to be picked up?
Well, here's the thing. We humans are parent clinger mammals.
I was never taught this when I had my baby. It took four babies and undergoing training as a babywearing instructor before I ever learned the absolutely fundamental reason babies "just want to be picked up."
In fact, I doubt many midwives and paediatricians pay much attention to this fundamental aspect of being human.
I'll say it again, we belong to the parent clinger mammal group.
What is a parent clinger? Well, think of a koala, a possum, a sloth, an ape, a lemur. Baby lemur is born and early in its life clings like a limpet to mum (where breakfast is on tap).
My instructor Ulrike Hoewer of Die Trageschule (Carrying School) in Dresden Germany taught me this, and it changed my life. It also made me unable to bear being around babies lying and crying in distress, being obsessively rocked in their prams at supermarkets.
By contrast, a foal or lamb etc is a follower mammal (makes sense, it follows mum after birth) and kittens and puppies are hider mammals (mum makes a "nest" and baby hides away without making a noise - mum goes off and hunts).
I'll talk about this parent clinger mammal a bit more next time, but if your baby is screaming and crying - yes, feed them, yes check their nappy, but then, consider just picking them up and soothing them. They will feel safer and calmer, and that's how we all prefer to be.