Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Musing on Responding to Baby Owies

Courtesy stockxchng

It's inevitable. As part of healthy development, babies eventually become mobile. As parents, we meet this with anticipation, excitement, trepidation and a flurry of snatching tiny little objects away from the exploring baby that we were sure couldn't possibly have been where they were poking around.

With mobility comes trial and error. With trial and error comes tears. Frustration overwhelms our baby and we have to decide: do we help or do we leave her alone and let her try to figure out how to do it for herself. Our desire and instinct is to sooth her frustration, but we can't do everything for her if she's to figure it out (and boy do we piss her off if she wanted to do it herself!).

Katarina using me to stand

Regardless, there's one thing he has to do himself: pulling up. We can stabilize the first efforts and we're almost always the first grabbable to assist in this task, but as baby gets holder, he will start pulling up on things, crawling around, sitting up, etc. without us there to cushion him. As a result, he will bang his head. It's going to happen. He's going to bump it, bang it, whack it, whomp it and, in general, make you wonder if he doesn't need a helmet to just get around the room.

Our first reaction as a mother often depends on our level of attachment mixed with stress. A mom who is more tired, has been dealing with a clingy baby or has had difficulty bonding could get frustrated and possibly even angry at the poor creature while a mom who has a healthy attachment may worry and loudly exclaim.
Courtesy of nadmental on stockxchng

I had to swallow a lot of exclamations, but I found that the best way to respond--is to just look. Keep you face curious, but as neutral as you can (don't look worried!). A friendly, "Are you okay?" can yield either a smile (and a huge breath of relief!) or the tears that we saw coming. It's okay to respond after baby responds, but I'm personally careful not to teach her that every bump is a red alert. I wait for her to tell me how I should respond.

I've had people react to this in different ways. Some are amazed that I stayed so calm, some apologize for their sympathetic gasp and some laugh, understanding my tactic quite well. I'm sure there are people who would see my response as heartless and be angry at me and others who would judge me for comforting the baby who's upset (which is stupid, because my method means that my baby is only crying if they're actually hurt!).
courtesy stockxchng

This post was actually inspired because Kat was pulling herself up on the couch, slipped and bonked her head on my chair leg. I scooped her up (she was crying, but I'd have picked her up regardless, looking at me with those cute eyes) and said, "You bonked your head!" with surprise in my voice and on my face. She sighed at me as thought she was frustrated that she'd bonked, but clearly just fine other than the initial pain. I kissed her head and she was laughing a few seconds later. My middle child might have cried longer just because she had a harder time calming down from anything. My firstborn, we had a ritual where she would bang her head and I would greet her with, "Bonk!" or "Bonk?" and she would tell me just how she felt about it (a grin or a cry).

Part of the reason for this post is just a small snippet of a day in the life of an Attached Parent. Many people mistake that for someone who coddles or hovers over their child--that's simply not true. The other reason is just to give moms of babies another strategy to mull over if they're interested. I don't remember which mom friend taught me this or if I pulled it out of my ass, but it has worked pretty well on three different babies and two very different personality types (Lilly and Kat have similar personality types, but Naomi was very different).

Naomi using my hands to stand

How do/did you respond when your baby hurt themselves (not seriously)?

1 comment:

  1. Oh yes, we deal with this all the time. My strategy is exactly what you outline - I wait... and if he's upset, I comfort him. If he doesn't seem to notice or looks at me, I don't really respond. If he gives me a sort of questioning look, I'll say "Ooop, you bonked." in a very "Well, that happened" sort of way. In any case, he tends to move on quickly and is quickly learning how to avoid bonking into stuff without my making him fearful about it.


Please keep it civil and remember that my blog is not for debate. I have friends in all walks of life, so don't assume anything from individual posts! I do enjoy hearing from you, though :)