I still remember being really excited (obviously) about the birth of our baby. We were waiting patiently and ready to give all our love and care to him. As the week of delivery approached, I started feeling its reality. “Wait, there’s going to be a tiny little human being in this house? Is this place even ready for something like that?”
Thankfully, I always had help in the form of many mentors that I have always had. I was pointed to several wonderful values which I could keep in mind to make the house ready to welcome the newborn. And also the mindset that we need to take care of this infant.
The Psychological Space Needed for a Newborn
Let’s bust one myth to begin with. The myth that we need to “entertain” or “engage” the newborn. Quite the opposite, in fact. We must protect the child’s own activity. One of the foci of setting up a physical space and psychological mindset for the newborn is to protect her concentration. That’s the most precious gift we could give a newborn along with all the other love, safety and physical care that she needs. She needs to know that we trust in her choice of activity or non-activity.
The following could be some of the considerations to welcome the newborn in our homes:
- Hold them, kiss them, love them
The newborn like the young of any other animal species, needs the love through touch. Hug them, kiss them, keep them on our bodies and let them feel our heartbeats and the warmth of our bodies.
Mothers do this by default while feeding (if nursing on formula, still keep them on you while doing that). And this is the golden opportunity for fathers to let the child feel their presence. They have heard your voice when they were in the womb and now let them get to know you through one way they know how to: touch.
- Serve the basic 4 physical needs
The newborn’s space must provide minimalistically for the following four needs.
- Her need to sleep
- Her need to be fed
- Her need to be active by her own choice
- Her caregiver’s need to change her diapers/nappies
Make sure these needs are properly met by the newborn’s space without compromising on them and more importantly, keep it to these 4 needs only. Anything added to this, may hinder the process more than help.
- Protection of long spells of concentration
If you find that your newborn baby is staring at herself in the mirror, or looking at the simple mobile that’s hung over her head or is sucking on her fist or kicking with focus – Let. Her. Be. This is what we want to pave the way for. This is what she is supposed to do! This is one of her most important works.
And the next thing is hard: Keep all the well-meaning adults away who want to engage the child during her spells of self-elected work. There’s a time set aside for others to engage with her and play with her. Yes, that’s important, too, since they are a part of her life and culture. However, as I love to say: “visiting hours only”. If there’s an adult who’s open to this thought and ready to be with the child, led by the child and trusting her to choose her own activity – then that adult can be with the child at all times, he/she will only add value to her life.
Her spells of concentration are a thing of beauty and they can go on for hours, by the way. If she builds it well here, this is something that stays with the child forever. And ahem, vice-a-versa.
- Protecting their chosen activity
This is important because this needs a lot of awareness on the part of the caregiver. Whatever the newborn decides to do, is absolutely alright. I repeat, no matter what the child decides to undertake, it’s good and developmentally appropriate for the child. Your only concern should be the safety of the child. If she picks up a sharp object, of course take it away from her. Or takes an easily swallowable object to her mouth, of course take it away for at least the first few months – because here safety is concerned. (And of course, take care of the environment you’ve created for your child! It should not have such objects there in the first place. Refer to our post on Welcoming the Newborn – Physical Setting for some pointers on that.)
For any other reason than safety, try to not hinder her activity. Don’t stop her from putting safe things in her mouth. Don’t stop her from moving on her own. Don’t interrupt her when she is doing something, even if you think it’s her mealtime. Let her lead her life perfectly individually.
- Allowing natural growth in independence in all activity
Keep an eye out for their growing independence. The newborn is quite reliant on her caregivers for everything. To even decode their calls for food, they rely on adults. Keep an eye and an ear out for when you need to start letting her do things for herself more and more. She will grow in her communicative ways. Till she does, keep role-modeling it for her.
An example comes to mind. We fed our baby every 3 to 4 hours till he was about 3 weeks old. There were medically sound reasons to do that. And then slowly, we started taking cues from him rather than feeding him at certain times. He started asking for it and he became independent in deciding when he wants to be fed.
- Easing them into this world
Our life in modernity can be loud, gaudy and complex. Keep their world simple. In their space keep furniture minimal, colours somber and voices low. Ease them into this mess, not exposing them to it all, at once.
- Less is more
The less stuff a newborn’s room has, the better. Monetary prosperity hinders children’s work. If they want to sleep safely, we get a crib. If they want to walk, we get them a walker. If they want to play – we get them a toy that plays music and changes colours at the push of a button. All these toys/equipment which we think help, actually end up taking their own work away from them.
Let them do their work. Lesser the external material in a newborn’s space, the better. The less material help the newborn gets, the more it helps development. Less is more, when it comes to materialism in a newborn’s space.
Based on the above developmental pointers, specific suggestions can be made for setting up the physical space for the newborn’s room. You can read about it here in this blog.
A Chartered Accountant by chance and a school teacher by choice, Aditya is an AMI Montessori trained guide. He owes his parenting philosophy and values to Dr Maria Montessori, Magda Gerber & Janet Lansbury and tenets of Buddhist philosophy; though he believes that his most insightful parenting moments have come with his kindest teacher – his two year old son.
Helping parents and being a school-teacher are his ways of bringing more respect, choice and freedom to children.