SPIR­ITED SOULS

How to han­dle a spir­ited or sen­si­tive baby – and yes, they do ex­ist

Little Treasures - - CONTENTS - Shar­lene Poole is an in­ter­na­tion­ally­ac­claimed baby ad­vi­sor. Trained as an early child­hood ed­u­ca­tor, Shar­lene worked as a ma­ter­nity nurse in many coun­tries be­fore re­turn­ing to New Zealand and set­ting up her own busi­ness, Lit­tle Mir­a­cles. Her suc­cess in wor

MANY TIMES I GET asked, “Why is my baby not ‘easy’ like other ba­bies in my cof­fee group?” Or a par­ent will say, “My first baby was easy but this one is tricky!” Some ba­bies are eas­ier than oth­ers – it is true. Some ba­bies are born more sen­si­tive than oth­ers, some have to face chal­leng­ing health is­sues and oth­ers are born very aware, rest­less and strug­gle to adapt to their new world with ease. The gamut runs to quite the op­po­site with a baby who is born very sleepy, able to set­tle and sleep well and has what I would de­scribe as a quiet and pas­sive tem­per­a­ment. Th­ese chil­dren are of­ten la­belled ‘an­gel ba­bies’. Par­ents of­ten ask what con­trib­utes to ba­bies be­ing eas­ier than oth­ers. Is it their per­son­al­ity alone or is it a com­bi­na­tion of par­ent­ing, per­son­al­ity and their health and well-be­ing? Un­der­stand­ing your baby’s per­son­al­ity and tem­per­a­ment is some­thing that is a huge part of my role when ad­vis­ing par­ents. I have be­come what I would clas­sify as a ‘spirit­ed­baby ad­vi­sor’ be­cause nine times out of ten when I ask ques­tions, as­sess what is go­ing on within the daily pat­terns, and learn more about the in­di­vid­ual fam­ily, that’s the find­ing. The baby is what I would call ‘spir­ited and sen­si­tive’ (of­ten along with one or both of the par­ents) and ap­pears to be harder to man­age than other ba­bies when com­par­ing with their fam­ily, friends or cof­fee group mem­bers. Those par­ents who do reach out for help have quite of­ten been ‘blam­ing’ them­selves or their ba­bies; blam­ing them­selves for not know­ing what to do or la­belling their baby as be­ing tricky and hard. Th­ese par­ents some­times reach out for help through sev­eral av­enues be­fore find­ing the best way to help with their baby’s fussi­ness. Once med­i­cal av­enues or so­lu­tions have been tried, the so­lu­tion of­ten ar­rives in a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of the baby’s per­sonal needs. Over my time ad­vis­ing par­ents, I have compiled a list of ques­tions that help me to elim­i­nate com­mon causes for un­set­tled­ness, in or­der to see what is re­ally go­ing on. This in turn, helps par­ents to reach a new per­spec­tive. Did you have the ‘honey­moon’ pe­riod for the first 2-3 weeks with your baby? If not, that is one of the first signs that help me start un­der­stand­ing their char­ac­ter Is the baby sen­si­tive or at­tracted to light, sound and touch? This tells me that their sleep­ing and so­cial en­vi­ron­ment needs to be con­sid­ered Does your baby star­tle a lot, at all times and not just when they are tired? How was the preg­nancy and birth? A chal­leng­ing start to life can have an im­pact on how you be­gin mother­hood What sup­port does the fam­ily have? What weekly weight has the baby gained since ar­riv­ing home? Some ba­bies are hun­gry and a lower or av­er­age weight gain might not suit them in­di­vid­u­ally Are there any breast­feed­ing or bot­tle feed­ing is­sues? Once asleep, how long does the baby sleep for and do they wake happy or sad? Does mum feel happy in her­self and on a daily ba­sis when par­ent­ing? Once I have asked ques­tions from my list, we look at what will help their baby. Do they need a struc­tured rou­tine? Do they need to be winded more of­ten? What strate­gies will en­able the par­ent to feel more sup­ported? Sen­si­tive ba­bies of­ten do not cope well with things like wind pain, too much handling/ touch or too much stim­u­la­tion. Some­thing that I of­ten recog­nise or talk about is sup­port and con­fi­dence in par­ent­ing. Baby’s senses are so strong. They pick up on ev­ery­thing: sur­round­ings, emo­tions, smells and touch. That is why some ba­bies strug­gle more than oth­ers – ba­bies that I be­lieve have height­ened senses. It is hard for some new par­ents to be con­fi­dent. We can be con­fi­dent peo­ple, par­tic­u­larly in our cho­sen pro­fes­sion, but when you add worry, tired­ness and a new, im­mense love along­side a sen­si­tive baby, it can test your con­fi­dence in what you are do­ing as a par­ent. If you are strug­gling to set­tle or calm your own baby and you start com­par­ing your baby to oth­ers or take on too much con­flict­ing ad­vice, that anx­i­ety is nat­u­rally con­veyed to your child. Con­fi­dence comes with prac­tice and

learn­ing, which is why your own back­ground plays a role in help­ing you to start par­ent­ing. Our per­son­al­ity can play a huge role as well. A par­ent who is used to fac­ing a prob­lem at work, usu­ally with the ap­proach of hav­ing a ‘start, mid­dle and an end’ to the task, is thrown when they strike a prob­lem with their baby. Ba­bies are pro­gres­sive be­ings and are con­stantly chang­ing. Just when you cope with one de­vel­op­ment they be­gin an­other, which brings along with it new and fresh chal­lenges. Gone are the days when it was ac­cept­able to say, “It’s fine, they will grow out of it,” or, “It is nor­mal,” to a new par­ent who is fac­ing a chal­lenge. There is so much in­for­ma­tion and so many av­enues of as­sis­tance, that every par­ent and every baby has the op­por­tu­nity to be set­tled. Once you have talked through your con­cerns or ques­tions with your mid­wife, Plun­ket nurse and GP, you have the op­tion to con­tact pri­vate

There is so much in­for­ma­tion out there and so many dif­fer­ent av­enues of as­sis­tance, that every sin­gle par­ent and baby has the op­por­tu­nity to be calm and set­tled

con­sul­tants, some­one who has time to ob­serve and of­fer ad­vice on an in­di­vid­ual level in the com­fort of your own home, some­one who has ex­pe­ri­ence with 24-hour rou­tines. Your baby may not be as easy as those in your cof­fee group or friends and fam­i­lies’ ba­bies, but if they make you happy and you are cop­ing okay from week to week, you may not need pro­fes­sional help but just ver­bal and emo­tional sup­port from your vil­lage. Some­times it’s enough to com­mu­ni­cate and recog­nise that your baby can be more chal­leng­ing than oth­ers, that they have their own per­son­al­ity, and while tricky at times, you love be­ing their par­ent and they still bring you so much joy.

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