[ What I know now that I wish I knew then, Part 2 ]
In my previous post, I described my life with my difficult baby and how these babies are survivors. All babies fight to survive and thrive and the so-called difficult ones put up one hell of a fight. Which can make life with a difficult baby frustrating.
Yes, knowing your baby’s being difficult means (s)he’s a survivor above all, gives us a new and welcome perspective, but it doesn’t make our life any easier does it?
What can we actually do to make these hypersensitive baby alarm clocks quiet down? How do we make them feel as safe as possible and not succumb to exhaustion whilst doing that?
I will give you a list of tips for an easier life with a difficult baby that I found very helpful when my son was a baby. I also added tips I learned about in later years that I wish I had known at the time. There is actually a great number of things that you can do to help your baby and yourself!
Stay on the move
- Carry your baby. Difficult babies need reassurance constantly. As soon as you put them down, their alarm bells go off. The easiest way to cope with this is to try to put them down the least possible, at least in the first months. Nowadays, the variety of baby carriers is endless and they really do not have to be difficult to put on.
I can tell you it saved my life. My son was close, he was part of the action and he fell asleep more easily. In the meantime I could walk, cook, do the laundry and relax. I will tell you all about the advantages of carrying your baby in one of my next blogs.
- Go out into nature for a long walk with the baby in the carrier. Difficult babies get overstimulated really easily because they soak up all stimuli.
The colour green relaxes babies, and the sound of the forest, wind or water eases their mind. You can also put her down and let her play with leaves and sticks or sand. A baby can thrive in this ‘yes’ environment and it is of course, their true ‘natural habitat’.
- Dance! Difficult babies have problems letting go and drift off into sleep. Put on music that you love, put your baby in a carrier and dance away! Waltz with your baby or tango your way through your living room. Your baby relaxes due to the sudden movements and the music, and you? You can also let go and enjoy moving and dancing with your baby! I did this often for one of his naps and it worked like a charm.
- Get creative: if your baby doesn’t like something, change it up. Your baby hates the carseat? Instead of forcing him, take him for short trips only and take the train for example if you can!
Crucial support systems for an easier life with a difficult baby
- Get HELP. I guess you have heard of the phrase, it takes a village to raise a child? Well it is true, mankind is not supposed to sit alone in a house with nobody but their child. So make your own village. Ask your parents (in-law) and friends for help. If not with the baby, then with the cooking or cleaning for example. When your baby cannot sleep alone, one of the grandparents might love to lie down for a nap with her from time to time. I know this is not easy for everyone to achieve, but at least don’t be afraid or ashamed to ask for help.
- Take care of yourself. When you are not ok, how can your baby be? Sleep when your baby sleeps and take time for yourself whenever you can. I recommend yoga and meditation. Even if it is only 6 minutes of meditiation. It will already give you some headspace. Check out the website of my baby sleep advice colleague and yoga instructor Steph Sanders for a short and sweet 6 minute meditation, created exclusively for you!
- Don’t try to be perfect. You do not have to do everything yourself, your house does not have to be spotless and you don’t have to cook every day. Take a deep breath and say to yourself ‘being a new mom or dad is a full-time job and anything else that I can get done is a bonus, not a must’. This means triaging. See yourself as an ER doctor. Anything that is not red can wait (see Ted Health podcast on how to manage our crazy busy lives).
Build your baby’s confidence and trust
- Co-sleep? If you are up for it, this is a very good idea. Difficult babies are babies whose survival instincts are wired to the fullest. As you can imagine lying in a dark room alone translates to extreme danger in these sensitive babies’ brains. Your little girl or boy does not know she’s safe in a house with a locked door. He doesn’t know that there are no predators around.
Babies thrive best if they feel and hear another heartbeat to ground themselves and relax. And if and when you want to stop co-sleeping and/or breastfeeding you can find a helpful with tips from my colleagues Tessa and Steph. I will also write a blog about the wonderful world of ‘breast sleeping’ in the near future so stay tuned : ).
- Boost your baby’s confidence! Your baby needs to learn that she is safe. Use small steps and teach your baby that you are not really gone when you leave the room for a second. Our Yo-Yo Games are designed specifically for this, and they’re fun to play too! You can download Yo-Yo Games, and all other Play2Sleep games, for free from here.
Give your baby the chance to wind down and rest
Provide your baby with a nice routine, difficult babies get overstimulated easily because they tend to process everything making it harder for them to settle to sleep. Try to make circumstances optimal for your baby to sleep as much as possible and gets a chance to wind down.
A massage, a relaxing walk or a similar calming activity your baby enjoys, are all good options for the hours before bed.
Last but not least: stay calm and follow your intuition
Know that you are not alone, there are many moms and dads struggling. Your baby will be more than fine and needs your soft and reassuring comfort to know that everything will be okay. Just being there is often enough for your little one. And most of the time, if it feels wrong, it is wrong, so follow your instincts!
Hopefully, you found these tips on how to make your life easier with a difficult baby helpful! I am grateful for any remarks or comments you might have. I used my own experience, tips from the book of Nicola Schmidt called ‘Artgerecht’. and those of my colleagues here at Baby Sleep Advice.