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The Search for the Perfect Baby

by Jeri Carr

How do you envision the perfect baby acting? Many parents or parents-to-be envision a baby who is content most of the time (he doesn't cry very much). In painting the picture a perfect baby, they may describe a baby who enjoys being held and being put down at their convenience. This "perfect baby" probably likes to sleep in his crib and goes to sleep at night without fussing and sleeps through the night within the first few months. He takes regular naps during the day and nurses on a schedule and never cries to be fed before it's time. He enjoys playing in his playpen or crib. He contentedly sleeps in his portable car seat when his parents visit friends or go to the store or church.

Is that how you picture the perfect baby? Is your baby like that? If your baby is like the above description, you probably have what's commonly known as an "easy" baby, or perhaps you trained your baby to be like that using one of the various cry-it-out methods out there.

Your baby might be just the opposite of the baby I described above. Or your baby might have some of the traits but not others. Perhaps you tried to let your baby cry-it-out and you feel like a wimp for not following through. You might be growing fearful that you somehow created a fussy baby. Let me assure you, you did not. And you are not a wimp. You are a strong mother. Be confident and listen to your mothering instincts.

Whatever your baby's personality--easy, fussy, or in between--I encourage you to rejoice in the wonderful traits that your baby has and enjoy your little one to the fullest. Don't be afraid to hold your baby all you can. Don't be afraid to trust your baby and trust yourself and meet his needs.

All babies are wonderful, but if you don't have whatever you envision as the perfect baby--perhaps you even have a fussy, high need baby!--I understand how discouraging it can be. You may be in shock, and people will offer advice and tell you all sorts of different things. It can be confusing! But take heart. There are many reasons to rejoice in the baby you have.

Some babies are happy being picked up and put down whenever their parents have the time or inclination. But some babies who are happy not being held actually don't enjoy being held. This can be very discouraging for parents. If your baby is a cuddle bug, be happy and enjoy the love he shows you in his cuddles.

Babies who go to sleep at night by themselves can be certainly be convenient, but look at what the parents of those babies might be missing! There can be great joy to be found in rocking or nursing your baby to sleep. During those peaceful times when you are both rocking back and forth, quietly enjoying each other's presence, the softness of your bodies, and the way each other smells--yes, your baby likes the way you smell, too!--you can get to know each other in a way that parents of easy (or trained) babies might not understand. Those times can be precious and bring wonderful memories. They make you feel good about yourself and help you see that your baby loves and needs you and these times can bring the confidence that comes when you are actively meeting your baby's needs.

Some babies seem to enjoy playing by themselves, but some clearly don't. The parents of a baby who enjoys playing by himself may miss out on a lot of wonderful interaction with their baby. Letting your baby become an integral part of your life can bring huge blessings for both of you. Think of all the communication skills and social skills and other things he learns by sitting at the table with you when you eat, by resting in a sling while you do the dishes, clean the house, or play with your other children. A baby nurtured in this way is not at the center of attention like so many people warn about, this baby is simply part of his family--an involved member of his family--like any other family member.

Let me paint a different picture of the "perfect baby." It's a baby who loves being in mommy's arms, a baby who loves to sleep cuddled next to her, a baby who knows what he needs and cries to let his mommy know, a baby who--as his needs are consistently, responsively, and compassionately met--will grow up according to his own inborn timetable into a trusting, independent, confident child and adult.

Actually, there is not one type of "perfect baby." Truly, though, babies who demand more--i.e., babies who clearly let their parents know they have needs--often bring out the best in parents. They can help parents be better parents. . . more involved parents. These babies may not take a pacifier in place of mommy's breasts. They may not take a cuddly in place of mommy's arms. They enjoy the real thing.

Whatever your baby is like, instead of looking at your friend's baby (or at the description of a baby in a book!) and thinking, wow, I wish my baby were more like that, try not to compare and enjoy your little baby for who she is. Shut out the negative advice around you. Trust your heart and trust your baby. As you trust your baby and as your baby's trust in you grows your relationship will blossom. You will understand each other and love each other more and more, and you will see that you have right in your arms, the perfect baby.

This article was first published on Suite101.com and is reprinted with permission from the author.
Copyright 2002 by Jeri Carr


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