At the breastfeeding group that I volunteer at, the most common non-breastfeeding-related concern (or rather, the most common indirectly breastfeeding-related concern) the new mums have is that they are holding their babies too much. This is an open letter to them, and to all mothers who worry that their babies are spending too much time in their arms.
I know how you’re feeling. I really, really do. I remember those days pinned to the sofa, enjoying the soft cuddles with my baby but constantly worrying. The laundry, the dishes, the hoovering, the dinner… and of course, the echo of The Baby Experts ricocheting around my head, warning me to put my sleeping baby down, lest they ‘get used’ to sleeping in my arms. Don’t pick them up as soon as they make a noise, don’t feed them more than every two hours and for goodness’ sake never ever let them nurse to sleep.
The thing is though, mama, worrying about these things is wasted time. Precious time that you’ll never get back.
I remember the frustration, and the irrational thoughts that you’ll never get off the sofa/sleep/do anything without a baby attached to you ever again. I remember the guilt – wanting to cuddle your baby but worrying that you’re doing him a disservice by doing so. I remember the patronising smiles from older relatives after they encourage you to try to put your baby down more often, and you tell them you can’t bear to hear them cry.
A baby’s natural habitat is their mother. Your sweet baby grew within you; nine whole months hearing your heartbeat, your voice, your laugh. Your baby doesn’t care about the pretty moses basket you bought him. He certainly doesn’t think much of the bouncy chair, or the crib. And that musical mobile that was supposed to entertain him – forget it!
Hold your baby.
Your baby wants you. More than that, he needs you. He knows of nothing but your warm arms, your sweet fragrance, and how you make all of the bad feelings disappear with nothing but an embrace. You are part of him, and he of you. Nobody knows that little baby better than you do, mama – and nobody knows you like he does.
I promise you that these weeks will fly past at a frightening rate. Before you know it, your tiny little bundle will be a rambunctious child, running you ragged and becoming increasingly hard to pin down for a cuddle. I know everybody says that you’ll miss it when it’s gone and it’s hard to believe that right now, but there’s a reason why they keep saying it. It’s painfully true. Watching your child grow is so bittersweet, and infancy is so fleeting.
Hold your baby. Listen to the instinct within that tells you that your baby belongs on your chest. Let him rest his sweet head on your shoulder, and gaze at his beautiful sleeping face. Listen to the sound of his breathing. Stroke him, kiss him, and adore him. Smell his intoxicatingly sweet, milky breath. Hold him not just in your arms, but also in your heart. Enjoy every single fleeting second while you still can.
Hold your baby. I promise you won’t spoil them. I promise you won’t make them clingy. I promise you will regret it if you don’t.