One thing I’ve learned since the birth of my six month old son, is that he is a great communicator. Whether he’s babbling, crying, or something more subtle, he communicates what he wants and needs. I’ve learned to read his cues, body language and facial expressions and respond to them preemptively which in large part negates the need for crying!
When he was first born, I was so anxious to get breastfeeding right because I struggled so hard with my first child. What I found is that all the hard work and struggle I went through with my daughter, was worth it–now I was a pro! While in the recovery room after giving birth to my son via C-section, vomiting heavily, sicker than I’ve ever been, I found myself successfully breastfeeding! Even my husband noted how different this was than with my daughter. It was an amazing experience.
Despite the fact that my son and I have a close bond, at times I still struggle to read his cues correctly. Is he hungry? Usually the answer is yes, but sometimes he’s sleepy too or gassy or wants to play. Those are the top four.
Despite the fact that my son and I have a close bond, at times I still struggle to read his cues correctly.
A lot of times I’m bouncing around through trial and error trying to figure out which of these it is. As I try to pinpoint which one my son is experiencing I look for clues:
- Rooting is a sign of hunger. When it occurs, the baby turns his head if his cheek is touched. This reflex might begin to disappear after a baby is few weeks old.
- Another hunger cue in early infancy is hands in the mouth, lip smacking or turning of the head vigorously from left to right.
Now that my baby has started solids when he does want to eat he opens his mouth wide. When he wants to nurse he will dive for the breast and tug at my shirt. Since he is bigger now, it’s easier to tell when he is hungry.
Of course, even knowing these cues, having master’s degree in early childhood education, and being a mother of two, I still at times feel helpless and clueless about what is going on with my baby.
One thing that helps me to stay calm and attentive to my son’s cues is mindfulness. Mindfulness is defined as, “a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations”. Being in this mind state is instrumental to effectively listen and respond to a baby’s cues.
One thing that helps me to stay calm and attentive to my son’s cues is mindfulness.
For instance, when he is gassy, the cues usually present as a lot of leg movement and squirming around. When I am not in a mindful state, I’m not aware that he is gassy until I offer him the breast and he starts screaming.
Tiredness presents itself when my son turns his head away from me. He stops making eye contact and starts fussing.
Playfulness presents itself with lots of smiling and jerking movements that look like jumping. When he is in a playful mood, if I try to feed him or put him to sleep, he will move his body in the direction that he wants to go. He also makes high pitched squeals when he is happy and playful, or makes spit bubbles with his mouth.
During the evenings, he is usually playful and wants to be with his big sister, but he does show a healthy dose of fear in regard to her. Fearfulness presents itself with crying and reaching for mommy or another trusted caregiver. Once I am holding him he looks at her and smiles at her, but usually when she tries to pick him up he starts to cry and looks to me or reaches for me.
Sleep is the most difficult to predict. Usually I breastfeed my son to sleep. This has unpredictable results; often he’s up in an hour and then continues to wake frequently until I go to bed with him. I’m aware that this arrangement isn’t ideal but for now it works. I know one day, I will miss this closeness with him.
Being a mom often means making tough decisions. Being responsible for tiny people is hard and scary, but also beautiful and amazing. I’m realizing perfection is not an option and it shouldn’t be the goal. I find it’s best to let go of control and ego, just enjoying the ride, reading cues and communicating with him whenever I can.★
Maya Klein is a teacher, musician and mother of two. She loves in Brooklyn New York with her children, husband and Cat Lucy. She is very excited to be contributing her first article to WonderMommy!