As if I didn’t have enough anxiety becoming a new mum after the trauma of birth, failed breastfeeding and struggling to adjust to my car crash of a body… it became apparent baby milestones were another thing to worry about…
So after reading my weekly pregnancy update every. single. week. for 38 weeks I enjoyed that time to see how my baby was developing and it made me so excited! So it continues on to your baby coming into the world and they let you know what kind of things your baby should be doing around that time/many weeks and how they see the world.
I loved this and enjoyed reading it until I realised Leo wasn’t quite following the guide.
Emphasis on GUIDE, I know that it isn’t set in stone and every baby is different but that doesn’t mean reading it and realising your baby is a bit slower in development isn’t a bit of a worry. I read on some of them that it can be a worry if it persists… WHAT? a worry if it persists? So after that I began googling all things that it could mean if they weren’t doing certain things. Which is obviously stupid, what a silly thing to do I know, but I couldn’t help it. So here is what happened…
It was getting on for 6 weeks and Leo hadn’t shown any signs of smiling, focusing, following objects or colours. So I am a paranoid person anyway and I knew in myself he wasn’t quite doing them but I just thought it was because he wasn’t ready.
The health visitor came to see me and told me to fill in this sheet of tick boxes of what your baby can do so far. His motor skills were perfect but like I said he was a little slower with following objects, people, colours and signs of a smile. The lady put the sheet down and said ‘I’ll leave this here as a little homework and if he isn’t doing these things by the next visit at 9 weeks we will have to look into it further’… ERM???
Oh wow I was a wreck!
1. Homework? I’m 20 years old and a mum, not a school student, how patronising, it’s if she thought he could do these things and I wasn’t paying attention to my baby!
2. look into it further?? well wow okay what is there to look into? so like i said I began googling like a maniac, ‘why isn’t my baby smiling?’ ‘Why isn’t my baby focusing on my face?’ ‘signs your baby doesn’t love you’ ‘Why won’t my baby follow objects or stare at me?’
I was a nervous wreck! How insane when I look back, I should have been enjoying my new born baby and realised he would do it all when he was good and ready! I did see a few comments of autism crop up. Now there is nothing wrong or bad about your child being autistic at all, but obviously it is good to catch these things early and you do need to think about the best ways to look after your baby and it does make you think so much about the future. So I thought oh my gosh is he showing signs of autism? I blamed myself a lot, I thought I was a rubbish mum to him and I couldn’t make him happy or smile. I felt so guilty because I was out often and felt I wasn’t dedicating enough time to him. I was obsessed with him hitting these milestones and I felt so scared I wasn’t doing enough for him rather than just enjoying him.
I began forcing myself to make him smile which just ended up over stimulating him which made him tired and wingy, so it was a vicious cycle really. I know this probably does sound so silly but I was a brand new first time mummy and really, I had no clue what I was doing like most first timers!
But then at 7 weeks and 6 days I was just talking to him on my knee and in a flash I thought I saw a smile. My heart nearly leaped out my chest! I screamed to my mum and she thought I did it because there was something wrong! But then I thought I imagined it because he wouldn’t do it again. But then Sam walked him and said hello and he did it again!! Someone else witnessed it!
I was so relived because all I had done for almost 2 weeks was obsess over his development and feeling like there was something wrong or if he needed to see a doctor! My mum and Sam were so angry at me for getting myself so worked up because I couldn’t enjoy him as much and I kept looking for there to be something wrong with him. They told me over and over again he would do it when he was ready. I read into it so much and I did see somewhere say that a smile isn’t always an emotional response the brain needs to send messages to the muscles to make them smile, like it does with the movement of their hands and legs. I don’t know if that is true or not but it could be. But I was so so happy and then it was the most addictive feeling making him smile, I loved it and I still do!
And guess what?… He is such a smiley baby (when he isn’t hungry or struggling with colic), he’s always smiling especially in the morning! It is amazing! I felt so embarrassed when someone would ask ‘is he smiling yet?’, I felt like I had to justify myself and make out I knew he would be ready soon, because I felt so guilty about myself and as if he didn’t like me, which is crazy! Babies don’t even have the ability not to like a person when they’re so little!
Even now at 14 weeks I do have in the back of my mind , ‘Why isn’t he trying to turn over yet?’, ‘Why isn’t his hand eye coordination good yet’, but the thing is, babies are their own person, they do things as and when they are ready and to a certain extent there isn’t much you can do really.
Of course you can encourage them but you can’t make them! I feel the health teams put pressure on mum’s these days and put things in your head. One midwife told me I shouldn’t bath my baby in Johnsons baby bath, only a couple times a week and every other time in just warm water. But then said ‘but as a mum myself I’ll tell you I always bathed mine in it but I do need to advise you not to do this’… wow. Seriously, they wouldn’t sell it if it did them any harm. Your baby sits in wet nappies even if you change them extremely often they still will have sat in at least 1 wee which needs cleaning properly at least once or every other night rather than just with wipes. It’s a bit of soap, which is made for babies sensitive skin.
The statement ‘do what’s best for you and your baby‘ is the truest thing ever. You do what you feel is best with your babies! You know your baby better than anybody! It’s got nothing to do with anyone else what you bath them in, what you feed them and when you feel is right to wean them, just do whats best for you both. Of course all guidelines of care are there for a reason but it is in the title ‘GUIDElines’, it’s just a guide, not set in stone or a law.
You look after your baby how you feel is best for them. You know them best and how ready they are. And all babies do everything in their own stride, being a baby must be really stressful and tiring because all they do when their eyes are open is learn and their brains must be super active! No baby is the same and they will get there. So, if you feel or have ever felt guilty or worried don’t panic, you’re doing a great job!
Please comment if you’ve experienced similar!
Written by Amy Louise Hignett for her blog, My Baby & Me.
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