Ah, those precious babies! For Catholic parents, the birth of a new baby is among the most blessed of family events. Welcoming a baby is a sign of love and humility. You are, in fact, participating in God’s own creativity when you welcome a new life. John Paul II, Mulieris Dignitatem: 18.
We are fortunate that science is shedding light upon the wisdom of practices that promote the kind of tender and responsive love that the Church calls us to mirror in our lives, especially with our children. Our children are gifts to us, but we also present ourselves as gifts to our children when meet their needs and protect their rights through our parenting choices.
The goal in parenting an infant is to give her a deep sense of rightness about the world and this is achieved through a strong attachment or bond to her parents, primarily mama at this stage. Several practices will foster this bond:
- A strong bonding experience at birth
- Breastfeeding on demand
- Babywearing (wearing baby in a sling or pouch close to mom)
- Sleeping close to baby, whether in a co-sleeper or next to mom in the family bed
- Responding to baby’s cries
Dr. Gregory and Lisa Popcak address in their books Parenting With Grace and Then Comes Baby how these practices help the baby achieve “entrainment”. Entrainment is the process by which baby learns to breathe in rhythm with his mother and even to set his bodily systems in tune with hers. So not only will the child achieve greater emotional stability, but through entrainment he will become less physically vulnerable.
In the first year of life, you cannot possibly spoil your baby. Your baby’s desires are the same as his needs. Responding compassionately and quickly to your crying baby, feeding him when he’s hungry, keeping him close to mom & dad when he’s sleeping and awake; these are all things parents do naturally in cultures that raise peaceful children who grow up to become compassionate adults. While these practices are counter-cultural in our own very detached society, they are also pro-baby, pro-health, & pro-love!
Parenting With Grace by Dr. Gregory and Lisa Popcak
Then Comes Baby by Dr. Gregory and Lisa Popcak
Breastfeeding and Catholic Motherhood by Sheila Kippley
The No-Cry Sleep Solution by Elizabeth Pantley
Apostolic Letter: Mulieris Dignitatem, On the Dignity and Vocation of Women by Pope John Paul II
The Benefits of Breastfeeding: A Couple to Couple League series of articles on the benefits of breastfeeding for baby, mama, family, and society.
The Sling Station: A great website with descriptions and charts for just about every kind of baby carrier you can think of. When I was pregnant with my 4th baby, they helped me select the right carrier for my back.
Crying and Comforting: An API article about the dangers of letting babies “cry it out”. Argues that responding promptly to a baby’s cries is best for the baby’s emotional well-being.
The Science of Attachment Parenting by Gwen Dewar. A brief yet broad summary on recent research that support attachment-based parenting practices. Riveting.
Catholic Nursing Mothers League: A website and blog for Catholic moms looking for breastfeeding support. Devoted to the work of Sheila Kippley.
Another Inconvenient Truth: Babies Need Us at Night by Kim Cameron-Smith. Why sleeping near your baby is not only normal and safe, but it also helps regulate her breathing and body temperature.
Parenting While You Snooze by Sheila Jenne. An AP mom describes her early struggles with co-sleeping.
Babywearing by Amanda Carnes.
Photo credits (photos.com): Catherine Yeulet (3 Babies); Elena Shchipkova (Baby in sling)