Your baby came into the world in a state of openness and vulnerability, with the expectation of being cared for. Human babies are among the most fragile of nature’s newborns. Within moments of its birth, a foal stands on wobbly legs and finds its way to its mother’s breast. But human babies require much more hands-on parental help. They are completely dependent on their caregivers for survival.
Physicians, child psychologists, and other experts say that a baby’s brain and other organs are still developing when he enters the world, and this is why the choices you make in your child’s first few years matter so much. Your baby’s development from birth to age three has tangible and lasting effects on his health, intelligence, and happiness. It is your responsibility to create a foundation for his physical, emotional, and mental health.
Every day, as a parent, you exercise judgment and make choices as you take care of your child. Are you making intentional choices that nourish him, or are you automatically defaulting to patterns that you learned from your parents? By reflecting on the decisions that your parents made for you, you can make deliberate and responsible decisions based on your child’s needs, and then actively participate in meeting those needs.
According to Abraham Maslow, an American psychologist who created a hierarchy of needs for psychological health, the realization of a person’s potential is built on a specific foundation. Maslow’s theory suggests that all people need a safe and nurturing environment in order to learn, to be happy, and to achieve their full potential in society.
This begins with meeting your baby’s physiological needs and then establishing a secure attachment and connection so that your child feels loved. With this foundation, he has the support and freedom necessary to grow, to learn, to take responsibility, and to reach his full potential.
Following are some guidelines to help you establish a strong foundation for your baby so that he can grow and learn.
Take Care of Yourself
Once you become a parent, taking time for yourself may seem impossible and selfish. Perhaps you feel guilty for doing something that you enjoy when so many ongoing responsibilities demand your attention. However, when you nourish your own needs, you can refresh and revitalize your core energy to meet the demands of parenting. You also set an example. Modeling self-care is a way of teaching your child to take care of himself. On airplanes, parents are advised to put on their own oxygen masks first before attending to their children’s masks. Your child needs you to take care of yourself so that you are available to take care of him.
Daily nourishment for your child includes healthy food for development and energy, comfortable clothing for warmth and protection, and a quiet time and place for him to sleep for restoration and growth. He needs you to take care of him every day by keeping him clean, changing his diapers, washing his clothes, and comforting him if he does not feel well. He also needs fresh air and sunshine—the nourishment of nature.
Provide Safety and Security
Your baby needs you to create a safe environment so that he is protected from accidents and harm. He needs to trust that he will be taken care of so that he can focus on learning and discovering.
Love, Connect, and Be Present
Listening and responding to your baby’s needs helps him to develop trust and to be confident that his needs will be met. When you are present and you connect with him through your care, he can relax in knowing that he is loved. You can share your presence with your child as you do activities together—talking, reading, sharing art and music, and laughing. His connection to you will help him learn to regulate his emotions, to be deliberate in his actions, and to develop his intelligence.
See Your Child’s Perspective
When you look at your child’s vantage point, you can have more compassion and understanding for his needs and meet them more fully. How does it feel to have a wet diaper for a long time? Are his clothes soft or rough next to his skin? Why is he smiling or crying? Imagine how his world looks lying on his back when he looks up at you, the ceiling or sky, without the ability to move and control his world. When he sits up and looks around, crawls, and walks, he gets another viewpoint. What does he see when walking through a crowd of adults and he is knee high? How does he feel when he wants something and cannot communicate?
When you are busy, it may be challenging to see the world from your baby’s point of view. Perhaps what may be convenient for you may not be satisfying for him. However, taking time to understand him can be less demanding on you in the long run. If you take care of his true needs early on, he will be more fulfilled as he grows.
Learn and Improve
Since everything is always changing, every moment is an opportunity to reflect and to look for ways to improve your parenting. Sometimes learning comes more from failure than from success. If you are impatient with your child, and you recognize how it affects him, then you may be motivated to stretch to meet his needs the next time he requires your attention. If you pay attention and listen to him, you can understand and learn from the process of parenting.
Listen to Your Intuition
You intuitively know if your baby is tired or hungry because you are in touch with his rhythms and needs. When you acquire knowledge about your child’s development, then you can integrate it with your intuition. Pausing and listening helps you hear your inner voice. Then you can trust your intuition and act on it.
Being in the present moment helps increase your awareness of a situation. Take a few deep breaths to help you stay cool and relaxed when life is hectic. As a parent, you have many responsibilities, but there is a limit to what you can do. Your child has his own strength, resilience, and will. Allowing, accepting, and trusting that he is in the right place at the right time and that he is supported by nature’s intelligence can give you the calm and peace to know that not everything is up to you.
Make Intentional Choices
Exercising your judgment calls on your habits, senses, emotions, intelligence, awareness of others, understanding of nature’s principles, and intuition. Which sippy cup should you buy? What is for dinner? Which preschool is best for your child? You cannot always make perfect decisions, because you often have to give up one thing to get another. A stainless-steel sippy cup may cost more than a plastic one, so you have to give up some money to buy it. A burger from a fast-food restaurant may be easy and quick in the short term, but the food could compromise your child’s health in the long term. The best preschool in town may be far away and inconvenient for your work schedule, so you may choose one that works better logistically for your family.
Defining your lifestyle priorities can help you make the many decisions and choices that affect your child. The way you use your resources of time, money, and energy is an expression of your priorities. Developing a clear sense of your priorities can help you be more intentional in the way you nurture your child.
Explore and Play
Babies have a natural curiosity, an openness, and a sense of awe that are infectious. They approach their experiences with a fresh innocence, an adventurous spirit, and an eagerness to explore. You can share the natural world with your child by emulating this “beginner’s mind”—using your own curiosity and discovery. Questioning creates a feeling of wonder. “Why is it this way?” “How does it work?” “Where does it come from?“ “How does it grow?”
If you question and research an issue for yourself instead of simply following someone else’s advice, you may learn more and find your own truth through the process. When you ask a question with sincerity and interest, you create an atmosphere that opens the world of imagination, possibilities, and potential for you and your child to learn together. Cultivating a sense of appreciation and gratitude for the wonders of nature also maintains a positive mood and enhances emotional well-being. Nature is a teacher that sparks curiosity and creativity through open exploration, while TV, video games, and mechanical toys have limits.