The expression “It takes a whole village to raise a child” is one I completely believe to be true.
In my work in Malawi teaching infant massage, I have seen how women work together to support each other after birth; sharing practical tasks and chores, helping with childcare and even nursing each other’s babies. Despite hard poverty, the presence of a supportive collective of women makes life more manageable and is a key aspect of community life. Women have a period of confinement after birth to enable them to recover and return to their former strength. Babies are generally happy and contented and crying babies are not common as women respond to their babies needs immediately. The case in the West is generally the opposite as we tend promote the “individual” over the “collective” and we feel there is some kind of reward in being “independent” as soon as possible. This is the case for new mothers and babies as much parenting advice is around getting your baby to self soothe and regulate in a separate space to you. Although this may be a practical goal for many new mothers, this goes against many of a baby’s instincts who is designed to be in close proximity to his/her carer.
I would argue that new mothers must be supported and nurtured in order to support and nurture their babies. If they do not receive help, overwhelm and self doubt can set in. Dr Allen Schore (2002) says;
“A child’s first relationship, the one with his mother, acts as a template that permanently moulds the individual’s capacity to enter into all later emotional relationships”
Surely this means therefore, that as a society we should be supporting new mothers as much as possible so they can be emotional available and confident in their capacity as a parent. If mothers are children’s first teachers, we must support mothers as much as we can so they feel confident and empowered. Having a baby with colic is particularly challenging for new parents as babies cry for long periods and are difficult to settle. Having a break, being valued and supported is crucial to the emotional and mental health of a parent. Without rest and reassurance, there is a danger that a new parent will run out of patience and energy for their baby which can affect bonding and their relationship with their baby for the long term. The last thing a baby needs is for his/her parent to withdraw.
Finding your village
So how can you find your tribe? Family and friends are the obvious place to begin but sometimes this does not feel right or it’s too close to home. If you are adjusting to a new identity as a mother, you may feel conflicted in your relationship with your friends as you are not quite sure of yourself and how these relationships will evolve. There are some fantastic support groups online and locally, and we have listed some below for you. What is most important is to not be afraid to ask for help. The struggle is real when you have a baby with colic. Don’t think you are imagining it. Help and rest are vital.
Here are some pathways to your “village”;
An organisation providing immediate help from volunteer parent support workers 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
helpline: 0808 800 2222
National Childbirth Trust (NCT) is the largest UK charity for parents, giving accurate, impartial antenatal information and can introduce you to a network of local parents to gain practical and emotional support.
Mumsnet gives information and advice for parents, including news articles, forums and blogs.
Children’s Centres in your local area can support you through classes for you and your baby to attend.
How can we help
Studies have shown that infant massage can help you to reduce any feelings of disconnect with your baby as a result of coping with colic and crying. Touch can help you feel closer to your baby if you are finding things hard. Our local classes offer help, support and community. You are not alone and other parents stories help to “normalise” what you are experiencing. Infant massage and touch is so important for helping you feel attuned to your baby. I believe it’s a must for every new parent and baby.
The practice of infant massage provides the opportunity for parents to tune into their babies, communicate love and security and read their cues enables the crucial competent of bonding and and infant’s understanding of action/reaction and the foundations of empathy. The activation of the serve-and-return wiring in the brain, provide the basis of healthy brain architecture: particularly in relation to life-long mental well-being, empathy, emotional regulation, and cognitive skills (Feldman, Rosenthal & Eidelman, 2014; National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, 2004; World Health Organisation, 2004).
To find out more about how to learn how to soothe your baby with colic through infant massage online, visit our website and take a look at our Soothe Settle & Sleep online program. or find a local teacher online
I hope you have found this five part series on how to cope with colic useful. Check out the other parts in our blog and do share with anyone who might need help.
Remember Love Creates Love so reach out and help someone who needs support if this has inspired you.