There are so many opinions out there about what you need to do to get ready for your new baby. Be sure you have the right gear! Make your nursery adorable! And don’t forget to take that last kid-free trip or babymoon!
As useful as these tips are, I feel that they overshadow some of the most important kinds of preparation. We need to be prepared for how to be with our babies, not just for what we’ll swaddle or stroll them in.
Luckily, the Educaring® Approach (commonly known as RIE® parenting or respectful parenting) is the perfect support system for the intense early days of parenting. Here’s how you can practice some of the Approach’s most effective—yet quite simple—tools before your baby even arrives.
RIE®-Inspired Tools to Help You Prepare to Be With Your Baby
1. Practice observing
Your new baby will start to tell you things from the moment she arrives. Observing her at rest, at play, and during caregiving moments will help you learn her rhythms and cycles, as well as what she needs.
I find that true quiet observation—a key RIE® Principle—doesn’t come naturally to most of us. We usually take a quick look and then leap immediately to a decision or an action. You can strengthen this skill in the lead-up to your baby’s arrival by picking something to observe quietly for even 5-10 minutes every day.
Take a trip to a park and quietly observe a child at play. Observe your family dog or cat as he does his thing. Sit on your couch and gaze out the window at the birds or squirrels, busy at work. Plant yourself on a bench in a crowded train station and watch the pattern of commuters for five minutes before you board.
What do you notice?
Check out my post What Is Respectful Parenting (or RIE®) Anyway? for more information on quiet observation and these other suggestions.
2. Learn to slow down
Practicing observation can help us begin to slow down, and vice versa. Often, because of the pace of our lives—plus added doses of anxiety, a desire to fix “problems” quickly, or overwhelm—new parents start moving at warp speed. This speedy energy feeds on itself, and it can lead to you and baby feeling pumped up and jittery instead of calm and relaxed.
Do yourself a favor and start taking baby steps toward moving more slowly now. This will strengthen the muscle of moving at a slower pace so that, when your baby arrives, you can remind yourself how much it helps you stay calm. It will help your baby, too.
To practice, try this: In your last few weeks of pregnancy, take a little extra time on your daily routines like bathing and dressing, or give yourself a little extra time to get to appointments or make dinner, so you can go at a more leisurely pace.
3. Start talking to your baby
Communicating with your newborn out loud is one of the most powerful and effective ways to develop a respectful relationship with your baby from the very beginning. If you haven’t already done this, start today.
For some of us, it can feel strange to talk to a person who doesn’t at first seem to understand or respond. Trust that your baby will clearly understand the love and intention that is communicated with your words, and very soon, the words themselves.
When you get yourself ready for the day, try telling your baby what you are doing in that moment, or what you will be doing that day. Try this again in the evening as you prepare for bed. If you’re self-conscious, do this when you’re alone. It will start to feel natural before too long.
4. Try doing less
Sometimes tiredness or the nesting instinct will naturally lead you to do less as your due date draws near. If you are typically one to go until you can’t go anymore, beginning to practice doing less now can help with your need to do less when your baby arrives.
As your pregnancy progresses, see if you can make it a habit to reflect on the day as you get ready for bed. When you think back on all you did that day, how do you feel? Was there an ease and flow to your day, with periods of excitement and quiet? Or was it busy from start to finish?
Sometimes the busy days are out of your control, especially if you are trying to wrap up work before your leave. And when your baby comes, there will be days like this too, of course. The trick is to find the balance point between activity, excitement, and stimulation and quiet, calm, and restfulness.
Developing an awareness of how the zippy days feel can help you tune into how these experiences might be for your baby. If you find an experience stimulating, you can be sure it’ll be magnified tenfold for your little one. Practicing doing a little less now can help you ease into a more tranquil schedule when your baby arrives.
5. Make space for your feelings
If you are committed to parenting with respect and attunement, one of the hardest things you will do as a new—and seasoned—parent is to remain open to the ever-flowing wave of your child’s feelings.
I think it’s also the worthiest effort, and you can begin to prepare yourself by making space for your own feelings leading up to your baby’s arrival.
This sounds simple, doesn’t it? In some ways, it is. And I have also heard many parents apologize for their tears, for being emotional, for saying anything but “everything is perfect!” about parenthood.
Start being a friend to yourself in this way now. Your baby will benefit most from a parent who allows her own tenderness, as well as her baby’s.
One of the simplest ways to do this is to, again, bring your awareness to the moments when you have a strong feeling or get flooded by emotion. You can say to yourself, “I notice that I’m feeling sad (or angry or overwhelmed or joyful) right now.” That’s all.
This simple act of noticing can help us connect with the feeling as a feeling (instead of a “the way you are”), and to soften our resistance to it. Noticing that it’s happening “right now” also reminds us that, like all feelings, it is a temporary state—it may change in the next hour or even the next moment.
What other ways have you prepared for your baby that don’t involve spending money? Leave me a comment below.
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