Five Ways to Respect Newborns

It's not just you. Science confirms it - babies smell delicious. They also look like angels when sleeping. And nothing is as soft as a baby's bum.

Little wonder that we think of babies as small and helpless creatures, which is too bad, really. Babies actually have immense power. No adult could accomplish anywhere near the task the baby has taken on in the past nine months of growth. 

But more than that, our tendency to underestimate babies makes us it harder for us to respect them.

We love them. We protect them. But respect? Respect In the way we respect a mentor or person who persevered? The concept is too often foreign even though babies both have much to teach us and have undoubtedly persevered. 

Respect for children -- not just protection but actual respect for them and their work -- should be a central tenant of our social contract. It is one of the surest ways to social growth. 

The baby is biologically driven toward becoming a great adult human being. If we give him the respect he deserves as an infant, he will grow into an adult who treats other adults with respect -- creating a stronger, more civilized, peace-seeking society in the future.

Developing human potential

As Dr. Silvana Montanaro writes in Understanding the Human Being, a newborn has "a strong drive to develop all the components of his human potential harmoniously." Here are five ways to foster this development through respect.

1. Snuggle and Nurse Your Baby Often

Give your baby direct, physical contact -- and lots of it. Skin-to-skin cuddles, babywearing, and cosleeping are all great ways to facilitate close contact. Human babies are born with the instinct to be close to their mothers, as they seek round-the-clock nourishment, comfort, and protection. Rather than trying to keep up with the usual household duties, take time to nurse and snuggle. You cannot give a newborn too much physical affection.

2. Allow sleeping and eating on your baby's schedule, not yours

The treatment of children should really be considered a matter of social importance.
— The Absorbent Mind

Newborns are gifted with a biological rhythm that tells them exactly how much nourishment and sleep they need. Allow them to regulate these needs themselves by making both milk and a calm place to rest available. Trust in your baby's instincts.

3. Provide Consistent Routines

Children have a natural sensitivity to order, and routines remain a great comfort throughout childhood. Your baby will naturally come to understand the difference between day and night and will be comforted by daily, repetitive experiences. By changing baby's diaper in the same place often enough, he will come to know and expect what is about to happen. By singing the same lullaby to your baby, he will soon internalize the music, so the first few lines soothe him right away.

4. Let them look around and move their bodies

Newborns are notoriously nearsighted at birth for a reason. Their ability to focus on objects is the exact distance between your breast and your face. Allow your baby to gaze on you while you nurse, and give him lots of eye contact and smiles. Newborns also need to be able to move their bodies. Laying on a lap in a rocking chair or on a soft blanket on the floor is perfect for stretching muscles and nearby focusing. Conversely, bouncers, play yards, swaddling blankets, and other common baby products can restrict both the baby's view and ability to move freely (and may contribute to problems like plagiocephaly).

5. Stimulate their senses

Babies thrive in environments rich in sensory contact, and you don't need to work hard to create one for them. Bring your baby into the thick of life, and rich sensory experiences will take care of themselves. Eat nutritious food, and you'll give your nursing baby a taste sensation (breastmilk takes on the flavor of what the mother eats). Let your baby listen in on adult conversations, and softly speak to him directly about what you're experiencing. Go outside and feel the wind softly blow. Stand under a branch and look at the leaves as long as his gaze remains focused.