There is nothing quite like holding a newborn in your arms. You’re almost glowing with love and admiration for this beautiful little bundle. However, it can be overwhelming when you have a baby that won’t stop crying and you’re so tired that can’t remember when you last washed your hair. Those first few weeks are both physically and emotionally draining.
Babies soak up the environment around them which sometimes include worried and stressed-out parents who are tearing their hair out trying to work out why their baby is crying.
Family wellness Chiropractor Dr Adeela Afiz sees the impact of stress on children from birth with more and more babies presenting at her clinic with anxiety. These babies are also struggling with reflux, colic and poor digestion or are slow to grow or gain weight. Adeela says these physical symptoms are linked to the child’s emotional well-being.
“While it may be hard to fathom that babies could have such a drastic response to stress, we must remember that babies and children use non-verbal communication for the first few years of life and stress does impact them” she says.
Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as pretending that everything is fine as a mother’s stress will rub off on a newborn.
“Stressed out babies who don’t feed well, don’t sleep well and are highly dependent on mum creates mothers who are then even more stressed and go into a psychological stress response themselves, surviving on little sleep, poor diets and often starting to feel anxious and depressed themselves. This causes a cycle where baby picks up on mum’s anxiety, which reinforces to them that something is wrong.”
Too often mothers are told that it’s “just a phase” and that the baby will “grow out of it” but they don’t have to settle with that, Adeela says.
Mothers need to listen to their gut instinct and find someone to listen to them. Many think they are the only one dealing with a certain issue but this is rarely the case.
“If you think something is wrong then find someone to listen to you.”
Adeela has treated babies as young as one week old - who have had a traumatic birth or seem to be distressed a lot of the time. She has also seen toddlers that seem to be carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders. These are not children who have a healthy range of emotions, who cry as needed and go through the day with the spectrum of emotions one would expect including happy, grumpy, hungry, windy and sleepy.
Treatment is very gentle with little or no manual adjustment. Adeela uses techniques like Kinesiology and Cranio Sacrall Therapy and Neuro Emotional Technique. It is very different from what adults may have experienced when seeking treatment from a Chiropractor.
Mothers seek out Adeela’s help for a number of reasons including checking the baby’s cranium and spine, treating reflux or assessing what could be preventing the baby from sleeping soundly. A baby that feeds on just one side may benefit from a gentle adjustment of the spine that will allow them to feed on both sides. She often starts looking after a baby and ends up treating mum as well to help her clear her emotional blocks and stress responses.
Adeela is working with leading sleep consultant Dorothy Waide to support parents and babies.
Dorothy recommends that mothers spend less time worrying about trying to do things the “right way”. The author of “You Simply Can’t Spoil a Newborn” says the fewer expectations you place on yourself and your baby the better the experience will be.
“Practice, trial and error, and don’t expect perfection from yourself or your baby. Try not to feel guilty if sometimes you get it wrong or think you have got it wrong — remember there is no right or wrong way to parent.”
Often the biggest challenge to new mothers is adjusting to a slower pace of life.
“Gone are the days when just hopping in the car and driving to the shops takes 20 minutes — it will take you all that time just to get into the car.”
Try not to be over-ambitious. What doesn’t get today can always wait until tomorrow, she says.
Getting rest when possible will help mothers cope with the challenges of parenting a newborn.
“Try to rest when your baby sleeps. Resist falling into the trap of ‘I’ll just do the washing and mop the floors,’ and then have a lie down — in the first few weeks there is no guarantee how long your baby will sleep. Rest first, chores second. A mini-nap can do wonders to replenish energy.”
Dorothy insists that mothers should ask for help when they need it – ask your partner for help settling the baby or ask a friend when visiting to pop a load of washing in the machine for you – they won’t mind.
Dorothy encourages mothers to adopt an “It’s Okay” mantra. It’s ok if the house is a mess, to be in your pyjamas at 3pm, to stipulate visiting times, to turn visitors away, to refuse to wake your sleeping baby for visitors and to ask house guests to wait on you, rather than the other way around.
“Parenting isn’t about achievement. Don’t feel you need to present yourself as a ‘perfect mother’ — she doesn’t exist!”
If you have a baby that is:
Constantly upset, appears distressed despite having no reason to be, is underweight, has high levels of separation anxiety, does not sleep well and there is no medical reason for these behaviours then it may be beneficial to seek out help from a holistic practitioner.
Dorothy and Adeela are running a series of Essential Baby Help workshops. Details here!