Many women feel like they missed a handbook or a year in school that everyone else got. The “mom instinct” everyone else talks about seems to have skipped them. But I would like to assure you that you CAN have the mom instincts! They can be trained. Here’s how.
Don’t wait until the baby’s crying. Most babies have signals they make before they start crying that you can use to learn what they need. If you wait until they’re crying, you won’t catch them, and you’ll be more stressed because of your ingrained need to soothe your baby.
Observe your baby. Write things down if you need to. “Baby rubbed hands on face and started making hiccuping noises… refused to nurse… calmed after burping.” Keep track of what settled your baby after certain behaviors, and watch for those behaviours to repeat.
Ask others what their babies do. This will help you get an idea of general patterns that babies have. Of course your baby will not be just like another mom’s. For example, her baby may suck their fingers when they’re hungry, while yours may suck their fingers immediately after eating because they like the sensation. But knowing what sort of behavior to look for will help.
Give yourself permission to make mistakes. Making mistakes is anxiety-inducing when a tiny life is at stake. But take a step back – most of the time this tiny life is not at stake. If you take a few extra minutes to figure out whether the baby is wet or gassy, the end result will still be that their heart learns, “I had a problem and Mama made it all okay.” So when you do make a mistake, don’t let your brain flood you with guilt. That’s a sure way to only be more panicky next time. Focus (once baby is calm again) on the fact that you DID find the problem, you DID solve it, and you learned a little more.
Let your baby stretch their horizons. You do this by tolerating a tiny pinch of risk. Letting them try to pull themselves up even if they could fall. Letting them hold a full cup of water to try to drink, even though they’ll spill. Letting them dig their fingers in the dirt despite the fact that you know in a minute they’ll shove that dirt into their mouth. That minute gives them a lot of development. And if you let them experiment with a situation you’re not sure they’re ready for: sometimes they’ll surprise you by being ready.
You’ve got this Mom!