Even if they do not use the language yet, newborns baby communicate continuously through their behavior. Learning to observe them allows parents to adapt to their needs.
How to Communicate With Your Newborn Baby
“A baby? It cries, it eats and it sleeps! “A shortcut still common to describe the behavior of toddlers. Until about the sixties, the infant was essentially considered a small being without any particular individuality, which one must take care of. In 1973, American pediatrician T. Berry Brazelton (recently missing on March 16, 2018) developed a newborn scale. A revolutionary tool, which lists the different states of infants, their skills, their resources and their way of interacting with their surroundings. Thanks to this groundbreaking work, newborns are today considered as individuals in their own right, with a sensitivity and ways of responding that are unique to them. The personality of each baby must be discovered by his parents and relatives.
Does my baby feel well?
Some examples of behaviors can help you realize if your baby is comfortable or uncomfortable.
Signs of well-being:
- Your child is generally calm.
- His face is relaxed.
- His movements are harmonious and coordinated.
- His gaze is calm and circulates freely, he is attentive to what surrounds him.
- His skin has a pretty color.
- He does not jump.
- It seems available to communicate.
Signs of fatigue, distress and / or overload:
- Your child is not available to communicate, he looks away, turns away.
- When he is awake, he grimaces, he is agitated and weeps; or on the contrary he is apathetic and passive.
- He has a worried expression, forehead and frowning.
- His actions are abrupt and poorly coordinated.
- Its skin changes color (it is pale, marbled or more red).
- He suffers from intestinal problems (regurgitation, cramps, colic, etc.).
The attachment to the heart of development
Many behaviors observable from birth are related to the need for attachment and security. “An infant is somehow” programmed “for attachment,” says Dr. Nadia Bruschweiler-Stern, pediatrician, child psychiatrist and founder of the Brazelton Switzerland Center in Geneva. “At birth, he already recognizes the smell and voice of his mother. Very quickly, he is able to associate his face. To build a bond, he wakes up the love and attachment of his parents by curling up in their arms or nestling his little head in the hollow of their necks. He seeks visual contact with his mother, which also gives her a sense of attachment and the desire to take care of him. “These instinctive behaviors have one main objective: survival. Because for his part, the mother needs to create a unique love relationship with her baby, and once she is attached to it, she feels responsible for her survival, growth and well-being. It is for example because of this responsibility that in case of separation, the mother is anxious, because she can no longer ensure her protective and nurturing role.
An important task of parents is to keep their child in his comfort zone. In this way, it grows with a sense of security that promotes its development and learning. Very early, a baby reacts to his environment and expresses feelings of well-being or discomfort (see box). By observing these reactions, parents can get to know them and adapt to their specific needs. “The baby’s behavior is his language,” says Dr. Bruschweiler-Stern. Through this, he tells us what he feels and what he needs.
The weight of the environment
The direct environment of the infant has a great impact on his behavior and development. His nervous system, particularly open to sensations, integrates everything around him. Even when he sleeps, he continues to “pick up” what is happening near him. “A striking example is the influence of screens,” says the specialist. Many single women with their babies are distracted while watching television while breastfeeding. A priori, it seems innocuous. However, it does not provide the same experience for the baby as breastfeeding without television. It produces discontinuous words and flashes of light. With the repetition of meals, the infant records in one impression all the components of this experience, and associates it with the feeling of safety and comfort that represents breastfeeding.
Thanks to the work initiated by Brazelton, it is now possible to learn to identify certain reactions and adapt the environment to the individual needs of each baby, without overburdening him. In Switzerland, many specialists trained in this method (doctors, child psychiatrists, midwives, psychologists, etc.) offer consultations, often supported by health insurance. A valuable tool to learn to communicate with your baby from the first days of life.
Children with intense needs
Faced with the sensory stimuli of the world around them, babies are not all equal. Some seem more irritable than the average and are quickly overloaded by what is happening in their environment. The American pediatrician William Sear instituted the concept of “High-Need-Baby”, the baby with intense needs. These children, often described by those around them as “difficult” or “who cry a lot”, require a lot of attention. They do not always react immediately to comfort and need constant body contact.
Since each child is different, this sensitivity is sometimes simply linked to their sensory or genetic profile. In some cases, a difficult pregnancy or childbirth can also have an impact. In any case, some measures can help relieve these children and their parents, who are often physically and emotionally exhausted. Carrying and skin-to-skin contact, in particular, can have a calming and relaxing effect. Massages or swaddling in a blanket can also help relieve the child. “A few months ago, I received a two-and-a-half-month-old baby who was continuously waving arms and legs,” says Dr. Nadia Bruschweiler-Stern, pediatrician and founder of the Brazelton Center in Geneva. “I just put it in a U-shaped cushion to keep it physically secure. This position allowed instant and prolonged relief. For her parents, the effect was impressive: just by being stabilized, their baby was finally calm and ready to communicate. “