What Babies Really Need
I Am A Mom, Thoughts On Parenting

What Babies REALLY Need

What Babies Really Need

I have recently read this article on Psychology Today and got really angry about the things books and articles have us believe that our babies need. They tell us that only if we behave in a certain way (meaning in their way) children will be well-adjusted and happy and have a good relationship with us.

So I thought that to counter this, I would write my own article. It would be about what babies really need. As it turns out, it isn’t really much.

1)      Food- of course they need food. But whether the food comes from a breast or a bottle doesn’t matter. What matters is that said food comes in sufficient quantities, and in the form that suits you, your family and your baby. Later, it doesn’t matter whether the food comes as a puree or steamed morsels because obviously, the phase where they eat that is short and they end up eating what you eat anyway.

2)      Sleep- everyone knows that a sleep deprived baby is just as bad as a sleep-deprived mom. One of the wisdoms of parenting is: “Never wake a sleeping baby”. It is just common sense, right up there with: “Don’t swim in the river with crocodiles”. It is just not done. Yes, sleep does matter. What doesn’t matter, however, is whether the baby sleeps with you in your bed or in his or her own crib (or even in his or her own room). It doesn’t matter if you prefer to get up and breastfeed said baby or train them to sleep through the night. It really doesn’t matter in the long term. Sleep also matters for the parent- let’s not forget that moms and dads need sleep, too!

3)      Attention- babies do need a lot of attention, that much is true. But they don’t need it all the time, and they don’t need attention from just one person. And sometimes, they need more attention, and sometimes they need less attention. Taking all this into consideration, it’s perfectly fine to go and take a shower, have a cup of tea or read a book for a while, while baby plays happily by him- or herself or gets a chance to play with daddy.

4)      Stuff- many people love to tell you that babies don’t need stuff. It is a lie and funnily enough the same people who say that babies don’t need stuff forget that the sling to babywear and the wooden blocks to play with, that is stuff, too. Babies don’t need stuff, but you do: for entertaining baby. For dressing baby. For diapering baby. For traveling with baby. And even if it’s not extra baby stuff, you still need it: if your baby plays with pots and pans, that is still stuff. Babies need stuff, they just don’t need too much of it.

5)      Happy parents- I believe that happy parents are paramount to bringing up happy babies, and later happy children. By happy parents, I don’t mean perfect parents. I mean good enough parents who love their children, care for them and admit their mistakes. Happy parents also have a support network, be it extended family or other parents, educators and doctors, with whom they exchange experiences, ask for- and receive support, and help their babies, thrive.

6)      Love- I don’t think there is such a thing as too much love, particularly not where the children are concerned. Babies need lots and lots of love. Sometimes, showing it is easy, with hugs and kisses and laughter. Sometimes, it is difficult, by saying “no” and setting boundaries. If it’s not with a belt or a hitting hand, you’re fine in my book.

7)      Freedom- From the very early stages, babies make their personalities known. I think even as babies, children need the freedom to explore, freedom to express their opinions (even if they can only cry and react to simple impulses such as temperature or hunger). From early on, they need the freedom to be themselves, to be cared for the way they need, not what parenting books tell the parents to.

8)      Help, support and protection- just because babies need to learn doesn’t make them incompetent or stupid. After all, as adults, even if we’re clever and experienced in one thing, we still need to ask for help in other areas of life. There are many things that babies will learn all by themselves, but for example speaking it not one of them. So yes, children need us to talk to them. How much you talk is a matter of preference, but talk you must. And some children need more help than others and they have to go through therapy. And that is OK if they get the help they need. People say that babies are fragile. They are right. Babies are fragile, but not the way many people think. Having a baby wait won’t break him. One angry outburst won’t break her. But babies do need protection. They need protection from the cold and from the heat. They need protection from overzealous family members who are so keen to hold the baby that said baby doesn’t sleep at night from exhaustion. Babies need protection from diseases, having been born with an underdeveloped immune system- this is where vaccinations come in. And unfortunately, some babies need protection from their own parents. Luckily, in most cases, parents care for their babies really well, so yes, babies need protection, but babies are also strong and independent. They can deal with a less than ideal parent.

9)      Culture- yes, humans are mammals, but they are very special mammals. In fact I haven’t heard of other species who would write blog posts about how mammalian we are. Communication is very common among animals, but speech is typical for humans. And each and every one of us is a part of a certain culture. After all a pregnant woman is never in a vacuum, she is a part of her culture. And when the baby is born, he or she also becomes a part of the culture, and thus a member of a community. And babies also need culture in the sense of needing being talked to, read to, fed, put to sleep in a culturally appropriate manner.

10)   Be multilingual

Ok, babies don’t really need to be multilingual for survival. For survival, one language is enough. But, as you know, I am a huge fan of multilingualism and think that speaking more than one language is a huge advantage. I may, of course, be biased here, but there are many cognitive benefits to multilingualism, and Adam Beck of Bilingual Monkeys even argues that babies WANT to be bilingual!

I know this list seems hard and long. But I am pretty sure you already know many if not all of these points. I am not telling you how to feed your baby or put her to sleep. Too many parenting books and articles do that but often, instead of helping, they unnecessarily create fear and guilt. I am just telling you about the very basic needs a baby may have, and how you fulfil them is totally up to you!

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  • Reply Inga January 10, 2014 at 7:07 pm

    I couldn’t agree with you more. I just have to say that if you can breastfeed then you should because it’s more than food it’s love and bonding. Of course it can be done otherwise too…

    • Reply European Mama January 10, 2014 at 7:16 pm

      Hi Inga, wow that was fast! I just published the post and here’s your post. As for breastfeeding, I have just calculated that I have so far spend 35 months breastfeeding all of my three children. And I don’t particularly feel that I am bonding more through this than for example through hugging, rocking, swaying, kissing etc. And I think saying “if you can breastfeed you should” puts unnecessary pressure on women and make the bottle seem like a bad option, and there are women who may be able to breastfeed but decide not to for some reasons- I don’t think they’re any less bonded with their children than breastfeeding moms. And just as you say: it can be done otherwise… I think breastfeeding itself doesn’t guarantee bonding because bonding is a conscious decision.. you can breastfeed and read your book (ehm how do I know that?) and you can give your baby a bottle and gaze in his eyes and be with him. This being said, I love breastfeeding my children and am very happy that it works out.

  • Reply Ewa Bartnik January 10, 2014 at 7:43 pm

    I agree that breastfeeding though a great idea is not the most important thing in the world, I had the double hassle of bottle and breast for both my children – one for almost 20 months, the other for just 10 months – and I am not going to claim I bonded two times better with the first one than with the second one.

  • Reply Sarah Mueller January 15, 2014 at 8:32 pm

    Oh yes! This is such a great list. It kills me when I see a new mom who registers for the latest and greatest and then is sad and defeated when she doesn’t get it all. We make life much too complicated sometimes, don’t we? Thanks for the reminder.

    I hope you’ll link this post up at Family Fun Friday, starting tomorrow at my blog around 4pm EST.
    Sarah Mueller recently posted…How to Track Your Spending. A YNAB ReviewMy Profile

    • Reply European Mama January 15, 2014 at 9:03 pm

      Thank you, Sarah! I am glad that this list resonates with you. I felt exactly that: “sad and defeated” when I had my first…hence that list- and I will happily link up when the link is live!

  • Reply Sarah Parisi January 16, 2014 at 8:20 pm

    So true! This is a great list. I had a list a mile long for my first baby, but now that I have my third we don’t even have a crib. There are so many “necessities” that are just NOT necessary!
    Sarah Parisi recently posted…Art & Science Birthday Party at Mixin Mingle: Part 2My Profile

    • Reply European Mama January 16, 2014 at 8:42 pm

      Thank you for your comment and welcome, Sarah! Our list wasn’t that huge (given that we were going through an international move when my first was born. We didn’t even have furniture! But you are right, even that, we have bough so much less for our third child…We kept many of the things from his two sisters and the rest were pretty much all gifts. We haven’t bought many toys either given that his sisters had so many…and then of course each family’s needs are different so each has to decide what they need and what they don’t need (we do need stuff just not too much and the right kind).

  • Reply What Babies Really Need | BLUNTmoms January 31, 2014 at 5:11 pm

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  • Reply Jess January 31, 2014 at 11:26 pm

    Olga, I love this. Like, Love this with a capital “L.” You nailed it. xxx+o, j
    Jess recently posted…Dear Planet Sentimentality: An Open Letter to Everyone I Will Ever KnowMy Profile

    • Reply European Mama February 1, 2014 at 10:23 am

      Thank you Jess, I thought I was on to something when I read that stupid article on Psychology today. For a while I even regretted having read it but I see it actually paid off!

  • Reply Cordelia February 1, 2014 at 3:21 am

    Ha! You know by now that I totally agree with you. I thought the way you framed stuff was really interesting. Loved your post. Coco xx
    Cordelia recently posted…Kids, Food, & How to Kill a Chicken, Improvised.My Profile

    • Reply European Mama February 1, 2014 at 10:25 am

      Thanks, Cordelia for your kind words! I’ve been thinking about all these parenting books and articles and couldn’t believe what they tell us we need to do or have in order to have a happy baby. And so I wrote my own list- it is more easy to accomplish these things, right?

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