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Over-Mothering

Now – a momentus step forward from my last blog which was all about being a great mum to something more serious.

As the Blog heading tells you – this is all about over-mothering and how easy it is to fall into this trap.

To all you wonderful mums who give so much love and care, cuddles and kisses and lots of chatting to your beautiful babies – all this can very easily go rapidly in the opposite direction and the over-mothering aspect to raising a baby creeps in.

What do I mean? Have you ever asked yourself a question and not found the answer.

Let me answer my question!

Over-mothering on a daily basis will quite quickly send a message to your baby – yes, – that’s right! Babies are born clever and knowing

The message they get every time they cry and are immediately picked up is ‘Hey – that’s great – I cry – Mum picks me up. Better than going to sleep and I get to go out to the ‘party room’

As I say in my book ‘Baby on Board – Mum is Driving’ -  page 26 -  the more a baby sleeps, the more sleep they want. From more than 50 years of caring for babies – I know that is a fact.

I just threw that in as a reminder!Now – where was I? Oh – that’s right. Back to the ‘easy to over-mother’ if you persist on picking up your baby the minute he cries. The routine of feeding, burping, changing the nappy, swaddling, a cuddle, a kiss and then tucked down in his own bed, is probably the first instance of allowing the ‘over-mothering’ of your baby to take hold.

Leave him to self settle – go out of his bedroom, take a little walk around the garden, load the dish-washer – hang the washing out – make a cup of tea – any of these things will allow him to have a little cry – then to self settle. It will take time– you just have to let it happen.

Do this often enough – every day, and your baby will become a great self settler and you will have put the lid on ‘over-mothering’ at bed-time.

And now my list of instances I see of mums falling into the trap of allowing the baby to go ‘wow – I’ve won again’ !!

  • Pushing an expensive pram/push-chair – which is empty – that’s right – empty, because the mum is carrying the baby. One cry – or maybe two or even three and the mum gets taken on the downward pathway of over-mothering. I very rarely, if ever, see a mother of twins carrying one picked up from a push-chair, and she certainly could not carry two!
  • Baby doing mat-time – don’t pick him up at his first cry. Make sure there is plenty for him to look at – bright colourful bits and pieces – scarves – some of those great black and white baby books – prop it open so that he can look at those interesting pictures – some big and bright soft toys – and of course the inventive hanging apparatus which you can add to. Don’t hover around him as he will expect that each time he is on the mat. Go off – find something to do but be within ‘talking’ rang so that when he makes a little noise, reply that you are listening to him. Make his mat time stimulating – and don’t forget to turn him on his tummy. He’ll tell you in no uncertain terms that this is not what he wants – but get down there with him for a couple of minutes and chat – tell him  it will make him big and strong – sing him a little song.  By the way - babies don’t care if you sing out of tune – in fact they don’t know that you sing out of tune! Each day on his tummy and in a week or 2 he’ll love it.  He’ll also tell you that he has had enough – and that’s the time to make sure he’s had a good feed – and you know the rest. Burp, swaddle and into bed for a sleep.
  •   Almost never allowing him to learn any independence, anytime, anywhere. Always having him on your hip.
  • I have seen instances of a baby crying when Dad takes over – “I want my mum’ is what I hear. Let Dad be as much part of the baby’s life as Mum. Apart from breast-feeding, Dad’s can do anything including giving a top-up bottle where necessary.
When you most gorgeous baby wakes from a sleep and cries, don’t rush in and pick him up. Leave him to wake properly – 5 minutes or so. Get everything ready that you will need when he is picked up and gradually he will be more than happy to spend a little time having a look around and eventually having a chat to himself. It’s a lovely thing to hear.

I remember spending a few days with a little girl of 20 months who had no routine – still having numerous bottles and not settling till around 10pm.  I was asked to help with the ‘over-mothering’ – always picking her up – always giving her another bottle – always pacing the floor hoping she would fall asleep in the mother’s arms.

On the third night when the toddler had been put to bed, lights out, door shut, we listened to her singing in her bed. Beautiful!

When you baby is having a little cry, laugh at him, ask him what he is crying about – smile, and laugh gently again. Keep it light and cheery not solemn and sad. Babies react in a big way to facial expressions and as he grows and falls over repeatedly while learning to walk or bumps himself, instead of showing horror and concern – remember the facial expression. I would say to my little ones – ‘quick – lets give it a rub and then another one’ – smiling as you rub and count the rubs. Then a bit of distraction ‘ lets go and find a giraffe in the garden – or a butterfly – or a little bird’. It’s amazing how quickly a cry from a hurt turns into a smile.

Over-mothering is making a big deal out of a little hurt – and of course you will know if it is more than a little hurt when you say to him ‘lets have a little look at that bump.’

If you are aware of the pit-falls of over-mothering, you are in fact being a great mother and you are preparing your darling child towards growing into an independent one. A small child, not reliant on a mum who is forever picking him up and carrying him regularly, but allowing him to explore the world even from a mat on the floor – a small child who, by the time he is off to day care or kindergarten and eventually the school gate, is happy to wave you good-bye after a kiss and a hug, because he has become a confident and independent child.

When we moved towns and my youngest was 6 years old, my husband and I went to meet him after school. The 6 year old with hands on his hip said ‘What are you doing here?’ We replied that as it was his first day at a new school, we had come to meet him ‘Well, don’t do it again’ was the reply from Mr Independent and was quite happy to walk the five blocks home with his newly found friend who lived next door!

Being a parent is hard going but there are a hundreds of happy moments – so smile and enjoy!    

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