What your baby needs most

Before I gave birth to my first baby I was overwhelmed by the various babycare products I thought I would need.  A crib or cot, a moses basket or bassinette– what’s the difference?  Why would a baby need so many different places to sleep (in the end, my baby’s bassinette became our laundry basket!)?  Bouncy chairs, fancy applique bedding, matching curtains and trash cans, pumps, sterilizers, blankets, blankets and more blankets…  Looking at babycare catalogues boggled my mind as I tried to piece together a list of what we would really need for our little baby.

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What about a changing table?  Everyone I knew seemed to own a dresser with an integral changing table on the top.  But they were really expensive, and I wasn’t even sure we would fit one into our really small room in my tiny house!  Plus, would I have to walk upstairs every time I changed the baby’s bottom?  That’s what I call hard work.  I can recall feeling so liberated by an idea I read in a magazine that was given to every mother giving birth at my local hospital.  This hospital served a varied population– from the very wealthy to the very, very poor.  The magazine suggested that a towel on the floor was a perfectly suitable place to change a baby.  Imagine!  I could change the baby’s dirty diaper without the need to buy a changing table that would have to sit in the middle of the living room because we couldn’t fit it anywhere else!

That moment was when the scales first began to fall from my eyes.  I realised that so many baby ‘necessities’ were in fact baby ‘niceties.’  So I began to wonder, what does a baby actually need?

I have come to learn that a baby’s needs are very simple.  A baby’s needs are the same as his wants.  All he wants, all he needs is you!  A baby has a need to be fed.  You have two breasts for that.  A baby has a need to be held.  You have two arms for that.  A baby has a need to be kept warm, clean and dry.  You have the rest of your body for that (and ok, you can use a couple of those blankets your Aunt Sally bought you).  A baby has a need to be loved.  You have a heart for that.

None of these ‘things’ feature in a baby catalogue.  No matter how many advertisements claim that you need their product to look after your baby, the truth is that you can save your money.  (Goodness knows he’ll need it when college time comes!)  All your baby wants and needs is you.  Does he care about the pattern on the bedding?  Nope.  Does he mind whether the curtains match?  Nah.  Is he fussed on whether or not you change him on a table or on a towel on the floor?  Not a chance.

All your baby cares about is being with you.  Sounds easy, but for many of us used to a certain degree of autonomy, it can be hard to put aside the accoutrements of babycare and accept that what our babies really want is our presence.  Our baby’s need for us is so strong that it might seem a little scary or suffocating.  We can feel torn between meeting our baby’s needs and satisfying our own need for independence.  Many in our culture expect babies to be independent from an early age… the argument goes that they need to learn to put themselves to sleep, to self-soothe, to not be so needy.

For a mother it can be hard to reconcile the demands of society, her own needs and the needs of the baby.  It can help to remember that we are the adults and we have coping skills– a baby doesn’t understand concepts like autonomy or independence.  He just wants, and needs, his mother.  When I meet my baby’s needs I send him the clear message that he is important and safe: from this springboard of security he will naturally develop independence at his own pace.  A baby’s ability to cope with his needs going unmet is limited, but we as adults can adjust to a limitation of our autonomy, particularly when we know that the limitation will be shortlived.  Which of course, babyhood is.

So for the moment we can put the catalogues aside, focus on our babies and feel free to nurture ourselves at a time in our lives when our babies need us so much.

Photocredit: Wikimedia Commons.

Lisa Hassan Scott

About Lisa Hassan Scott

Lisa Hassan Scott is a stay at home mother of three little ones, age 2, 6 and 9. An American living in Great Britain for over 15 years, Lisa is a Yoga teacher certified by the British Wheel of Yoga, and a La Leche League Leader. She blogs about mothering, breastfeeding, Yoga and the mind at http://www.lisahassanscott.co.uk. Follow her on Twitter: @lisahassanscott


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7 thoughts on “What your baby needs most”

  1. We are TTC #3, and we have a very short list of what we will have for this baby. A car seat, a bassinet or pack-n-play of some sort so I can put the baby down where the dog won’t step on it, prefolds and covers, sleepers (the only thing my first two wore for the first few months, despite the dresser full of fancy clothes), and something to wear the baby in. You should have seen all of the stuff I had for my first baby!

  2. Agree with everything you say except you fail to convey the use of a changing table that requires you to walk upstairs five x a day – how better way to help you lose that baby weight…!? Though I get the point about space (cot top?)

    :-)

  3. Great article! I have four kids, the last of which was a “litte surprise” born 10 years after we were done having kids. One thing I read while pregnant with the fourth convinced me that actually a towel on the floor was better than a change table. It was a post online from a man who worked as a paramedic and when he and his wife had a baby, they always changed her on the floor, as a baby cannot fall off the floor. He had been to too many emergency calls for babies that had rolled off change tables and been injured.

    As I knew my preteen and teenagers were going to help with changes, we decided then and there they’d take place on a changing mat on the floor in the room baby #4 shared with her sister. Actually, it was just her “stuff” that really shared with #3, as #4 co-slept with us for 18 months.

    My best new purchase was a handmade sling; indispensible for babycare in a busy household. Most of the rest of the baby gear we needed I borrowed or bought used. The only thing I know for sure we bought new was a toddler carseat after she outgrew the hand-me-down baby bucket style one.

  4. I love reading all of your replies. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment. Nice to have company here!

    Love,

    Lisa

  5. I love this!

    Several of my friends thought it very odd that I wanted a Blessingway instead of a baby shower and were worried I wouldn’t get enough “stuff”, thanks to friends with hand-me-downs, ebay and thrift stores, we have everything we need for Baby and we didn’t spend a fortune acquiring it.

  6. I absolutely agree with your article! I still remember how the so-called ‘must have baby registry check list’ at a baby retail store (who calls itself ‘the baby authority’) scared the heck out of me when I had my first one. I liked the idea of getting gifts but I immediately felt that I wouldn’t need all the stuff they suggested. I think the scariest thing to me still is a wipes warmer… On the other hand it took quite a while to find the things I wanted for my baby, mainly items I knew from my friends in Europe. With the help of resources like mothering magazine I found mostly everything in the U.S. as well.

  7. I thought we were purchasing very little when we had our first babe. But, I soon found out that we needed less than I thought! Plus, my sweet husband just had to go out and buy everything I mentioned we might need for our first child. As I researched and learned as a mother, my desires and ideas for our child changed. For our second child, the swing sits empty. Our daughter is in our Moby. The crib hasn’t yet been used. She is sleeping next to me. I don’t want to use the Bumbo. She will sit when she is ready. The activity center might come in handy…but the play mat is not necessary. She is too busy looking at the light coming through the window, and watching her big brother play. I can’t believe how my goals and desires have changed in the past few years. We learned through trial and error with our first child. We learned that arms are the best soother, and non-toys the best entertainer. Thank you for a great article!

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