Responsive Mothering - Nurturing Infants

From Volume 3 Issue 4 of Unless the Lord ... Magazine

by Lori Crank

If I had to describe mothering with one term it would be comforting. When a baby comes into this world all it has ever known is a very stable and consistent environment. He was used to being in a very confined warm environment where every need was met. When he entered this world the environment was very different. He began to experience cold, hunger, wetness, and a lot of loud confusing noises. His only defense was to cry.

I see my role as a mother much like that of God with a new baby Christian. When I was a new Christian, God answered many of my prayers very quickly. He developed my confidence in Him. I saw that I could rely on Him to meet my needs in a very tangible way. This helped develop my love for Him. As I grew in Him through His word, God began to require me to wait longer on Him. There were times He said "no". There were also times of disciplining. I saw that God was helping me to grow into a more spiritually mature Christian. I knew that He was always there to comfort me. All I had to do was go to Him and allow Him to comfort me.
God created me, as a mother, to respond to the needs of my baby. My life changed forever the day that our first son was born. I was not totally unprepared for motherhood like many. I had been a second mother to my youngest brother. I had learned from my mother how to respond to the needs of a baby. I learned that not all cries are a cry for food but that each cry is a need that needs to be met. Sometimes it is difficult to find the cause of the distress and take care of it. There are times that the need can't be met immediately. There are also times that the need can't be met at all. My baby needs to know that I am still there to comfort him.

When our babies were very little they slept with us in our room, in our bed. They felt more secure next to me and didn't really wake from sleep to eat. I got plenty of sleep with this arrangement. As they got bigger they moved into their own bed right next to ours. When they awakened in the night I could quickly determine their need. Sometimes they needed to eat but often they just needed to know that I was there. I didn't really wake up unless there was a special situation like an illness or a dirty diaper. Even when they moved into a room with other siblings, they knew that they could come into our bed at any time. 

This sleep arrangement was critical for two of our children. One was a preemie and required feeding every two hours around the clock for the first three months. We had to set an alarm in the middle of the night to wake him, as he would go for longer if we didn't. We also had sleep apnea with another child. God allowed me to hear her stop breathing in the night. I would rub her tummy and she would begin to breathe again. This continued until she was 1 . 

Eating, and sleeping are two of a baby's basic needs. I always felt that these were my responsibility to care for in a timely manner. When I understood that breast milk is digested in about two hours, I knew that my baby had a legitimate need to eat after two hours. I also realized that during growth spurts, the baby would need even more nursing to build up the milk supply. Sometimes a baby just needs a drink and not a full meal. Sleep is another necessity for a baby. This is a routine that has to be developed over time. Babies, like adults, have different sleep habits and needs. We each need a different amount as well. I have always tried to adjust to the baby's needs even when it meant an inconvenience to me. Motherhood uncovered a selfish spirit in me that I had not seen. 

I have found that time spent with a young infant and small child is time well spent. I always enjoyed rocking and nursing my babies to sleep. I would sing softly many old hymns as they went to sleep. One particular song that I sang to them was not sung in the churches we attended. When our oldest was about five, he heard it sung and remembered it from when I had sung it to him as an infant. This greatly encouraged me that the time I had spent rocking and singing to our babies was time well spent.

If I could only have a couple of pieces of equipment for a baby, it would be a front pack and a backpack. I found that if my babies were with me then they were happy and I could get my work done and spend time with our older children. With a front pack, our babies not only knew where I was but could also hear my heartbeat and feel my closeness. This provided the security they needed at a young age. A front pack and backpack allowed me to move from room to room without them becoming distressed or having to carry them and settle them each place I went. 

Motherhood is a blessing that God gives us. There have been times when I have been impatient and ready to be done with this time only to realize later that I have wished away time that will never come again. I would encourage each mother to use her time wisely with each child that God has given. Be the comfort and assurance that your child needs.