9 Months: How new parents can help their babies reach developmental milestones, without anxiety
For new parents, the best way forward is to take it one day at a time, prioritising as you go, says Dr Nirmala Rao
Editor's note: Dr Nirmala Rao is a psychiatrist with 32 years of experience. She is the founder of Aavishkar — a psychiatric clinic that helps the emotionally disturbed. Dr Rao was a guest on Firstpost’s web series 9 Months, a one of its kind path-breaking show on pregnancy and parenting, where she answered queries like whether or not to worry if your baby doesn't meet the usual milestones etc.
A newborn is a source of great happiness. However, for a first-time parent, the experience can be both challenging and stressful. As society evolves, the nature of parenting is also transforming in tune with the expectations and demands of a fast-moving world. This societal pressure is one reason for the rising levels of anxiety in a new mother, during the postpartum period.
A mother tends to worry about a whole host of things — from the right food for her child to even the right lullaby. Although this anxiety is common, it should not be allowed to persist as the mother can become insecure and restrictive. This could be harmful to the child. For example, the mother might be nervous about letting her child explore its environment, not letting the baby out of her sight, or becoming obsessive about food and sleep schedules. This can result in intrusive and negative thoughts that would make the mother question her parenting or even if she is potentially harming her own child.
At this stage, it is important for the mother to be aware of her own thoughts and emotions. It is necessary for her to stay in tune with herself. This will help her know when her anxiety is becoming a source of stress. One thing she can do is remind herself that ‘no mother is perfect’. Each one has her virtues and flaws. The best a new mother can do is to amplify her virtues and work on her flaws. Seeking help would be the best course of action. Postpartum blues are common and experienced by a lot of women. However, adequate care can be taken to prevent it from becoming a case of depression.
There is actually no need to worry too much about the baby. It will grow at its own pace. All the baby needs at this stage is the kind and loving presence of its mother. Just being there, showering the infant with love and kisses and exploring the new world together is enough to be a good mother.
Another problem that is increasingly common these days is the difficulty a new mother has in accepting her changed role. Childbirth causes a lot of changes that you might not have planned for or anticipated. These include sleep deprivation, anxiety about the baby’s behavior, careers being stalled, the added responsibility for a separate life and the feeling of being constrained. These are common to working mothers as well as home-makers. The best way forward is to take it one day at a time, prioritising as you go. This can help you become an effective mother.
These early years are crucial for the development of the baby. The child’s relationship with the mother acts as a precursor to the future relationships the little one will have. Hence, it is important that the mother encourages the child to try new activities, not scold the infant too frequently and be supportive in helping the toddler reach developmental milestones. Motherhood is an enjoyable journey strewn with occasional bumps. The less one focuses on the bumps and more on the journey, the happier the experience is likely to be.
Watch the full 9 Months episode with Dr Nirmala Rao here.
9 Months, hosted by Meghna Pant, is now in its second season. You can watch the series here.