Becoming a new family is be a big change, with all the happiness and excitement there is also uncertainty, you might have realised that the cot is useless as your baby only wants be on you and establishing feeding is exhausting and as the weeks go by you wonder why your baby is not in a routine yet, it can be overwhelming and you want to have normality, but what is that now? I have found the 7 attitudes to mindfulness helpful for parents in the early days - let me explain.
Mindfulness is the ability to be present about your surroundings, and what you are doing. It is about purposeful focus and not being overwhelmed by your thoughts and what’s going on around you, as a Baby Mindful Coach and Child Sleep Consultant I find these 7 attitudes helpful.
The 7 Attitudes of Mindfulness
There are many instances where we get caught up in our own opinions, likes and dislikes and this can result in us judging ourselves about how to parent. For example, your baby might only fall asleep after being rocked and you begin to make judgements as you read it can cause a ‘bad habit’ or what about our feeding decisions how many of us has made judgements about that – we judge perhaps not even realising it and then judge the judging. Practising this attitude of non-judging lets you believe in your ability to be the expert for your baby and importantly take a moment to enjoy the here and now, the rocking, the breastfeeding or the bottle feeding.
Living in a fast-paced world can sometimes reflect on our patience with our child. As a parent, you are bombarded with information that tells you how your child should be developing, what new skills he or she should have now honed or if your baby should be sleeping through the night by this stage. An example would be night wakings. The early days are sometimes tricky with 2-6 night wakings being normal and common in the first 3 months. When impatience takes over, you want your child to sleep more soundly and you dread these night wakings instead of being able to view them as good moments for you and your child to bond (ok I have been there and you’d rather bond in waking hours - I get that). Developing an attitude of patience lets you realise that sometimes things must development in their own time and stops you from wishing all these precious moments away. You never know, by practising patience, things might end up completely different from your expectations.
Let every moment be an opportunity to start fresh. Having a beginner’s mind lets you be present and in the moment without thinking of past experiences and baggage that you have encountered before. Having the beginner’s mind attitude allows you to start fresh and won’t limit you to what solutions you could bring. This attitude frees yourself to try solutions and strategies that might not have worked in the past or you only half tried in the past. You can also take a pause and pretend you’ve never encountered this situation before freeing yourself from the limits of your thoughts, such as “My baby has the same issues every night. Perhaps that’s just the way they are” and just see things in a newer perspective, much like a beginner. You’re then free from old habits and patterns from past experiences.
Practising this attitude is a bit tricky and is the hardest to develop especially when there are parenting books and advice out there that gives you a set of very strict rules and expectations or the opposite just keep telling you it’s normal. Try trusting in yourself that you are doing the best for your child and you know what is his ‘normal’ is and trusting that your baby can sleep, and will sleep. Always remember that in sleep, it’s not just about the moment that your baby falls asleep, rather the process on how you both achieved a good night’s sleep. Trust yourself and your instincts, it’s almost always right.
Sometimes, during those sleepless nights and in the midst of endless cries, you start to think, what if I did this? What if I shouldn’t have let her sleep at this time of day? A non-striving attitude lets you be aware that your decisions are enough and that you are enough. You accept and acknowledge the situation that you’re up in the middle of the night and a non-striving attitude helps you think “I got this”. There’s no need to go down that rabbit hole of continually questioning yourself with what if.
In order to let things fall into the right place, the mindfulness attitude of letting go should come into play. Let go of the doubts and let go of any past failures that you have experienced and just let things be and create a space where you can think and assess your thoughts as a parent, let go of preconceived ideas about how you might have parented and know that you can still have the same values and goals but achieve them in a different way.
The final mindfulness attitude of acceptance is basically accepting where you are now rather than focusing on anyone else’s opinion of where we should be. It’s not about losing hope, instead, being aware that you are in a situation that you are capable of fixing. If you’ve been up because your baby is up, and you reminisce about the times that you got to sleep in (pre-baby), acceptance is being able to acknowledge that you have a new precious person in your life that you get to share things with and create precious memories with. No more, what ifs, instead, think of it as what is.
What are the benefits of mindfulness?
You are aware of stressors but not obliged to react to them. Instead, you are able to identify the stressors and take a plan of action. Your quality of sleep gets better and you will notice your blood pressure is lower. You let go of limiting thoughts and are able to balance your mood. You are also able to see things in a much better view and a new perspective, that you have a bundle of joy that brings you happiness and new experiences, allowing you to feel more in control.
Practising and honing these seven attitudes of mindfulness can give you an opportunity to be able to let go of stressors that come from the opinions of other people, impatience that you get from sleepless nights, excess baggage from past experiences and instead makes you trust your instincts, let go of opinions that you don’t need and accept and be present with your baby.
I am not saying for a moment, that by adopting these attitudes parenting is going to be a breeze and your little one is suddenly going to sleep easy, however I work with many families and simply having a chat with me and the space to be listened to unconditionally (with these attitudes as the base) can provide rest and calm to a busy overwhelmed mind.