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Infants » Newborn Development

Four Month Old Development

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Dear Susan:

I am a single stay at home mom of a beautiful 16 week old baby. He has a very happy disposition and is a joy to be with. However, there are a few concerns that I have that I hope you could help me with. First is the issue of his crying. I have been told by some that I shouldn’t go to him every time he cries because it will spoil him and I’ve read elsewhere that I should go to him because he’ll feel more secure and have a better self esteem if I do. At his present age which advice is best? Then there is the issue of his sleeping at night. He still wakes up twice at night. I’ve been told that he needs to be “taught” to sleep through the night by teaching him that if he wakes up he won’t get food. But if I do this then he’ll cry and it breaks my heart to hear him so upset. Which is best for him: And as far as his going down for sleep at night, I want to ensure that he develops good sleeping habits. What is the best way to put him down to sleep? I plan on taking his pacifier away from him at the end of this month and at the moment he usually prefers to fall asleep while sucking it. Lastly, I fear that I’m not stimulating his developing mind enough. I do the tickling games,  peek-a-boo, we read books, etc. But I feel like I’m boring him. I want to make sure I’m giving him all that I can. I hope that you can give me some helpful advice.

Thank you,  Karen

Dear Karen:

Thanks for writing me at my web site. I will relay your e-mail to one or two new moms who can see the situation from an immediate, “I’m in it’, perspective. Crying is your baby’s communication system. He has to tell you “that way” (in addition to coos, smiles, wiggles, and bright eyes looking for you) about all his needs. He can cry for short periods, but babies need prompt attention to build their sense of security, so they can learn to wait later on. When you feed him every time he cries, he does not get spoiled, he gets passive and overfed and demanding of more and more food. You do not want that. By four months, he can take 32 oz. of breast milk plus a little “topping off” when he really gets upset, but his crying is telling you he wants more “life” and “action”, not food. Get him on a schedule so he can go places, do things and play, both by himself and with you. Give him regular a.m. and p.m. naps, regular eating times, and a regular night time routine. If he was at day care, the professionals would do that. If he were with a nanny or childcare provider, they would do that.

A tenderhearted, high-maintenance new mom, like you, naturally wants to make everything perfect, but you cannot. Your baby is a person, so start learning, by watching, about his personality and his temperament. Talk to him a great deal, sing constantly and ignore some crying by telling him – “Oh, I know how you feel, but every day you’ll find some experiences you don’t like”. Be kind of business like when you talk, do not just sound like you feel sorry for him.

Give him a mirror, (made for cribs) and large, bold red, orange, shiny, and black and white pictures to look at, offer him two toys at once and watch him grasp and drop them. Encourage him to be busy when he is awake, and let him alone so he can calm himself. Call to him from another room, or knock on his door to “cue” him in on the fact that he is secure, but fine, and he can hear you but not see you for a few minutes. Then wait until he takes a non-crying breath or stops crying and go in and praise him – “What a great kid to stop crying” or “Did you accidentally stop because you have the hiccups?” as a single mom, you must get out and use childcare, family support, a church group, a new mom’s club, etc. This is absolutely necessary, so you can talk and share and solve problems that every parent has with support. No One person can raise a child totally in isolation. It is unhealthy and teaches your child to be demanding, oppositional, and unable to take directions from other adults. Babies need lots of people as well as places and things in their lives. Direct experiences are the way babies learn to think and regulate themselves. Thanks for writing.

Call or write again, soon. You sound like a great mom and good person. Enjoy your baby and remember to use your sense of humor constantly.

Susan H. Turben, Ph.D.

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