The Wonder Weeks: A Stress-Free Guide to Your Baby’s Behavior By Xaviera Plas-Plooij (Book Excerpt)
Chapter: #Blessed and #Stressed
The primary aim of The Wonder Weeks is to reassure you and to give you insight into the mental changes your baby goes through as they grow. It is not easy when your baby takes a leap in their development and it affects your baby, you, and your family. We hope that The Wonder Weeks will help alleviate your doubts and concerns because you will know why your baby is upset during certain periods. We cannot eradicate the stress that accompanies a leap, and we wouldn’t want to, either. Stress is all part of life and parenthood, and it shapes us, making us more alert and more receptive to the changes our baby is going through. And that latter is important. What we can do, however, is offer you a helping hand by reminding you of the importance of taking time for yourself and suggesting ways to do that, with 5-minute, 10-minute, and longer “anchor moments.” These are simple things that you can do, or not do, that anchor you in the here and now. They take you away from the roller coaster of events and emotions and help you regain balance; they provide a moment of calm. When you integrate regular anchor moments in your day, you give your body time to reset itself and to come to rest. Those moments are a great help in reducing stress!
Below, you’ll find a list of simple suggestions…Read a story, go shoot some hoops, paint your nails, whatever you want, as long as you take brief moments of rest that will anchor you and bring you back to the here and now. You really deserve to take and enjoy these moments.
“Tea break”: It may not be tea, but having a drink, such as an herbal tea or other relaxing beverage, makes you sit down and relax. Don’t rush it. Avoid stimulants—such as coffee, ordinary tea (which contains caffeine), energy drinks, and the like—in these “tea breaks.”
Meditation: It’s not for everyone, but even the most down-to-earth among us can find a way to meditate that will suit us. Meditation teaches you how to control feelings of panic, to slow down your heartbeat, and to manage disconcerting emotions. You learn breathing techniques and to focus your thoughts in a way that totally resets your mind. You will instantly feel better and more alert after meditating, even if you only meditate for a few minutes. There are numerous apps that show you how you can integrate meditation into your daily routine.
A less formal exercise is just sitting and staring into space or at something like a plant (and knowing that it is okay to do so). As the joke about an old English farmworker in his own vegetable garden goes, “Sometimes I sits on my wheelbarrow and thinks, and sometimes I just sits.”
Reflection: But you have a lot of wonderful new experiences, and it’s important to savor these and let them sink in, because before you know it, your newborn is a few months old. Each day can bring many amazing and intense feelings, so cherish them. Sit on the couch with your baby, look at them, and think about all the wonderful times you have already spent together. Take a moment to really think about and cherish them.
You might also think about your own body, and what an amazing job it did. Or about the shared joys with your partner that your baby has brought you both.
Mindfulness: You may have heard of mindfulness therapies. These are ways of helping people who are, for instance, anxious. Essentially, they focus on the here and now, such as sitting comfortably just focusing on your own slow breathing or something else that is immediate. Focusing on breathing can be very helpful.
Breathing and “Breath-FS”: We breathe all day long and take it for granted. We rarely take time to focus on our breathing. Make sure your baby is in a safe place first, so you don’t have to keep opening your eyes to check on them. Then sit down quietly, close your eyes, and concentrate on your breathing. Breathe deeply in and out 10 times. Your heartbeat will slow down. Think of nothing but your breathing.
Taking a “breath-FS” has an even greater effect. This exercise is based on the fact that inhaling is similar to putting tension on your body (think about it: you hold your breath when you lift something heavy) and exhaling releases that tension (when you have a fright, you hold your breath; and when you relax, you breathe out again). To release the most tension possible through breathing, say FFFFFF while breathing out. When you have almost completely exhaled, say SSSSS. You will exhale more deeply than you usually do. As you completely exhale, hold it for a moment before breathing in again. Take 10 breaths saying FFFFSSS and you will instantly feel more relaxed than before.
Music: Much classical music relaxes, even if it’s not to your taste. Try to listen to one or two pieces. Many Mozart works are particularly good for this.
Dancing: Or put on your favorite music and dance around your living room. Music and dancing are good stress releasers. You can really feel yourself let go and enjoy the moment. You can even dance with your baby in your arms!
Puttering: Some people find it relaxing to do simple tasks that require little or no thought but are satisfying, and to do them without rushing, just enjoying the simple pleasures.
Exercise: With modern lifestyles, it is a cliché to say we do not exercise enough. But many people don’t, and it is not only our physical health that suffers. Exercise is now often “prescribed” as a treatment for mild depression and anxiety. For many of us, simply going for a walk can be relaxing; again, we are doing something simple, active, and natural.
Oxygen: It is so very important to unwind, and surely everyone is aware of how calming it is to take a walk, especially in the countryside. A quick walk can replenish your oxygen, and it’s something you can do with your baby, family, or on you own. Fifteen minutes is usually enough to get that oxygen boost. That vacuum cleaner will just have to wait, that housekeeping can be done later; you are your number one priority.
Prioritize: So, you’re too busy to think about yourself, as almost all parents say at some point. But let’s be honest: it often simply comes down to changing your priorities. There is nothing more important than you and your health; your baby and your family depend on your being well. So, don’t forget to take those anchor moments. They don’t take much time. Setting priorities does not necessarily mean that you have to exclude things; it’s simply about doing the most important things first. If you are stubbornly convinced that you really do not have any time for yourself or for those quiet moments, set yourself a challenge. Write down all the things you have to do that are “more important” than taking time for yourself. Then read your list, and be honest: are they really so much more important than you?
Take a Longer Break: You and your partner, often with the assistance of others, can help each other to look after yourselves. Other family and friends can also be involved in whatever ways feel appropriate for you. Remember, children are brought up not just by parents but, as someone once said, “by the village.” That starts from birth.
Most babies can happily be looked after for short periods by other people. But this person should be well known to your baby and your baby should have seen that the person has your “stamp of approval.” That means that these other people, often grandparents, other relations, or very close friends, will have spent a lot of time, hours and hours, with your baby and you together, so your baby can see you trust that person. This is always important, but especially so after about six months, which is after the relationships regression period.
Having this help can give you a break to look after yourself. This is natural: babies are born with the expectation of having one or two special caretakers, but also of having a few other caretakers who can help from time to time for brief periods. But expect to find it difficult to leave your baby, however much you trust the other person! That’s natural, too.
What to do when you have a little more time? Your list may be a long one, although you may well find yourself at a loss and be thinking about your baby. Here we shall give just a few suggestions specific to relaxing and “recharging your batteries.”
Don’t Forget Talking: Just talking about your baby with your partner can help the reflection process and promote sharing and consolidating of feelings and memories.
Sometimes relationships get neglected in the effort of looking after your baby. Spending time together, just you and your partner, can be important in keeping the relationship close. And that is good for your baby.
Sport: Playing sports helps some people relax. Some prefer team sports; others, solo or one-on-one. Whichever is your preferred activity, it helps relax you, and reminds you of the other parts of yourself that are not focused on your baby, and that will help you focus all the better on your baby.
Massage: Massages make you feel good in your skin. They ground you. The nicest thing, of course, is to visit a good massage therapist who will treat you from head to toe, but if you don’t have the luxury to do that, you can massage yourself. Spread out your fingers, grasp your head in your hands, and massage it. Close your eyes and relax. Or massage your feet and your ankles. A well-known saying reminds us of the importance of “keeping our feet on solid ground”; feet are key to grounding and calming ourselves.
Three anchors a day keeps the stress at bay!
Try to incorporate three anchor moments into each day—one in the morning, one in the afternoon, and one in the evening. Do what suits you. Just because your baby is asleep or quiet does not mean you have to rush about doing jobs or thinking you have to stimulate your baby. You want to do the best for your baby, but it is important to have time to focus on your own well-being, and that will help you help your baby. It is not selfish to do so—quite the opposite. It is natural for moms to “slow up” after their baby is born; this is an important natural way of helping them go at baby’s pace. Go with the flow of it.
Excerpted from The Wonder Weeks: A Stress Free Guide to Your Baby’s Behavior. Copyright 2019 Kiddy World Promotions BV – The Netherlands. Reproduced by permission of The Countryman Press. All rights reserved.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR–
Xaviera Plas-Plooij, mother of three and CEO of the Wonder Weeks, has one mission: to give parents the tools they need in order to fully understand their baby’s mental and emotional development. Daughter of Dr. Frans X. Plooij and Dr. Hetty van de Rijt, founding authors of The Wonder Weeks, Plas-Plooij has significantly revised and modernized the sixth edition of the book. This award-winning book offers a refreshing new paradigm for parenting, one in which fussy phases can be viewed positively. In addition, she launched a bestselling app so parents can track the ten magical leaps that their baby makes, on a personalized schedule. As a writer, columnist, and popular speaker, she’s in 24/7 contact with parents around the globe. Plas-Plooij is a trusted member of the Lumi by Pampers Expert Advisory Panel. She lives with her husband and children in the Netherlands.