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Immediate after the birth of both of our two children, my wife and I would have family and friends pop by to take a gander and the new addition. The room would be billowing with “awwww”s and such, as you’d expect. But for 90% of the people visiting, the question “would you like to hold the baby?” was met with shock and extreme apprehension. The thought of “doing it wrong” or dropping the baby was enough to dissuade these fine folks from taking part in one of the most miraculous events this life has to offer.
The fact of the matter is that the vast majority of young people (who aren’t parents) are scared to death of holding and otherwise caring for infants. I would have definitely counted myself among this lot a mere 2.5 years ago, so don’t think I’m picking on anybody. The truth is, babies (while definitely fragile) aren’t as breakable as you might think.
With all that in mind, I’ve compiled a list of a few misconceptions/tips for dealing with babies:
- Support their Heads – This is pretty much the only real rule when holding an infant (other than “don’t drop them”). Make sure you either rest their head in the crook of your arm or use your other hand to hold their head up. Otherwise, their head will flop around like the arm you slept on that currently has no sensation whatsoever.
- They Cry – When a non-parent is handed a little baby, they seem to live in a perpetual state of fear of the baby crying. As soon as the baby lets out so much as a whimper, the person holding the baby can’t hand it back to a parent fast enough. Understand this – babies cry. And when they cry, it doesn’t always mean there’s something wrong, necessarily. Babies have no way to blow off steam other than crying. That means that if, after a long afternoon of being passed around like a doob at the family barbeque, they might be a little frazzled and need to let some of it out. They’re not dying, they’re just crying. Of course, they might be wet/dirty, hungry or gassy, too
- Baby Spit-up is not like Adult Vomit – Another thing that most people dread is that the baby they’re holding will puke all over them. Everybody knows somebody with some horror story about having their shirt pocket filled with baby spew, etc. While it’s not the most pleasant thing in the world, it’s not like you’re going to find last night’s meatloaf in there. And, even if you did, it’s hardly the end of the world. Just wipe it off and change the offended article(s) of clothing the next chance you get. If nothing else, the baby probably feels better!
- They Eliminate Waste Just like You - They just don’t have the motor skills or understanding to deal with it. I have it on good authority that there are actually fathers out there who outright refuse to change their own child’s diaper. How someone could be that afraid of a little fecal matter is absolutely beyond me – especially since the guy usually drives a big truck covered in stickers describing what a tough guy he is. Hey big guy – stop being such a baby and take care of your frickin’ kid. (Sorry, that kind of thing really frustrates me. Moving on…)
So, if you get stuck with the task of changing a baby’s diaper, just understand that they have the same plumbing down there as half of the people on the planet. Try to get it as clean as you can – nobody is going to come looking for you if you don’t do it perfectly the first time, trust me.
- Enjoy Them – Like I said, holding a new baby is a truly incredible thing. Look at their face, drink in the experience of a new life. Remember, there’s a reason why middle-aged women flock to the young woman with the new baby.
Some of my happiest recent memories are of just being with my children (even though my daughter can barely hold her own head up). There really is nothing like watching a new life simply look around and take it all in. And I’m not suggesting that you’ll find some sort of deep spiritual fulfillment by spending time with somebody else’s kid – just that it can be an enriching learning experience and it just might put a big old smile on your face.
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