When a baby is born, they are deserving of a caregiver who will meet and take care of all their physical needs. That means someone to feed them, change them, burp them, bathe them and so forth. But that’s not all - they also have emotional needs that require tending to as well. Every baby has the right to feel safe, secure and above all else, loved. So while all of this can seem like a pretty tall order for exhausted and emotionally depleted new parents, it is what it is.
Luckily, as most expectant parents will soon discover - nature has a way of making everything work out just fine in the end. In fact, many of a baby’s emotional needs will be met without a parent even giving it a second thought. Most of it will automatically occur through the natural processes of instinct and bonding.
But as with everything in life - mistakes can be made. And when it comes to a baby and their emotional needs, even unintentional oversights can negatively impact their future development - sometimes permanently.
Preparing oneself for parenthood means doing so in all respects. Not just having the nursery ready and learning how to diaper a baby. There are also subtle and often seemingly inconsequential actions a parent must perform for an infant so they know how loved they are. Continue reading for 15 parenting mistakes that leave a baby feeling unloved.
15 It's Nice To Be Nice
This sub-topic is for people who are mean. And we’re not referring to parents who are declared mean by their children for not jumping when they snap their fingers. We mean mean - as in a generally angry person who loses their temper easily; who snaps, barks and pretty much yells a lot; someone who feels they are surrounded by idiots and morons; who are routinely rude to waiters and shop staff.
For any parent who sees themselves (or their partner) in the above description - please take a deep breath, manage the vitriol and take some lessons in practicing basic human kindness. If not for themselves - then do it for the baby. After all, they are the ones who will witness this anger and frustration on a regular basis. And who will be absorbing, internalizing and suffering the impact of this negative behavior. Just because nastiness isn’t directed at a baby, they are still deeply affected and will suffer for it.
No one is immune to the odd bad day. But how we react to it is within our control. Reign it in, figure out the root cause - then work to change the pattern.
14 Environmental Concerns
Providing their baby with a stable and loving environment should be top of mind for parents. That said, sometimes things happen beyond our control which can result in instability and inconsistency. Change happens - sometimes abruptly and not for the better.
But it is a parent’s responsibility to bear the brunt of this chaos as well as take steps to shield baby from any possible negative fallout. It is also in a parent’s job description to aid in their child’s adapting to any sudden or even gradual changes that may occur within their lives.
Babies and children should not have any worries or concerns about what the future may hold. This particular weight is for the shoulders of parents and theirs alone. Living in a loving and stable environment is an inherent need for a baby. Living in an ambiguous or precarious state can result in a long-reaching butterfly effect on a baby’s life.
13 Foreseeing The Future
Typically, as a parent and child get to know one another, a synchronicity will develop of its own accord. While all parents are tasked with caring for a newborn both physically as well as emotionally, it’s not until this synchronicity evolves that they will be capable of anticipating their baby’s needs before they even occur.
Timing can be everything. A baby crying for a few minutes can prove more difficult to calm than a baby just beginning to fuss. When a parent is able to read their baby and provide them with what they need before they need it, a baby feels safe, secure and of course, loved. For this to happen, a parent needs to be attuned to their baby’s patterns, rhythms and cues. They may also need to rely on intuition, observation as well as trial and error.
Remember, a baby’s communications can be extremely subtle - based on slight movements, reactions and facial expressions. And no baby is the same - so just because one baby wrinkles their nose before they poop, this by no means is representative of all infants and their bowel movements.
12 Forget The Fight
Studies show that babies exposed to constant conflict will become anxious children (possibly even adults) who may have difficulties coping with life and suffer from a variety of mood disorders. When a baby is privy to incessant bickering and fighting between parents, it changes their brain development and function . . . and not for the better!
Though they may not understand words, they are perfectly capable of reacting to the tone and inflection. Exposure to this negativity can cause them stress and feelings of insecurity - it may even disrupt their sleep routine.
Any parent worth their salt should strive toward making their baby feel safe, secure and unconditionally loved. Constant arguing upsets any chance of maintaining a loving and peaceful environment for a baby. Infants and newborns are not completely oblivious beings - they are able to absorb what is around them even if it’s turmoil and conflict instead of love and security.
11 Crybaby Control
Allowing a baby to cry has proven to be a controversial topic. There seem to be two distinct camps on the matter - those who soothe a fussy baby immediately and those who believe letting a baby cry is teaching them an important life lesson. No matter where parents fall within this realm, letting a baby cry can sometimes just feel wrong. And that’s because it truly does go against all natural parenting instincts.
A baby crying is their way of communicating. When they need something, feel uncomfortable in any way, are unhappy or are in pain - crying is their way of letting a caregiver know. By not responding to them, a parent is teaching a baby that they are not trustworthy or reliable in caring for them.
Prolonged periods of crying without any response from a caregiver can impact a baby in several ways: it can increase their heart rate, body temperature as well as blood pressure. They may also suffer emotional effects that can damage brain function in areas concerning memory, attention and emotion.
Remember, babies do not yet understand the art of manipulation and control. No matter what anyone may say - a crying baby is not playing mind games.
10 Keep It Down
Physical contact isn’t the only way to hurt a baby. When a parent yells or raises their voice to them, this can cause just as much harm as a physical smack. Screaming directly at an infant can hurt their ears, damage their brain and even lead to behavioral and emotional problems in later life.
An adult yelling can be an extremely scary and traumatizing event in the eyes of a baby. They need to feel loved, safe and secure - and a screaming parent can threaten this sense of safety.
A crying and/or fussy baby can easily elicit anger and frustration from sleep-deprived parents. Many new parents may find themselves struggling with feelings of anger after the birth of a baby. There is often shame associated with this which is why parents may try to hide these feelings. But hiding the anger and pretending it doesn’t exist isn’t the answer. How they choose to deal with it, harness it and react to their baby is all that truly matters.
9 Rituals And Routines
Predictability may be a bore...but not where babies are concerned. Infants love and crave routine as well as ritual. Not only does it give them something to look forward to each day, but knowing what to expect keeps them feeling safe, happy, secure and loved. While a bit of flexibility never hurt anyone, it’s important to remember that keeping things on track is always reassuring to a baby.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that dinner has to happen at five sharp every single day. As long as dinner fits into an ordered routine - for example dinner time follows play time and bath time follows dinner. If a baby knows what to expect and looks forward to certain daily activities, then they will also know what is expected of them in the process.Many people fear the unknown - and this goes for babies as well. Creating a soothing pattern of life for an infant will work wonders in helping to shape a confident and secure child.
8 Shaken Baby
It may seem impossible to imagine an overwhelmed and frustrated adult deliberately shaking a baby - but it happens. As a matter of fact, within the U.S., two to three babies out of 10,000 will become victims to AHT (Abusive Head Trauma) each year due to shaking. One out of five of these babies will die from their injuries; only one third will survive completely unscathed.
A baby or toddler who experiences a swift shaking may undergo the same damage as if receiving a blow to the head or being dropped. The impact can cause the brain to bump the skull which can result in bruising, swelling, bleeding, eye damage, bone fractures and even death. It only takes seconds to cause catastrophic and permanent injury to a baby or toddler.
It’s important for a parent to be aware of their own feelings of anxiety and frustration as well as the potential devastation that can result from their fleeting and impulsive actions. Take steps to manage stress; talk to people who can help such as a spouse, family, friends and medical professionals. Parents need to remind themselves how much they love this baby.
7 Say It Out Loud
When a parent talks and sings to their newborn, this is their very first exposure to language as well as communication. Studies have proven time and again that the more a parent vocalizes to their baby, the higher their literacy level will be in the future. It also makes a baby feel connected to and loved by their parent.
Child development experts stress the importance of talking with infants from the day they are born and onward. It is one of the simplest and earliest ways to begin building a strong and unique attachment between parent and child.
So beginning on day one, make a point of having conversations with baby. As a parent carries them around, changes their diaper and bathes them, discuss what is happening and introduce baby to the names of objects and simple actions. Hold them tight and read them stories - they are already familiar with their parents’ voices and will enjoy listening. And no matter how tone deaf a parent may be, take the opportunity to sing to baby. They will love the sound no matter what!
6 Making Contact
Many baby books stress the importance of a baby making eye contact. This milestone’s significance is said to determine the level of a baby’s healthy development. Yet equally important is a parent making eye contact with their baby. Not only does this simple action help to form a trusting bond between parent and child, but it often has a calming effect on babies.
A primitive and instinctual form of communication, eye contact provides a baby with the sense that their parent is focussed on them and attuned to their needs. A parent who looks into their baby’s eyes is one who responds to them, cares about their feelings and enjoys spending time with them.
When a parent makes eye contact with their baby, this in turn creates a visual experience for the infant that stimulates their development. Chemicals are released in the brain that will help baby remain alert for longer periods of time, feel calm as well as organized. This seemingly minimal action allows a baby to begin to make sense of their world and realize their own significance to their parent.
5 Soother Removal
There are many valid reasons a parent may have for providing baby with a soother. It can work wonders in relieving teething pain, it can provide comfort and security, it promotes good oral hygiene and may be a God send to parents of babies who need to suck all the time.
However, what some parents may not realize is this: when a baby is given a soother, there is somewhat of a commitment required. Especially if the baby becomes attached to the soother, it cannot simply be taken away on a parent’s whim. In fact, there are specific guidelines and steps to follow when gearing up to stop soother use so that baby is not left feeling disoriented and upset. Weaning is suggested in the cases of young babies - the cold turkey approach should only be undertaken for much older children
Frankly, there are no major issues with soother usage in children under the age of three so why rush the removal process? This can be a traumatic event for a baby which is why it’s best not totake it away suddenly without warning.
4 Feel The Love
Do not minimize the monumental effect of touch on a baby. Many myths abound about spoiling a newborn by constantly picking them up or holding them but this is actually impossible to do. Physical contact with an infant (whether through gentle touch or picking them up and holding them close) helps boost their development, calms their nervous system and allows them to relax and de-stress.
Skin-to-skin contact also allows a baby to regulate their internal temperature, discover self-recognition and engage with caregivers. Basically on par with eating and sleeping, touch is equally vital for a baby’s health and well-being. This is because it benefits all their bodily systems while also having a profound impact on their lives.
Babies who are routinely cuddled, held and massaged are babies who feel well cared for, safe, secure as well as loved.
3 Solitary Confinement
There’s a reason why solitary confinement is one of the worst punishments known to man. And that’s because all human beings require physical and emotional connections - a baby even more so.
Leaving a baby alone, even if only for a few minutes, is never a great idea. Some people will argue that ducking out on a quick errand while baby is fast asleep is no different than grabbing a shower or doing a bit of gardening. But even when showering or gardening, a parent is still physically close and present to their baby in case of emergency. And as most of us already know - running a quick errand is rarely as speedy as planned.
Emergency or not, when a baby wakes up and cries, it is a parent’s duty to respond so that baby knows they are loved, cared for and safe. Even a newborn infant is capable of internalizing feelings of loneliness and abandonment.
2 Drop The Discipline
There is no reason in the universe for an infant to be punished or disciplined whatsoever. It is impossible for a baby this young to be willful, stubborn or naughty. Do not give them time-outs, deprive them of anything they need, yell at them, ignore them or hit them. It’s upsetting to note that within the U.S., nearly one third of babies aged 12 months are routinely spanked as punishment.
Acts of punishment and discipline against extremely young babies can activate a stress response which may trigger a series of reactions that can have long term effects on a baby’s life. An infant’s brain is still trying to figure out the world in which they inhabit as well as understand self-recognition. Any sort of stress can disrupt this learning . . . permanently. In turn, it can negatively impact their intellectual growth and emotional well-being.
Also, if a baby is too young to understand the concept of punishment and discipline, they may lose their ability to trust their caregiver and will no longer feel relaxed, safe or secure in their presence.
1 Let's See Those Pearly Whites
Most parents do it without even giving it a second thought. Smiling down at their little miracles may seem to be an insignificant act - but in reality it is anything but. In fact, a parent smiling at their baby is essential for infant and brain development. As well, it aids in the bonding process between parent and child, helps make a baby feel safe and secure and encourages them in learning and enquiring about the world around them.
An infant uses their caregiver’s facial expressions in order to gauge the world around them. When a baby looks up and is met with a smile, they feel happy, loved, encouraged and instinctually understand that their needs are being met. If they look up and are met with a blank stare or rarely get a good look at their parent’s face, then they won’t know what to think or feel. This can result in confusion, fright, loneliness and even sadness.
A smile is a primitive instinct depicting love and affection. Even a tiny baby new to the world can understand this message of love - loud and clear!