Can We Slow Down and Enjoy Our Babies Where They Are? 

Almost every parent in the US has felt the pressure of Western culture to do everything possible to speed up their baby’s development. We want to know how early each milestone can be reached, and we worry about an infant’s well-being if a milestone is not hit ‘on time’. While there are certainly circumstances that may be cause for concern, the vast majority of infants develop on their own unique schedule, exactly when they are ready. 

New parents face questions like, “Are they sitting up yet? Have they started solids yet? Why are they still nursing, aren’t they a little old to be doing that?” It’s enough to make anyone doubt themselves, much less mention a parent who is feeling vulnerable and still adjusting to life with a new tiny human. Fears and insecurities start to creep in; “Am I doing this right? Is my child okay because they haven’t crawled yet at eight months? Am I a good parent?” 

I want to invite every parent and caregiver reading this to take a moment, breathe, and slow down. See that baby you’re caring for? Take five minutes to watch them. What’s going on in their world? What are they looking at? What holds their attention? Babies will show us what it is that they enjoy. It may very well be simpler and less busy than we imagine. 

When we appreciate where babies are right now, it often relieves anxiety about where we think they should be. In reality, where they are now is exactly where they are supposed to be. Infant development is not linear, and each baby has their own unique timeline. Imagine if every person in the world was exactly the same, with the same personality and interests. How boring that would be! Babies are people as well, and their experiences interacting with the world are all different.  

There is a huge range for typical development, and there are many benefits to allowing babies the time and space to develop when they are ready. They gain confidence in their abilities, which directly translates to more advanced spatial awareness as toddlers and preschoolers, i.e., fewer serious injuries. They become self-aware, and are unequivocally thrilled to have this space to develop their attention span without well-meaning interruption. 

So, what exactly does this look like in practice? It may be simpler than you think. Choose a time when baby is rested and fed, and lay them on a blanket on the floor. Place one or two small toys near them, and sit nearby on the floor. Put your phone away. Focus the whole of your attention on quietly observing what your baby is doing. “I see you reaching for the toy, that’s hard work.” Challenge yourself to resist the urge to put the toy in baby’s hand, and let them work towards that accomplishment on their own. 

The more we can trust the winding trajectory of infant development, the more enjoyable caregiving becomes. Babies are right where they need to be. And, they grow quickly. If we blink – we may have a toddler on our hands!

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