I used to wonder if it was my fault. “Every time I see you, you’re cuddling that baby,” one of the nurses in the hospital said to me after I’d given birth to my daughter. I couldn’t help it – she was so adorable and just wanted to be held. But as it became clear this was how she felt life should be permanently, I asked myself – had I made a rod (or Velcro baby) for my own back?
Now, I know it wasn’t my fault. Babies like to be cuddled. They need physical contact. And some are more demanding than others. They want to be close to you 24/7, and they’ll howl inconsolably if they’re not. We hadn’t experienced this with our son, so it came as a bit of a shock.
Why does it happen?
The ‘fourth trimester’ is recognised as a real thing. Think about it. Our bodies evict our human babies after nine months because of the size of their brains, but they’re completely helpless. Most mammals are more developed when they’re born – some can already walk. Our little ones go from a warm, comforting, protected environment into one with harsh lights, alien smells, and unsettling sounds. It’s only natural that they want to be close to a warm, familiar body. For some babies, this continues longer than others.
Remember they can’t help it
Your baby isn’t naughty or manipulative – he or she is just insecure in a strange new world. Offering cuddles and comfort won’t spoil your baby – it will help them adapt and grow in confidence. Like any new experience, it takes time to settle into.
You wear it well
A baby carrier is one of the best investments you can make in the early days. Your newborn will be happy and secure because they’re close to you; you get to move about relatively freely and do what you need to do. It’s a win-win. There are so many different styles, and models so find one you like and strap them in. As a bonus, it’s a mini-workout as you’ll be strengthening your core and muscles!
Ask for help
It’s easy to feel guilty if our baby cries when they’re not with us, but it’s not realistic for you to be there round the clock. Get your partner to snuggle with the baby while you’re doing something else. Take advantage of nearby friends and relatives who want to visit. They’ll generally want to cuddle your newborn, so you might as well make the most of the opportunity.
It’s ok to let them cry sometimes
Hearing – or watching – your child cry is heart-breaking, I know. But if you’ve got a Velcro baby, it’s going to happen. There’ll be times when nothing you do soothes them, and you’ll be in the depths of despair. It can become a vicious circle, as they pick up on your distress and cry even more.
You know what? Leaving them for a while is ok. Pop in some earplugs if you have to. Better still, put on headphones and listen to a couple of your favourite songs. Just step away for ten minutes or so and then go back. Chances are you’ll both be a lot calmer.
Plan the bedtime routine
Putting a Velcro baby to bed can be especially tricky, but they can’t sleep on top of you for ever. Get a routine in place as soon as you can, even if it involves the kind of flexibility usually reserved for Olympic gymnasts. I used to bend backward to keep our sleeping daughter as horizontal as possible while my husband transferred her to her crib. Then I’d crawl out of her room on my hands and knees, an inch at a time, holding my breath. If we were lucky, I’d remember to avoid the creaky floorboard, and we’d get a couple of hours’ uninterrupted sleep before she realised I wasn’t there.
Get out of the house
There are so many activities that include babies these days – gym, massage, even yoga. The interaction with other adults will be good for you, and you’ll be able to hold or touch your baby throughout the activity. It won’t hurt to socialise them and get them used to other babies and adults, either.
Give in occasionally
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with curling up on the sofa and watching an entire season of Breaking Bad while baby snoozes on your chest. The world won’t end because you haven’t had time to fold the laundry and you’ll have to order takeaway for dinner. He or she will be avoiding physical contact with you soon enough – parents are so embarrassing – so make the most of it while you can. Slow down and enjoy it.
It won’t last forever
It can be tough while you’re going through it, but this clinginess is normal – and it won’t continue. As your baby grows and develops new skills, they’ll be more interested in exploring the world around them. Who wants to sleep cuddled up in mum’s arms once you’ve learned to roll over and can get around more? Before you know it, you’ll be thinking of those hours cuddled up on the sofa together with wistful nostalgia.