Tug-of War and the First HUG Strategy




Eight-day-old Tabitha is calm when the doula first arrives for her home visit.  But as her mother undress her for her morning bath, the baby starts to rev up. At first her hands shake, then her chin trembles and her face gets red. Her face now "clouds over" as she stares out into space. (See SOS "Sign of Over-Stimulation.) As mother continues with undressing her, the baby starts to cry.

Mother hesitates a moment then leans over Tabitha and softly call out her name. "Tabitha can you calm yourself down?" The baby clearly hesitates a moment when she hears mother's voice but then starts to cry again.  At that moment her father scoops the baby up in his arms and rocks her up and down with a bit more zest than would her mother. The young mother face saddens and she looks a bit defeated watching her husband handle their fussy baby.

Though the doula was prepared to discuss a baby's sleep states and newborn "Zones", she decides instead to try out that first HUG Strategy, "Start here, not There."

Noticing that the baby is now settled in father's arms and that both mother and father seem more relaxed, the doula goes on to discuss a normal tug-of-war that can develop between caring parents.

"Parents are often surprised by the difference in approaches of a father and a mother. Some parents even confess to feeling competitive during the first few days of their baby's life," the doula says.

Hearing these words causes both mother and father to brightened up. Dad explains, "Sometime I wonder, which one of us can get to her first and settle her down the fastest!"

The doula goes on to describe the current literature on new parenthood and competition. This literature suggest that this competition is normal and, in fact, can fuel the attachment process of a parent to his/her child. However, if these feelings are not understood and appreciated for what they contribute to the developing parent-child relationship, such competition can undermine the parent's relationship with one another.

Dad jokingly "complains" that "Mom has the breast which always trump what I can do!" But Mom quickly adds that "Dad can swaddle and comfort Tabitha like nobody else!"

This young father shares that he had been worried about this feeling of competition with his wife. "It had never occurred to me that this little competition is part of growing as parents" With a big sigh, mother adds that she, too, "is relieved to know that this tension is normal and proof that they are both working hard at being a good parent!"

How lucky is any newborn whose parents finds themselves in this loving tug-of-war, a small skirmish that helps new mothers and fathers be the best parent they can each be! (Click here for another story on mothers and fathers different styles.) And, how fortunate that this doula choose to "Start Here, not There" initially addressing the parent's agenda rather than her own.

© HUG Your Baby 2016