Planning for pregnancy
Preparing to be parents: an interview with Dr. T. Berry Brazelton
You have been preparing to be parents for what seems like forever.
Think you'll be ready when the day comes? You may be surprised. Renowned
pediatrician T. Berry Brazelton offers some tips to help you get prepared
for one of the biggest changes of your life.
Welcome, Baby! Now what?
You are expecting your first child and before you know it you will be
holding your little baby snugly in your arms. Then what?
After about nine months in anticipation, new parents are often faced
with a big surprise. Their baby is not just a baby but a human being with
his own personality. He is not someone they can mold entirely. He has his
own ways—already—of expressing his needs and desires—and
many new moms and dads just aren't prepared for that.
T. Berry Brazelton, internationally-known pediatrician and child development
expert, shares some thoughts to help parents prepare for one of the biggest
changes of their lives.
"It takes a while to learn what that baby's cues are," says Brazelton,
the author of more than 25 books on parenting and child development,
including the best-selling Infants
and Mothers: Differences in Development,
Birth to 3 : Your Child's Emotional and Behavioral Development
and his The
Irreducible Needs of Children: What Every Child Must Have to Grow,
Learn, and Flourish.
Brazelton says during the nine months or so of pregnancy, parents-to-be
are anticipating what their child will look like, and emotionally
preparing themselves for what is to come—will he have 10
fingers and 10 toes? Will he be "normal?" and what if he isn't?
"They wonder how they can ever nurture a baby," Brazelton says. "They are
preparing themselves for whatever baby they get
and work up energy to
face what ever they have to (once the baby is born)."
And then there is reality. Their baby usually is "normal" on the outside,
but often different than they expected. He cries more than they ever thought,
needs to be held all the time or won't sleep in the bassinet or on his back.
The learning begins
While it may take several weeks for parents to learn their baby's
different cries—the only way a baby knows how to communicate—Brazelton
recommends parents ask whether their hospital or pediatrician
performs a screening called the Neonatal Behavioral Assessment
Scale, (NBAS) also called "the Brazelton," which he developed.
It is a test given to newborns that consists of assessing an infant's
reactions to a variety of stimuli such as a light in the eyes,
a rattle, a moving ball, etc, thus demonstrating the child's temperament.
By the end of the assessment, the examiner has a behavioral "portrait"
of the infant, describing the baby's strengths, individuality,
adaptive responses and possible vulnerabilities.
Brazelton said if parents can understand their baby's temperament, the
faster and better they will be able to relate to the child, creating more
harmony between parent and child early on.
"I think the main job of the parent in the beginning is to learn what
their baby is like in the beginning and (think) 'How do I interact with that
baby so that he feels good and I feel good,'" Brazelton recommends, though he
admits it often takes learning from mistakes to get to that success.
Brazelton says two of his books, On becoming a family: The growth of attachment and Earliest Relationship: Parents, Infants, and the Drama of Early Attachment, discuss these issues to help parents-to-be prepare
for whatever type of personality their baby may have.
Brazelton recommends parents-to-be read books on child development before
their baby arrives and suggests they take childbirth classes where they may
get a chance to learn about infant behaviors and learn about the potential
their baby will have from the day they are born.
"Parents need to recognize that you can do so much (for the child) but
some of it a child has to do for himself," he says. "
The behavior of
a child is his language, and the sooner parents can recognize that, understand
it and enjoy it, or accept it, the sooner they will feel like they know what
they are doing with their baby."
And the while the 82-year-old doctor has seen numerous new parents over
the years deal with the unexpected surprises and rewards of parenting, nothing
can prepare parents-to-be for one thing.
"The passion that they feel," he says. "I don't think anybody can get
ready for that."
About the Author:
Jennifer Newton Reents is a freelance journalist and publicist. She earned a bachelor's degree in journalism in 1994 from San Diego State University and worked for several newspapers as reporter, covering various beats, from the courtroom and crime to education and business, before moving to a freelance career in 2000. She is the former associate editor of Pregnancy and ePregnancy magazines and continues to contribute to various national magazines today. Her bylines have appeared in LowCarb Energy, Cooking Smart, And Baby, Southern Cooking and Lifestyles as well as numerous regional, local and web publications. She lives with her family in Texas.