Avoiding Negative Association With a Baby

The other day Ross decided to shave his hair off. Ok, so it’s not that dramatic. It’s not as though he had hair down his back. And he only went with a number three all over, so he’s not bald. But to Isabelle, it was a huge difference. I think it’s safe to say she didn’t like it. But luckily Ross knew enough about avoiding a negative association by letting Isabelle come to him in her own time.

Here he is with his new hair:

A photo of Ross and Isabelle from the post "Avoiding Negative Association With a Baby"

Isabelle spends time with Ross everyday. Obviously. Yet something so simple as a haircut had her scared, crying and not wanting anything to do with him. The very act of him reaching his arms out to pick her up sent her full pelt burying her head into my arms. Did he take it personally? No chance. We found the funny side of it and after about half hour she came around and was happy to go to him again.

Don’t get me wrong. There was never a chance that a negative association was going to be built purely because Ross had cut his hair. But this is less about Ross, and more about what people in general can do to avoid that negative association being built.

What’s My Point?

My point here is that Ross didn’t push it. He allowed Isabelle to get comfortable in her own time and didn’t just allow her to stay frightened. He let her watch him from a safe place , which was sat on me, and gradually she came around to the idea that this was her dad. Just with shorter hair.

Isabelle can easily go weeks without seeing people. So occasionally when she does see them, she reacts in the same way as when Ross cut his hair. Undoubtedly she needs to come around to people in her own time, and when she’s happy to go and see them. It’s something we don’t push on her and allow her to do in her own time. It’s not a problem.

We try and do as many things ‘baby-led’ with Isabelle as we practically can. She loves to explore and you will spend your time chasing after her as once she gets going, she’s gone. But that’s when she’s happy and feels safe to do so.

We recently went to Bluestone and spent a lot of time in the soft play area, and in the swimming pool. On the first occasion, Isabelle took a little while before she ventured from us. But by the last day we simply walked into soft play, put her on the floor and off she went. She felt safe, she had been there the day before, and she knew we weren’t far behind her if she needed us.

The More Time You Spend With a Baby the Better the Results

I’m a strong believer in allowing Isabelle to do things at her own pace, in her own time and when she’s ready. We always sit with her on our lap, or carry her, in a new situation or when she feels unsafe. This is simply because otherwise she will likely cry. It’s nothing personal. It just takes her a while before she feels happy to leave us. Is this a bad thing? I’d say no it isn’t. Are we making things more difficult for ourselves when we have to eventually leave her with other people? Again, I’d say no.

Other than Ross, my mum has Isabelle for us to work and Isabelle loves spending time with her Nanny. But that’s simply because my mum spends so much time with Isabelle on her days off that when we leave her for work we know Isabelle will be fine. Fortunately, my mother pretty much does the same things that we do. And by that, I simply mean she follows Isabelle’s lead.

Ultimately, the more time you spend with a baby the more you’ll actually get from them

It also doesn’t help when babies grow, learn to crawl and want to walk. The last thing they want the vast majority of the time is to be picked up by people against their will. I’m not sure if that’s babies in general, or if that’s just Isabelle. But it’s not personal to the person who wants to hold her. We don’t even hold Isabelle unless she wants to be held. When we’re in the house with her we spend most of our time following her around, and letting her explore. Mainly because that’s what she wants to do. We just try to allow Isabelle the freedom and opportunity to do what she wants within reason.

Building a Negative Association

I think it’s also a case where it’s very easy for a negative association to be built with a baby. Especially when they don’t see people enough. It’s like a vicious cycle. People arrive and want to hold the baby. The baby might cry as they’re wondering who the person is, or they’re happy doing what they’re doing and don’t want to be taken from it. The person then wants to comfort the baby instead of returning them to ‘safety’. Before you know it, the baby sees this person as a threat and someone who takes them away from comfort rather than supplying it. The end result? A negative association.

Yes people mean well. But the easiest thing to do would be to give the baby back. Or simply not pick them up in the first place. By not doing that they’re simply making the baby more fearful of the same thing happening the next time they see that person. This brings me back to Ross when Isabelle was scared of him. Rather than picking her up and forcing her to get used to his new hair, he allowed her to do it in her own time. She gradually came around to the idea that Ross was still her dad, and therefore still safe.

It’s Nothing Personal

Again, it’s not a personal thing. It’s simply a baby learning who people are. Let’s face it, the more time you spend with the baby, the more they get used to you. Then the more they enjoy seeing you. It really isn’t rocket science?

I’ve heard it so many times that we’ll create or have created a needy baby. No we haven’t. We simply have a baby who needs a bond with people to feel safe to go to them. I guess it’s a case of quality over quantity when it comes to time.

Forming a negative association is essentially an inbuilt survival trait that we’re more than happy for her to have. And besides, it’s not like we go around hugging people at random, so why should a baby? Well, maybe we do when we’re drunk.

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