You can easily hurt yourself by using either of them incorrectly. But if you are mindful of the fundamental laws that govern their nature, you can use these laws to turn the experience into an enjoyable workout. And in addition to that, the baby can give you the pure delight no sledgehammer can.
With the sledgehammer, you need to take gravity into account. It is a heavy thing, so you can drop it on your foot or shatter your shin if you are not careful. More to the point, though, you would want to be exploiting gravity to work for you. If you raise it above your head, then let it drop, bending your knees, gravity will accomplish the rest. If you tense up, force it, and try to use your own muscles to hit with it, the impact will be much weaker, and you will likely overload your joints. The same principle applies to all kind of manual skills – spinning, knitting, playing the piano – your arms need to be relaxed, and you should harness the laws of physics to work for you. That’s why it is such a pleasure to watch professionals – maximal impact for minimal effort.
Now to the baby. It is a very simple system, it’s repertoire is quite small. Food in, waste out, lots of sleep, comfortable temperature range, cuddles. Once that is taken care of, its engine is running smoothly, and it is calm and delightful. Mess with any of the above, and you have a problem.
We all know how to achieve a comfortable temperature range, waste is not under our control for the most part, and we are great at cuddles, so it leaves us with food and sleep. I have no experience bottle feeding a wee one, so if that’s what you do, you are on your own. Breast is best. One point of IQ gained per month of breastfeeding. Antibodies to protect your little darling against infection. Available instantly, warm and free. Melts your fat away – ‘nough said. It has an obvious disadvantage, though – you are the only one with the right equipment, so the whole thing falls to you. But I digress, we’ll deal with breastfeeding in a different post. What I wanted to say here is this – feed your baby as soon as it wakes up. Every time. That way you don’t need to wonder if the baby is hungry. If it falls off your breast with a satisfied look on its face and milk coming out of its mouth, it’s full. I love it how they start pushing the nipple our of their mouths with their tongue, “Mom, I’m done, take it away”!
And here we are into the biggie – sleep. Many more posts on this, all in due time. Sleep is the most important thing that makes or breaks the baby experience. For now, two pearls of wisdom. One, don’t try to twist your baby’s sleeping schedule to fit your convenience – you are up against gravity, and the sledgehammer will crush you. By convenience I mean even things that seem to be really really important right now. One exception is church, but that is an informed democratic decision to accept suffering. And two, don’t take your baby’s no for an answer. If you are watching it like a hawk, you know better when your baby needs to sleep. Put it down when it’s sleepy, and don’t fret too much about whether it likes it or not.
Dr. Marc Weissbluth has it all explained in “Healthy Sleep Habits Happy Child”. It is not a very user-friendly book, it requires a fairly well-rested parent to read it. It is my full intention to attempt to summarize it, but right now I don’t have the resources. So read it. Don’t pass go, don’t collect two hundred dollars, stop right here and figure sleep out.
Coming up next – how to get your own sleep sorted out.