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Saturday 18 March 2017

Taking Care of Your Newborn Child

Now that you have given birth, it's time to think about your baby's education. Yes, education. As you may know, education of your baby actually starts in the womb. Read this article that I've written almost 20 years ago. (It's been doing the rounds on the internet since then without reference to its author.) It explains, with reference to the hadeeth about the development of the fetus and ruh, about how the fetus can hear sounds.

If your fetus missed the education while in the womb then it's not too late. Your baby's education can start now. But don't get me wrong, education is not about drilling knowledge into your child but it's about nurturing and supporting your baby's development. As I see it, there are four areas that you can help your baby to develop.

1. Spiritual Development
Your baby is born pure with the natural instinct to believe in the Oneness of Allah. Abu Huraira reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “No one is born except upon fitr (natural instinct of Islamic monotheism), then his parents turn him into a Jew or Christian or Magian. As an animal produces their young with perfect limbs, do you see anything defective?” (Bukhari and Muslim).

This fitr needs to be nurtured because if you don't support it and allow it to grow then it might change, maybe not due to your teachings but to your indifference, your baby might pick it up from somewhere else such as watching others.

What to do: Read Quran to your baby. When you do this, your baby will recognise it and will begin to pick up the words and rhythm as he gets older. This is especially the case if you recite or play a particular surah over and over again. You will find that when he can talk, he'll have memorised it and can recite it by himself.

2. Emotional Development
Don't leave your baby to cry his heart out. When he's crying, it's one of three things he's asking for: food because he's hungry; relief because he's uncomfortable (dirty nappy, gas, wind); or sleep because he's sleepy. You need to figure out what it is that your baby wants and give it to him. If you don't fulfil his needs and leave him to cry then he will learn that no one cares and this will affect his emotional development.

The other thing is to hold your baby as much as you can because this is how you develop an emotional connection to your child. It's through touch. It's ok to hold him until he sleeps if he wants you to. Don't let him cry himself to sleep. This is the time to develop a secure attachment so that he will grow up to be confident in your love. Children who do not have a secure attachment to an adult in their life develop emotional problems.

What to do: Respond to your baby's needs. Hold him and love him.

3. Cognitive Development
Remember how your young child can memorise the Quran and recite it? It's beacuse you've recited or played the surah over and over again and he's heard it so many times. He's learnt the sounds and can produce it. This is exactly how children learn language - by listening to others. So talk to your child even though he doesn't understand you yet, he's listening to the sounds and deciphering its meanings.

What to do: When your baby makes a sound, respond to it. If he coos then coo back. Copy the sound and reflect it back to him. This is the beginning of a converstaion and active listening. At other times, just talk to your child in your own adult language so he can pick up the words and attach meaning to them. Maybe he won't do it immediately but it will happen.

4. Physical Development 
When your baby is not sleeping then don't swaddle him. Let his arms and legs be free to wave, kick and move. You know how I said to hold your baby earlier? Well hold him when he wants you to but do not hold him when he needs to be active. If he's happy to lay in the middle of your bed or a blanket on the floor and move his arms and legs about then let him. This will encourage his gross motors. When he's older and can go on his tummy, be sure to give him tummy time as well.

To encourage development of a healthy body, when your baby is ready for solids at about 4 or 6 months, be sure to give him healthy food only. Do not start on lollies or chips at 1 or 2 years of age. If you can hold off junk food altogether until school then that's better because by then if you've stuck to a healthy eating plan then your child will grow up to love eating fruits and vegetables rather than junk (the odd junk is ok but not all the time).

What to do: Let your baby's arms and legs be free to move during active times and make a mental promise to feed baby only healthy fruit and vegetables and not processed food when he'd older.

You might also like to read 'New Parent's Guide to Your Baby's Education'.

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