Babies are creatures of habit; they feel comfortable in the familiar environment. So, when the environment changes, it can cause some distress and anxiety. Each baby will react to change differently, some are more easy going than others. Some will need more reassurance and comfort than others.
Babies in the new environment can behave unpredictably, so how can you help them to adapt to their new surroundings? Since I had my baby, we have visited my family in Slovakia a few times. Here are some tips and ideas on how to deal with these situations.
What issues do we have when changing the environment?
Breastfeeding issues at first
We’ve had issues with feeding every time we travel to visit my family. At three months old, there were breastfeeding problems. Sometimes, she was a bit fussy and impatient when I tried to feed her. At first, my parents would come over asking what’s wrong, which would make the situation even worse.
I had to explain them politely than when it’s feeding time I don’t want any distractions around. Even with the closed door, my little one wouldn’t always feed. It almost got to the point where I thought about giving up breastfeeding and introducing formula instead.
But with little trying and perseverance we somehow managed. Here’s what worked for us.
Different positions while breastfeeding. Before we had this issue with feeding, I always breastfed my baby in the same position, that was me sitting and my baby lying on the nursing pillow. When my sister-in-law saw how desperate I was when my baby wouldn’t feed, she suggested to lay down in bed and try feeding her like that. To my surprise, it did work, although not always. I tried few positions, but the one that worked best was me lying on my back and my baby on top of me. Weird, I know, but whatever makes her feed will do.
When my baby got upset after trying unsuccessfully to breastfeed, as she wouldn’t wait for the letdown, she needed to calm down first, before I attempted to feed her again. So, a lot of patience together with cuddles and kisses for the little one would usually do the job.
I also found that my baby was more inclined to feed after she’s just woken up. So, I always fed her straight after a nap, even if she only had a short nap and it wasn’t her usual feeding time yet. Then if she had a longer stretch of time awake, I fed her before she fell asleep, once she was a bit drowsy again.
To summarise all the points, we needed a quiet environment, experiment with different feeding positions and feeding when she was drowsy worked all the time.
Then the solid food
Ever since we started with solid foods, my baby has always been a bit picky about what she eats. During my recent visit to Slovakia, things got even worse. She would get too distracted with my family around, smile at them, giggle, but eat? Forget about that. She wouldn’t have any of that. She could eat yoghurts and fruit purees anytime of the day but at ten months old her diet should be more balanced and varied. Sending everyone away from the kitchen when she was eating was some solution. So again, this comes down to limiting distractions around.
The other problem was a high chair my parents had. I don’t know how it was designed, but I don’t think it was ever tested for security. My baby could easily pull herself up to a standing position, even when she was properly buckled up. It didn’t have the five point harness only straps around the waist, and they proved to be pretty much useless. Not ideal when you need to hold your baby with one hand and try to feed her with the other. Many times when she wouldn’t sit in the high chair, I would just sit her on my lap and feed her that way. For our next visit, a new high chair is necessary to have appropriate conditions for feeding. Oh, and to maintain my sanity.
Problems with the sleep
Every time we are in Slovakia, my baby seems to nap better there, especially when out and about. It must have something to do with the fresh air in our mountainous area.
As for the night sleep, she usually goes to bed a little later in Slovakia than her usual time. Yes, she naps better during the day, but I still try to keep her routine a bit similar to the one we have in the UK. After the bath, I try to limit the stimulation she gets. Sometimes, there would be my parents, my sister with husband and my brother with his wife, all expecting more play time. As much as I would like to leave them all to it, I know that if she gets too hyped up, there will be a massive struggle to get her to sleep afterwards.
Some other issues we have with sleeping in a different environment is a different level of light in the room. The room in my parents’ house is quite dark at night as opposed to her room in the UK.
She used to wake up crying quite a lot there. I don’t know for sure whether that was because of the room, but once we made some adjustments, things improved significantly. I used to keep a light on in a hallway sometimes, or the blinds open so that her room wasn’t as dark and it helped. Keeping the sleeping environment similar to the one she has at home has helped.
Crowded places and new faces
During our first visit to Slovakia, my baby was three months old, and we had my sister’s wedding to attend. It was at that wedding that I learned not to have too high expectations of my baby. You can read all about my experience and some tips for bringing a baby to a wedding here.
I was looking forward to the idea of all the family finally meeting my baby. That wouldn’t happen in the end. My baby had other ideas. She would become very agitated and upset every time family members came to see her. After her second crying episode, we decided to keep her away from the crowd. That meant that I spent the vast majority of the wedding in one of the venue’s guests rooms. Yes, I was feeling disappointed and resentful at the time but then I also felt guilt that I had these types of feelings.
When you become a mum, your priorities change. You have a responsibility for this new tiny human being, and you have to learn how to respond to his needs appropriately. Reading our baby’s cues is something we all need to master as mums.
As my baby gets older, she responds quite well to new people. Most of the time she is happy to be held by someone else. On few occasions when she started crying, I just took her back and reassured her. After a little while observing the new person, she is quite happy to interact with them, and all the anxiety is fast forgotten.
What I’ve learned from spending time with my baby in an unfamiliar environment? Reading her cues is vital. It takes a little bit of adjusting for her to feel comfortable in new environments but I learned that whenever she gets too upset, I have to find a quiet place away from all the drama.
Keeping things as similar to her home environment as possible is important as well as limiting distractions when it comes to feeding and sleeping.
What issues do you have when you take your baby to an unfamiliar place? Have you got any other tips for helping your baby adjust to new environments? I’d love to hear them.