The beginning of life is a true miracle of nature – with 23 of mum’s chromosomes and 23 of dad’s. Two people joined together as one – your child – and now it’s up to him. His genetic make-up may already be written into his DNA – the veritable book of life – but there’s still a lot of scope to mould and shape him, and it’s your job to create the first pages that your baby will leave his mark on.
Your baby is unique; he’s not just a statistic. Of course, average numbers on a page can tell you when to stop breastfeeding or start potty training, but your motherly instinct is what matters most. As his mum, you’re his window on the world, and by just being there, you can sense what your child needs.
The first six months of a baby’s life are the most intense and demanding as you try to figure it all out. Babies don’t come with an instruction manual for parents, and there are no magic reference books that can give you meaningful explanations for the way your child behaves. The relationship between you and your child is a gentle journey along which you learn how to interpret the signs he gives out – there’s a cry for when he’s hungry or tired, and yet another for when he’s got a tummy ache … but don’t worry, there are two very special allies you can count on to help you understand his needs – the advice of your paediatrician, and your maternal instinct, which will only keep getting better and grow, along with your self-confidence. Because no one knows your child better than you do.

From 6 months
to 2 years old

No doubt it feels like years since the days where every little cry from your baby would make you snap to attention (or maybe put in a quick call to granny or the doctor), and yet it’s only been a few months. You’re probably feeling more together and confident in your abilities, and that’s because the relationship between you and your child has developed at the speed of light. There’s more understanding and interaction between you now and your parental sixth sense has grown, too. You’re both ready to face the first challenges that lie ahead. But don’t worry – the days when your child is ready to fly the nest are years away, so enjoy these happy times filled with hugs and cuddles. What’s important, though, is that even in his first two years, your child starts to take his first steps towards becoming independent.
So, let him have a go! All outside stimuli are important at this age – rolling around on a blanket, sitting up all on his own, starting to crawl, listening to music, watching moving pictures for the first time, experiencing colours and smells … your child is like a sponge that needs to soak up every single sensation and feeling. Crawling is key to the lateralisation of brain function (which is important for when he comes to study maths, or play a musical instrument), while falling on his face a few times when taking his first steps is helpful for his self-esteem. He is figuring out how to relate to his own well-being, learning the connection between hurting himself, the solution and not making the same mistake again. And your growing understanding of the role you play in it all helps you to worry increasingly less about these little daily experiments, and to know when it’s necessary to intervene.
In other words, it’s really important to pick him up when he’s crying because he’s failed at something – by doing that, you’re telling him, ‘I’m here, I’m right beside you even when you’re having a tough time’. Be careful not to go over the top though: a hug and a kiss is all he needs before he goes on another adventure!

Ages 2 to 5

In the first 3 to 4 years of his life, a child experiences the difference between genders through the way his relationship with his father develops. It’s important to supplement the intimate physical contact that he has had so far with his mother (throughout pregnancy and breastfeeding) with contact with his father, whose gestures and behaviour are obviously different. These are very important moments and mutually beneficial – they are little building blocks that cement the relationship between father and child, and it’s important to nurture them. A child is most receptive to building a close rapport with his father in these early years and the benefits will be reaped forever. It’s also important to keep trying him with new types of food (making sure to cook with fresh ingredients, rather than buying processed food), and new games, especially ones outdoors. Just to be clear, that’s at any time of year, including the wintertime! Your motherly instinct to wrap him up in warm clothing is completely natural and understandable, but try not to go overboard – an hour in the park in the middle of the day enjoying the sunshine will strengthen his immune defences and stimulate his brain function … not to mention his social skills. Being in touch with nature, experiencing the smells around him and interacting with other children are all crucial to the healthy development of his senses. These are all safe and very personal experiences for your little one, and you both have important roles to play … he gets to experience more and more of these moments, while you get to keep a safe eye on him!

5 years and up

This is the age when your child’s milk teeth start to fall out, and he starts to have an opinion of his own! At this stage, it’s very likely that he’s running around like a whirlwind, asserting his independence and making his mark … and chatting away at the top of his voice! He finds himself in a whole new world of grown-up relationships – there’s school, where he likes to imitate his toughest playmates and wants to be first at everything; then there are the rivalries and the tiffs … not to mention having to get to know the teacher, who’s a new figure in his life. And there’s also having to realise that there’s a marking system: little letters and numbers that will track his performance from now until he’s a grown-up. These are all new experiences for him – they’re exciting and involving, but they can also be exhausting for a little person’s mind and body. So it’s up to you, his mum and dad, to help him find the balance and happiness he needs, by firmly teaching him good values (but sometimes letting him get away with being naughty too!), so that he always feels safe and secure in whatever he does. The most important thing is to encourage him to pursue the sports he likes the most – competitive activities are a welcome escape from the challenges of schoolwork and family life, as well as an opportunity for meeting and socialising. Perhaps he’ll discover a special talent that he wants to develop. These activities are all important for his overall health – while his body develops its immune system, regulates his metabolism and strengthens his muscles, his mind will enjoy learning about the tactics that are key to any sport.
Your child has now officially entered a world of business and pleasure where other people are in charge, not just his parents. He has to start learning to take responsibility for his homework and his sports, as well as his own health. He can’t run to his mum and dad every time he scratches or hurts himself anymore – only when he really needs to. But don’t worry; you’re still the first person he turns to when he’s got a problem. He’s managing to figure more and more things out on his own – and you should be proud of that!