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Managing Interpretations

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Mar. 2nd, 2006 | 11:02 pm
mood: energeticenergetic
music: whirring fans

Last night I was thinking that a big part of taking care of a baby can be summarized as managing interpretations. Meaning deciding which interpretations to discard and which to keep, with the goal of keeping only the most effective interpretations.

Consider this situation. Gisele is crying. I don't know what she wants, so I try a few things. She doesn't seem to be hungry, she doesn't seem to be hot or cold. I pick her up but she is still crying after being bounced for a while.

At this point, the interpretation "She needs to be taught to stop crying" comes up. But I know two things here - She can't be taught not to cry, and that interpretation came from anger. So I discard that one, and wait.

A bit later, the interpretation "She is in pain from wind, and wants me to do something" comes up. This interpretation leads me to try to comfort her and make her feel better, even if I can't do anything about the pain.

Another situation - she is very agitated, but does not appear to be in pain. She looks like she wants something. She gets excited when she sees a milk bottle, but she doesn't drink once it is in her mouth. So, what is wrong?

One interpretation that comes up is "I don't know what's wrong, I'll just try to sleep for a bit and hope she starts acting differently". This will probably work, but I think I can do better. Discard.

Another interpretation comes up. "I can find out what she wants. I'll watch her with my full attention and look for more clues". After watching her for a while, it becomes obvious that she wants milk but she can't drink. Such a simple explanation, yet I didn't see it before. I do what I can to make her more comfortable, including trying to burp her and changing her diaper. When I put her back down, she is ready to drink, and drinks quite a lot of milk.

Out of this I've developed the following rules of thumb


  • If an interpretation comes from anger, drop it immediately.
  • If you can't drop an angry interpretation, then put the baby down and calm down. Then drop the interpretation and start looking for a new one.
  • There is always a better interpretation than "I don't know, let's wait". Look harder.
  • If you're exhausted and she's still crying, take a nap. A few minutes will make a big difference. Rest next to her so she knows she isn't alone.

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