Newborn Sleep CAN Happen: How I helped my daughter learn to self-soothe.

10487182_10203763406777975_5428785870809281767_nSome babies respond just fine to rocking or nursing to sleep. Then there are the babies that you help into a floppy, blissful state of sleep and set them down ever so carefully only to have them WAKE UP the second their little bodies touch their bed, leaving you in frustrated tears. That was the story with both of my children. With my son, we suffered through four sleep-deprived, tear-filled months (him and us) before making some changes. With my new daughter, I wanted to avoid creating parent-led associations that hindered my son’s sleep and instead, give her the confidence to trust her own body.  Lisa Sunbury, who was a great support, reminded me that Magda Gerber often said to “start as you wish to continue.” That was exactly what I was trying to achieve: long-lasting habits, right from the start. Newborn sleep CAN happen, and it can happen respectfully.

Getting To Know Her

With my son, I was so stressed about his crying that I tried everything to just get the tears to stop, without actually listening to what he was telling me. In contrast, with my new baby, I did not immediately try at all costs to make the crying stop, but rather approached the tears in a calmer and more intuitive way. When she cried, I held her and told her I was trying to understand what she needed. Instead of trying to shut her down, I spent my energy listening to her tears and learning about what they meant. As a result, I found that I bonded with her sooner than I did with my son, because I had viewed my son as an infant in distress, and anxiety about my failure to stop his tears clouded our bond; with my daughter, I understood that her crying was communication and that it didn’t threaten her attachment to me.

Preparing the Day for Sleep

Babies are so easily overstimulated. Anything from a lamp to the sound of a passing car can be too much for some. Try to keep your baby in an area that has low lighting and minimal sounds. When feeding or changing, move slowly and use a gentle voice. It can be challenging to provide the optimal setting for a newborn 100% of the time, but you can do the best you are able. It’s also important that you let your baby release their frustrations, kind of like a friend that needs to cry on your shoulder at the end of a hard day. Being a newborn is so emotionally exhausting with the huge amount of newness in every little thing they experience; so everyday for them is a long, hard day. With my baby, I would snuggle up with her and let her cry out all of her frustrations. As soon as she was done, she would finally relax in my arms, ready for peaceful sleep.

Falling Asleep with Mama*

I wanted to avoid giving my daughter the habits that had made my son’s sleep so hard. I made sure to nurse her while she was awake and to avoid rocking, bouncing, or wearing her to sleep. Once I learned my daughter’s tired signs, I would go to her calm sleeping place, hold her, and allow her to fuss if she needed. I would not try to MAKE her sleep; instead, I gave her a quiet and peaceful space where she could fall asleep easily. She could snuggle in my arms and cry out her tensions, and then drift off to sleep. For the first week or so, we co-slept because I was recovering from birth and in bed most of the time anyway.

Once my daughter was used to falling asleep in my arms easily, I began putting her next to me. I would lay my hand on her while she fussed or cried to sleep. Gradually, I started moving my hand away and just watching her while she fell asleep. Eventually, this made for a lovely situation where she would coo and try to smile before falling asleep. She was learning that sleep was a wonderful thing and that it was in her power to drift off as she liked. She was learning to trust her body. This step worked for us because I was still in bed most of the time and slept with her.

*This would be a step you can skip if you don’t want to co-sleep.

Supported Self-Soothing

Once I was recovered a bit and ready to re-enter my daily life, it was time for her to sleep on her own in the co-sleeper. When my daughter was drowsy, I would put her down in her bed and sit by her. I would rub her head and say soothing things as she drifted off. Sometimes she cried, and sometimes she simply closed her eyes and fell asleep. Once she was calmer about her bed, I started putting her down without physical soothing, just singing to her until she fell asleep so she knew I was still there.

She would fuss a bit while she worked on finding her own methods to soothe. It took some practice, but eventually she learned to put her fingers in her mouth for comfort. After she made this discovery, I would just lie in my bed while she fell asleep, helping only if her fussing turned into full-on-crying. If, at any point, she got very upset in a way that did not sound like a tired cry, I would help her by starting with minimal support (singing or stroking) and then eventually picking her up and holding her for a bit before trying again.

Trusting Her Self-Moderation

I still don’t try to force sleep on my baby. If she is genuinely having trouble settling, I trust that she’s telling me that she’s not tired yet and bring her out to play until a bit later. She has gained the confidence to fall asleep on her own and knows that I respond to her if she needs me. This means that some days she sleeps less, and some days more. At this point, I can put her in her bed, kiss her sweet head, and walk away. Sometimes she fusses a bit before finding her thumb and soothing herself to sleep, but most of the time she smiles as I lay her in her bed. She loves sleep and loves her bed; it’s a comforting place for her. Sleep has never been something that must happen to her, but something wonderful that she gets to give herself.

Coping with Setbacks

Of course, although my daughter can now fall asleep without my help, we still have setbacks and fussy or troubled sleep times. My daughter still wakes 1-2 times a night for a feeding, and sometimes she needs more snuggles when she’s teething or going through a milestone. What helps is making more time during the day to see where the real challenge is coming from and then supporting that. For instance, she’s working on crawling now so I’ve been giving her ample opportunities to practice. The biggest help during setbacks will be this kind of observation and adjustment to her daily routine. They are always changing their needs and often times troubled sleep is the first indicator that minor changes might need to happen to their day.

There is no magical solution that eliminates all night wakings for any child. Even when they CAN fall asleep on their own and soothe themselves to sleep, they will still need us often over their early years as they go through milestones, developmental leaps, illness and other stressful events. Helping my children with their confidence to fall asleep without parent-led associations is not just for me and my sleep (though a well-rested mother is important) but it’s for their own well being as well.

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The Joy of Work in Early Childhood

I am so excited to be writing this post! My child has officially entered this stage and I couldn’t be happier! We spend so much time together because my son will come up to me just to imitate my actions. “Do you want to help mommy,” I will ask and then hand him his own copy of what ever I am doing. He will sit and work with me until he eventually wanders off into something else.

Work is his play and play is his work! What I mean by that statement is that when children work with you, this is play for them as well as great quality time with mom or dad. When they play this is the work that will develop their growing motor skills and mental capacities. I highly recommend reading Freya Jaffke’s book, Work and Play in Early Childhood for more wonderful information and tools on this concept. Freja Jaffke was born in 1937. She worked at Reutlingen kindergarten in Germany for many years and now lectures throughout the world in teacher training colleges. She provides tried and tested advice on this important stage of development.

On this great Parenting Passageway Post on chores, Carrie writes “I remark here that rhythm in the practical work of the home and working TOGETHER in joy is what lays the foundation of wholly independent work… IMITATION is also another way to help children learn about chores when they are young.” Here, she lists a great number of chores that can be done with your children, including (for your toddler) “wipe tables and counters with damp sponge, wash vegetables or tear lettuce, help provide water and food for pets, help clean up after play and meals, water plants outside, pick up toys and books, throw things out for you, help clean up spills and messes…” and many more on the post!

Your little ones LOVE to help you and love the time with you in this way because all they want is to learn to do what we do as adults. So here is the amazing thing: you CAN get your housework done with small children in the house! Don’t wait until they go to nap because then they miss all of the fun! Do your work around them and they will come to you to help. Include them. “Do you want to help mommy wipe the counter? Here’s a rag for you!” “Do you want to help mommy fold laundry? Sit on my lap and we will do it together!”

I am so enjoying this part of my sons development and everyday I think of all of the fun housework we can do together. For those of you that do not love housework, you may think I’m nuts. But if you try housework with your little one, you may find that there is a level of enjoyment that you never thought possible.

What are your thoughts on housework with your child? What are your plans for implementing chores with your young family members?

What Does Unassisted Natural Development Look Like?

When babies are free to explore and develop unassisted at their own pace they perform beautiful dance from laying on their back to walking. For some babies, this process happens fast and is completed by 9 months! For most, it will take around a year and for some it will take longer. For parents, it is a joy to watch our children discover their capabilities and it is important to be patient and let this happen at your baby’s unique pace. As stated by Janet Lansbury in this post: Infant Development Experts Magda Gerber and Emmi Pikler “both had keen interest in the physiology of motor development that was not restricted, aided or taught. Through many years of research, observation and experience, Pikler concluded that when infant development is allowed to occur naturally, without interference, there are not only physical benefits such as grace and ease of movement, but psychological and cognitive benefits as well…”

“The learning process will play a major role in the whole later life of the human being. Through this kind of development, the infant learns his ability to do something independently, through patient and persistent effort. While learning during motor development to turn on his belly, to roll, to creep, sit, stand, and walk, he is not only learning those movements, but also *how to learn*. He learns to do something on his own, to be interested, to try out, to experiment. He learns to overcome difficulties. He comes to know the joy and satisfaction that is derived from his success, the result of his patience and persistence.”Dr. Emmi Pikler

The Dance (As seen from a mother’s eyes watching her son)

Here he is brand new laying on his back, limbs moving as if underwater, freely and rhythmically while his eyes focus on the magic of the new world that I can no longer comprehend through my adult eyes. I enjoy watching this; watching him discover that he is here now and his body and world are his own. Eventually he finds his hands in excitement and confusion, his eyes focus on his fingers as his brow furrows at this spectacle. “Is this attached to me?” He lays and watches as he discovers that he has control over this hand, his own hand! Next are his feet, he sees them and then he grabs them with his hands! Like magic, he can make these things happen! He grabs them and begins to roll onto his side on accident. This is frustrating for him and alarming, his whole world view has just moved, he cries until he is on his back again where he feels safe. But this new thing that was scary has become fascinating and he begins to rock back and forth eventually lands on his belly! What a change! He sits in amazement and shock at this new perspective and slowly gets his arms out from under him.

He can now lay on his belly and push up onto his arms where he can move his head around to look at this new world. When he pushes hard enough, he rocks onto his knees, which is very exciting. He squeals in happiness as he rocks back and forth! Now he can see what is around him and what he wants. A toy sits a foot away and he grabs for it, but it’s too far and he cries. Fighting through frustration, he learns that he CAN prevail and eventually scoots on his tummy to the toy. Fantastic, more squeals of delight! He has discovered how to push himself onto his arms and flop himself forward on his belly. First he forms a circle of movement and then suddenly he is in the kitchen, 10 feet from where he began!

Later, he is on his hands and knees rocking and he reaches for a toy with his hand, only his knee follows suit! He discovers that when his knees follow his hands, he can move faster, and he is all about faster! First he tries moving his parallel hands and feet, then discovers that alternating is far more efficient. Now here he is, crawling about my house, going in places I never expected, like behind the toilet and under the bed. Oh how he laughs with me when I find him in these places. Next he learns how to sit, and oh how pretty he is. With one hand down and one on his hip he just looks so fancy. And oh what a place to be, where he can balance on his own and play!

Soon he discovers that if he grabs onto furniture that is taller than him he can become taller himself by standing! But he gets stuck here and cries and falls. Up and down he stands and falls and cries until eventually he learns on his own how to put his hand on the floor first or fall on his bottom, much to his delight. He now scoots all around the tables and chairs. One day, he grabs an object on the table and lets go to hold the object, what a surprise as he falls, but now he has learned how to trust his movement so immediately tries and tries to stand on his own over and over until standing becomes his own. He pulls himself up, lets go and looks at me with excited eyes that seem to say: “look what I am doing Mommy! All on my own!” “Yes, you are standing all on your own,” I say back to him.Now to go and get to the dogs, he falls down to crawl so fast to them, bear crawling now because it is faster. What? The feet move? He stands and instead of crawling after something, he takes one step, then two, then three! He practices, walking towards me with his eyes full of joy and excitement.

Watching him walk to me with those eyes and that smile, knowing that I let him do all of this on his own; I gave him his space and his walking belongs entirely to himself.  That thought fills me with complete joy and pride. He still walks towards me, all wobbly and full of joy, but soon he will walk away from me, out to explore the world on his own with complete trust in his body and his world.

Over the course of a year or so all babies will make this progression, if left to do so on their own. When we put them in positions that they cannot get into themselves, it will interfere with their natural progression and cause frustration. Now it is said that a lot of babies skip crawling, I believe that this has to do with the rise of sitting babies up in unnecessary infant seats and the feeling that we must rush our babies into the next developmental milestone. As Ruth Ann Hammond states: “The inner drive to be upright is hard to turn off once it has been turned on, but when babies are allowed to “hang out” on their backs until they can do otherwise without help, eventually they can do so many things through their own initiative that they love being on the floor to play.”  When it comes to development, faster is not always better. Some children develop their movement fast all on their own and some wish to take their time. Patience is the key.

“I believe in giving your baby a safe space in which to play and letting her move freely and develop on her own without assisting her. Refrain from propping her up to sit or helping her roll over. She has an innate desire to move through these developmental sequences and has inborn knowledge of how to do it in a way that is “right” for her. She does this at her own pace and she gets pleasure from doing it.” –Magda Gerber

Natural Progression of Infant Development: Adapted from AAP and Baby 411

This is a chart I made that covers the natural progression of movement from laying on their backs to walking. Notice that I have left out tummy time and sitting baby up as some believe these are unnecessary.

Rolls onto tummy                                                             3 – 8 mo.

Scoots around on tummy                                               4 – 8 mo.

Crawls                                                                                  5 – 12 mo.

Gets to sitting without help                                           6 – 12 mo.

Pulls self-up to standing                                                 6 – 12 mo.

Stands alone briefly                                                         7 – 13 mo.

Cruises  around on furniture                                         7 – 14 mo.

Stands alone                                                                       9 – 15 mo.

Walks alone                                                                        9 – 16 mo.

Here is a great article by Emmi Pikler about the Natural Development of Movement that I highly suggest you read.

You can also look into Amazing Babies by Beverly Stokes and Your Self-Confidant Baby by Magda Gerber for more information on Natural and Unassisted Development during the first year. Please share your thoughts and stories on this topic as I would love to hear your thoughts.

Protecting Childhood in Our Modern World: Early Childcare in the Light of Anthroposophy.

I have decided that it might be nice to publish my final paper on Early Childhood Education from Sound Circle Center. It is a little lengthy but worth a read. Let me know your thoughts! Enjoy!

Protecting Childhood in Our Modern World: Early Childcare in the Light of Anthroposophy. 

Four essential characteristics that can be implemented into mainstream childcare

Introduction

In Autumn of 2009 Helle Heckman, director of Mixed-aged Kind came to lecture here in Seattle and spoke of how our children were not entering Kindergarten after a long stay at home while mothers cooked and cleaned and children played; children were entering care very young, during a crucial age for growth and bonding. Then after years of multiple caregivers we finally receive them in Kindergarten programs, in great need of the work we do. I knew that what she spoke was the truth; our children have needs that we are not meeting! Childcare from an anthroposophical point of view is relatively new and it has been a little controversial. It is viewed that the child should be at home with the mother of father. In an ideal world, this is very true! However, we do not live in an ideal world.

I was privileged to visit Nøkken for two weeks and work directly with Helle Heckman, who then directed me to the work of Bernadette Raichle. I took a workshop with Bernadette Raichle, which was deeply inspiring to me, as she shared similar views and passion as Helle. These programs are based on the work done by Rudolf Steiner and Emmi Pikler[1]. Through researching their programs and the work of Steiner and Pikler, I have attained what I see to be the four main principles to giving holistic care to the child from birth to age three. Waldorf childcare is a new idea that has been taken up by prominent leaders in this field. In Denmark, Helle Heckman has created Nøkken, a mixed-age Kindergarten with children from 1-7 years. In New Zealand, Bernadette Raichle has created Awhina, a day nursery for children 6 months to 3 years. I chose to research these models because of the experience I have with them[2].

Through this paper I will share the benefits of how and why Waldorf Early Childcare can be beneficial to the young child. In my research I have discovered that there are four areas of which we can use as a foundation for building a care center that focuses on the needs of the growth period from infancy to around 3 years. I will then share my exploration into how we can implement these aspects into a mainstream childcare center to better serve the young child that is not able to benefit from Waldorf Early Childcare.

Four Foundational Aspects

 

Upon speaking with Bernadette Raichle and Helle Heckmann about how they support the child and based on what mainstream research has shown, these aspects have stood out as major areas of improvement in mainstream models. While we all know that the mother is the best option of care in the first years of life, this is not a fact of life. In 2005 roughly 70 percent of children under the age of 5 were in non-family care. Childcare is on the rise as careers become more demanding. It is our job not to shun these mothers but to understand the work that goes into raising a child and having a full-time career. We are here to provide support and understanding and to help the parents. Raichle states “the feelings of the mother are the biggest concern after the child. The child and mother are bonded and we must support and respect this.” In this new work that we do, we can make it the best possible option to serve the parents and to serve the children. The four areas that we may work with the children are: the relationship of the child to the environment, the relationship of the child to the other children, the relationship of the child to their caregiver and the relationship of the child to their growth process.

In Waldorf it is primarily the Kindergarten and Preschool that is the focus of Early Childhood trainings and schools, but can it be different? Can we build a mixed-age training so that we may provide the support that is needed?

Relationship of the child to environment

Clinical experience and developmental research reveal the importance of environmental stimulation on children’s social, emotional, physical and cognitive development. There are examples of extremes of environmental care (e.g., children raised in orphanages) that provide clear evidence of the impact of a lack of stimulation on development. The poor developmental outcomes of children who experience extreme early sensory deprivation reveal that the need for novel, stimulating experiences is not ‘biologically extravagant’, but required for survival and successful development.

Sensory stimuli that young children require does not need to come from being entertained by adults of from interactive toys. The stimulation infants and young children need comes from the everyday care and experiences such as being held or swaddled, exploring a textured object, tasting breast milk or a new vegetable, smelling mother’s breast or a rose petal, looking at objects or people, or listening to a caregiver’s singing. All of these experiences occur naturally in the environment, and no special toys, tools, or technology are required to provide the range and variety of experiences a baby naturally seeks out for healthy development. Therefore, what children need to grow and develop adequately is typically provided for during everyday experiences in the context of a relationship with sensitive caregivers in the child’s natural environment.

Simplicity is essential for the very young child as is the care of the environment. How we prepare a space greatly affects the child and how they perceive their environment. We know that a space is best when naturally lit with simple surroundings and toys but we must go a step further in this. When we clean and prepare a room everyday, the pace at which we do this is crucial. If we rush around and create flurries of energy, the young child feels this and will become agitated.  Everything we touch in the environment must be cared for with a sense of unhurried reverence. When we fill the environment with peace and calm, this is a loving gift that we are giving the children. As Bernadette Raichle so lovingly states “The task of the day nursery for the young ones is to take care of the child. The bigger task is to re-awaken the need for protection of the child.”

Relationship of the child to the other children

When our grandparents stayed home with their mother’s, it is likely that they had many siblings and cousins around them and that the children in a community were much more connected than they are now. There was so much to learn in all of that good mixed-age play, and mom could count on older siblings to help with the infants and toddlers.  One of the essential things we have lost during the individualization of our culture is the mixed-aged children’s relationships that are built in home situations. Not all is lost however, this is work that we can take up and re-create. Nøkken specifically addresses this very need.

This past summer I had the privilege to visit Nøkken and work first hand with Helle Heckman. Here I saw the beautiful potential of the mixed age program. In Denmark the citizens are privileged to have one year or maternity/paternity leave after the birth of their child, so infant care is less of a demand. Because of this Nøkken takes children at the age of one and they stay with the program until they leave for first grade. All of the children spend the morning walk together and interact with all the ages of children and with all four caregivers. The caregivers give space so that the children may succeed in caring for one another. It is such a beautiful thing to see a 5-year-old rush over and help a one year old that has fallen down or needs help or to see the 2 year old sit and watch the older children play together, observing the social skills. From these interactions there are crucial skills they learn. The older children learn empathy and learn to care for the younger children, skills that will translate into their own parenting when they are adults. The young child learns the proper manners and behaviors from the older children, at such an imitative age, they pick up so easily how to properly play and work. Because this cycle has been going on for more than 20 years, generations of childhood wisdom are passed on over and over to incoming children. The same rhythm has been in place for so long that the caregivers and the children always have it deep within their bodies making it a therapeutic experience for all. Helle spoke a great point: We have the grades children with one teacher from 1st to 8th grade so why are we splitting up the young child’s care?

Relationship between caregiver and child

One thing we can do to truly serve the children is practice bonding and attachment to the children in our care. Switching between multiple caregivers during the first years of life have negative side effects on the child. One of these is Reactive Attachment Disorder based on the Bowbly Theory of attachment. Bowlby[3] believed the task of the caregivers in the first years is to offer the child a secure base to build solid, emotional bonds.  The quality of the primary attachments affects the child’s functioning throughout life.  The child forms an internal working model about the world based on his/her first primary relationship with the caregiver.  It becomes a map for all future relationships.

If a child did not develop secure attachment with a primary caregiver by age two, it may have serious negative consequences for the child’s social and emotional development. Some of these side effects are a lack of emotional bonds in relationships later in life, a lack of empathy and detachment or lack of interest in life.

Bernadette Raichle has established a Primary Care system at Awhina. Up until three years the child has a primary care person who does all of the care for that child from feeding to changing to napping. Primary care does not mean exclusive care; everyone in the environment knows that the one individual is that child’s main person. So the other caregivers help the child, but the child is bonded with that caregiver. Here in the U.S. it is common to have separate classes and teachers for each age group: infants, toddlers, preschoolers, pre-kindergarten and finally kindergarten. That separates the child from their caregiver many times and the children do not like this. They have bonded with a caregiver and are distraught when they have to move up to a new class; they are distraught because they are trying to tell us something: They have a fundamental need to be connected!

Relationship of the child to their growth process

Another crucial element to the development of the young child is the way in which they learn motor skills. In 1930, Emmi Pikler started research on how children best develop these skills. She found that children who received little or no help learning to do activities such as roll over, sit up and stand fared much better than those that were encouraged or taught how to do so. In writing about Pikler’s work, Susan Weber[4] states, “that the very basic elements of competent behavior are self-dependant initiation of action, independence of performing the action and the effectiveness of the action-in which the formation of contact with others is deemed the primary capacity above others.” In our work with young children it’s important to let the child do activities themselves. If we are always doing the activities for them, they will never become self-reliant and suffer in the long run from lack of confidence in their bodies. When I visited Nokken, it was seen as essential that the young children complete tasks on their own. A sleeve was helped on or off with little assistance, but the child completed the task in the end, thus building confidence.

Magda Gerber[5] speaks of Selective Intervention, which means knowing when not to interfere with the child. When the children get into a difficult situation (such as climbing, or putting on shoes) it is important to wait until they resolve it themselves. She speaks of being near the child so they know we are available but when we leave them be it lets them know we have confidence that they can do the task themselves. If a child is having a hard time, we can speak to them and ask if they need help. In this case it’s important to do a small part of the task and then let the child have some sense of completion. This is not only about giving the child a chance to develop motor skills, this is above all giving the children our respect and trusting that they are capable individuals.

How we can implement these 4 ideas into established care centers in Seattle.

 

Ideally, It would be the best idea to start a little home program for small children, however I chose to focus on how to change the state of current mainstream care centers with the hope that if this work could be taken up, more children would be reached and helped. In care centers in Washington, there are strict rules determined by the Washington Stare Department of Early Learning Licensing. These rules are in place to maintain safe environments for children, so it is a good thing to have a department looking after our children’s safety. However, it is sometimes hard to meet the children’s fundamental needs within some of the restrictions.

Licensing requires that in a center, for the infant and toddler we provide materials and opportunities for large and small motor skills and a wide variety of learning and play materials that are easily cleanable. It states that the environment must be free of clutter. The room must also be well lit, but this can be done with daylight-balanced lights. This is all that is spoken about the environment, so there is quite a bit of liberty to create a cozy, simple space with natural toys.

When we look at the relationship between the children to themselves, it is actually encouraged by licensing that the children do activities that strengthen self-awareness and control. It’s a matter of giving ample time for the child to do these activities. It must be put in the schedule of the day that the transitions will be very long to help the children develop the skills they need to become confidant in himself or herself. This is not really a matter of working with licensing; it’s a matter of educating directors, caregivers and parents that self-initiated activity will ensure the growth of the child’s fundamental needs. It is often the case that when a child becomes distressed, the adult will rush to them to finish the activity. This does ease the immediate distress, but causes more distress and harm in the long run.

The child’s relationships to other children and to the caregiver are both issues that come against a wall. It is of course encouraged to form bonding relationships between child and caregiver, but this does not help with the consistency of care. This is a place in which we must get creative to help with this issue. According to licensing, in a center there are strict rules to which ages may be together. From birth to three is the crucial age where bonding takes place and this is the stage that is spilt up the most. An infant under one must be separated from children older than this age. From 12 months to 29 months this is considered a toddler and 30 months to 5 years is considered a preschooler and these 2 age groups must be separate to maintain maximum staff to child ratio. There are two exceptions that allow for some combining of these ages. You may combine walking toddlers, preschoolers and school-age children as long as the class size does not exceed twelve children. You may also combine infants with older children for one hour if the class size does not exceed eight children. Based on these requirements, you could have a class from walking age to kindergarten age. Since infants are not allowed to be with the older children for longer than an hour, they could perhaps visit when numbers are lower, but it’s generally the case in childcare centers to fill to the max that licensing allows. So the infants are still in danger of having as little as 3 different caregivers during these first 3 years (mother and teachers). It seems, as this issue is so paramount that the only real solution is to work with licensing and try and make a change and bring more awareness to the negative effects of lack of bonding.

 

Conclusion

I have a background working in mainstream childcare. The whole time I was in the centers, especially with the infants, my heart would ache a little at the way they were treated. Like little objects that produced the results adults wanted. Often these results were achieved through shame or punishment. After coming to Waldorf, I was confused for some time about where my place was. I knew what my options were, but I saw the need of the child under 3. This year, having worked with Helle and Bernadette it has given me hope that my passion for helping and protecting the young child is something that we can and should be working towards in the realm of such a beautiful philosophy as Waldorf Education.

Through the four foundational aspects we can serve the children that must leave their homes at an early age and through Waldorf Early Childhood philosophy, we can create a loving home-like environment to nourish the soul. As stated before, the controversy of Waldorf Childcare is the view that the child should be home with the mother. For whatever reason, the appeal of staying at home to raise children has been somewhat lost. In time perhaps, through our work with these children and the joy we ourselves have in home-like tasks, we can re-enliven the great and beautiful responsibility of the homemaker for future generations.


[1] Emmi Pikler was a Hungarian pediatrician who devoted her life to the development of the young child. Because of her work, she was invited by the Hungarian government in 1946 to create an orphanage for children from birth to three years old whose mothers had died in childbirth or from tuberculosis.  This center was called the National Methodological Institute, or more familiarly ” Loczy, ” after the name of its street location.

[2] I would also like to point out that the Lifeways program has also taken up this work, but was not an area I researched at this time so I suggest further investigation into this if you are as moved by this topic as I am.

[3] John Bowlby (February 26th 1907–September 2nd 1990) was a British psychologistpsychiatrist and psychoanalyst, notable for his interest in child development and for his pioneering work in attachment theory.

[4] In New Hampshire, Susan Weber has created Sophia’s Hearth, a childcare center with children from 3 months to 6 years. Sophia’s Hearth has a foundation in the RIE method and a RIE training is offered at the center.

[5] Magda Gerber was born in Hungary, and received a master’s degree in early childhood education in Budapest. Gerber incorporated many of Emmi Pikler’s theories into her own philosophy, which she termed RIE. In 1997 she wrote Your Self-Confident Baby: How to Encourage Your Child’s Natural Abilities from the Very Start and in 2003 she wrote Dear Parent: Caring for Infants With Respect.

Holding Baby with your Heart: No Babywearing Required!

To begin, I would not describe myself as a babywearer, but I do wear my 9 month old from time to time. For instance, it is much more convenient than a stroller when going in and out of shops. It is also a necessity when I garden in the front of my house, as he would crawl away and get into the less baby friendly plants I have there. When he was a newborn I held and wore him quite a bit for my own comfort, but I always made sure that he had time on his back on his own to move his body. I recently read an article suggesting that babies NEED to be worn in a carrier for the first 9 months of their lives; I do not agree with. I do not agree that we are neglecting our babies basic needs if we give them time on their own, in fact, I believe that we ARE meeting their needs when we allow independence to freely move their new bodies and experience the new world on their own.

“Young babies need both to be held and to be able to move freely in their cribs. Often parents believe holding is good, being left alone in a crib is not. I believe babies need both. There are sound physiological reasons why a newborn should not be held all of the time. To begin with, he must adapt to his new capabilities outside of the womb, by kicking, stretching, curling and uncurling his body. IN a crib (or playpen) he can do this at will-and with ease.” ~Magda Gerber

The thing that got to me a bit in this article was how it criticizes the idea that infants CAN be happy alone in a crib or on a blanket. Some babies, such as mine, were OVER stimulated being held by us all the time. When we finally listened to him instead of listening to parenting methods and books, we found that he thrived from having time to himself. That being said, she does point out a lot of positive things about what babies need. She speaks of the simplicity and quiet that newborns need and the importance of touch in infancy and childhood. I think that it is good to have this information for balance; between giving them physical and emotional attention as well then letting them have some space to themselves. Wear your baby from time to time if that is what you like, but perhaps think of the benefit even tiny newborns might receive from even 5 minute intervals of time alone (in a safe place) on their backs to move on their own accord. Lisa Sunbury articulates nicely: “Ideally, young babies are placed on their back not just for sleep, but for play time as well, because this is the position that most supports their bodies, and in which they are most relaxed, and free to move.”

I believe that Elizabeth, the author of this article, does make a good point, babies DO need a more womb-like protection for the first year (or more) of their lives. But this does not necessarily have to mean a physical womb-like protection. There is a kind of ‘holding’ we can do as mothers and caretakers that takes place in our hearts and minds; we can create an atmosphere for the child that is filled with the warmth and protection they need. When my son is out on his own in the space around me, I am always ‘holding’ him with me; in the way I move and the songs I sing and even in my quiet meditative thoughts (when I can keep them calm and tame that is). In Anthroposphy, the image of the Madonna and child is a meditation for how we relate to young children. I interpret this as creating a peaceful and spiritual ambiance for the child as well as a protective, loving presence in our actions and our thoughts. Even in how we work with our environment and objects within by carefully handling everything with slow, patient movements to imbue the entire space with peace and calm.

Magda spoke of how when we sit and observe our children in their triumphs and challenges, sharing in their discovery of their unfolding world, this is how we give them the quality time they need. On one of Janet Lansbury’s blog posts, she writes about how “wants nothing” quality time “can encompass a wide range of experiences, but all we are asked to do is pay attention and have no agenda of our own. It can mean being quietly available as a baby explores patterns of light on a blanket beneath him, or standing nearby while he has a screaming meltdown because he cannot have another cookie. It may be trickier to see the benefit for parents and caregivers in this latter scenario, but it is clarity. When we pay full attention to our child for intervals each day, no matter what the tone of our exchange or the outcome is, we are giving him the quality time he needs. We are doing our job.”

It is in these quiet movements of reflective observation that we can connect with these new beings. We can create a “womb-like” and spiritual environment for our little ones and create connection through observation. It is with these two things in mind that I spent my time with young children as a teacher and now with my son as a mother.

If you do choose to wear you baby around a lot, spine safety for the infant must be taken into account, as well as proper posture for the wearer. There are certain carriers and positions that could be harmful for your child, such as forward facing positions and unsupportive/uncomfortable slings and wraps. I think baby-wearing is a matter of ones own choice, it works for some and that is fine but when physically holding your baby around the clock doesn’t work for you anymore, that is just fine as well and you will both benefit from some space.

Praise or Acknowledgment?

Lately, I have been thinking about how I should address my Son with all of his growing skills, like crawling or waving. It IS amazing to watch him do these things, but is that a sentiment I should share with him? I watch him crawl around all over and act in developementally advanced ways for his age, and listen to people around me tell him how “super” or “amazing” he is and somehow, all I feel is the need to protect him from this pressure. I just want to scoop him up and tell him I love him no matter what he does! When he crawls, or if When he throws a fit when I wipe his nose, he is still amazing to me.

In Magda Gerber’s book, Dear Parent: Caring for Infants with Respect, she has a chapter on this very subject. There is a chapter on Praise or Acknowledgment in which she says: “Occasional reflections reassure the infant of our full attention and show our empathy. Rather than to give praise, the adult can be a broadcaster and describe the child’s actions.” Children do not have a need to be “amazing” or “wonderful”, they have a need to be SEEN. Instead of “Look at how great you are standing up all by yourself,” we can say “Look at you, standing all by yourself.” It is such a subtle shift by a paramount one for your little one.

“The commonly used “good girl” or “good boy” often becomes mechanical and subtly demeaning. It implies the child’s value as a person is contingent on his “performance.” It can create a conflict for the child. He may think he acts “bad” if he acts differently from whatever has just been praised as “good.”” What starts as a well-meaning and innocent show of love for our children, becomes, later in life, a complex of which much counseling may be needed. There are so many adults these days that feel inadequate when they hold normal, “boring” jobs and perform mediochre life tasks. Our value does not have to be in WHAT WE DO, but WHO WE ARE. Perhaps, with practice, we can learn to acknowlegde the good AND the bad, get rid or praise and reprimand, and simply help our little human being feel “seen” in the world.

Lisa Sunbury gives some great examples of how to acknowledge your child in her post Praise Not: “I suggest if you really want to convey your love, and let your child know you really see, hear, and appreciate his efforts and achievements, you say things like this: “Wow, I really like how you are remembering to stay near me today instead of wandering off.” Or, “Thank you for waiting so patiently while I paid for the groceries. That really helped me.” Or, “You remembered to walk while we were in the library today, and I didn’t have to remind you.” Or, “You worked really hard to put your shoes on all by yourself and you did it!” “Wow, look at all of the different colors you used in that drawing. You worked on it for a really long time. Tell me more about it.” “You were patting the kitty so gently. I can tell she liked it, because she was purring.” “You tried, and you tried, and you did it!”  ”I noticed you shared your snack with your friend today.” Say thank you, and give specific, meaningful feedback about what you see, what you hear, what you appreciate, and what you notice, especially when your child has really persisted in a task, has acted kindly, or has co-operated with you in some way. It’s always appropriate to thank your child when they co-operate with a request.”

What do you think of praise vs. acknowledgment? Do you feel that criticism and praise affected who you are as an adult?

Intuition vs Information: Thoughts on The Parenting Method War

There is much debate about which parenting method is the ‘right’ one. It seems, at times, that I see wars going on all over the place; CIO vs. co-sleeping, Attachment parenting vs. Babywise, Day care vs. Stay at hom moms, etc. etc. etc. I’ve often thought that perhaps all of this debate is rather pointless. Perhaps all of this parenting advice is just helpful tools or even confirmations for us that we are doing the right thing for our children. We choose the philosophy that resonates with us the most and use that as our guide, and then we have these little people that join us in our world and get everything they need from our own individual styles as parents. They chose US as parents, and naturally we will give them everything they need to become the adults they are meant to be.

I chose a Waldorf/RIE method to follow for my parenting style and my profession. At the heart of Waldorf philosophy, the work we do is primarily of a spiritual nature. This could also be interpreted as intuition if you choose to see it that way. There are actually exercises and meditations we can do to stregthen this spiritual/intuitive quality in us as mothers. Some believe that we all have Spiritual helpers, or Angels, that help guide our way. As a woman who works with young children for my life’s work, I feel that this is so true for me. If I am actively working on my meditative/inner work practice, I am allowing myself to be open to divine intuition to help guide my way from day to day. I’m not thinking about how to work within a certain pre-determined method; I am listening to the moment. During a particularly challenging time, we can wait a few moment before we react and take a deep breath and the answer to the problem might be given to us.

Now, this is what I am experiencing in my work with children and it might be entirely different for everyone else, but the intuition is still there for each of us.  Whether you are following Angels and intuition or following a book, you are following your heart and doing exactly the right thing for YOUR children. Can you imagine a world where, instead of criticism and blame, we are surrounded by support and understanding? Can you imagine being out in public and not feeling self-conscious of your parenting but feeling empowered by the people around us? What are you thoughts on how to bring acceptance and trust for every mother and her own individual parenting method?

Children as Zen Masters

I recently read this article on Mothering.com about the Spirituality of Parenting. Mother Cheryl Dimof speaks of how our children are little Zen masters, living very fully in the moment. There is quite a bit we can learn from the way children go about their day. We could learn so much about ourselves and our children if we took the time to simply be present  in our daily activities. While we may not find the time everyday to make space for a meditative practice, we can make our daily activities meditative; slowly and purposefully doing the dishes or cutting vegetables and fruit with love and care. By doing this we can quiet our mind and create a peaceful mind space during our busy day.

Not only is having a meditative practice a gift to ourselves, but it is a gift to our children as well. In this post on Janet Lansbury’s blog about Magda Gerber, she gives two examples of how being zen-like can benefit our children:

“By holding back our impulse to teach, direct, or otherwise intervene when a child plays, we are often amazed by the child’s developing abilities. Through observation we gain insights into the origins of a host of psychological issues, major and minor. Some strike a chord. Parents have reported realizations in RIE parenting classes about personal issues that eluded them for years in psychotherapy.”

Quiet objective observation or what Gerber calls’ wants nothing’  quality time ” encompass a wide range of experiences, but all we are asked to do is pay attention and have no agenda of our own. It can mean being quietly available as a baby explores patterns of light on a blanket beneath him, or standing nearby while he has a screaming meltdown because he cannot have another cookie. It may be trickier to see the benefit for parents and caregivers in this latter scenario, but it is clarity. When we pay full attention to our child for intervals each day, no matter what the tone of our exchange or the outcome is, we are giving him the quality time he needs. We are doing our job.”

Taking care of children can be incredibly joyful as well as draining; I hope these articles can help bring a little peace to your day.

Here is a little video I captured that has 5 minutes of me observing my son. It is not as if he is doing anything particularly exciting, but he is just right there in the moment. I often wonder how he decides what he will do next in course of actions…