What do babies need? What do they really need?
After 7 years, I finally went back to school. I have always wanted to take this course but I always ended up postponing it, for important reasons-I was either pregnant or too busy taking care of my 2 very young children (Ellie and Julia). I wanted to take this course because infant and toddler is the field that I want to specialize in but more importantly, I wanted to understand my children more and through this, be a better mom, too. It was my husband, Mike who really convinced me to finally enroll, he promised that he’ll make sure that our kids are still alive (a haha) when I come back and that I don’t have to worry about anything at all. And so, I found myself, a thousand miles away from home, right at the center of Hollywood, in that cozy room of RIE (Resources for Infant Educarers). I took this 2-week long intensive course and by God’s grace, I completed it.
*RIE: is an international non-profit organisation started by Magda Gerber that aims to improve infant care and education. It focuses on using a respectful approach towards the care of infants.
So, I’m writing about the top 5 things I learned and unlearned from this course and I’d like to share them with you:
1.Babies need time. Magda Gerber said, “Go slowly and with great patience“, I always loved this saying of hers. As parents, we need to understand that there is beauty in seeing how our babies develop, one day at a time. We need to praise slowness and at times, we need to pause and stop ourselves from asking, “What’s going to happen next? When will she/he do this? How come my friend’s baby can already….” When we have this mindset, we learn to give our babies the space and the pace they need to simply explore what is happening within themselves.
2. Babies need to be respected. We need to see babies as individuals who deserve all the respect. This begins with a simple touch. Ruth Anne Hammond in her book, Respecting Babies, explained that “gentle, respectful touch translates into a point of view that says, ‘I’m a valuable person who has a right to be respected by others’. When we see our babies with that sense of respect, it will change the way we carry them, change their diaper/s, feed them, and most especially, communicate with them. Ruth Anne stresses that, “a baby’s future depends on it. An infant who has been physically respected by those performing intimate care is unlikely to become an adult who allows her or himself to be roughly handled or habitually disrespected by others.”
3.Babies need to be trusted. We need to go beyond seeing our babies as someone who will highly depend on us all the time. Yes, they do depend on us for their immediate care (feeding, diapering, bathing) but there are other activities where they can also take the lead. We need to let the baby do the output, to let him or her entertain himself rather than heavily rely on something or someone to entertain him/her. When we provide opportunities for them to explore their immediate environment, we trust our babies to be the initiator and to learn on their own. It takes a lot of stepping back and stopping ourselves from saying, “Oh no, she might hit her head when I let her crawl on the mat. or Can she really do that on her own? ” We don’t want to be raising children who are helpless, where we, parents become too helpful.
4. Babies need parents who are sensitive observers. Another Magda’s quote that I really like is, “Observe more, do less.” It is by observing that we learn a hundred things about our children. When we watch them more, when we listen more, then we get to know them more. We see our children in a different way when we focus more where they are at now, than focusing on what we can do to amuse or entertain them. I’ve learned this art of observing after years of working with children, and the best tip I can give to you is to be patient. Instead of stepping in the situation right away, count a few more seconds, and watch how your baby will react or play out a particular situation. Patience is the key to being a good observer of your child. Watch and wait.
5. Babies need a secure and consistent caregiver. During our class, our facilitator, Ruth Anne (who is an infant and toddler specialist) always emphasized that the family should always be the infant’s secure base. This is the still the best place to socialise a child. This is why it is important that a child is nurtured in an environment where there is a stable caregiver (primarily, the parents then secondly, a relative or a nanny) who will be the constant person who build that care and relationship with the infant.
Among the hundred things I learned from the Foundations class, these were the top most that resonated with me. These enabled me to reflect on why I do the things I do with my own children and next to the children I care for in the preschool.
Let me end with this quote from Magda, she said, “Relax, and enjoy the wonders of infant development.” It is really a reminder that our children grow up too fast, and that by enjoying those valuable moments with them, and seeing it from such perspective, it will truly change the way we care for them.