The Baby Update

Well, our little guy is now two weeks old!  Time flies!  In one week he gained 26 ounces so as  to now be 1 pound, 3 ounces above birth weight and he also grew a half an inch.  Obviously, nursing is not a big  problem for him.  :)

We wanted to thank everyone for your well wishes!  It is so much fun to have a baby in the house again!  I will try to post another picture soon!

Love,

Carrie

The Baby’s Intense Need For Mother

The baby has an intense need to be with its mother throughout the early years.  In traditional terms, the biology of the baby and, in anthroposophic terms, The Madonna Cloak, deems this to be so.  The baby and mother are one.

Many breastfeeding mothers talk about wanting to give their baby a bottle so “Dad can feed the baby and be involved.”  I understand mothers wanting their partners to be involved, and I especially understand first-time mothers who may be viewing this bonding experience between father and infant as something that needs to occur right away.  And I agree that too many attached mothers forget that the baby is attached to the family, not just the mother.

However, just like everything under the sun, there is a time and a place and a way.  Dads are wonderful at taking care of mother while she does the job that only she can do – nurture their baby at the breast.  Dads can cook and clean and help with the older siblings.  Dads can help bathe the baby, do diaper changes with the baby, walk the baby around, sing songs to the baby and hold the baby after the baby has nursed.  Dad can establish connection with the whole family!  Dad can feed the baby solids when that time comes.  (If you have questions regarding that, please see this insanely popular post: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/03/11/starting-solids-with-your-infant-and-picky-toddler-eating/). Dad truly does not have to feed the baby a bottle to be connected!

After three children, my husband now sees this newborn period as a time to  nurture me and our older children.  He is involved with the baby in terms of holding, walking the baby around and other tasks, but he also shrugs his shoulders and says to  our little guy, “ Especially when you get a bit bigger, what a wonderful time we are going to have together!”  He recognizes that in this early period, there is a connection between mother and child that is paramount.  He also recognizes the critical role of fathering for both boys and girls, but knows that right now the needs of the infant are best met at the breast.  For more about mothering and fathering, please see this post:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/01/23/the-necessity-of-mothering-and-fathering/

I have heard many first- time mothers talk about the changes in their marriage and relationship with their spouse  having a baby  causes.  I have written many posts regarding this,  and here is one of the most popular ones for your reading pleasure:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2008/11/17/using-your-first-year-of-parenting-to-fall-deeper-in-love-with-your-spouse/

You do not have to leave your baby behind in order to nurture your marriage. If you only have one baby, you can work toward having a special dinner and a movie cued up for when your baby goes to sleep.  You can have great conversation while your baby nurses.  If you have older children as well, many attached families are still comfortable with being together at home after the children are in bed.  If an attached couple with multiple  children does feel the need to “go out”, many times the older children  may stay with a trusted relative or friend, but the baby comes with the mother. This is not my personal choice for babies due to my Waldorf leanings, but at least we see respect  for that biological and cosmic unity in this scenario.  Perhaps protection from assaults on the senses can occur if the mother and father either celebrate being together at home or somewhere quiet!

At this point, I personally am committed to being home for at least 40 days if not a bit longer.  I am so thankful to my husband, family and friends who are supporting me in this endeavor.  I know the baby appreciates it as well.  :)

Think about how you can meet the needs of the youngest member of your family today.

Love,

Carrie

The Parenting Passageway is about Parenting, afterall

Hello and Welcome to all of Carrie’s Readers!

I wanted to share with you a special time in our lives: The introduction of the newest member of our family, Robert Kaj Dendtler (Kaj).  Kaj was born this morning (October 9th) at 8:25A and was 7lbs 11oz!  (Sorry to all of Carrie’s readers outside of the United States, I can’t do the conversion to grams in my head :))

Kaj's Birthday 086I want you all to know how much this Blog means to Carrie.  She enjoys sharing her philosophy on parenting and Waldorf homeschooling.   This little blog has become a true passion for her, and a year after its launch the blog is receiving in excess of 18,000 hits a month!

Thank you all for making that possible and I hope that you not only continue to read, but share this blog with others.   That’s one of the pillars that makes this blog so much fun, the sharing of life stories and all the tips and tricks you provide!

 

 

Peace to all, we’ll be back soon!

For Parents of Intact Boys

For those of you searching, here is a good article:

http://www.kindredmedia.com.au/library_page1/only_clean_what_is_seen_reversing_the_epidemic_of_forcible_foreskin_retractions/401/1

and another good website:

www.nocirc.org

and a link to their 2009 newsletter:

http://www.nocirc.org/publish/2009nocirc_newsletter.pdf

The NoCirc website also has a whole section devoted to the issue of religion and circumcision.

Hope that is helpful to those of you searching for information on this topic.  There is also a very active sub-forum regarding this issue over at the MotheringDotCommunity Forums:  http://www.mothering.com/discussions/

Many blessings,

Carrie

Nokken: A Review of Two Books and A Few Thoughts

(Post updated 6/28/2012)  Nokken has come up on almost every Waldorf Yahoo!Group and Waldorf forum I am on, so I thought it was about time to address the work of Helle Heckmann.  More and more, Nokken is being held up as an example within the Waldorf community of what to do right within child care for young children, and as an example of the value of outdoor play and outdoor time and connection with nature for young children.  For this post, I read both “Nokken:  A Garden for Children” by Helle Heckmann and “Nokken:  A Garden for Kids September 2003 Celebration Edition.”  I hear there is also a lovely video about Nokken that I have not yet seen.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Nokken, Nokken is a Danish approach to  Waldorf-based childcare in Copenhagen, Denmark.  The minimum age for children to enter is walking age.  Helle Heckmann writes, “The child must be able to walk away from her mother and into the world on her own,” on page 26 of “Nokken:  A Garden For Children.”  The center is open for six hours a day only, from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.  “Our idea is that we share with the parents,” writes Helle Heckmann on the same page.  “We look after the children for six hours, the parents have them for six waking hours and the children sleep for twelve hours.  In other words, the family will still exert influence on the child’s development.”  The staff at the center does not change during the day, unlike child care centers in the United States that are open for long hours that necessitate shift changes.  The children are together in one group from walking age to age 7, and sibling groups are welcomed and kept together, which is again different from the vast majority of child care centers in the United States.  Most Americans would agree this is a huge and vast improvement over the majority of daycare centers in the United States.

Helle  Heckmann writes on page 27 of Nokken,”  It is obviously difficult.  Parents often need longer opening hours, while at the same time they want the world’s best early-childhood program with a motivated and relaxed staff.  This is a difficult task, and knowing that we cannot accommodate all needs, we have chosen to favor the children.  It is a conscious choice we have made as a child-care center. Most of our parents also have to make a choice.  They change jobs, reduce their working hours, or work flexible hours:  the solutions are many and varied as they consciously choose to spend a lot of time with their children.”

She goes on to write that the role of child care has changed; in the past it was for primarily for social stimulation and now,  “The centers must teach children the basics to help them achieve the necessary skills to choose their life style at a later stage.  The parents’ role is mainly to stimulate and organize activities of a social and/or cultural interest.”

Ouch.

Okay, I guess since I am home with my children, perhaps I have a different perspective on this as a homeschooling mother.  Why as a society do we throw up our hands and say, this is the way it is?  People have to work, people have chaotic home lives, so the children are better off in child care than with their own families?  Why are we not coming up with more ways to support and develop parents?  Why in this age of abundant information (yet, often contradictory and just plain wrong information!) are parents feeling so confused and isolated as to what children truly need?  Why is there not more understanding of children as children and childhood development and such as opposed to treating children as miniature adults?

Back to the things that are good about Nokken.  On page 31 Helle Heckmann writes, “Our first priority is to spend most of the day outdoors.  We spend five out of the six hours we are together outdoors.”  The children and staff walk daily to a park with open natural spaces and also have a garden with many fruit trees, berry bushes, sand pits, a hen house, rabbit cages, a pigeon house, a vegetable garden, a herb garden, flower beds and a laundry area.  The children who are younger and need to nap sleep  outside in an open shed, which is common in Denmark.

Children are met in the morning with a handshake, which I find uncommon for Early Year Waldorf programs in the United States.  This seems very awakening for the child, and something I truly only hear of teachers of Waldorf Grades doing with their students in the United States.  Perhaps my Danish readers can tell me if this is a cultural difference?  My husband’s family is from Denmark but have not lived there for a long time, so I have no one to ask!

The daily schedule is something that is lovely and takes into account the ages of the children.  On page 60 of Nokken, Helle Heckmann writes, “We are careful not to let the youngest children participate in story-telling.  If it is a long story, the three year olds sit in another room and draw, because in my experience it is important not to engage them in activities for which they are not ready.”  She also talks about how festival celebrations are mainly for children over 3 as well.  I love this.

The part I have the most difficulty with however, outside of the few things I mentioned above, is the perspective of child development based upon the work of Emmi Pickler and Magda Gerber and their Resources for Infant Educarers.  I realize this puts me outside of most in the Waldorf community, which has embraced RIE.

I liked Helle’s description of the need of the infant to cry as a form of communication.  However, much of the thrust of her perspective of infant care seems to be “to leave the infant in peace and quiet to sleep or, when awake, to get to know herself without constant intervention from her surroundings.  Often it is difficult to show this infant respect and leave her alone. Constantly satisfying your own need for reassurance and your need to look at your beautiful baby will often influence the infant’s ability to be content with herself….By giving the infant peace and quiet for the first months of her life, she will get used to her physical life; the crying will gradually stop, and the baby may start to sleep during the night without waking up at all hours.”

As an attached parent, I believe I can respect my child and still enfold her within my protective gesture and be physically close.  I believe I can still carry her in a sling and nurse her and  have her act as a (passive) witness to my life without overly stimulating her.  I believe in our particular culture at this particular time, parents need reassurance to enfold their child within themselves and their family unit, not to separate their children in their infancy to be independent.  Perhaps this is a cultural difference than Denmark, I don’t know.

However, I also have to say that I  do not believe baby-wearing is an excuse to take my children everywhere I went before I had children.  I believe in protecting the senses but doing this in an attached way.

I do agree with some of Helle Heckman’ s statements regarding infants, including her statement on page 17 of Nokken that, “The more restless the adults are, the more restless the children will be.”  However, statements such as “The less we disturb the infant, the better chance she has of adapting to her life on earth,” rather bothers me.  I agree in not initiating the disturbance of  the infant, but I fear too many parents will take this as license to just set their infant down and let them cry or to keep them passively in a crib.  I do  agree with Helle Heckmann’s assessment that it is difficult to care for children under walking age within a child care setting  because of the high needs of care and because infants need peaceful surroundings.

As a homeschooling mother, what I take away from Nokken is the lovely thoughts of a forest kindergarten, napping outside, using action to communicate with small children and not words (see page 32 of Nokken), using singing as a way of talking to small children (page 51), Helle’s constant inner work and development, her obvious love of the children.

And as a homeschooling mother and attached parent, I don’t like the whole notion that is invading Waldorf Education that children under the age of 4 or 4 and a half should be out of their homes, I don’t like the notion that the child care center, no matter how outdoorsy “shares” the child with the parents, and I don’t like the idea that parents are not as empowered as they could be in childhood development.  Why are we positioning anyone but the parents to be the experts on their children and acting as if someone else knows better?    Waldorf schools are also taking children earlier and earlier into Kindergarten, and I also have an issue with that.   I would like to see more effort to again, empower and inspire parents within the Waldorf movement to be home.   The hand shaking to greet a small child with such pronounced eye contact also baffles me.

There are many wonderful things at Nokken, and many American parents who need child care would be thrilled to find a center such as Nokken in their neighborhood.  Many mothers attempt to create such an environment as part of their homeschooling environment or take in children from outside their family for care so they may stay home with their own children.  These are all realities.

However, I would love to see a movement toward empowering and inspiring mothers to be homemakers, to be truly spiritual homemakers, to encourage families to make tough choices to be home with their children,  because I feel this is where the power of the next generation is truly going to disseminate from.

Blessings,

Carrie

The Newborn: Traditional and Anthroposophical Perspectives

From a Traditional Physical Therapy Perspective regarding Normal Development:

Full-term is 38 weeks onward.  37 weeks’ gestational age is NOT full-term.

The neonate has NO experience with life outside of the womb – Please remember that as you expose your infant to his or her first sounds and sights of the outside world.

Very little movement is independently controlled – most movement is random and affected by gravity (gravity is also a new experience).

The elbows, hips, knees, and ankles have strong flexion, meaning that they are bent up and if you try to straighten them they will recoil back into a bent position.

Newborns are usually moving when they are awake and display a wide range of vigorous movement with rotational components of the ankles and wrists.  Usually one can see this better when the infant is lying on his or her  back.  There is much about tummy time and its importance out there, but giving an infant opportunity to freely kick and move while lying on their back is also important.

A neonate is interested in breastfeeding, being held and cuddled and in hearing their mother’s voice.   If you are a first-time mother, I am here to reassure you that less material things are needed than you think.

A neonate can fixate on your smiling  face and track briefly. They typically see best when the object (your bright smiling face!) is about 9 inches away. 

Extension (lifting) of the head and neck while lying on the stomach is one of the first things you will  see against gravity, but I am not so personally  convinced that a neonate needs a whole separate “playtime-tummy time” on  the floor on a blanket by themselves.  Tummy time can also be achieved over your legs, over your lap or being held with the infant’s tummy on your chest as you are laying down.

There are a wide range of reflexes that help the infant organize themselves and drive an infant’s ability at this age, along with the  musculoskeletal constraints already mentioned (strong flexion) and the way the bones start out.

If your baby has a history of prematurity, intraventricular hemorrhage, bronchopulmonary dyplasia, low birth weight under 1500 grams, or lack of oxygen to the brain, please follow your baby’s development carefully.

From an Anthroposophical Point of View:

(One of the best resources on the Web regarding The Waldorf Baby can be found here:  http://www.christopherushomeschool.org/early-years-nurturing-young-children-at-home/the-waldorf-baby.html).

Rahima Baldwin Dancy talks about in her book how the infant experiences space, time and gravity differently once born compared to life within the womb.  Birth also is the first experience an infant has with temperature regulation and the rhythmical qualities of breathing.

With the first breath,” she writes, “inner emotional life begins, and the breath serves as the connection between the inner and outer worlds.  With the first in-breath, the possibility exists for the soul life to enter into a deeper relationship with the body, a relationship it will keep until the last expiration.  Although the baby is spiritually present and physically responsive to stimuli while in the womb, the soul cannot come into the body without the breath.  Then the soul gives expression to our emotions through the breath as sound and speech.”

Incarnation into the body is a gradual process.

The infant is viewed as entirely a sense-organ where all impressions from the environment go into the infant without filters and influence physiological processes – such as digestion and circulation of the blood. 

Sleep of the infant is seen as needed to “shut-off” from the world because if one is a sense organ where impressions are just flooding in, imagine how exhausting that is!

Things typically recommended by authors such as Rahima Baldwin Dancy, and Joan Salter  include having a special place for the baby to rest, such as a bassinet or co-sleeper, and draping this with silks to provide rest for the infant’s eyes.

Provide harmony and rhythm through singing.  You can also play a soft flute or kinderlyre.

Provide a sense of warmth for your infant and keep your infant’s head covered throughout the first year.  Remember, an infant does not do a great job regulating temperature by themselves!

Think about 40 days of rest and of being at home – there is an entire post on this blog regarding that subject here:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/07/17/40-days-after-birth-and-beyond/

Joan Salter asserts that the baby’s most natural position within the first six weeks is HORIZONTAL, not vertical. 

You may consider keeping your infant inside for the first 40 days and after that introducing your infant to the wonderful sounds of nature outside.  Trips to the store, in the car, in a bus, etc should be avoided if at all possible. 

Joan Salter recommends swaddling with the upper extremities bent and the hands near the infant’s mouth – as a therapist, this is the position I most frequently recommend as well.

I suggest if you would like to read more about The Waldorf Baby, to go back and re-read pertinent chapters in “You Are Your Child’s First Teacher” and “The Incarnating Child.”  Sometimes a third or fourth read of these chapters can really provide further illumination!

Many blessings,

Carrie

Stress Signs in Infants

(Note- This is from a pediatric physical therapy viewpoint today).

A brilliant comment from anthromama on my last post regarding “40 Days After Birth and Beyond” stimulated a small idea in my head!  Many of you know that I am a neonatal physical therapist by profession and in my work, recognizing and calming an infant in stress is a huge part of what I do.  So, with that in mind, I thought I would list the stress signs of an infant here for everyone to see because it never occurred to me that folks might not recognize stress signs in their own full-term infants (yes, a full-term infant can still have stress signs – remember, protect those 12 senses!)

Stress signs:

The baby will salute you – essentially this looks like a baby stretching out their hand toward you, (usually the back of the hand toward you) and up towards their face.  Parents will say, “How cute! He is waving at me!”  Nope, nope and nope.

The baby will extend the arm and splay the fingers apart.

The baby will frown, grimace, grunt.

The baby will all of the sudden start yawning, hiccupping, or sneezing multiple times.  (Yes, babies do yawn, hiccup, or sneeze but this is more like 10 times in a row or more all of the sudden).

The baby will arch the back and neck and push away (and yes, some babies with gastroesophageal reflux disease will also arch and push away).

The baby will look away suddenly and for a long period after having a period of wonderful eye contact on a caregiver’s face – think about this one carefully.  We ourselves do not maintain focused eye contact on others when we are in conversation, but often our eyes are scanning and resting, scanning and resting.   The looking away is a sign the baby needs a break and less focus.

The baby will cry.  This is usually a last sign when all other signs have been ignored.

The baby will become frantic and move all extremities wildly.

Or, conversely, the baby will just shut down, shut his or eyes and tune everything out.

What To Do:

Breastfeed and gently but firmly snuggle your infant

Try tucking your infant’s arms and legs close into their body.  See if you can help your infant clasp their hands together or to bring their hand to their mouth if they are not nursing.

Try talking to your infant before touching them – let them know you are there!

Hold your baby about 10 inches or so from your face – the distance they see best at first if  you are wanting to make direct eye contact.  Vision is not the most utilized sense in a newborn!

Turn down the lights; bright lights bother many infants

Swaddling!

Most importantly, decrease the multiple inputs going on – if the other kids are screaming, the dog is barking, the phone is ringing – well, see if you can turn the phone off, calm the kids, let the dog go outside.

Let the baby hold your finger.

For “All-Out Crying”

Sometimes babies just need a release and that is okay while being held and soothed, but we really want the infant to establish trust in that a caregiver will meet their needs (in other words, no crying it out for a small baby!)   If nursing is not doing the trick, some babies enjoy being swaddled and held upright with motion such as  being walked around.  Some babies I have loved who had more severe neurologic challenges have responded best to being rather tightly swaddled, sucking on my gloved finger in a sidelying position with their head higher than their stomach and being “gently  rhythmically bounced” (ie, if they are on your leg, cross one leg over the other leg, put the infant on their side on the leg that is highest with their head away from you and tap your bottom leg to a  slow rhythmic beat).  I need to take a picture so you all can see it better.  Sometimes sucking along with a gentle rhythmical bouncing or rocking is very helpful for any infant in distress.

Babies that are happy:

Are in a quiet and alert state.

The face, arms and legs are relaxed.

The baby can focus on objects or people.

Their eyes are open and they try to smile.

There was a post I wrote quite awhile ago regarding why babies cry, typical crying patterns, etc:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/01/19/when-babies-cry-and-what-we-can-all-learn-from-the-high-needs-baby-and-child/

Hope this helps stimulate some thought,

Carrie

40 Days After Birth and Beyond

Gypsy, a reader of this blog from New Zealand, wrote this post on her blog that I wanted to share with you:

http://domesticallyblissed.blogspot.com/2009/07/more-than-suburban-neurosis.html

I am sharing Gypsy’s concern regarding not only  the general lack of time mothers today have to prepare and dream for a birth while pregnant, but also this thought that as soon as possible one must jump back into the old routine.

My Dutch neighbor asked me yesterday why people in the U. S.  brought tiny infants to movies….. (My European and Down Under readers, is this only a U.S. phenomenon???  I would like to know!  Please leave me a comment!)  Her thought was that a movie is so very loud and overstimulating and she wondered why mothers are trying perhaps hard to prove that “they have had a baby but can still do all the things they used to do”?  I am not sure if this is the reason mothers bring infants to movies, or if it is just “something to do to get out of the house”, but I do wonder. What makes us think that this is okay for a tiny baby?  (Well, okay, what makes us think this is okay for children in general under the age of 7 or 9?  That is a whole ‘nother post topic!)

A child under the age of 9 and especially a small baby is WIDE open to the world with no filters, no sensors.  All those sensory impressions just come pouring in!  I cannot tell you all the number of hospital rooms I have walked into to treat a tiny newborn and had to ask the parents to please turn a very noisy and loud television or radio program off!  I have felt badly for these infants’ assaulted senses.

I am a very attached mother, and I have many, many attached friends.  But please, let’s not use the fact that we can breastfeed in a sling to drag a baby all over creation!  Our bodies can act as a filter for some of the sensory impressions for our babies, but the question is shouldn’t part of being a mother be that we put the sensory needs of our smallest and most fragile first and foremost?  Shouldn’t the birth of a baby be a time of wonder and  enjoyment and yes, a slower pace?  What have we to prove by running errands all over town and everything else?  I had one friend who came from a large family who commented wryly  that a new baby was always

Your baby will only be a tiny baby once.   I encourage you to not only take your forty days, but also to slow down your life for a year and get used to being home.  I think this adjustment comes sooner or later.  I have had many mothers who have lamented to me that once their baby was walking and such it “was difficult to go to Starbucks and enjoy a cup of coffee” or go out to lunch as the child wouldn’t sit there any longer.  I understand that, I really do – they hit an adjustment period, a true adjustment.    They realized after a bit of time that they needed to be more firmly entrenched in their homes and that  having a child was changing them and their lives.  It was this sense of surrendering that had to occur and these mothers had to take charge of their own homes.  This can be a difficult journey for so many of us, and I would love to dialogue more about how to make this transition to home a reality.

More to come,

Carrie