The Peaceful Baby in March: Sleep (Part Two)


What if sleep for the family is really an emergency situation though?  There can be a darker side to all of this  if a mother is truly sleep deprived! 

I just have to say a brief word about  letting a baby “cry-it-out.”    First of all, there are  NO scientific studies that back up “crying it out”.  I have a wonderful article written by Macall Gordon that was published in Attachment Parenting International’s newsletter some years ago called, “The Dark Side of Sleeping Through the Night:  Four Big Reasons Why Crying-It-Out Doesn’t Make Sense.” This article is really fabulous, but I could not find it on-line at all, maybe someone else will be able to locate this article and post the link in the comment box.  At any rate, the first reason in this article is that “crying-it-out” is that it is  not supported by research at all.  In fact, as a pediatric physical therapist, I know that crying causes immune function to go down and cortisol (a stress hormone) to rise.  Why doesn’t anyone bother to  mention that in connection with “crying-it-out”?  The other issue I have with this, this time with my IBCLC hat on, is that mothers are biologically programmed through hormones and  through lactation to pick their babies up!  Why doesn’t anyone talk about that and the biological impulses we try to make mothers override by not validating their own biology?   From an attachment stand-point, and for future psychological health, for the future of the entire process of discipline and guiding child,  the entire first year is about an infant building up trust in a caregiver.   How does “crying-it-out” not harm this?   There are a multitude of other reasons that “crying-it-out” is just plain harmful! 

People who talk about an infant “playing you” or “manipulating you” at an early age over sleep have absolutely NO understanding of the biological or emotional  development of the child.  It is unfortunate. 

If you need someone to talk to, vent to, or ask about realistic sleep expectations,  please, please pick up the phone and call your local La Leche League Leader or Attachment Parenting Leader.  La Leche League even has a hotline now!  Call and talk to someone!

If you have an urgent need for sleep, the families I have worked with in the past have treated this as REAL.  It is urgent, it is as real as being sick!   We cannot be the mother we want to be when we are completely sleep-deprived!   Vacation time may need to be used so one can sleep and have another person at home to care for the infant.  A family member may need to come visit, or friends may need to come and help.  Our society can be such a disconnected one, and it can be so challenging to reach out to people and ask for help.  Yet, people are typically so willing to help. Other mothers have been there, and  they really do understand!

Make a plan for how you can figure this out.  Can  you sleep when the infant does?  What are doing that is more important than sleep?  Can someone help you with your other children so you can take your infant to bed and rest?  Can you all lay down together and rest?  Can you strip a room of dangerous-to-toddler items, lock the door with all of you in this room and rest? 

What can you do to help your child enter sleep more easily and rhythmically?  The first post in this two-part series had some suggestions for babies who really don’t sleep well, but I suppose the suggestions could be useful for anyone.

Children need a rhythm leading up to sleep or rest to help them wind-down.  How you do this in your family is up to you.  Some families have used a warm, calm bath.  Some have used reading books in that special nighttime/resting reading voice (which is different than the dramatic daytime voice!!).  Some families have used rocking, nursing, massage, foot massages, holding as parts of the bedtime routine.  How about singing lullabies?

Infants and children DO need to be parented to sleep.  Even an eight year old or nine year old likes being read to or to have a conversation before they go to sleep!  So, how you parent your child to sleep in your family is up to you as you are the expert on your own family!  All I would say is that if you are waiting to the point where your children fight through the bedtime routine or are completely wound-up, you may be starting too late.  Try earlier and see if that makes a difference.  

People ask me about co-sleeping and when their child will go into their own bed/sleeping surface. …. I remember one especially sweet nurse (an adult, obviously!)  I worked with and we were talking about this subject years ago and she said, “You know what?  When I go home and visit my mamma, I LOVE to jump into her bed.  It smells like her, and I miss seeing her!”  I loved that, the association of comfort and wanting to be near our mothers, even when we are adults.  I have seen some children take happily to their own bedrooms around two and a half or three and I have seen others do it more around the seven-year-change…Some children will still want to co-sleep when they have a nightmare, when they are getting teeth, when they don’t feel well, on special nights when they are so excited for the next day.  Warmth and love at its finest!


People ask me about sleep from an anthroposophic point of view, and the above posts are a great place to start.  The one thing I would like to add is that from an anthroposophic viewpoint, the small child is developing a relationship to time.  Modern medical studies confirm this in many regards; some studies I have read state that it can take up to 40 weeks in order to for an infant to have days/nights straightened out well.

Please do think of rhythm and routines leading up to nap/rest times and bedtimes as your friend.  I think it is important to guide our children in this regard, and to just not wait until they fall over from sheer exhaustion after they have been completely wound up!

All food for thought; as usual take what resonates with you for you and your family!

Many blessings,


The Peaceful Baby in March: Sleep (Part One)

I have had three local mothers in my over twelve years of parenting counseling who had babies under the age of six months who truly did not sleep.  It was very difficult.   All three cases were very active little girl babies who had a difficult time gaining weight, and once they became mobile older babies/toddlers they were so active that no one other than the mother could seem to watch the baby without the child ending up on the top of refrigerator,etc.  They were also toddler  masters of getting through baby locks and other child-proofing devices.  Whew!

I would like to go over a few points regarding sleep for these types of babies and then children in general. 

For babies under the age of 6 months who “don’t sleep”:

1.  Realistic expectations are key.  Know that there will be times they don’t sleep well due to teething and other developmental stages.  Also, how many hours a day are you expecting them to sleep?  Babies need time to be outside, time to play on the floor as well as the older babies.  They can also be a passive witness to what you are doing from the viewpoint of a sling.  Some babies also sleep very well in a sling.

I am sure many of you have seen “the sleep table” in “The No-Cry Sleep Solution” – there are things in this book that I vehemently disagree with, but I like the sleep table :)  It details the number of hours each day infants of different ages sleep, how many naps a day of different ages take and how long those typical naps are.  For example:  a six-month old is typically taking two naps a day for a total of 3-4 hours and sleeping 10-11 hours at night for a total of 14-15 hours whereas a 2 year old is typically taking one nap a day for one to two hours and sleeping around 12 hours at night for a total of 11 hours of sleep. 

2.  Biologically, we do not want babies to enter a deep sleep and “sleep soundly” though the night at an early age because 1.  this decreases calories for most breastfeeding babies;  studies have shown even babies at 10 months can receive up to 25 percent of their calories at night if mothers will still nurse their babies at night.  2.  not breastfeeding at night increases the chance of you getting your menstrual cycle back at night and takes away natural child spacing and  3.  the rate of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome is highest between 2 to 5 months, so we don’t want deep sleeping then.  We want arousal out of sleep here and there to keep our babies breathing.

Please see these back posts regarding sleep and co-sleeping:

3.  For a baby under 6 months who is not sleeping well, but in a developmental plateau, not getting sick, and not teething, please check yourself. How anxious are you about them not sleeping?  Babies pick up on your anxiety! 

4.  Check warmth.  I find babies who are like this, and who are not gaining weight well,  are often actually  cold.  Check these back posts on warmth:

5. Check for food allergies and sensitivities, reflux and colic.  There have been some studies showing a positive resolution of colic with care from a qualified pediatric chiropractor; this may be worth a try.  For reflux, try

6.  As these children grow, I think it is VERY, very important to institute quiet activities with active ones, and yes, periods of rest.  We have had several posts in the past regarding “quiet time” that were hot debate.  You can see those here:      and here:

Some of these children, particularly when small, will not just go and lay down at a rest time.  But it is worth it to all lay down together, to read a book or light a candle and snuggle together for storytelling.  That break is important. 

It is also important to note, I think, that these children NEED time in nature.  That may be only time they actually slow down and get involved in digging in the dirt or other really rhythmical activity that really transports them to a quieter place.

In the next part of this, we will look at what to do when sleep for the whole family is an urgent need, and also a Waldorf view of sleep!

Many blessings,


Beyond The Forty Days: What Next?

I have written some blog posts in the past regarding the forty days after birth as a time to be easy on oneself, a time to be with one’s baby.  Then, you may ask, what happens after the forty days are finished and people expect you to be “normal” and “back to your old self” ?

I had a friend the other day tell me she thought the time when a baby was  between two to four months old was actually very challenging, because people stop coming over to visit.  They stop bringing you meals.  People expect your older children to get places and participate in things.  Meanwhile, you are juggling a baby who is perhaps already starting to get teeth and who is not sleeping well or juggling a baby who is not sleeping well because he or she is doing new things developmentally. 

But  there are still  those moments to drink in and savor.  Those first smiles and laughter.  Those dimpled cheeks and chubby thighs.  The first time they roll over.  The way they wave their hands and feet when you sing to them.

Sometimes, with parenting, all you can do is hold on. Enjoy those wonderful moments, learn to ask for help when you need it, learn to seek out the company of people who parent like you as you find your own path.  And the path will change as you get older, because you are still growing and evolving, and the path will change the more children you have because children are all different and have different things to teach us.  And so we learn and we grow with our babies.

But, we can never err on the side of being gentle.  We can never err on the side of bringing light to our family.  We can never err by seeking out and becoming a part of a supportive community of  mothers and parents.  We can never err by choosing a path mindfully, even as we give ourselves leeway to do things differently down the road with different children. 

Children deserve our honor and our gentle voice and hands.  They deserve recognition that they are indeed different than adults.  They deserve to have a childhood filled with warmth and love.

And as mothers, we deserve support, we deserve love, we deserve peace.  We deserve a partner to make our load lighter and our steps happier, we deserve cherished friends to make the road a joyful one, a faith to make it all possible, and laughter along the way.

May all of these simple joys be yours in this Simple February!

Many blessings,


The Waldorf Baby in January

(This post is geared toward infants/toddlers still using diapers).

This is a great month to focus on your rhythm and interaction with your baby during diaper changing time.  In an interview entitled “Do We Know Why We Do What We Do?  An Interview with Helle Heckmann” by Margaret Ris,  Helle Heckman was asked a question about the process of caring for the young child and  she said, “The whole process of caring for the little child matters.  For instance, with changing diapers, so few use cloth, but instead use the highly effective diapers that eliminate smells.  These diapers can be left on for five or six hours, rather than two hours, so now diapering time, that “You-and-I”, intimate, private time when one talks or sings to the child, is much reduced.”    (to read more about Helle Heckmann’s work at Nokken, please see this post:

A few of my thoughts:

  • Change diapers frequently and allow plenty of  time for eye contact, interaction, singing, finger plays and toe plays.  Many  times  the baby is a passive witness to things going on in the home via a sling, but diaper changing time is a time to slow down and interact with that adorable baby!
  • You can take off an old diaper on a child who can stand standing up and then just quickly lay them down to put on a new diaper if an older baby is resistant to diaper changes.
  • Try a beautiful mobile overhead if you have a usual changing space.  You can make charming silk fairies to hang up, or little paper cut figures according to the seasons
  • Pick some wonderful songs that you can sing at diaper changing time and keep them consistent.
  • Older children can enjoy finger plays and toe plays during diaper changing time.
  • Keep in mind your beautiful gestures whilst you are doing this activity.  Honor your child’s body and its function.  Smile, don’t rush, be careful and gentle.  Smooth the diaper out before putting it on, be cheerful whilst reaching for supplies.    Some adults make all kinds of “jokes” about babies and their stool, which really bothers, irritates and angers me because this  is a healthy, normal function.  Why one would  shame a baby over a biological function that is necessary to live and not be sick amazes me.
  • Some folks have asked me about Elimination Communication and Waldorf, and to be honest, I am not sure there is any “official” sort of position on it; to me, if practicing Elimination Communication would fit into the natural rhythm and would not put individual pressure on the individual child, then it would be okay…(Remember, we are not trying to draw children out into their individual consciousness early on, so to me it would just have to  fit into the natural rhythm of things as a family)….  I do know Waldorf mothers who practice EC, and they are far more qualified to speak on this issue than I!   I believe there may also be a subform for Elimination Communication at the Mothering Magazine Forum.
  • If you are interested in cloth diapering (and yes, I know in areas with low water, people may choose not to in order to conserve) here is an article from Mothering Magazine:  Here is a primer as to the different types of diapers:   There are also pocket diapers out there such as FuzziBunz.   There are many, many kinds of  cloth diapers, and those of us who use cloth usually  have quite a few different types in our homes.  :)

There are many posts on this blog about the Waldorf Baby,and  each month I will be picking a different area to focus on as a gentle reminder.



Waldorf In The Home With The One- And Two-Year Old

Sometimes I believe the “Waldorf Toddler Years” are the hardest areas to find information about regarding exact specifics as to what to expect and do, especially in the home environment.  Many of things one reads in the books touted for the Waldorf  Early Years (including Heaven on Earth, Beyond the Rainbow Bridge, etc)  seem to be more for children around age 3 (and I would argue that if your oldest is three and in the home environment with no older children around to imitate, that many of these activities should actually be brought in later than in the Waldorf Kindergarten!  More about that in a later post!)

The two main focus areas for the first two years are walking and speech.  Therefore, things to think about include gross motor movement and speech.  Here are some quick suggestions in these areas:

For those children who are  walking – walking and pushing weighted things, getting something off a table and putting into a bucket repeatedly, something where the child is squatting and then standing up to put things into a container, (and then you can do this with the child standing on a squishy throw pillow), toddling outside in all kinds of weather, squatting to play

For those more advanced walkers – walking on different surfaces in bare feet, stepping over things, going up and down stairs with a small railing, climbing on all four’s over things on the floor (to get into a bear’s cave maybe?), different textures to feel and walk on outside in barefeet if possible

For all ages – massage, water play, fingerplays, toeplays, being swaddled and unswaddled in blankets of different textures,  sitting on a blanket and being pulled around the house on a “Magic Carpet Ride”,

But the point is we approach these things with love and with imagination.  Be silent with warm looks or warm  gestures and do what you want the child to do or set a small scene for the older toddler with a few simple words – a  few words really do suffice!  Use music for your simple scenario.  (“My Big dwarf collecting jewels!” and sing a song about a dwarf or   “My beautiful butterfly just emerged from the cocoon!”  etc.)  

For two year olds working on speech, now YOU need to prepare as they will ask you over and over what something is.  You can answer that in one word, but then pull out a Mother Good rhyme or a song to sing.  That will expand their vocabulary even more and keep you from going into Adult Land with scientific explanations of how fish have gills to breathe and etc, etc.

Other things to work on:

Bodily care, toileting or diaper changes, is HUGE. I cannot stress this enough.  Times for bodily care should involve love, their involvement, singing and joy.

Meal times.  Again, unhurried, unrushed, singing, having your child help with preparation and clean-up.

Nap times/Rest Times.  Sing lullabies, have a blanket that is special for sleeping, have a routine involving physical touch of gentle massage or foot rubs

Bath times.  Singing, finger plays and toe plays, gentle rub downs with the towel (those textures again)

Outside time.  This is another place where verses come in handy.  If a child sees a flower, you can recite Mother Goose’s “DaffaDown Lily”, if they see a goose you can recite “

Participation in household life.  Your very gesture is so important, it should not be you rushing around trying to get the whole house clean in one day.  It is taking each article of laundry and smoothing it out, folding it tenderly, putting it in the pile to be put away with love for your family. What is important is not only that the child sees the work being done, but imitates that gesture of love and care.  That extends into caring for plants and animals, this is the very first “environmental education” that a child gets with you, right at home.

Music – as mentioned many times above, music and rhymes and verses should take precedence at this point over any written word. 

Inner Work/Personal Parenting Development:  The most spiritually mature people should be the ones coming into contact with the youngest children.  This is a very important time for your own work and  development.  If you are anxious, practice being calm.  If you are impatient, practice being patient.  If you talk in a stream of conscious way, practice being silent.  This is a time to develop your spiritual and religious beliefs.  It is a time to become more aware of the things unseen.

Joy!  Having a toddler should be joyful.  This age will never come again, enjoy it and marvel with them at their wonder!



“Warmth, Strength and Freedom” by Mary Kelly Sutton

This was a wonderful article by anthroposophic physician Mary Kelly Sutton.  I have permission to re-print it here from the owner of the Greentaramama group where I first saw it –  the list owner has a wonderful store to buy children’s woolens and silks by the way.  Here is the link to that store:
Thank you Michelle for this article and your store!
There are times when I sound more like a grandmother than a doctor in
advising families how to be healthy. ‘Dress warmly!’ ‘Eat a good
breakfast!’ ‘Get to bed early!’ ‘Let your body fight its own colds!’
But each of this advisories is powerful, no matter how simple it
Warmth is related to the element fire. All the other elements —
earth, air, water — are easily bounded. Warmth goes through
boundaries. This is no surprise when you think of the love (emotional
warmth/fire) you feel for your children. Nothing stops it. (That is
why you are reading this.)
Healthy human beings have a rhythmic body temperature of approximately
98.6, slightly lower in morning than evening. Cold is a stress for the
body. Touch your child’s fingers and toes — with your own warm hand.
(If your hand is cool/cold, first warm it up.) Then feel other parts:
the trunk, front and back, abdomen, forehead, chest. The fingers and
toes should be as warm as the warmest part of the body. If they are
not, the child is dealing with cold stress, and you can help him/her a
great deal by changing the clothing so that fingers and toes become as
warm as they should be. Shunting blood away from the extremities is a
survival mechanism in the body. It protects the vital organs (heart,
lungs, liver, kidneys).
Cold stress can make children overactive, in an effort to warm up.
Warm clothing allows them to settle down, join in group activity,
focus and learn.
In some children coldness interferes with normal weight gain. I have
seen one wiry 5-year-old in New Hampshire who gained two pounds in the
first week her mother put her in wool underwear.
Runny noses commonly are related to coldness. And coldness is a
significant factor in more important immune suppression in a very
significant way. ‘The skin is the proper place for disease to happen,’
states an old holistic medicine pearl. If the skin is cool, the battle
with a common germ cannot be waged on the skin. The blood has gone
the deeper organs, and with it, the battle is carried to deeper
organs. This is an important way that complications happen from
common illnesses, such as a cold or chicken pox. In medical school, I
first saw in my Internal Medicine textbook, that chickenpox
encephalitis commonly occurs when there are very few pox on the body.
inflammation does little damage on the skin, but can do a great deal
of damage in a deeper organ. Keeping the skin warm keeps the battle
with a germ where it is safe for the body. I have heard a German
pediatrician describe how he recommends to parents of children with
measles that the parent rub the calves with dry terry cloth until the
calves are pink. This over-warming action draws the circulation to the
surface, and pulls
the battle with the germ to a safe place, outward and downward, away
from vital organs.
This principle can be applied in daily life simply by dressing warmly,
and being attentive to the warmth of our children’s extremities. We
both prevent illnesses, and keep their course uncomplicated if they
occur, by having warm extremities.
Physical warmth is an early sense for the newborn baby, along with
smell, taste, and hearing. But the child does not sense temperature
accurately until about age 9. You are not surprised when a toddler
runs around the house naked, and older kids and adults are reaching
for shoes and sweaters. We have all seen this. In New Hampshire, the
kindergarteners rush into the lakes on Memorial Day, and the third
graders look at them like ‘what’s wrong with you!?’
So you, the parent, must decide what is the right clothing for the
young person you are responsible for. Don’t ASK the young child ‘what
do you want to wear?’ This question is appropriate at times for an
older child, but it is scary for a young child to be the one making a
decision in the presence of an adult. It is hard in our culture NOT to
ask our
children what they want, because we hear it so commonly. I remember
falling into this and asking my 5 yr old son what t-shirt he wanted,
and he looked at me and said ‘I don’t know. You’re the mommy!’ So
often our kids show us what we should have known. Be willing to BE the
Mommy or the Daddy. Make the decision about the clothes you feel are
right for the climate, and say with surety: ‘Here’s your undershirt
and top, your tights and skirt. Let’s get dressed. You’re set for a
wonderful day!’ Your authority is their security. Their strength is
modeled after yours, so give them a strong, insightful, kind authority
But what to wear, if hands and feet are cold? The rule I’ve used in
New Hampshire is to begin with is three layers on the top with one
tucked in, and two layers on the bottom. One of these should be like a
second skin, closely investing the body, not baggy. This means long
underwear, or tights, or at the very least an undershirt. If the child
is sweaty,
take off a layer. If the child is still cool to touch, change to a
warmer fabric. Natural fabrics breathe best: cotton, silk, and wool.
Down does not breathe, nor do synthetics generally, so body heat is
trapped if the person is overdressed. Cotton can be both cooling and
warming, and is good for hot countries and Arizona summers. Silk is
more warming, then wool-silk, and wool is warmest. A source for
children’s long underwear is:
A helpful image to use is that foxes and rabbits grow fur, thicker in
the winter than the summer. We didn’t — so we have to put on our fur
to be able to run around outside like foxes and rabbits in the winter.
Hats, gloves, sox are all part of the fur we didn’t grow. Clothed
well, we have new freedom to move outdoors. Long underwear in some
eliminates the need for bulky outerwear, and movement is less
So you have the knowledge of WHAT to do, and are confident in your
authority as a parent being the best thing for them. Then life
happens. The child is simultaneously developing his will, so a
wonderful opportunity comes for the child to say ‘NO!!’ to any
parental statement, including clothes. This requires tact, cleverness,
determination —
every adult attribute in the book. Don’t rush into action. Wait,
watch, assess, and plan HOW to do this thing you know is good for your
kids. A young girl may need stylish (warm) tights or long johns that
you have seen ballerinas wear, because, after all, their leg muscles
dance more beautifully if they are warm. A fierce 4-year-old warrior
may need a swashbuckling (warm) pirate muscle shirt, leggings, and
sash, with a story of how to stand and walk like a pirate as they are
put on. A two year old may just need a chase around the room, a
friendly capture, and a lot of loving contact as he/she is poured into
warm layers. Some children will need to know you consider this so
important that favorite activities are actually dependent on dressing
correctly, or that some other consequence is incurred. And then, you
must stick to your word. Because if you don’t really stay home from
sledding because the long underwear couldn’t go on when you said it
must, then maybe you won’t really follow through on all the promises
of love you have made. The child’s mind is consistent even though it
is not fully conscious. It is better not to threaten a consequence
unless you are one hundred per cent ready to carry it out. Your word
is your word, whether it is spoken as lawgiver, or pledging love
There is no virtue to overdressing. July in southern Arizona is not
the time to insist on the 3-on-top and 2-on-the bottom. The way to
make the decision at any time is to feel the child’s fingers and toes,
rather than to abstractly apply a rule.
Eat protein generously at breakfast. (Breakfast like a king, lunch
like a prince, supper like a pauper, the saying goes — and it can be
changed to the other gender: queen, princess, bag lady.) Protein at
breakfast stabilizes the blood sugar for the whole day. (Lunch protein
cannot do the same job; the window of opportunity is past.) EVERYONE
has better co-ordination, endurance, moods, and ability to learn.
Options: eggs of any sort, cottage cheese blintzes, smoothies with
protein powder (preferably not soy), grilled cheese sandwiches,
cheeseburgers, chicken tenders, fish fillets.
(I had great success with my teenage boys telling them they would not
get a ride to school unless they ate breakfast. We lived 4 blocks from
school. They complained, they ate, I drove. As they got older and were
driving themselves, occasionally, they would wake up so late, they
would eat very little. I would just say ‘do the best you can,’ letting
them know what I think is important, but that I trust them. No rule
can substitute for human judgment, and older kids need some freedom to
vary from house rules and learn from life and how they feel; trust
your instinct and love for them in choosing an approach.)
Machines are either on or off independent of environment usually,
while living beings have rhythms, gentle alternations of activity and
rest, breathing in and breathing out, that are fundamentally tied to
the Sun. Every Waldorf kindergarden teacher works very consciously to
provide focused activity, then free play or outdoors time. In this
way, the
child is carried through the day harmoniously, with the least
exhaustion, the least likelihood of overload or eventual illness. And
the greatest chance for unfolding his/her human potential creatively.
Our physical make-up is tied to the sun’s movement, light and dark.
The biorhythms of enzymes and hormones follow the diurnal (daily light
and dark) rhythm, even if we work night shift. Bigger rhythms of month
and year and lifetime are present, and more being discovered.
If we live in sync with the way our body is designed, we will have the
greatest health. For children, whose task is to grow and to learn,
this means regular waking, rest, and sleeping times, and regular
mealtimes. Like the gradual change of seasons brings gradual change of
light, we need not be rigid, but in general have a few anchors in the
day that are
constant. Most important are bedtime and breakfast time, in my
The hours before midnight are the most restorative. So for an adult,
eight hours sleep beginning at 9 pm is more valuable than eight hours
beginning at midnight. A child needs more sleep, in varying amounts at
different ages, and sometimes differing from one child to the next.
The younger the child, the earlier the bedtime. poem A well-slept
generally will awaken spontaneously and be happy. If the child is very
difficult to arouse or repeatedly grumpy, the bedtime should be nudged
earlier until a better morning experience is seen. In adolescence, the
cycle shifts later, and the average sleep need is nine hours and
fifteen minutes daily. Since high schools often start very early in
morning, a significant stress is unavoidably part of the school week
for adolescents.
Lavender oil as massage, or fragrance on bedclothing, or as warm bath
as part of bedtime ritual, is very helpful for those children who tend
to be alert at bedtime. The bedtime ritual is wonderful to begin with
very young children, as a habit of letting go develops, leading to
sound sleep, and being secure enough to sleep alone. The ritual can
bath, story, tuck-in, prayer, kiss with calm ‘sleep tight. love you.
see you in the morning.’ The young child’s ritualistic approach to
life is hierarchical by nature, with Mommy and Daddy all-powerful in
his/her young eyes. The natural order of the world at this age can
readily include God or Higher Power and Angels or Guardian spirits and
be of value to the child’s sense of order and security in the world.
Later, when the nine-year-change comes, and a child senses deeply his
separateness from his parents, the early images of God and higher
beings protecting and guiding his daily actions and sleep can be
reassuring in facing this first big realization of separateness.
A light supper, with little protein or completely vegetarian, helps
sleep come easily. Remember, we want to wake up with an appetite for
breakfast, the foundation meal of the day’s activities, so it’s best
not to overload at night. Time-honored warm milk is a fine
sleep-inducer. Carbohydrates are sleepy foods, while protein, fat,
salt, and caffeine
tend to wake us up.
Almost all children are born with some tendency to one-sidedness, and
our task as parents is to help them find balance. The rhythm of the
day shows whether it is hard for our youngster to settle down, or hard
to get up and move about, and we can help bring about comfort with
both sides of movement, etc.
Should a child have difficulty waking up in the morning, even after
enough hours of sleep, rosemary lotion in cool water is an
invigorating fragrance and can be applied to the face (forehead, then
cheeks) carefully with a damp cloth to bring alertness. A positive
statement about the day ahead is an important medicine in this
treatment: ‘good morning! what has that robin done outside your window
since yesterday? I have a wonderful breakfast ready for you! rise and
shine! what a wonderful day it is!’
Recognize acute illness as an exercise class for the immune system,
and treat in a non-suppressive way. It is not a sign of immune
breakdown, it is a chance for strengthening. The big three to help the
body do its best in fighting acute illness are: WARMTH, REST, and
CLEANSING. Add a few low potency homeopathic remedies and herbs, and
you can support the body in this important immune work, not simply
suppress symptoms. See
separate writing for detailed treatments. person as medicine
All of these advisories support VEGETATIVE functions, the unconscious
health-giving parts of a human being that are the bank account we draw
on for growth, learning, and later, our work in life. (This vegetative
bank account is also called the etheric forces in anthroposophic
medical terminology. As adults, the strength of our etheric body
manifests as our vitality, our ability to recover, to have energy, or
to endure.) A child’s job is to grow, and to learn things appropriate
to his/her age. With a strong foundation of warmth, nutrition, rest,
rhythm, immune exercise from ordinary acute illness if the body in its
wisdom allows it — the child’s optimal development proceeds, and a
strong physical
foundation is laid for the entire adult life. The vegetative functions
are sometimes characterized by the cow, who is mostly a metabolic
creature, chewing, making milk, sitting and walking and lying down. No
executive tendencies here, nor highly developed sense organs. A
masterful vegetative existence.
The other pole of the human being, opposite the vegetative, is the
CONSCIOUS pole. The parent (or teacher) does this work in the child’s
life, so the child does not have to draw on the bank account of
vegetative forces by making decisions too early. Judgment, analysis,
logic, decision-making are characterized by the far-seeing eagle,
whose highly developed sense capacity is combined with the cunning and
decisive movement of a predator, a majestic lord of the skies.
As parents of young children (1-7 yr old), you are protectors of the
cow-nature, the vegetative foundation, which your child will use
throughout his/her life. As enormous physical growth takes place, the
child uses limbs and explores movement thoroughly. The child is
imitative, copying the way Daddy sits with the newspaper, or insisting
Mommy sit at only her right place at the table, like a learned ritual
the child has mastered. This physical life is accompanied by a mental
connection with images, not reason. Thus the love of bedtime stories,
preferably told, not read, and repeated till every beloved detail is
memorized. Also you find the young child’s questions more
satisfactorily met by a picture than an analytic explanation. Some
questions can even be better avoided, if they are asking for adult
information. But you can always comment ‘What a wonderful mind you
have! You ask such wonderful questions! Let’s get your teddy bear next
to you for nap/lunch.’ The child has made contact, you have responded
lovingly and appropriately.
You see that spark, the flashes of individuality that is waiting to
show itself fully. Your wisdom holds the child’s day steady, rhythmic,
fed and bedded, building the strength of the vegetative side of your
eagle-to-be. It requires trust and patience to let the child unfold in
his/her own time, and not call on adolescent or adult qualities too
early. This time of life can be boring for parents, who have full
adult capacities and thrive on change and excitement, not routine.
Your sacrifice is commendable. Parenting is among the hardest jobs
there are, and each stage of childhood gives parents an opportunity
for a
different form of selflessness.
The heart of childhood is 7-14 yr old, when a respect for worthy
authority is natural, and feeling opens for beauty itself in the world
around. More than vegetative support is required now. The lion’s heart
of courage and strength must be met, with stories of the same, and
exposure to real artistic expression so the beginning of the moral
nature is fed with the beauty and strength it is seeking. This is
often the age of the least illness, and the most harmonious time of
But change comes, and the young Philadelphia lawyer casts a disgusted
glance at the parents who have brought him/her thus far — usually
some time around 8th grade. The eagle’s predatory power is evident. No
more contented baby learning movement and the physical world, nor
sweet-natured heartfelt child growing before your eyes. The intellect
is unfolding, and the first object of critical analysis is often the
parents. It’s good timing that powers of judgment and analysis begin
to unfold just as puberty begins. Let the intellect’s sharp powers
master the hormones that rage. From 14-21, the individuality is more
pronounced, decision making should be shared and guided in preparation
for independence. Privacy is important. Learning results of choices,
such as wise consequences in the home, helps put control of behavior
inside the individual.
The wise ‘governance’ of a child goes in stages somewhat like human
history has evolved. The young child is benefited by a benign despot,
the loving parental authority; in the middle years, the child natively
respects authority, but has a developing sense of contributing his/her
wants and needs though not ready for independent decision making;
democracy is built into the adolescent, and the parent gives the
structure of what is or isn’t tolerated by virtue of a structure of
The stages of development are given at their usual ages, but there
will be early hints of what is to come and echoes of prior times
varying with each individual. Behaviors I described may be different
due to the family dynamic, or the particular learning path the
individual child carries as part of his/her destiny, or our culture.
The culture we live in pushes adult information into even the very
young child’s life — computers and IQ testing are part of some
preschool programs. Adult decisions are often part of the oldest or
the only child’s daily diet of conversation. Sexualized clothing and
media surround children of every age, and give parents a challenge to
minimize this early maturation influence. Early intellectualizing and
early sexual information pulls the young child out of the vegetative
physical mode that is home for him or her, and spends the child’s
etheric forces on coping and understanding rather than physical
As nuclear families rear children alone in today’s culture,
grandmothers are hard to come by. The pediatrician and family doctor
assume the role that aunts and grandmothers had in helping with
illness and childrearing. But the swap medicalizes common events, and
we take a further step down the pharmaceutical-answer-for-everything
I hope this work can reawaken faith in the capacity of the human body,
enlarged with the scientific understanding that shows why this faith
is reasonable, reconnect us with the healing gifts of nature as they
are enhanced with human insight and become remedies,
and show through the caring for our children, the presence and power
of the human spirit.
Mary Kelley Sutton