“Breastfeeding the Right-Brained Way”

This is a great article circulating some of the breastfeeding forums I am on, and I wanted to share it with you.  Many thanks to my friend Anna for sharing it with me!


Breastfeeding the Right-Brained Way
By Kathleen Kendall-Tackett (PhD, IBCLC) & Nancy Mohrbacher (IBCLC),
co-authors of Breastfeeding Made Simple

In modern Western cultures, mothers have more information about
breastfeeding than any time in human history. Unfortunately, most of this is
information for the left side of the brain, which is fine for lots of tasks.
But too much left-brained information can make you anxious about



Breastfeeding is a right-brained activity. What do we mean by that? Think of
left-brained instructions as head knowledge. Right-brained learning yields
heart or body knowledge. To illustrate the difference, think about riding a
bike. Did you learn by reading about it? Talking a class? Talking to other
people about it? Or did you learn by just getting on a bike and doing it?

The Right-Brained Dance of Breastfeeding
Mothers and babies have physiological responses that draw them to each
other, that encourage them to look at each other, touch each other, and
interact. Much of this behavior is guided by the right side of the brain.
This is the side that has to do with affect or emotion.

A problem with the heavily left-brained, instructionally-oriented way that
many mothers learn to breastfeed is that it doesn’t allow mother and baby to
take advantage of their natural responses. So much breastfeeding education
focuses on all the things mother must to do get the baby to breastfeed,
which ignores the baby’s role. That type of instruction can be helpful to
solve a particular problem, but it can be a definite drawback when one
technique or strategy is applied to all mothers. It also discourages mothers
and babies from using their hardwiring.

Worse still, this kind of education can encourage them to tune out their
natural responses or to violate their instincts. It can be upsetting for all
who are involved, sometimes creating a crisis where none existed before.
Another problem with highly instructionalized left-brained approaches is
that they can leave some mothers feeling incompetent because it feels as if
there are 10,000 things they need to remember.

A different way to think about this is to consider how mothers throughout
human history managed to breastfeed without all of the information we have
now. When breastfeeding was the norm, girls learned about breastfeeding as
they were growing up by seeing women actually doing it. Dr. Peter Hartmann,
a well-known breastfeeding researcher, makes this point well. He asked a
young Australian Aboriginal mothers, “When did you learn about
breastfeeding?” She answered, “I have always known how to breastfeed.”

How exactly do you use a right-brained approach to breastfeed your baby?
First, take some deep breaths and let go of those worries about doing things
“wrong.” Instead of thinking of breastfeeding as a skill you need to master,
or a measure of your worth as a mother, think about breastfeeding as
primarily a relationship. As you spend time with your baby, you’ll be more
adept at reading her cues. As you hold her, your baby will be more
comfortable seeking your breast. Breastfeeding will flow naturally out of
your affectionate relationship.

Based on her extensive clinical experience with mothers and babies,
pediatrician and board-certified lactation consultant Dr. Christina Smillie
has developed some strategies that can help you help your baby. Here are
some specific things you can do:
* Start with a calm, alert baby- One mistake that many women make is to wait to try breastfeeding until their babies are either sound asleep or
screaming. Think about yourself. Do you learn best when you are asleep or
upset? Probably not. The other reason to start with a calm baby has to do
with physics. When a baby is screaming, her tongue is on the roof of her
mouth. You will never get your breast in her mouth when her tongue is like
* Watch for early feeding cues- These cues include turning her head when
someone touches her cheek and hand-to-mouth. Take note of when she starts
smacking her lips or putting her hands to her mouth. This is an ideal time
to try breastfeeding.
* Use your body to calm your baby- One way to calm a crying baby is by
placing your baby skin to skin vertically between your breasts. Your chest
is a very calming place for your baby. Try talking and making eye contact.
All of these activities can get her to calm down, allowing your baby to seek
the breast on her own.
* Follow your baby’s lead- When a calm, alert baby is held vertically
between her mother’s breasts, often she will begin showing instinctive
breast-seeking behaviors, bobbing her head and moving it from side to side.
Once your baby starts these behaviors, help her in her efforts. Following
your baby’s lead, support her head and shoulders. Move her rump toward your
opposite breast. Encourage her explorations with your voice.
* Play while you learn to breastfeed- Play is something that is largely
absent from the mothers we see. It all seems so serious and they are
terrified of doing something wrong. If you are feeling frustrated, we’d like
to encourage you to look at this another way. Focus on your relationship
with your baby and consider breastfeeding as a part of the larger whole.
Breastfeeding will flow naturally out of your affectionate relationship.
In summary, if your baby is healthy, she is wired to know how to breastfeed.
It all doesn’t depend on you getting everything right. Relax and just focus
on getting to know your baby. The rest will follow.

Breastfeeding Made Simple is an awesome book, and I encourage you to search out the other books written by these two women.  Kathleen Kendall-Tackett in particular has done a lot of work with postpartum depression, depression and other less than positive feelings dealing with motherhood.  The works of these two wise women are well worth checking out!



Starting Solids With Your Infant and Picky Toddler Eating

This post is for all mothers who wonder about infant and toddler feeding and what is “normal”.  Remember, human milk is the primary source of your infant’s nutrition throughout the first year and solids is mainly a sensory (read teaspoons to tablespoons) kind of experience.  In our society we act as if infants should be putting away jars upon jars of baby food a day!  This is not how the human digestive system was designed!

Early Solids WILL NOT help your baby sleep through the night, make your baby less fussy, make your baby grow up later or develop earlier or provide better nutrition than breast milk!

Normal Course of Appetite (Ames) up to age 6:

  • Usually infant doubles birth weight by the time they start solids
  • Usually the birth weight is tripled by the end of the first year
  • Cup feeding may be started in middle of first year
  • At 12 to 15 months, the gross motor drive is strong – may be difficult to sit and eat a meal, may want to stand in highchair if family using one
  • After 12 months, toddler may go through phase of not being interested in cup
  • 15 to 18 months toddler very interested in self-feeding
  • May throw food
  • 21 month old may have definite preferences, such as a certain bib, a certain spoon, a certain dish – but may not have the words to express it! Easily distractible
  • 24 months – preferences are high, may be related to taste, form, consistency, color – Think small helpings, teaspoon sized! Ritual demand of eating the same things reaches its height at 2 ½. Food jags prevalent.
  • 3 years old – Eating better, appetite fluctuates less, the child has become a good chewer . On the downside, may dawdle if eats with whole family.
  • May prefer raw vegetables, desserts, may accept green vegetables.
  • 4 years old – Chief problems are talks too much, usually has to interrupt meal to go to bathroom, has much trouble sitting still
  • 4 ½ to 5 – A distinct rise in appetite, can listen as well as talk at the dinner table, may use a knife for spreading but not for cutting
  • 6 years – Perpetual activity! Cannot sit still, wiggles in chair, eats with finger, talks with mouth full, cannot finish meal. Preferences and refusals very strong.

Signs of Developmental Readiness to Start Solids as per La Leche League:

  • Usually middle of first year
  • Your baby has at least doubled his/her birth weight or weighs at least 14 pounds
  • Your baby can sit up with support
  • Your baby has control of his/her head and neck
  • Your baby has the ability to transfer food from the front of the mouth to the back of the mouth (tongue-thrust reflex has disappeared)
  • Your baby may have a tooth or two
  • Your baby is capable of refusing food
  • Your baby likes to imitate people and showing distinct interest in food, not just the silverware
  • Your baby can reach and handle food, toys, objects
  • Your baby has increased saliva production necessary for digestion
  • Your baby is not ill and has no rashes


  • Different cultures start with different first foods – you may want to think specifically about foods that provide decent mineral quality for supplemental foods.
  • La Leche League typically says to start with banana, pears, applesauce (make your own), cooked carrots, sweet potatoes and winter squash, avocados.  Some cultures start with meat as a first food!
  • Use your own clean finger as the first spoon
  • Offer new foods in the morning  in case of allergic reaction


One book you may consider on this topic is the classic “Feeding the Whole Family:  Recipes for Babies, Young Children, and Their Parents” by Cynthia Lair.  It takes recipes the whole family can eat, and suggests how to take all or parts of the recipe to make food your infant can eat as well.  All recipes are centered on fresh, whole foods ingredients.

Top Asked Questions Regarding Sources of:

Iron (per Dr. Sears Family Nutrition Book)

Beef (4 ounces) 3.5 mg

Ground beef (4 ounces) 2.5 mg

Lamb (4 ounces) 2.5 mg

Turkey, dark meat (4 ounces) 2.5 mg

Beans (1/2 cup) 2.0 mg


Best Plant Food Sources of Iron (per Dr. Sears Family Nutrition Book):

Tofu (1/3 cup) – 7 mg

Iron-fortified cereals (1 ounce) 4-8 mg

Cream of Wheat (1/2 cup cooked) – 5 mg

Lentils (1/2 cup cooked) – 3 mg

Prune Juice (8 oz) – 3 mg

Dried Peaches – 3.1 mg for 6 halves

Pumpkin Seeds, 1 ounce – 4.0 mg

Signs of Anemia (Iron-Deficiency Anemia): paleness, weakness, fatigue, shortness of breath, irritability, difficulty concentrating, increased susceptibility to infection, intolerance of cold temperatures, constipation, brittle nails

Zinc (per Dr. Sears Family Nutrition Book)

Top Zinc Veggies:

Tofu (1/2 cup) – 2.00 mg

Artichoke – 1.47 mg

Chickpeas (1/2 cup canned) – 1.25 mg

Beans (kidney, lima, ½ cup) -0.75 mg

Dr. Sears writes in his book that many children with ADHD have lower levels of zinc and essential fatty acids; this may be worth looking into if your child has that challenge! 

Tips for Picky Toddler Eaters


Serve food attractively, give small helpings, serve food without comment, do not stress amount of food to be eaten, be aware some food refusals may indicate an allergic reaction to that food, try to maintain a calm and unworried attitude toward your child’s eating, do not stress table manners with young children, allow finger-feeding until child has become proficient at eating and is interested in food.


1. Offer a nibble tray – put out a muffin tin and put a little food in each tray (apple moons, avocado boats, banana, broccoli trees, carrots, cheese cubes, hard boiled egg, little o shaped cereal)

2. Offer dip – made from cottage cheese, tofu, yogurt

3. Try smoothies

4. Serve it attractively

5. Respect that a child’s stomach is about the size of their fist

6. Let the kids eat at a child sized table where their feet can touch the ground

7. Let the kids cook or help prepare food

Food Allergies per La Leche League:

Top foods to cause allergic reactions: beans, berries, cabbage, chocolate, cinnamon, citrus fruits and juices, coconut, corn, cow’s milk, eggs, nuts (especially peanuts – and peanut allergy is a type of allergy that children do NOT outgrow as they age), onions, pork, shellfish, tomatoes, wheat.

Typically tolerated foods include:

Fruit – apples, apricots, bananas, peaches, pears, plums

Vegetable – asparagus, beets, carrots, squash, sweet potatoes

Rice and grains such as oats, barley, millet

Common Signs of Food Allergies: (Dr. Sears)

Skin – Hives, Red Sandpaper-Like Facial Rash, Dry/Itchy/Scaly Skin on face, Swelling in Hands and Feet, Puffy Eyelids, Dark Circles Under Eyes, Lip Swelling, Tongue Soreness and Cracks

Respiratory – Sneezing, Runny Nose, Stuffy Nose, Wheezing, Watery Eyes, Rattling Chest, Persistent Cough, Congestion, Bronchitis, Recurring Ear Infections

Intestines- Burnlike Rash Around Anus, Abdominal Discomfort, Mucusy Diarrhea, Constipation, Intestinal Bleeding, Poor Weight Gain, Bloating/Gassiness, Excessive Spitting Up, Vomiting

Behavior – Fatigue, Migraine Headaches, Hyperactivity, Crying, Irritability, Night Waking, Anxiety, Crankiness, Sore Muscles and Joints

The scoop on juice: (La Leche League)

For ages six to twelve months, no more than four ounces of juice a day (That’s half a cup!)

For toddlers and preschoolers, no more than six ounces a day (3/4 of a cup)

For school age children, no more than eight ounces (1 cup of juice a day)

Water, water, water!

Please do see the post on this blog regarding WHY fresh juice made by YOU is much better than the pasteurized stuff from the store!!  Here is the link:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2008/11/18/give-us-our-daily-juice/

You may also be interested in this post regarding Steiner’s grain of the day from a Waldorf perspective: 


A neat solution for grain rotation for the health of your family should you choose to eat grains!  According to Dr. Sears, the grains highest in iron are quinoa, amaranth, oats, enriched rice, millet and barley.  The grains highest in zinc per Dr. Sears are wild rice, rye, amaranth, oats and quinoa.  Tops for folic acid are millet, wild rice, rye, amaranth and oats.

Happy infant and toddler feeding,


Childbirth in “Consumer Reports”

This came across another list I am on, and it is so important that I wanted to share it with you all.  Please pass the permalink for this post on to any expectant families you know.

Article in “Consumer Reports” about Childbirth


Back to basics for safer childbirth

Too many doctors and hospitals are overusing high-tech procedures

Noninvasive measures can mean better outcomes for baby and Mom.

When it’s time to bring a new baby into the world, there’s a lot to be said for letting nature take the lead. The normal, hormone-driven changes in the body that naturally occur during delivery can optimize infant health and encourage the easy establishment and continuation of breastfeeding and mother-baby attachment. Childbirth without technical intervention can succeed in leading to a good outcome for mother and child, according to a new report. (Take our maternity-care quiz to test your knowledge:  “Evidence-Based Maternity Care: What It Is and What It Can Achieve”).

Co-authors Carol Sakala and Maureen P. Corry of the nonprofit Childbirth Connection analyzed hundreds of the most recent studies and systematic reviews of maternity care. The 70-page report was issued collaboratively by Childbirth Connection, the Reforming States Group (a voluntary association of state-level health policymakers), and Milbank Memorial Fund, and released on Oct. 8, 2008.


The report found that, in the U.S., too many healthy women with low- risk pregnancies are being routinely subjected to high-tech or invasive interventions that should be reserved for higher-risk pregnancies. Such measures include:

• Inducing labor. The percentage of women whose labor was induced more than doubled between 1990 and 2005

• Use of epidural painkillers, which might cause adverse effects, including rapid fetal heart rate and poor performance on newborn assessment tests

• Delivery by Caesarean section, which is estimated to account for one-third of all U.S births in 2008, which far exceed the World Health Organization’s recommended national rate of 5 to 10 percent

• Electronic fetal monitoring, unnecessarily adding to delivery costs

• Rupturing membranes (“breaking the waters”), intending to hasten onset of labor

• Episiotomy, which is often unnecessary. 

In fact, the current style of maternity care is so procedure-intensive that 6 of the 15 most common hospital procedures used in the entire U.S. are related to childbirth. Although most childbearing women in this country are healthy and at low risk for childbirth complications, national surveys reveal that essentially all women who give birth in U.S. hospitals have high rates of use of complex interventions, with risks of adverse effects.

The reasons for this overuse might have more to do with profit and liability issues than with optimal care, the report points out.

Hospitals and care providers can increase their insurance reimbursements by administering costly high-tech interventions rather than just watching, waiting, and shepherding the natural process of childbirth.

Convenience for health care workers and patients might be another factor. Naturally occurring labor is not limited to typical working hours. Evidence also shows that a disproportionate amount of tech- driven interventions like Caesarean sections occur during weekday “business hours,” rather than at night, on weekends, or on holidays.


Many practices that have been proven effective and do little to no harm are underused in today’s maternity care for healthy low-risk women. They include:

• Prenatal vitamins

• Use of midwife or family physician

• Continuous presence of a companion for the mother during labor

• Upright and side-lying positions during labor and delivery, which are associated with less severe pain than lying down on one’s back

• Vaginal birth (VBAC) for most women who have had a previous Caesarean section

• Early mother-baby skin-to-skin contact.

The study suggests that those and other low-cost, beneficial practices are not routinely practiced for several reasons, including limited scope for economic gain, lack of national standards to measure providers’ performance, and a medical tradition that doesn’t prioritize the measurement of adverse effects, or take them into account.

Please go to the link to access the article, and please pass this information.  Let’s change the climate of childbirth in this country!

Thanks to you all,


When Babies Cry and What We Can All Learn From the High-Needs Baby and Child

[This is a post written from an attachment parenting perspective but of course a little of my Waldorf-inspired thinking snuck in at the end!]


From THE WOMANLY ART OF BREASTFEEDING, published by La Leche League International:

“Your baby’s cry is meant to be disturbing, for it is his most important means of communication. Only by crying can he let you know that he needs you to help him – to come to his rescue.”

From Our Babies, Ourselves by Meredith Small:

“The biological function of crying is to signal, and as in any signal, it has import only if it affects the recipient.”

“As most parents know, crying is not just a signal of hunger. Even in newborns, it communicates much more- the need for touch seems to be especially important; and clearly a crying baby is announcing its internal state and calling for some sort of change.”

“Crying evolved to serve the infant’s purposes: to assure protection, adequate feeding, and nurturing for an organism that cannot care for itself.:


From Our Babies, Ourselves:

“The average Western infant cries twenty-two minutes per day in the first three weeks of life and thirty-four minutes per day until the end of the second month, when crying gradually decreases to fourteen minutes per day by twelve weeks.”

“Even to the casual visitor in less developed nations, it becomes apparent that babies in non-Western cultures rarely cry; I have never heard an African baby or a Balinese baby cry during my many trips to both those sides of the world. And this casual observation has been confirmed by ethnopediatric research.”

“But there is, in fact, no such thing as a fake cry. The baby is crying for engagement of some sort-for personal interaction and social contact, or because it is bored. Babies also laugh during the first month of life, which spectrographically looks more like a cry than a chuckle and is probably related to conflicting emotions or rapid shifts in state.”


The first few days after a birth, a baby may be upset at the breast when..

Their suck is weak and they are not drawing much volume of milk

Their tummy is full of mucus from delivery.

They are experiencing difficulty with latching on.

If they are not going to the breast often enough, and showing very late signs of hunger, they may be too upset to latch.

Once the milk comes in, a baby may be upset at the breast when..

The breast is very engorged and difficult to latch-on to.

Mother has a forceful let-down or over supply that the baby is not used to.

Once breastfeeding is established, a baby may…

Have a regular fussy period, often late in the afternoon, that occurs predictably day after day.

May be fussier during growth spurts – two weeks, six weeks, three months.


  • If a baby has long periods of hard crying and seems to be in some sort of physical discomfort for which there is no apparent reason that you or your doctor can discover, he is often said to be colicky.
  • Colic = crying at least three hours a day, three days per week, for three weeks
  • -look at keeping baby on one breast only during a two to three hour period if you believe this is an issue related to foremilk/hindmilk imbalance
  • -look at vitamins, food supplements such as brewer’s yeast, large amounts of caffeine or foods or drinks with artificial sweeteners, maternal history of cigarette smoking, or a certain food (or foods containing milk- potentially allergenic beta-lactoglobulin ) in the mother’s diet that can be making baby more uncomfortable.
  • Rule out Gastro-Esophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) -See www.pager.org for more information regarding GERD.

A Very Few of the Many Possible Signs and Symptoms of Reflux:

  • Frequent bouts of painful crying
  • Frequent episodes of spitting up
  • Nasal regurgitation
  • Painful bursts of night waking
  • Inconsolable bouts of abdominal pain
  • Again, see www.pager.org for more details or discuss with your pediatrician.



“When a baby cries, a nursing mother’s immediate instinctive response is to offer her breast. Whether it’s been ten minutes or two hours since baby was fed, a few minutes of sucking may be all he needs to settle down.”

From Our Babies, Ourselves:

“What seems to work best is simple human contact. Peter Wolff long ago demonstrated that picking up a baby works better than anything else to stop any baby from crying.”

Also you can look at:

  • -too warm
  • -too cold
  • -something he is wearing is causing the problem – try removing all of his clothes
  • -look the baby over carefully to make sure nothing is irritating the skin
  • -if he seems too warm, try leaving him in just a shirt and diaper
  • -if the room is too chilly, try wrapping him in a soft blanket
  • -some babies feel more secure if they are wrapped up snugly, or swaddled
  • -once he is calm, offer the breast again. This time he may just nurse off to sleep
  • -If he has downed so much milk he repeatedly spits it up, and still he cries…Try holding him against your shoulder and “baby waltz”
  • -try baby in baby carrier or sling and vacuum
  • -try a drive in the car
  • - a walk outdoors
  • -a warm bath may soothe you both
  • -rocking chair
  • -some babies cry because they are overtired but they are not happy being held as they fall asleep. Try laying your baby down and talk or sing to him softly as you pat him gently.

-“Babies are sometimes fretful for reasons that no one, not even a mother, can understand. If you can’t calm your baby right away, try not to let it upset you. Your baby will always benefit from a calm, loving mother. In handling any tiny baby, you have to move slowly and gently.” from THE WOMANLY ART OF BREASTFEEDING.

“SOME PARENTS ARE BLESSED WITH BABIES WHO ARE NOT SO EASY…” from Dr. William Sears. These babies are otherwise known as the….


Features of High-Need Babies: (As listed in Dr. Sears’ The Baby Book).

“Supersensitive” – acutely aware of environment, easily bothered by changes in environment, startle easily during day and settle poorly at night, do not readily accept alternative caregivers

“I just can’t put him down” In-arms, at-breast babies

“Not a self-soother”


“Wants to nurse all the time”

“Awakens frequently”

“Unsatisfied, unpredictable”

“Hyperactive, hypertonic”




Interestingly enough, Meredith Small, author of Our Babies, Ourselves,  points out that in other cultures :…”it is assumed that personality does not form until much later in life- until the child can talk and hold a conversation, or be trained. Babies in these cultures are viewed as blank slates, personality-less beings in the process of further development. But in other cultures, especially America, many believe each person has an inborn basic nature, one that might be molded or influenced, but which is essentially persistent through time….Although people are born not as blank slates but with a certain brain chemistry and genetic complement, it is the experience of life that molds this particular personality trait or behavior is purely genetic or purely learned – everything is a mixture of both.”  [Carrie’s note: Just a thought to ponder!].

EASY BABIES: are ones that are rhythmic in their bodily functions, adaptable to new situations, mild in their responses, and mostly in a good mood.

“DIFFICULT” (Meredith Small’s word, not mine!) BABIES: irregular, slow to adapt, intensely responsive to all stimuli and generally negative in attitude.

“…the mother’s awareness becomes an intimate part of the baby’s environment, and thus an influence on the infant’s developing personality.”

Ways to Try Soothing the Fussy Baby:

-rhythmic motion

-close and frequent physical contact

-soothing sounds

-feeding baby frequently

-responding promptly to baby’s cries

-wearing your baby

In “Raising Your Spirited Child” (Carrie’s note:  This book should be required reading for all mothers and fathers, for all types of children, not just the “so-called “Spirited Ones”), Mary Sheedy Kurcinka identifies the following characteristics:








First Reaction


She talks about ‘redesigning the labels’ .  I agree with this and feel strongly you should guard your thoughts and that you should guard your words around your “high needs” child! Over the years I have spoken with so many mothers who identified their child’s traits in rather negative terms with the child right there!  Please do not send this type of labeling and energy to your child!  They understand exactly what you are saying about them!

Soothing/Calming Activities for Older Spirited Children from the wonderful book “Raising Your Spirited Child” :



Sensory Activities




I must add here, however, that so many of Rudolf Steiner’s ideas and thoughts are applicable to the high-needs child.  The whole idea of not drawing consciousness to the child’s individuality I believe is extremely important for a high-needs child who may feel singled out by his or her parents even at an early age.  Steiner’s notion of  a parent and teacher guarding your thought and speech around a child is also paramount for this child.  The idea of establishing rhythm can also be so helpful and necessary for a high-needs child who by their very nature is irregular and therefore cannot do this themselves.  Perhaps this is another post in its entirety.

Just a few thoughts from my little corner of the world.


The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, published by La Leche League International

The Baby Book by Dr. William Sears

Our Babies, Ourselves by Meredith Small

Raising Your Spirited Child by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka

Living With the Active, Alert Child by Linda Budd

The Gesell Institute books by Louise Bates Ames, PhD and Frances L Ilg

Just Some Random Thoughts About Newborns

A newborn baby is already a person.

New mothers need special care.

All your energy goes to the new baby at first.

Your baby needs your help when she cries.

Your baby needs you close by day.

Your baby needs you close by night.

You really do have intuition.

Things will never be “normal” again.

You can get the baby’s father involved.

Some babies are more challenging than others.

Continuing to breastfeed is worth the effort.

You are the expert on your baby.

You need people to lean on.

How you mother your baby does make a difference!!

Getting Children Into Their Bodies – Part One: Birth to Age 2 and a Half

Steiner looked at the stages of childhood development through seven year cycles.  He further divided the first seven year cycle into three parts consisting of the ages birth through age two and a half, two and  half through age five, and age five to age seven.

Steiner writes about this importance in this passage from “Soul Economy” -(my note: for those of you not familiar with “Steiner – speak”, the ether body refers to the body that maintains your life functions.  It is not visible and is not composed of matter but more encompasses life processes within the body.  When the ether body dies, the result is that the physical body dies as well):

“What children learn during this first two-and-a-half-year period is extremely important for their whole life.  They do so through an incoming activity and from what they have brought with them from prenatal existence.  Just consider how children learn to speak and walk during this first short period.  These are two human faculties that are closely connected with maintaining self-confidence, both from a personal and a social point of view.  These two important faculties are being developed while the ether body is still engaged in shaping the brain and radiating into the rest of the organism.”

One of the principal thoughts for the Early Years from a Waldorf Perspective is that small children under the age of 7 should be in their bodies.  We want to do this not through head oriented commands in the home environment or  the head-oriented verbal commands of organized sports, but through movement couched in fantasy or shown and demonstrated through imitation.

So, without further ado, here are some suggestions. Please take what resonates with you and your family.  The suggestions in this post are certainly not meant as medical advice or meant to substitute for individualized plans formed by you in conjunction with your baby’s doctor or therapist if your baby has developmental challenges.  This post applies to those families with infants who are developing normally, whom do not have medical problems and who were not born prematurely.  For further information regarding a Waldorf approach to children with special needs, please investigate Camphill through this link:  http://www.camphill.org/

For Newborn Babies:  This is not so much about getting your baby into its body, but protecting the baby’s body and the baby’s senses.  Lois Cusick, in her lovely book “The Waldorf Parenting Handbook” ( a great read) says this of the child within the first three years:  “Parents need to defend their helpless child from an over-stimulating environment, from too many sense perceptions.  Their role is to supply a protecting, nourishing nest to replace the safe peace and quiet of the womb.  Quiet, warmth and nourishing mother’s milk are what babies need most when they first enter earth life.”

  • As much as you can, create a calm feeling in your home.   Steiner regarded the first seven year cycle as a time when the child is almost akin to an eye – visual memory dominates.   There are many posts within this blog regarding the creation of rhythm in the home, how to do inner work, and  common marriage and parenting challenges.  Read those and see if they spark any ideas in you!
  • One thing to think about is the baby’s sense of warmth, and while not overdressing the baby, making sure the baby is warm and swaddled if not in your arms or on your body.  Generally, babies under a year should wear hats as well.  Swaddle your baby with the baby’s arms by its mouth to add to further protection of the senses.
  • I know it is not always possible, especially if one has older children, but see if you can avoid taking your newborn to busy supermarkets and stores during the first six weeks.  Try to do without the television and all the blaring noise these boxes provide – I am always amazed when I go into a hospital room to check on a newborn and the whole family is enthralled and listening to some kind of noisy, action-packed show with the newborn baby right there!  It floors me!!  These early weeks deserve to be beautiful with beautiful sounds as well.  So instead of the noisy hustle and bustle of life, try to provide your beautiful baby with soft lullabies and your loving, clear, speech.   Steiner was very clear about no “baby-talk” to a small child, but loving, complex speech with all of its shining words and meanings.  If you can play a lyre or flute, that is lovely as well.
  • Joan Salter writes in her book “The Incarnating Child”, “An upright sling is a real help for a baby with colic, for the warmth of Mother’s or Dad’s body and the vertical position is often the only means of comfort.  But the child does not need to be constantly carried, and in fact, if we observe the child we will see that the natural position for the baby in the first six weeks is the horizontal.”  I do see the wisdom in this statement, the part about the infant’s natural position being horizontal – infants being breastfed certainly spend a lot of time horizontal!    Horizontal, however, by its very nature, does not always mean the baby is on its back.  Breastfeeding usually occurs with the infant in side-lying, and reaching in side-lying is one of the first ways infants often are able to try to reach for an object as gravity is eliminated in this position.  Horizontal can also mean tummy-time.   One way a  young baby can gain the concept of “tummy time” that is so heavily promoted these days (for good reason with the Back to Sleep campaign),  is through laying the baby across mom’s lap for burping or when awake.
  • Your body is the baby’s natural habitat.  Study after study has shown the nervous system of an infant to be regulated by the adult’s body, so please do hold your baby skin to skin!  So, perhaps I disagree a bit with Joan Salter ‘s statement above that babies do not need to be constantly carried in this way:  while I do think it is okay to put your baby down, most babies who are breastfeeding are getting a lot of times in arms with mother  in a horizontal position as they nurse (and this, to me, is nature’s plan!).   If you are feeding your baby with love by another method, please do include a lot of skin to skin time with your baby.  If you are breastfeeding, please quit trying to feed your baby through a tiny triangular-shaped hole of a nursing shirt and nursing bra, and get your baby skin to skin!
  • Things to watch for your baby to do within the first six weeks: see how your infant attains a calm, but alert state; visual fixation on you; visual tracking; auditory orientation (turning to sounds out of visual range); and typical  newborn reflexes.   Newborn development begins with the mouth and the eyes, so pay special attention to these two sense organs.

For Babies Who Are Not Yet Crawling  (About Six Weeks to Six or Seven Months):

  • Yes, I am going to keep saying this in every section:  Make your home the most peaceful place to be that you can.  In “The Incarnating Child” by Joan Salter, she quotes Willi Aeppli from the book The Care and Development of the Human Senses saying, “The power of thinking and of judgment which is not yet in existence cannot form a protective dam against the storming in of sense impressions.  Consequently the child is exposed with his whole body to these impressions in quite a different way, in a far more direct way than at a later age.  All sense-perceptions go deeply into the organism and leave their impressions there…”  The young infant and child needs to be surrounded with perceptions that are good, warm, kind, joyful.
  • Your baby is now physically developing from the head down toward the feet, so pay special attention to these areas, as well as the development  of  hand-eye coordination and reaching.
  • Singing and fingerplays (and toeplays!) are so important!  Talk to your baby without baby talk, but do provide a language-rich environment through singing and verses.
  • When your baby is awake provide lots of time to wiggle and move those arms and legs.
  • Do let your child nap outside if your climate and weather is suitable for that; it is a wonderful way to get your baby connected with nature.  Sit outside with your baby and other children and breathe in with all your senses.   Joan Salter writes in “The Incarnating Child”:  “A well-loved garden is much more than merely a collection of plants.  It has an atmosphere that speaks to the child, and often a restless baby will be calmed by being out of doors in such a place.  To sleep in the garden for an hour or so, or just be there watching and listening, absorbing what Wise Mother Nature has to offer, is a helpful and healthy experience for a child from about two months of age onward.”
  • Much has been written on the subject of sleep, but hopefully during this time you are moving toward more rhythmical nap patterns and bedtime patterns; it is very important that you work toward this with your baby.  If you have a high-needs baby, who by their very nature seems to be irregular and without rhythm, it is even more important that you help them work towards what they cannot do themselves.
  • As an infant moves toward crawling, a parents must be very  patient and also have a rather well-baby-proofed house!

For Babies Who Are Crawling, Pulling to Stand and Learning to Walk (About Six or Seven Months to One Year of Age):

  • Make your home the most peaceful, happy place it can be.
  • Work toward a rhythm of breastfeeding, eating, play, sleeping.  Not a fixed, rigid schedule, but a rhythm.
  • Keep the quality of warmth in mind – babies under the age of one need to wear warm clothes, hats on their bald heads!
  • Joan Salter writes in her book “The Incarnating Child”:  “After about six months of age, other senses start to become more dominant.  The child begins to take in the world more strongly through the eyes and ears….This brings us to the immense importance of visual and auditory sense impressions”  Be a wonderful source of right thoughts, right speech and right action for your child to see and imitate.
  • Get into the habit of starting to use songs and verse for transition times within your day; this will become valuable for toddlerhood.
  • Infants learning to walk need times to practice their sense of balance safely; infant walkers or baby bouncers that hang in the doorway are not appropriate developmental tools for this population. If your child is a normal, healthy developing child, they may not need your coaxing or helping or forcing.  They do need practice and imitation.
  • Once the child is able to walk, he or she may have soft knitted animals or wooden animals as per Joan Salter’s “The Incarnating Child”, page 96.
  • Stranger anxiety may occur during this time period, it is common, and not a sign anything is amiss.

For Toddlers (About a Year or a Year and A Half to Two and A Half Years of Age):

  • Once a child can walk and keep his or her balance, the arms and hands are freed.  Bronja Zahlingen comments in the article, “Movement, Gesture and Language in the Life of the Young Child”:  “This is truly unique to the human being, for the animal, still bound to its physical organization, must utilize its front limbs entirely to serve its body – they must carry and nourish it.  We human beings can perform many different kinds of work. We can work with our hands as artists, we can wave and threaten, give and take, pray and bless.”
  • Gesture and the use of gesture precedes talking from a Waldorf perspective.  This also makes sense from a therapy perspective, since therapists know one must have sufficient muscle tone and muscle control in order to produce speech sounds and a good quality of speech.  Learning to talk is a major part of this time period.  Rahima Baldwin Dancy states in her book “You Are Your Child’s First Teacher:  What Parents Can Do With and For Their Children from Birth Until Age Six”:  “But around a year and a half, children’s language abilities explode, so that most start acquiring new words at the phenomenal rate of one every two hours.  By their second birthdays, most children have mastered 1,000 to 2,000 words and have started stringing two words together.”  Clearly, receptive language ability is developed long before expressive ability.    Steiner viewed mastery of a native tongue as a prerequisite to thinking – we think because we have language.  Whole sentences may appear between ages two and three, according to “You Are Your Child’s First Teacher.”
  • Human speech is looked upon as having three parts by anthroposophists: saying (a one word sentence); naming (dog, cookie); and finally talking (which begins a me-you kind of dialogue with others).  Watch your child for these words and speech development.
  • For speech development, it is so important you talk to your child through song, verses, telling stories of simple sentences that you make up.  Some mothers become great talkers to their children, but then have difficulty slowing this down later on.  Think about what you are actually saying to your child before you just prattle on and on!
  • Early in this year, the child may be ready for a very simple doll of unfinished features.  The doll should be soft to cuddle.  Joan Salter writes in “The Incarnating Child”: “As the child grows, the doll will become a friend to be talked to, told secrets, taken for outings and so on.  It is a first step in developing later relationships.”

For Children of All Ages-

Most of all, protect your small child from overstimulation.

Look at the visual things of beauty in the home, and how your own face is the most beautiful toy to a baby.

Think about the sense of touch and to bring different safe tactile experiences to your small child.

Think about how to bring lovely speech, songs and verses into your home.

Think about pets, gardening experiences and how to get outside in nature.

Give your child lots of chances to practice wiggling their limbs, moving to sit, manipulating objects with their hands,  crawling, balancing while walking on an even surface first and then uneven surfaces.

Let your child work with pouring water, playing with sand and dirt (supervise carefully that they don’t eat all the sand and dirt, of course).

These are just a few thoughts from a Waldorf perspective regarding childhood development and what you should be doing with your child to develop these things.

Verses and Songs Throughout the Day

Many Waldorf mothers lament that while they know they should not use head-oriented commands with small children under the age of seven, they just are not sure how to get through the day without doing this.  One way to think about this is how you could use songs and verses throughout your day for transition points.  For example, instead of announcing all day long, “Now, little Jimmy, we are going to do XYZ”, you have a wonderful song or melody to do this that accompanies YOU starting to DO the physical activity.  (Having small children is not to be directed from the sofa!!)  Once you use the same song or verse for the same activity over and over, the child recognizes what goes with what melody. 

I kept track the other day, and here are some of the ones I use with my family that we enjoy, and maybe this will give you some ideas for your own family!  You will find the songs and verses that work for you!

For waking up in the morning, while I go around and open all the window shades:  The song “Good morning, good morning and how do you do?”  and also the song “Buenos Dias, Buenos Dias, como estas, como estas?”  (sung to the tune of “Where is Thumpkin?”)

For making beds:   The song “This is the way we make the beds, make the beds, make the beds, this is way we make the beds on a “XXXXXX” morning.”

For calling to breakfast and lunch – We sing the prayer “Thou Art Great and Thou Art Good”  from Shea Darien’s book Seven Times the Sun.

For washing dishes:  The song “This the way we wash the dishes, wash the dishes, wash the dishes” as above

For getting dressed:  The nursery rhyme Diddle Diddle Dumpling, My Son John

(I also make up songs sometimes for going potty, brushing teeth or brushing hair).

For being called to start homeschool:  I always call children with a made- up tune on the pennywhistle and then play whatever song is the song of the month.  For example, in November I played “The Pumpkin Pie” song and my kids learned it and sung it for everyone after Thanksgiving dinner while I played.  For this month we are learning the song from the play “The Snowmaiden” from “Little Plays for Puppets” book and also a song about dwarves.  After singing we have a candle-lighting verse and we also use the well-known  Waldorf verse that begins, “Good Morning Dear Earth, Good Morning Dear Sun.”

For quiet time:  We sing one of the quiet songs out of Shea Darien’s book Seven Times the Sun

For ending quiet time:  We use that wonderful folk song that begins, “Bluebird, bluebird (or whatever bird you want!)  fly through my window, bluebird, bluebird, fly through my window.”  It is on Pete Seeger’s CD of folk songs

Favorite verse for going outside:  The nursery rhyme that begins, “The grand old Duke of York, he had ten thousand men, he marched them up a hill and then he marched him down again.”

For practical work, I do have verses for wet on wet watercolor painting, baking, handwork, gardening and housekeeping that can be found in A Child’s Seasonal Treasury,

For dinner we rotate between these two prayers: 

Father, we thank thee for this food before us

Give us strength to do Thy Will

Guide and Protect Us in Your Heavenly Path

For Christ’s Sake, Amen.

or this one:

Bless this food to our use

And us to thy (continued) service

And make us ever mindful of thy blessings


For Bathtime- Rub a Dub Dub, Three Men in a Tub

For Bedtime- Prayers (we say four prayers at night)

First we say “Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep”

Then we say this one:

Matthew, Mark, Luke and John,

Bless this bed that we lie on,

Two at our head, two at our feet,

Protect us (bless us) while we are fast asleep.

Then we say a quick prayer to the archangels of St. Raphael, St. Gabriel, St. Michael and St. Uriel, (and we list what we are thankful for from the day)

And then at last we say “Our Father Who Art in Heaven”.

This is just a small sampling, and you can come up with traditional verses, songs and prayers that speak to your own spiritual/religious life.   I also make up many songs on the spot and sing.  My oldest thinks my voice is beautiful, which I assure you it is not, but the point is you do not have to be a great singer to do this!!  It is great fun, the kids learn all of this by heart easily, and it is so much better than walking around like a play-by-play football announcer each day.

Just a few thoughts from my little corner of the world.

One of the 12 Senses: Warmth

This is an excellent article regarding one of Steiner’s 12 senses that is important developmentally for young children: warmth.

Please check out this link to read a great article on Warmth, Strength and Freedom:  http://tidewaterschool.blogspot.com/2008/12/warmth-strength-and-freedom-by-m.html

Happy, happy reading!!

Just a few thoughts from my little corner of the world.