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

A Few Thoughts About The Waldorf Baby (And Beyond!)

I have recently been reading Steiner’s “Theosophy” and re-reading bits and pieces of Lois Cusick’s wonderful book, “The Waldorf Parenting Handbook“.”  (This is an excellent book, by the way, although it probably could have had a better title!)

At any rate, what I have been discovering is the view of the baby through the lens of the three – (and four-fold) human being.  Even if you are not an anthroposophist, I think there is a lot of wisdom to be gained from this perspective.  Grab a cup of tea, sit down and think with me for a few minutes!  You can understand this!

From an anthroposophic viewpoint, birth is seen as the end of a long spiritual process where the infant chooses parents and the infant struggles to “incarnate” into a new physical body.  This notion seems odd to many folks, but I ask that even if you don’t believe this, observe babies!  As a neonatal/pediatric physical therapist, I have had the opportunity to observe literally thousands of babies – some developing “normally” and some not.    Watch them, look at them – their arms and legs are not under their control at first, they have to develop that control over time and yes, through a bit of struggle!  The tasks of the first three years from a simplified anthroposophic viewpoint especially is to develop eye contact,  to develop  this  physical control of the muscles, to then attain an upright position, to learn to talk  (through imitation) and then that glimmer of thought when they first refer to themselves as “I”. 

Lois Cusick notes in her book on page 1 that when small children ask, “Where do I come from?” that a picture is a better way to answer than an abstract notion.  She remarks, “One old picture that has done good service is the archetypal white dove-shaped form winging its way down from heaven.  This shape on the medieval tapestries and stained glass Cathedral windows  is called the Dove of the Holy Spirit.  To the peasants, it looked remarkably like the shape of the homely village storks dropping down to roost in the chimmneys.  From them we have inherited the notion of the stork bringing the child’s soul to earth.”

No, I am not suggesting you tell your child the stork brought them per se!   However, read on for an interesting connection to this as seen by Lois Cusick:  “It is interesting to find that the archetypal shape of the descending Dove of the Holy Spirit is indeed laid into the very structure of the human body, in the larynx, breastbone and womb……..The human larynx gives birth  to human words; behind the breastbone lies the human heart, where love is born, and the womb gives birth to the child…..In early Christian art, where the Dove of the Holy Spirit hovers over  Mary, there are often the words Et incarnatus est.  And it incarnates.  What incarnates?  In the larynx, the human word; in the heart, the divine quality of love; in the womb, the child of God.  Those are my answers,” she writes, “The picture symbols leave each mind free to interpret and judge according to one’s inclinations.”

All of this is very interesting!  However, even if you don’t believe in or agree with the anthroposophic viewpoint that the child has come to you after a long spiritual journey with a destiny to have you as a parent, perhaps you can resonate with the fact that the physical body and control of that body is something an infant has to grow into!  In fact, this process of “growing into” the physical body happen during – yup, you guessed it!- the first seven years of life!  We lay down rhythms to help our child in this process, we keep our children in their bodies and not so much their heads and we help our children lay a foundation for their future health in doing so!

So the question becomes:  what can we do with the baby to assist this process?  Here are some thoughts!

  • We can work on ourselves!  We can  work hard to lead the lives of good people, moral people, upstanding people.   This work never ends, but does continually grow.  As a Christian, I personally think about the Fruit of the Spirit, those traits.  Steiner talked about “The Great Virtues” – justice, prudence, courage, wisdom.  He also talked about faith, hope and love.   Most major world religions have these attributes as part of their faith.  If you have no specific spiritual path, I urge you to look closer at this for the sake of your children; leave your own adult baggage behind and investigate it further and see if you can open your heart to what may resonate inside.
  • We can protect our child during birth with good birthing practices and by breastfeeding. Rahima Baldwin Dancy has much to say regarding this in her book, “You Are Your Child’s First Teacher.”  Perhaps you can  go back to that book and re-read that part and see if it resonates differently with you.
  • We don’t let infants “cry it out”, we provide loving warmth and joy and eye contact between all family members and this new life.
  • We keep the baby home for at least six weeks after birth, and we protect the infant’s 12 senses by not dragging the infant around for  endless errands in a carseat after that if possible!  Who has done a 40-day “lying in” out there?  Please do leave some comments in the comment section!
  • We can keep our babies warm!  Warmth is such an important thing in small babies.   Try this post to help give you inspiration:  http://www.christopherushomeschool.org/early-years-nurturing-young-children-at-home/the-waldorf-baby/dressing-the-very-young-child.html
  • We can take our babies outside, weather permitting, for walks and even for naps outside!
  • The baby experiences “good” in its world in these early months by being loved by its mother and father. The parents can  attempt to live an unhurried and unstressed life so the baby can develop trust and see goodness.
  • We  can recognize that  it takes years to develop into the physical body, and we honor not to rush this process through infant walkers, through the use of “Teach Your Baby to Read” programs, through “Baby Einstein.”  We respect that the baby is a baby with skills and abilities that will unfold.
  • We allow the baby to move – we have times where the baby can move freely in a safe environment.   By the same token, we allow the baby to speak without “teaching” speech and correcting the heck out of the imitated speech that is just forming!  However, on the other hand, we don’t use baby talk!
  • As the child learns to think, to have a sense of themselves as separate, around the age of “3”,  we can provide boundaries even if we had not had to set many before!  This is of utmost importance – provide these loving, warm boundaries  but  yes, boundaries that  exist for the child so the child learns to function in our world and in our space.  In the article “Birth to the Age of Three:  Our Responsibility” by Dorothy Olson and available at www.waldorflibrary.org, she writes, “When we give direction to the child or make requests of the child, or say that we are going to do something, we must be clear in our thinking, phrase our request in the positive, then stay with the direction and be consistent.  If we reverse direction, we damage the child, we cause nervousness and insecurity.”  (Carrie’s note:  And yes, I know many attached and loving parents who would totally disagree with that last sentence!).  She goes on to write, “Parents and teachers who are constantly inconsistent, do not allow the child to meet the realities of existence.  The child is then educated for a life which does not exist, becomes weak, and is at the mercy of its surroundings and of other people.”

(What this talk on boundaries  means is NOT that you are a dictator – you are gentle, loving, and calm and  you THINK about your house, the tone in your house, and yes, what boundaries you need in your house from there with the needs of everyone considered!  There are posts on this site regarding creating family mission statements that may assist you.  The key is to understanding a three year old and a four year old is in IMITATION, and in their BODIES.  Thinking ahead and “consequences” is not really up their alley yet!  :) ).

It is a big task, a wonderful task , a wonderful opportunity,  a gift to be able to refine the kind of parent you want to be, starting from now!

Thanks for reading!

Just a few deep thoughts for today,

Carrie

Bringing Rhythm to Your Baby

There is a mother’s story here on the Christopherus website’s  “Waldorf Baby” section that may interest those of you thinking about how to bring rhythm to your baby  (and my personal caveat is that this is one mother’s story and does not necessarily reflect my own personal opinion!  But good ideas for thought!  And please note the number of times this mother says the establishment of rhythm must be done over time, and gently!)

http://www.christopherushomeschool.org/early-years-nurturing-young-children-at-home/the-waldorf-baby/bringing-rhythm-to-your-baby.html

As a lay breastfeeding counselor, I have to say here the idea is NOT scheduled feedings; scheduled feedings in breastfeeding mother/infant dyads can lead to failure to thrive!   Please remember this rule:  RHYTHM is TOTALLY DIFFERENT THAN A SET SCHEDULE!   That being said, however, it is about being able to see as your infant grows and gently OVER TIME what sort of rhythm to the day you are setting in order to protect the infant’s 12 senses (if you need help remembering which of the 12 senses is affected by rhythm, try this post here: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/06/22/the-twelve-senses/)

It is also interesting to me that many parents comment how their second, third and subsequent children fall more easily into a rhythmical pattern than their first…I feel this is probably because a more set flow to the day is already in place and you are not re-creating the rhythmical wheel.

It is also remembering that from a Waldorf point of view, you are not “squishing” your infant’s individual temperament or anything else by providing a flow to things.  In my personal experience, children who are “high-needs” are by definition VERY irrhythmic, irregular and need your gentle help to move them towards rhythmical patterns….This can be very difficult for parents to accept and work with!  Re-frame your thoughts in this way:  you are providing a rhythm that not only uplifts and enfolds your infant and their personal traits and their health but  also provides peace and harmony for  the whole family as well.  This is setting the tone in your own home, and your rhythm is just what your family does.    Again, rhythm  is just about life within your family; we rest and we play, we go outside and are active, we are inside and we listen and are quieter.  There should be an ease and a flow to it, not a “military” sense of punctuality!

Within Waldorf parenting and Waldorf parenting, sleep and rest are very important cornerstones, one that rhythm is very important in promoting and preserving and I am going to address this important topic in another post.  Get your cup of tea ready, because the way Steiner and Waldorf Education views sleep may be different than what you have ever heard of before!

Blessings on this day,

Carrie

The Twelve Senses

I am going to try and synthesize a few things for you all that I recently learned from Donna Simmons at the Waldorf At Home conference held in Atlanta,  a presentation by Daena Ross for Waldorf In the Home (available through Rahima Baldwin Dancy’s on-line store in CD and DVD versions) and Barbara Dewey’s section on the twelve senses in her book “Beyond the Rainbow Bridge”. 

I am by no means an expert on the twelve senses, although I will say the twelve senses make a whole lot of sense to me due to my background as a neonatal/pediatric physical therapist.

Steiner postulated in his lectures that there were not only the five most obvious senses that we think of, but actually twelve senses that required development.  This has been proved in the medical community, although sometimes in medical literature and therapy literature you see reference to “systems” rather than “senses” although they are truly talking about the same thing!

The twelve senses are what unites the inner and outer world of the individual and what allows us healthy interaction with other people at the highest developed levels.  It takes a long time for these senses to be developed, but the foundational senses needed to develop some of the upper senses are most developed in the first seven years.  There we are, back to my soapbox about the first seven years!

The Lower Senses are seen in our will forces, they are unconscious, and they manifest in the metabolic-limbic system.  These include:

The Sense of Touch – through the organ of the skin.  This includes what is inside of me and what is outside of me.  Important ways to boost this foundational sense include vaginal birth, swaddling, holding, positive tactile experiences (NOT PASSIVE experiences, like through media or Baby Einstein! Active experiences!)  The lack of completion of this  sense is strongly related to ADHD according to Daena Ross. 

The Sense of Life or sometimes called The Sense of Well-Being – this encompasses such things as if you can tell if you are tired, thirsty, hungry.  The best way to boost this sense is to provide your children with a rhythm to help support this while it is developing.  Some children have great difficulty recognizing their own hunger or thirst cues, their own need for rest or sleep. A rhythm can be a great therapeutic help in this regard.

The Sense of Self-Movement – this is probably more familiar to therapists in some ways as the “proprioceptive system” in some ways.  This sense encompasses the ability to move and hold back movement, and can also encompass such sensory experiences as containment (which can be a form of massage for premature babies) and also swaddling.  Childhood games that involve starting, stopping can also affect this sense.

The Sense of Balance – This is balance in two separate realms, from what I gather from the Daena Ross presentation.  It is not only the ability to balance by use of the semicircular canals of the ears  for midline balance so one can cross midline but also refers to the  balance of life and being able to be centered, which again goes back to rhythm and the idea of in-breath and out-breath.  Donna Simmons calls this one a gateway to The Middle Senses.

The Middle Senses are seen in our feeling lives, involve us reaching out into the world a bit, they are seen as “dreamy” senses and manifesting in the rhythmic system.  THE CHILD HAS NO FILTER TO FILTER THESE SENSORY EXPERIENCES OUT IN THE EARLY YEARS.   In the later years, the arts build these senses, which is why the Waldorf curriculum includes teaching through art in the grades.   These senses  include:

The Sense of Smell –  strongly correlated with memory.  This can be an ally in education of the grades age child, but beware of scented everything when your children are in the foundational first seven years. 

The Sense of Taste – Not only on a physical plane, but an emotional plane in naming experiences (a “putrid” experience, a “sweet” experience)

The Sense of Sight  – with two different ways to visualize something:  one is the ability to distinguish color, and the other is the ability to distinguish form (which Daena Ross says is more related to The Sense of Self-Movement).  The best way to help this sense is to protect the eye from media while developing.  A way to bolster this sense in the grades, but not the Early under 7 Years, is through form drawing.

The Sense of Warmth –   Donna Simmons calls this one a gateway to The Higher Senses.  This sense does not fully develop until age 9 and can literally cause a hardening of creativity and new thought as the child matures, but also can refer to a literal inability of the child to be able to tell if they are hot or cold.  Warmth implies not only physical warmth, but warmth on a soul level.  Joy, humor, love, connection are all important developers of this sense along with PROTECTION from extreme and garish sensory experiences that would cause hardening.  This is a very important sense, and children need help with protecting this sense until the age of 9 or 10, so much longer than many parents think!

The Upper or Higher Senses develop during adolescence and require a strong foundation of The Lower Senses and The Middle Senses to come to maturity.  These senses are associated with awakening of the individual, with being concerned with other people and are seen as being centered in The Head.  These senses include:

The Sense of Hearing (which Daena Ross calls “a bridge between The Middle and Higher Senses” in her presentation)  This requires completion of The Sense of Balance – both of these senses involve the organ of the ear.

The Sense of Speech or The Sense of the Word (this is the speech of another person, not yourself) – Requires completion of The Sense of Self-Movement as you must be able to quiet your own speech in order to really hear another person.

The Sense of Thought or The Sense of Concept (again, of the other person, not your own thoughts!) - Requires completion of  The Sense of Well-Being.  Rhythm builds this ability to quiet oneself in order to hear someone else’s thoughts.

The Sense of  the Individuality of the Other (Donna Simmons also calls this the “I-Thou” relationship of boundaries) – This requires integration and completion of all senses, but particularly involves The Sense of Touch according to Daena Ross. 

The most important take-away point for my parents of children under the age of 7 is that children need rhythm, a balance of in-breath and out-breath and protection of the senses from too much stimulation, from media and boundaries set by the parents to wear clothes (VERY difficult with some little nudists!).  The development of these senses is also profoundly related to sleeping and what occurs during sleep to build all of this up.

Waldorf Education is first and foremost about health and the twelve senses provide a glimpse into some of why things are done in Waldorf the way they are!  I encourage you to investigate the twelve senses on your own.  In this age and day of skyrocketing ADHD/ADD, autism spectrum disorders, sensory processing disorders, this should be mandatory learning for all parents. 

With love,

Carrie

“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.

 

 

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
that.
* 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!

Thanks,

Carrie

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.