Monday, 10 April 2017

Respecting our babies

One of my favourite things about Montessori is that children are treated with respect and dignity. I think that at the core, more than the materials, Montessori is about how we see children as capable individuals. 

When it comes to babies however, our youngest family members that can't talk, it may be harder to show respect and dignity. Today, I am sharing a few small ways in which my husband and I try to treat baby N with respect - to give her dignity and keep her preferences in consideration. 
Montessori inspired living: Respecting our babies by Welcome to Mommyhood #montesori, #montessoriinspired #montessoriathome, #montessoribabies

Respecting babies

Talk to your baby  

One of the most important ways that I try to show Natasha that I respect her as a person and respect her body is by talking to her. Of course, she is a baby. Of course, she has limited means to communicate with me. And sometimes I get confused looks from friends or family, but this is very important to me as a mother. 

When I interact with Natasha, I explain to her what it is that I am doing before I start doing it. It's almost like a conversation. For instance, if she needs to be changed, this is a typical situation:

Me: Oh, your diaper needs to be changed. I will pick you up and place you on the changing mat. 

I wait for a response! Natasha may coo or smile at me or maybe just ignore me. Regardless, I like to wait for an acknowledgement from her. It really doesn't take very long, just a second. 

Me: Now, I will remove your clothing. I am wiping your bum. I am putting on a clean diaper, etc. 

As we go through each step, I simply say what I am doing calmly. I try to do this with all aspects of her care. The point is to explain what it is that you are doing to someone else's body. 

I do have to say that at night, I struggle to remember to say anything because it's night time, but I try. I like this approach because I think it gives Natasha dignity. 

The only times I really just act when it comes to her body is if there is an emergency situation. If your child is choking for instance, I am not suggesting to wait for a response - just do what you need to do to get your child safe! Afterwards, you can calmly explain what is happening/has happened. 

With Natasha, there were a few times, I thought she was choking on milk. Luckily, they were false alarms and she was perfectly fine, but in those moments, I acted on instinct and focus on what I need to do to get my child safe. Afterwards, I explained what happened. In serious situations, I think it's most important to remain calm, but act swiftly. You can always discuss what happened afterwards, but safety comes first. 

Some may say that this is unnecessary with a baby, but after my experiences as a paraplegic and being unable to care for myself, I really feel strongly that it is important to treat others with dignity and respect, especially when they are unable to care for themselves. 

If anything, speaking to your baby in this way sets a wonderful precedent for how you will speak to your child as he or she gets older. Speaking to your child like this, calmly explaining the care tasks you are performing helps to form a relationship of respect and kindness. It certainly is a wonderful habit to start early! 

Respect their concentration 

With Natasha, I am absolutely amazed at how long she can simply focus or do her own thing. She loves her grasping at her ring mobile and can lay there for long periods of time, reaching for it, placing it in her mouth, releasing it, and repeat over and over and over. Even for half an hour! 

When I notice Natasha laying peacefully like this, I try to avoid distracting her, moving her, or disturbing her, unless she needs her diaper changed because of course, that's very unpleasant. As long as Natasha is calm though, I do try to let her focus on her own work. 
Montessori inspired living: Respecting our babies by Welcome to Mommyhood #montesori, #montessoriinspired #montessoriathome, #montessoribabies

I promise, if your baby is laying calmly, there's no need to pick them up, they aren't lonely, and it's perfectly fine! I really love to watch Natasha calmly absorb her environment! It's such a beautiful process! 

Respect their movement 

My husband and I really avoid using baby 'contraptions' such as jumperoos, walkers, swings, etc. I wrote about why we avoid most baby gear before. The two biggest reasons for this are that we believe this is healthier for the natural development of a baby's hips (the advice we received from our pediatrician. Please do your own research). 

Another big and important reason that we avoid these items is that we try to respect Natasha's own movements. She is a very calm child most of the time if she is able to move about and explore the world around her. We noticed similar patterns with Yvann when he was a baby. They are just happiest when they are able to wiggle, roll, and explore at their own pace.
Montessori inspired living: Respecting our babies by Welcome to Mommyhood #montesori, #montessoriinspired #montessoriathome, #montessoribabies

Interestingly, with Natasha, she has so much opportunities to move around and is now very active in practicing to roll over. If I place her on her back, she almost instantly tries to roll over, but can't get it all the time yet. I have to fight myself to help her so much! I know that it's better for her to be able to learn this on her own and she will get the hang of it so soon. 

I just can't help this urge to help her so she won't need to struggle. However, if we do this, we also take away the opportunity for her to practice and learn to do this on her own. If I don't help her, she will learn to do it on her own sooner so I don't, but that urge is always there. It's just so hard to watch your children struggle. I didn't really expect to have this feeling with Natasha because of how far we have come in applying Montessori principles in our home so it has quite surprised me, but it's there. 

Anyway, my point is - it's important to respect our babies' needs for exploring the world around them, for natural gross motor development, and freedom of movement. If you have a designated safe place for baby where they can explore, you can really help them in their development and acquisition of new skills. Let them do this at their own pace. 

Respect their rhythms 

Babies are wonderful at regulating when and how much to eat and when to sleep. With Natasha as well as Yvann, we definitely just try to take their lead and watch for signs. 

With sleep, I find it a bit more difficult with Natasha than with Yvann, but still, I try to follow her natural cues for sleep. Y was a very sleepy kiddo, but with Natasha, we still don't have as easily detectable a rhythm. It will come. 

When it comes to food, we follow our children's cues. With babies in particular, you should really avoid trying to get them to eat more. Their bodies regulate themselves - when they are full, they will stop eating. When we try to push them to eat more (or less, but I'm Russian, and in the style of my grandma, I always think that the kids must eat aaaaaaaaaaaalllll the food. I fight myself on this a lot). Anyway, when we push our babies to eat more or less, they learn not to distrust their own signals of being full. 

Even when it comes to Yvann who is now four and a half, I really try to let him decide how much to eat. Even if I feel he hasn't eaten enough, I generally let it go. I've learned that in the few cases, I have really pushed him to continue eating because I thought the few bites he had weren't enough, he would get sick. As in throw up. Everywhere. After learning that lesson two times, my husband and I really do not try to tell our children how much to eat. 

Babies cannot communicate as easily of course, but do look out for signs that they are no longer interested in what they are eating. 

Even if you think it isn't enough, or is too much, it's likely to be fine unless your doctor thinks otherwise and your child is not growing well. For advice in this case, please seek out a medical professional. 

Montessori inspired living: Respecting our babies by Welcome to Mommyhood #montesori, #montessoriinspired #montessoriathome, #montessoribabies

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Today, I am linking up at:  A little bird told me, Preschool and kindergarten community, Tot school Gathering PlaceThe Thoughtful SpotLove to Learn LinkyThe Mommy Club Resources and SolutionsLink and Learn, TGIFHip Homeschool MomsPractical Mondays