Winter Solstice: A Time for Rest, Reflection, Rebirth


Artwork by Jessica Boehman, Illustrator 

Life is being drawn into the earth, painlessly descending down into the very heart of herself. And we, as natural human animals, are being called to do the same -- the pull to descend into our bodies, into sleep, darkness, and the depths of our own inner caves continually tugging at our marrow. But many find the descent into their own body a scary thing indeed; fearing the unmet emotions and past events that they have stored in the dark caves inside themselves, not wanting to face what they have so carefully and unkindly avoided.

This winter solstice time is no longer celebrated as it once was, with the understanding that this period of descent into our own darkness was so necessary in order to find our light. That true freedom comes from accepting with forgiveness and love what we have been through, and vanquishing the hold it has on us, bringing the golden treasure back from the cave of our darker depths.

This is a time of rest and deep reflection, a time to wipe the slate clean as it were and clear out the old so you can walk into spring feeling ready to grow and skip without a dusty mountain on your back and chains around your ankles tied to the caves in your soul. A time for the medicine of story, of fire, of nourishment and love. A period of reconnecting, relearning and reclaiming of what this time means brings winter back to a time of kindness, love, rebirth, peace and unburdening instead of a time of dread, fear, depression and avoidance.

This modern culture teaches avoidance at a max at this time; alcohol, lights, shopping, overworking, over spending, bad food, and consumerism. And yet the natural tug to go inward, as nearly all creatures are doing, is strong, and people are left feeling as if there is something wrong with them --  that winter is cruel and leaves them feeling abandoned and afraid.

Whereas in actual fact winter is so kind. Yes, she points us in her quiet soft way toward our inner self, toward the darkness and potential death of what we were, but this journey, if held with care, is essential.

She is like a strong teacher that asks you to awaken your inner loving elder or therapist, holding yourself with awareness of forgiveness, and allowing yourself to grieve, to cry, rage, laugh, and face what we need to face in order to be freed from the jagged bonds we wrapped around our hearts, in order to reach a place of healing and light without going into overwhelm.

Winter takes away the distractions, the noise, and presents us with the perfect time to rest and withdraw into a womb-like love, bringing fire and light to our hearth.

-Brigit Anna McNeill

Read more from McNeill: https://brigitannamcneill.com

Mabel, age 12, creates her fantastic rendition of Jessica Boehman's original.
Note the extra books - little lamb must be making a run to the library for more!
Follow more of Boehman's work on Facebook: FB.com/HansMyHedgehog


• Peaceful Parenting on Facebook: FB.com/PeacefulParenting
• Peaceful Parenting Community: FB.com/groups/ExplorePeacefulParenting



12 Breastfeeding Days of Christmas


Not too many better ways to ring in the "12 days of Christmas" than with the Best for Babes Foundation's 12 Breastfeeding Days of Christmas (composed in 2009 and slightly updated this holiday season). Please take a moment to visit the Best for Babes site for a detailed explanation of each of these twelve life-changing gifts and take a look into how they can help "rebuild our shattered breastfeeding infrastructure."


12 Breastfeeding Days of Christmas


On the first day of Christmas 
There stood before me,
A mother wanting to breastfeed!

On the second day of Christmas 
There stood before me, 
Two doula/midwives, 
And a mother wanting to breastfeed!

On the third day of Christmas, 
There stood before me, 
Three support groups, 
Two doula/midwives, 
And a mother wanting to breastfeed!

On the fourth day of Christmas, 
There stood before me, 
Four (FABM) MDs, 
Three support groups, 
Two doula/midwives, 
And a mother wanting to breastfeed!

On the fifth day of Christmas 
There stood before me, 
Five Baby-Friendly Hospitals, 
Four (FABM) MDs, 
Three support groups, 
Two doula/midwives, 
And a mother wanting to breastfeed!

On the sixth day of Christmas, 
There stood before me, 
Six great IBCLCs, 
Five Baby-Friendly Hospitals, 
Four (FABM) MDs, 
Three support groups, 
Two doula/midwives, 
And a mother wanting to breastfeed!

On the seventh day of Christmas 
There stood before me, 
Seven partners protecting, 
Six great IBCLCs, 
Five Baby-Friendly Hospitals, 
Four (FABM) MDs, 
Three support groups, 
Two doula/midwives, 
And a mother wanting to breastfeed!

On the eighth day of Christmas 
There stood before me, 
Eight friends a-helping, 
Seven partners protecting, 
Six great IBCLCs, 
Five Baby-Friendly Hospitals, 
Four (FABM) MDs, 
Three support groups, 
Two doula/midwives, 
And a mother wanting to breastfeed!

On the ninth day of Christmas 
There stood before me, 
Nine celebs a-nursing, 
Eight friends a-helping, 
Seven partners protecting, 
Six great IBCLCs, 
Five Baby-Friendly Hospitals, 
Four (FABM) MDs, 
Three support groups, 
Two doula/midwives, 
And a mother wanting to breastfeed!

On the tenth day of Christmas, 
There stood before me, 
Ten nursing nooks, 
Nine celebs a-nursing, 
Eight friends a-helping, 
Seven partners protecting, 
Six great IBCLCs,
Five Baby-Friendly Hospitals, 
Four (FABM) MDs, 
Three support groups, 
Two doula/midwives, 
And a mother wanting to breastfeed!

On the eleventh day of Christmas 
There stood before me, 
Eleven strangers cheering, 
Ten nursing nooks, 
Nine celebs a-nursing, 
Eight friends a-helping, 
Seven partners protecting, 
Six great IBCLCs, 
Five Baby-Friendly Hospitals, 
Four FABM MDs, 
Three support groups, 
Two doula/midwives, 
And a mother wanting to breastfeed!

On the twelfth day of Christmas, 
There stood before me, 
Twelve supportive employers, 
Eleven strangers cheering, 
Ten nursing nooks, 
Nine celebs a-nursing, 
Eight friends a-helping, 
Seven partners protecting, 
Six great IBCLCs, 
Five Baby-Friendly Hospitals, 
Four (FABM) MDs, 
Three support groups, 
Two doula/midwives, 
And a mother wanting to breastfeed!

 Mary nurses Baby Jesus in this 16th century oil painting by Andrea Solario
for similar images see: Breastfeeding Baby Jesus

Nursing mothers are welcome to join the Breastfeeding Group. Note that this group is pro-baby, pro-natural weaning, pro-nursing-in-public, and WHO compliant in guidelines (i.e. no advertising of artificial baby feeds).


~~~~


Don't Force Your Child to Sit on Santa's Lap

By Brianne Collecchio
Originally at ChildUp.com


Your Christmas tree is decorated, the lights are up, and you’ve started to tackle your list of Christmas gifts. It’s time to take the children to the mall to see Santa. In your mind you’ve envisioned adorable photos of a smiling child posing happily with Old Saint Nick. You’ve thought about how many copies you’ll need to send out to proud grandparents. Your child is excited to see the man in red, already compiling a huge catalogue of toys to ask for. But when your child gets to the front of the line and comes face to face with Santa, he’s terrified! There’s no way he’s going to get anywhere near the man, let alone sit on his lap.

A child can develop a fear of Santa or other costumed characters at any point in childhood. Maybe your daughter loved Santa for the first three years of her life, and all of a sudden just the mention of his name has her running to her room. Children have extremely short memories, so each year when Christmas rolls around it’s like they are discovering Santa for the first time.

There are many reasons why children might be afraid of Santa. He has a big white beard that covers most of his face, and when a young child sits on his lap sometimes all they can see is that great white beard. It can be pretty intimidating not to be able to see his face.

A lot of children experience separation anxiety. When a parent sees Santa, they think of a jolly old man who brings children presents. When a toddler sees Santa, they’re experiencing mom and dad putting them on a stranger’s lap and walking away. That’s terrifying!

A toddler’s mind is also growing and developing so quickly—especially their imaginations. They are learning so much about the world so fast, but they still do not have the ability to distinguish between fantasy and reality. To that child Santa is a large stranger with a booming voice, and they are being left with him. That’s pretty intense.

Don’t force your child to take a picture with Santa or meet him if he or she is too afraid—just wait until next year. It’s not fair to subject your child to that level of anxiety just for a picture—and it won’t even be a good picture. Forcing your child to meet Santa can cause your child to associate that panic, fear, or discomfort with all things holiday related, and the last thing you want is a child who has a panic attack every time they hear Jingle Bells.

Telling your child not to be afraid of Santa can make him or her feel bad about themselves. Instead, be supportive. Let your child know that nothing bad will happen to him or her and that you will be right there with them. Offer to go see Santa first or have your picture taken with him to show your child that they will be fine.

Try to recognize if your child is truly afraid, or is just shy. Stay out of the line and watch some of the other children go first and hear their interactions. It’s very possible that they will see the other children enjoying themselves and change their mind.

If your child will absolutely not go anywhere near Santa, try to look at the bright side—it means that your child has an inner stranger-danger awareness. Value that alarm! There are far worse things in life than a child who is afraid to sit on Santa’s lap. Maybe you won’t get that adorable photo to send the grandparents, but you won’t get one of your child screaming either. Take it slow. There’s always next year.



Brianne Collecchio is a registered early childhood educator and runs Busy Bees Home Childcare in Guelph.

Christmas To Do List


This Christmas... 

 Be present. 
 Wrap someone in a hug.
Send peace. 
 Donate food. 
 Be the light. 

 ๐ŸŽ„❤️๐ŸŽ„❤️




Momma's Night Before Christmas


Mother's Love painting by Kolongi. Art work available here.

Twas' the night before Christmas,
when all through the abode

Only one creature was stirring -
and she was cleaning the commode.


The children were finally sleeping,
all snug in their beds,

While visions of presents,
flipped through their heads.


Daddy was snoring in front of the TV,

With a half-constructed bicycle up on his knee.

So only Momma heard the reindeer hooves clatter,
Which made her sigh, "NOW what's the matter?"

With toilet bowl brush still clutched in her hand,

She descended the stairs, and saw the old man.

He was covered in ashes, which fell with a shrug.

"Oh great..." muttered Mom, now cleaning the rug.


"Ho-Ho-Ho!!" bellowed Santa, "I'm glad you're awake.

Your gift was especially hard to make."

"Thank you Santa, but all I want's time alone."

"Exactly!!" he chuckled, "And I've made you a clone."


"A clone?" Mom asked, "What good is that?

Run along now, Santa. I've no time for a chat."

But it was Momma's twin!
Same hair, same eyes - same double chin.

"She'll cook, she'll dust, she'll mop every mess.
You'll relax, take it easy, and get some good rest."
"Fantastic!!" Mom cheered. "My dream come true!
I'll read. I'll write. I'll sleep a whole night through!"


From the room above, the youngest began to fret.
"Momma?! I need you. I'm scared and I'm wet."
The clone replied, "I'm coming, sweetheart."

"Hey," Mom smiled, "She knows her part."


The clone changed the small one, and hummed a sweet tune,

As she bundled the child, in a blanket cocoon.

"You're the best momma ever. I really love you."

The clone smiled and sighed, "And I love you, too."


Mom frowned and said, "Sorry, Santa, no deal.

That's
my child's love that she's trying to steal."
Smiling wisely Santa said, "To me it is clear,

Only one loving mother is needed 'round here."


Mom kissed her child, and tucked her into bed.

"Thank you, dear Santa, for clearing my head.

I sometimes forget it won't be very long,

When they'll be too old, for my sweet mothering song."


The clock on the mantle began to chime.

Santa whispered to the clone, "It works every time."

And with the clone clung close to his side,
Santa said, "Goodnight.
Merry Christmas, Momma! You'll be alright."


~Original Author ("The Night Before Christmas for Moms") Unknown; 
  Revised Poem (2009) by Danelle Day


Soleil Life Photography



*******

Baby It's Cold Outside Lyrics Rewritten



Couple rewrites 'Baby It's Cold Outside' to emphasize importance of consent 
As shared at CNN by Alexandra King | Read more from King

A couple from Minnesota has re-imagined the classic Christmas song "Baby It's Cold Outside" for a 21st-century audience, changing the song's lyrics to emphasize the importance of consent. Singer-songwriters Lydia Liza and Josiah Lemanski, both from Minneapolis, said they were inspired to rework the song after bonding over a mutual dislike of the original's lyrics, which were penned in 1944 by Frank Loesser.

The duet features a man trying to dissuade a woman from leaving a party despite her repeated protestations that she has to go home. "What's in this drink?" is one of the female lines. "What's the sense in hurtin' my pride?" implores the male voice. The song's seeming disregard for the woman's desire to leave never sat well with Lemanski or Liza. "I've always had a big problem with the song. It's so aggressive and inappropriate," said Lemanski, 25.

Liza, 22, said she felt the same way as her boyfriend. "We started thinking of the open-ended questions that song has," she said. "You never figure out if she gets to go home. You never figure out if there was something in her drink. It just leaves you with a bad taste in your mouth."

So Wednesday night, the couple decided to write a complete set of new lyrics. "We wrote the whole thing in an hour and then we went back and used my little demo-recording microphone and did that in 15 minutes," Liza recalled. And though the melody is still the same, the lyrics strike an entirely new chord.

"I really can't stay/Baby I'm fine with that" opens the song, as the lyrics recall the original's format of a woman leaving a party. Except in Liza and Lemanski's version, she does so without protest, the man helps her get home safely and the fictional couple makes a date the next day at The Cheesecake Factory. "I ought to say no, no, no," sings Liza. "You reserve the right to say no," croons Lemanski. And as for that dubious "What's in this drink?" line. It's still there. Except, in the new version, the question is actually answered -- by Lemanski, who responds with the oh-so-now ""Pomegranate La Croix" (obviously). "I thought we were just doing like a really good, cool, funny thing and it just felt right," Liza said. "And emphasizing consent is one of the causes that I've always really been behind because I don't think I can think of one friend of mine who's a woman who hasn't been in dangerous situations with men. I've always cared about this so much," she added.

After the duo uploaded the song to SoundCloud, the couple found that what started out as a shared gripe between a boyfriend and girlfriend also resonated with the public at large. "We've heard a lot of people say, 'Wow, we never actually paid attention to the lyrics before -- this is awful!'" said Liza. The couple also said they hoped the song would raise awareness of the need for consent, given the problem of sexual assault on college campuses. "It's not just a rare thing -- it happens all the time, everywhere. Every day. And I'm afraid for my sister. And I'm afraid for my friends. And I hope that this song gets people thinking about it," Lemanski said.

Liza added that she hoped that the song would inspire others to take action to help prevent violence against women. "I hope it will be on people's minds and that people will donate to charity or do some volunteer work at shelters or sexual assault centers. Like, if you think about this and you think it's a problem, definitely step out of your comfort zone and do something and help someone," she said.

And having successfully designated their re-imagined "Baby It's Cold Outside" as an unofficial anthem for the importance of consent, the couple joked that there were some other candidates for the Liza and Lemanski treatment. "A lot of people have suggested a bunch of songs, like Ella Fitzgerald's 'She Didn't Say Yes, She Didn't Say No' and Robin Thicke's 'Blurred Lines,'" said Liza. "We'll just do a whole album," she laughed.


Lydia and Josiah perform 'Baby It's Cold Outside' - with updated lyrics: 




Baby It's Cold Outside - New Lyrics 

I really can't stay/Baby I'm fine with that

I've got to go away/Baby I'm cool with that

This evening has been/Been hoping you get home safe

So very nice/I'm glad you had a real good time

My mother will start to worry/Call her so she knows that you're coming

Father will be pacing the floor/Better get your car a-humming

So really I'd better scurry/Take your time

Should I use the front or back door?/Which one are you pulling towards more?

The neighbors might think/That you're a real nice girl

Say, what is this drink?/Pomegranate La Croix

I wish I knew how/Maybe I'll help you out

To break this spell/I don't know what you're talking about

I ought to say no, no, no/you reserve the right to say no

At least I'm gonna say that I tried/you reserve the right to say no

I really can't stay/...Well you don't have to

Ah, but it's cold outside...

I've got to get home/Do you know how to get there from here?

Say, where is my coat/I'll go and grab it my dear.

You've really been grand/We'll have to do this again

Yes, I agree/How 'bout the Cheesecake Factory?

We're bound to be talking tomorrow/Text me at your earliest convenience

At least I have been getting that vibe/Unless I catch pneumonia and die

I'll be on my way/Thanks for the great night!

Bye/Bye--Drive Safe Please.
Don't watch that episode of 'Breaking Bad' without me/I won't, I'll save that for you!


Lydia and Josiah discuss their rendition of "Baby It's Cold Outside" further:



*******


Hygge for Babies


If you've ever heard of hygge, you'll know it’s pronounced hue-ga. It's both a Danish and a Norwegian word, and it is used to describe the experience of feeling warm, cozy, comfortable, and connected to the people you are with. Hygge is never forced or planned down to the detail, it's organic. In other words, it's natural. It just occurs.  Food can bring hygge. Light, especially candlelight. Food can bring hygge, and so can clothing. It's the feeling you get when you slip into a pair of soft sweatpants and a favorite hoodie, kick off your faux fur slippers, and crawl under a plump, down-filled comforter to watch your favorite TV show or film from the couch.

Hygge for Babies

But hygge is not an adults-only experience. It's just as important, if not more so, for babies to feel hygge, to feel hugged and comfortable even when your hands are busy. People have known this for years as witnessed by the age-old practice of swaddling infants from birth. Swaddle may seem like an outdated term, but it's what you do when you wrap your baby in a soft blanket to help her feel comfortable and protected, to remind her of how it felt in the womb. And since parents want their little ones to experience this loving snug hug-like feeling all day, it's why baby and toddler clothing is apt to be made of soft brushed cotton, and why most infant's first pieces of clothing are onesies, footed pajamas, and soft crown hats to keep their still delicate heads warm; clothes and accessories like those made by the caring craftsmen who make Cat & Dogma baby clothing. 

What Do Newborns Like?

Although infants and babies can't tell you what types of clothing confer hygge to them, their reactions speak for themselves. And that holds true from their first day home. Remember how he settled down as soon as you wrapped him in the swaddle blanket you had ready and waiting for him; and how a week or two later how he made himself comfortable when you tucked him into the versatile wrapping blanket?

What Do Infants Like?

Wasn't it amazing how those days passed in a flash and your newborn became an infant and his arms and legs demanded room to move as he first mastered rolling over before going on to sitting and eventually on to crawling? That's when fitted onesies take the place of blankies or perhaps if the baby is a fast grower or has long legs, a playsuit or jumper paired with soft socks or cushy booties. 

What Do Toddlers Like?

And now that he's a toddler, all you can do is sit back and marvel about how he's becoming a little person of his own. Like hygge, development isn't something you can plan, it's an organic process and all you can do is sit back and appreciate each moment and make sure he's dressed for the occasion. And while you can't manage the pace at which he develops, you can dress him to suit his personality, or okay - yours! There are sweatshirts and tops, t-shirts, and even tank tops to pair with cozy joggers or sporty pants that give plenty of roomy freedom while learning to walk and explore.

Hygge is Unisex

And the best thing about newborn, infant, and toddler clothes is that they suit boys as well as girls. But if you want to make sure everyone knows that the little being is a she, not a he, all you need do is select a pattern or graphic that attests to it. But more important is that the garments you choose are hyggelig which is the adjectival form of hygge and means something that's relaxing, safe, and comfortable; clothing that allows her or him to go off and find some hygge of their own. For hygge knows no boundaries, it's out there waiting for us all.

Birth Dilation via Halloween Pumpkins

Labor dilation demonstrated by carved pumpkins.

One fabulous, fun way to demo dilation ala pumpkins! ๐Ÿงก๐ŸŽƒ

This dilation pumpkin set-up was created by workers at the Royal Oldham Hospital in Greater Manchester, Lancashire, England as part of a pumpkin decorating competition.

We just love it!

Happy Halloween!


Royal Oldham Hospital Midwives


Related Community Groups: 

Birthing (more holistic)

Pregnant Moms Due This Year (more mainstream)

Peaceful Parenting Community

Saving Our Sons Community

Intact: Healthy, Happy, Whole

CoSleeping

Breastfeeding

Dilation stages during labor.

Before your baby arrives, research everything!

An ‘On-Demand’ Life and the Basic Needs of Babies

By Mary Tarsha and Dr. Darcia Narvaez


On-demand services may have spoiled parenting! Yes, by their convenience. For example, we no longer have to plan our schedule around the airing of our favorite program or make efforts to record a particular show. With a few clicks we can escape into streaming thousands of movies (and other forms of entertainment) from our TV, computer, or mobile device. We can use Google to answer a question about almost anything. We can order ahead from a favorite restaurant and our order will be ready when we arrive. An Uber is just around the corner. We don’t have to wait, or slow down our pace. We can stay focused on our own needs and goals. Always thinking ahead.

How does this fast pace focused on getting the next thing done influence our relationships? If we are tilted forward towards checking off the next thing on our list, can we really be in the present moment? Why does it matter? A present-moment focus is linked to happiness (e.g., mindfulness). But it is also required for being a good friend and a good parent.

Being emotionally present is especially important with those who are still learning to be human—babies and young children. They operate at a slower pace and expect caregivers to be with them in the moment (notice how your young child will start to demand attention when you are on the phone—which is probably why we evolved to have a village of caregivers and playmates!)

When we get used to things on demand we start to think that everyone should act accordingly. We lose patience with people who move too slow and or take too long. We can start to think that babies should conform to our preferences on demand too. But they cannot. They follow an inner compass of growth and development. Practically speaking, tending to the needs of babies means meeting their needs in the here and now, not demanding that they conform to adult schedules. Their basic needs are many and include the components of what we call the evolved nest: on-request breastfeeding, extensive affectionate touch, self-directed play and quick responsiveness (see previous post here). When an infant receives care that satiates needs as they arise, with a present-moment focus from the parent or caregiver, the infant develops normally, along a healthy trajectory, into adulthood.

Why does early experience matter so much? Because as the infant’s needs are met, the neuronal architecture of the brain and neurobiological systems are supported as they are developing rapidly, enabling proper functioning. At a very basic level, babies are self-actualizing when their needs are met—they are getting support to follow the inner guidance system that Maslow found so important for self-actualization to occur. Maslow agreed with psychoanalytic theory that the thwarting of the self, of one’s normal path to self-actualization, occurs in early life from the betrayal in relationships. When we don’t provide the evolved nest, it is a betrayal to babies’ soul/spirit/being.

Meeting basic needs in the early years carries long-term benefits that protect the child throughout life, physiologically and psychologically. Adults who received nurturing and responsive care environments in their early years demonstrate greater resilience to stressful situations, better immune functioning, less anxiety and overall, fewer physical health problems (Shonkoff et al., 2012). There is a plethora of research from neuroscience, developmental psychology, molecular biology, chemistry, genomics and sociology validating the importance of early care experiences upon brain development, specifically the prefrontal cortex, amygdala, and hippocampus, critical parts of the brain that control learning, memory, and behavior (Suderman, 2012; Champagne & Meaney, 2007; Gunnar & Quevedo, 2007).

Recognizing the overwhelming, converging evidence from an array of disciplines, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) issued a report in 2012 addressing the importance of early care experience for adult health. The report encourages all pediatricians to be the “front-line guardians of child development” because “many adult diseases should be viewed as developmental disorders that begin early in life” (Shonkoff, 2012, p.2). The AAP is calling for a greater awareness of the importance of early care experiences, proclaiming that many adult diseases begin in early life and more emphasis should be given to providing healthy environments to infants and children.


Unmet Needs = Toxic Stress

So, what happens when an infant’s needs are not met? The Answer: potential toxic stress is created. Toxic stress and traumatic attachments in early life influence brain development, specifically the right hemisphere, resulting in:


  • An inability to regulate emotional states under stress, including regulating fear-terror states 
  • dysregulation of the “fight or flight” system (part of the Autonomic Nervous System) dysregulated “flight” systems results in PTSD and dysregulated “fight” systems potentially leads to aggression disorders 
  • dysregulation of the vagus nerve which connects with major body systems and governs social capacities (Porges, 2017) 
  • personality disorders in early adulthood (Schore, 2003).


In short, the individual is stunted or thwarted in reaching their full potential. Long-lasting effects include both personality and emotion regulation disorders. Deprivation of basic needs in the early years of life leads to an internal divisiveness; children become divided within themselves and divided against the world (Narvaez, 2016). It pushes the child off the trajectory for self-actualization.

There is evidence that suggests that deprivation of basic needs (neglect or undercare) may be more detrimental than physical abuse. Neglected children demonstrate more severe cognitive and academic deficits, social withdrawal, limited peer interactions and internalizing problems compared to children who were physically abused (Hildyard & Wolfe, 2002).

Meeting Basic Needs Buffers Against Toxic Stress

Supportive and responsive care has a profound role in mitigating the effects of adverse (stressful) experiences (The National Scientific Council of the Developing Child, 2011). A nurturing and responsive environment is a buffer against toxic stress, helping the infant return to baseline (non-stressed condition) and consequently, continue along an adequate developmental trajectory (for species-typical normal development, the full evolved nest would need to be provided). However, if supportive and responsive care is not provided in the midst of stressful events, toxic stress ensues, and severe traumatic attachments can develop.

A Practical Suggestion for Young Child Care

What is one practical way to increase the quality of infants’ early care experiences? Build extra time into the family’s schedule. Create buffers of time around scheduled events in the caregiving routine. For example, if you need to leave the house by a certain time, factor in an extra 15-20 minutes as a buffer. In this way, if the infant or child requests to nurse, needs a diaper change, needs extra play time, or more affectionate touch, these needs can be met in a non-stressed manner. Extra pockets of time allow the caregiver to meet the infant’s needs, safeguarding against an “on-demand” mentality but also, may diminish the caregiver’s stress. A parent or caregiver that is less stressed and anxious is able to be more responsive to the infant’s need, picking up on subtle cues from their baby. Less mental and emotional energy is dedicated to navigating the schedule (trying to get the infant/child out the door on time), freeing the caregiver to be nurturing, warm and responsive in the here and now, safeguarding against an “on-demand” mentality toward infants. Thus, built in buffers of time have the two-fold benefit of ameliorating caregiving stress and facilitating the meeting of the infant’s needs.

Early Investment in Baby has Long-Term Benefits

When infants and children are not treated with warm, responsive care, bad things happen. However, when they are given a healthy start with responsive, stable and nurturing relationships around them, infants flourish into happy and healthy adolescents and adults. Many pitfalls are avoided and the long-lasting consequences of learning disabilities, emotional disorders and physical health conditions are averted. Investing in infants provides a return of better health and happiness!

What if you didn’t meet your child’s needs in the early years? Even if your child is older, you can begin providing responsive and nurturing care now. See this post about promoting thriving in school-aged children. Physical and emotional health is one of the greatest gifts to any child. All is takes is some time, warmth and responsiveness to their needs.



Related Reading

More on what scholars say about early nurturing here.

How raising babies is different from raising children.


Related Reading by Dr. Narvaez at Peaceful Parenting: 

An 'On Demand' Life and the Basic Needs of Babies

Where Are All the Happy Babies?

The Dangers of Crying It Out

10 Things Everyone Should Know About Babies

Why Keep Babies Happy? A baby's cry is a late signal of discomfort

5 Things NOT to Do to Babies

12 Ways to Nurture Babies at Conception, Birth, and Beyond

Are you treating your child like a prisoner?

Are you or your child on a touch starvation diet?

Conspiracy Thinking: Understanding Attachment and Its Consequences

Psychology Today: Circumcision Series

Learn More from Narvaez:

The Evolved Nest Institute

Kindred Media

Neurobiology and the Development of Human Morality: Evolution, Culture, and Wisdom

๐Ÿ’œ Peaceful Parenting Community

๐Ÿ’™ Peaceful Parenting on Facebook

๐Ÿ’— Peaceful Parenting on Telegram

References

Champagne, F. A., & Meaney, M. J. (2007). Transgenerational effects of social environment on variations in maternal care and behavioral response to novelty. Behavioral neuroscience, 121(6), 1353.

Gunnar, M. R., & Quevedo, K. M. (2007). Early care experiences and HPA axis regulation in children: a mechanism for later trauma vulnerability. Progress in brain research, 167, 137-149.

Hildyard, K. L., & Wolfe, D. A. (2002). Child neglect: developmental issues and outcomes. Child abuse & neglect, 26(6), 679-695.

Narvaez, D. (2016). Embodied morality: Protectionism, engagement and imagination. Springer.

National Scientific Council on the Developing Child. Excessive Stress Disrupts the Architecture of the Brain: Working Paper #3. Available at: https://developingchild.harvard.edu/resources/wp3/.

Schore, A. N. (2003). Early Relational Trauma, Disorganized Attachment, and the Development of a Predisposition to Violence. Healing Trauma: Attachment, Mind, Body and Brain (Norton Series on Interpersonal Neurobiology), 107.

Shonkoff, Jack P., Andrew S. Garner, Benjamin S. Siegel, Mary I. Dobbins, Marian F. Earls, Laura McGuinn, John Pascoe, David L. Wood, Committee on Psychosocial Aspects of Child and Family Health, and Committee on Early Childhood, Adoption, and Dependent Care. "The lifelong effects of early childhood adversity and toxic stress." Pediatrics 129, no. 1 (2012): e232-e246.

Suderman, M., McGowan, P. O., Sasaki, A., Huang, T. C., Hallett, M. T., Meaney, M. J., ... & Szyf, M. (2012). Conserved epigenetic sensitivity to early life experience in the rat and human hippocampus. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 109(Supplement 2), 17266-17272.


About the Authors

Darcia Narvaez, Ph.D., is Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Notre Dame and Director of the Collaborative for Ethical Education. Her current research examines the effects of parenting on child and adult outcomes. Narvaez has developed several integrative theories: Adaptive Ethical Expertise, Integrative Ethical Education, Triune Ethics Theory. She spoke at the Whitehouse's conference on Character and Community, and is author/editor of three award winning books: Postconventional Moral Thinking; Moral Development, Self and Identity; and the Handbook of Moral and Character Education. Her text, Human Nature, Early Experience, and the Environment of Evolutionary Adaptedness was a fantastic addition to a growing body of literature on a healthy, happy, babyhood. Visit Dr. Narvaez' website for additional books, papers, classes, websites and contact information.

Mary Tarsha is a graduate student in Developmental ​Psychology and Peace Studies at the Kroc Institute for International Peace at the University of Notre Dame

Ode to My Placenta

Background art by Mamapaints on Etsy


Ode to My Placenta

How do I love? Let me count the ways.

First, I love your beauty, so rich and warm and red
Placenta you’re my pillow in my coziest womb-bed.

Second, you bring nourishment and liquid from my mom
When she eats well, then I eat well, that’s good because I’m young.

Third, you take away my waste and metabolize the rest
It goes out through Mom’s kidneys, no work, no fuss, no mess.

Fourth, you’re a barrier to keep our bloods apart
For mom and I are separate beings, though connected at the start.

Fifth, you’re my advocate - you tell my mom what to do
Your hormones keep me growing and that makes mom healthy too.

Sixth, you bring oxygen each time mom takes a breath
I need a lot of clean, fresh air because my lungs don’t work quite yet.

Seven, you’re my thermostat - you keep my womb just right
Mom sweats for me in the daytime, and warms me up at night.

Lastly, you’re my treasure chest of blood for when I’m born
The extra meal that fills me up to birth me in top form.

So, please don’t cut my cord too soon, and don’t pull on it too
I’ll call for my placenta when I am safely through.

And when you see this wondrous thing that grew me up so well
Say thank you to the God who made us from one cell.

-Sarah Buckley, M.D.
author of Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering: A Doctor's Guide to Natural Childbirth and Gentle Early Parenting Choices

Placenta Art by Mom Tribe Ceramics
Photography for Etsy Businesses by Soleil Life



5 Things NOT to Do to Babies

When I had a puppy, he hated to be ignored or left alone. At those times he would chew up the furniture. Babies hate these things too, but they can’t damage the furniture to let us know. Instead, their development gets undermined and we and society have to live with the anxious and depressed results.

What should we NOT do to babies?


1. Ignore them (don’t)

Under natural birth conditions, newborns are ready to communicate with mother, father and others. Colwyn Trevarthen has videos showing newborn communication with a parent. Of course, they cannot talk but they can grunt and move their arms (the left arm is typically self-referential and the right arm focused on the partner). Some mothers communicate with the baby in the womb through singing, reading, talking, or even thumping. In indigenous cultures, the mother is responsible for shaping the spirit of the child with communications like these to the baby before and after birth, even creating a unique song for that child (e.g., Turnbull, 1983).

Grazyna Kochanska’s (2002) program of research shows that it is a “mutually-responsive orientation” that leads over time to the most positive outcomes, like conscience, prosocial behavior, and friendship skills. Mutually-responsive means the parent and child both influence each other, building a relationship cooperatively. Trevarthen (1979, 1999, 2001) suggests that this type of companionship care provides an optimal environment for emotional and intellectual development. The parent and child together develop their own ongoing creative stories and games that continue to change over time. 

Why is a companionship relationship particularly important for babies? The first three years of life is a time when tacit (non-conscious) understanding of how the social world works is developed and it gets wired into how the brain works (Schore, 1994, 1996). With responsive care, the brain’s systems learn to work well and thereby keep the person healthy and socially engaged. What is learned during early life will be applied ever after to relationships (unless changed with therapy or other significant brain-changing experiences). 

Babies who are born early or experience non-soothing perinatal experiences may need to be gently wooed by caregivers into a back-and-forth communicative relationship. This means caregivers have to be especially calming and sensitive to the baby’s signals—teasing her into relating, but only when she is ready. Skin-to-skin touch, singing and whispering comforting words may be helpful for the very withdrawn.

2. Let them cry (don’t)

Imagine being in pain and asking for help and being ignored. How does that make you feel about yourself (bad) and about your family (angry)? It’s so much worse for a baby; he has rapidly growing brain systems that are learning their dance patterns for social living and for physiological functioning.

If babies regularly get distressed, their bodies are being trained to be anxious and distrustful of themselves and of others. Most of what they learn from undercare is tacit knowledge that may not be noticeable until later when they are inflexible, self-centered and easily stressed out. Know anyone like that?

When young babies cry they are not having tantrums or being little emperors. They have needs and communicate them the only way that they can.

But if you wait for a cry before alleviating discomfort, you are waiting too long.

Young babies have a hard time stopping crying so you don’t want to let them start. To keep babies from crying, caregivers must pay attention to the nonverbal signals babies give (restlessness, frown, grimace, flailing arms) and nip discomfort in the bud. This is what wise grandmothers do.

Young babies need to breastfeed frequently, as human breastmilk is thin but filled with the body’s building blocks. Babies also need to move a lot, which helps them grow. So if you know the baby just had a good feed, then keep him calm with patting, bouncing, rocking. They expect the caregiver to be emotionally present with skin-to-skin contact, so talk, sing, be.

In the first four months of life, babies are likely to be more fussy (but that doesn’t mean they must cry). This is also the time period that seems to set the level of responsiveness between baby and caregiver that lasts for years after (according to our and Ruth Feldman’s research; Feldman, Greenbaum & Yirmiya, 1999). Caregivers should be especially attentive to when a young baby starts to fuss by noticing facial expression and gestures and offer preventative comfort that relaxes them again. Preventing crying in the first place is the goal (and ancient wisdom). 

A mother visited my class with a baby a few months old. We passed the baby around until he began to grimace. Then the mother took him, stood up and held him in her arm, stomach down and rocked and bounced him back and forth. He looked very content and remained quiet for the rest of the period.

Now, I should say that if a caregiver is feeling so frustrated that she is ready to throw the baby against the wall, in that case, it is best to leave the room and let the baby cry. (See Period of Purple Cry for guidelines; and see these cautions.) But of course, it is best not to let such a regular crying pattern get established in the first days and weeks of life. 

3. Leave them alone (don’t) 

Babies are built to be physically connected to caregivers. They do not understand why they are alone.

Imagine being suddenly left alone in a strange land where you cannot move or take care of yourself. It would be terrifying, even if you understood what was going on. Why do this to a child? 

Children are mammals who rely on the companionship of adults to care for their needs until they can do it themselves. Although people talk as if you can force babies to learn independence, this is an imaginary outcome. If you isolate babies, the opposite happens—they become whiney and needy or quiet and torn up inside, in both cases preoccupied with themselves.

One of the hallmarks of people who don’t help others when they are in a situation of need is personal distress (Batson, 2011). Personal distress makes empathy and compassionate action very unlikely. Making babies stress reactive from undercare may be a good way to build an easily distressed personality and create a society of self-concerned folks. 

4. Not hold them whenever possible (please hold them) 

Babies are meant to be held. This should start immediately. First impressions of you and the world are fundamental. Can they relax into being? Learning a deep relaxation and sense of peace is what they will carry forward into life. If they don’t have a regular experience of relaxing into loving arms, they may never learn to relax and let go. Such a letting go is vital for health (Kabat-Zinn, 1991). 

When babies are physically apart from caregivers (not “in arms”), pain responses are activated, influencing the presence of various hormones and neuropeptides right when systems are being established (Ladd, Owens & Nemeroff, 1996; Panksepp, 2003; Sanchez et al., 2001). Separation dysregulates multiple systems over the long term. For example, the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA), a part of the stress response system becomes dysregulated and hyperactive (Caldji, Tannenbaum, Sharma, et al., 1998; Levine, 1994; Plotsky & Meaney, 1993). Even a 3-hour daily separation (in infant mice—and human babies are much more needy and social) caused enough early life stress to induce epigenetic effects that heightened stress reactivity and caused deficits in memory function in adulthood (Murgatroyd & Spengler, 2009). Moreover, limited touch in early life leads to an underdevelopment of serotonin receptors, endogenous opioids and oxytocin—chemicals that are related to happiness (Kalin, 1993; Meinischmidt & Heim, 2007). 

So don’t take untouched babies lightly.

Babies should feel welcome in adult arms apart from the times they themselves feel the urge to explore (though a fearful toddler may sometimes need encouragement to explore). When babies want to explore, it should be allowed as much as possible. 

Here is an interesting anecdote. When an American was visiting an African village, she saw a young child reaching for the fire and automatically slapped his hand away. An African elder scolded her for doing so, saying, ‘if you do that you will have to watch him carefully for the rest of his life.’ That is, children need to learn about their own world without being overguarded or they will never learn to behave safely on their own.

Numbers 1-4 are punishing. Babies are not meant to be without adult caring companionship at any time and don’t grow as well without it. But there is one more specifically about intentional punishment of babies. 

5. Punish them (don’t)

Some parents spank or hit their babies (almost 1/3 of 12-month-olds in the USA are spanked, according to recent research)! This is very bad news. Corporal punishment might be an immediate release of frustration for the caregiver but, like most aggressive acts, it can have long-term negative effects.

Recall that babies are learning what life is about from the way they are treated and what they practice. Punishment has several obvious damaging effects: 

(a) The baby may have less trust in a caregiver’s love and care, as the caregiver is not safe to relax around;

(b) The baby may have less trust in himself—caregivers have taught him that his urges are unimportant and even bad to have—talk about how to undermine self-development;

(c) If caregivers punish babies for wanting to explore, they may undermine motivation for learning (affecting school achievement later);  

(d) The baby may learn that it’s best to suppress her interests around the caregiver, influencing communication with the caregiver;

(e) A recent study of audio recordings of families shows not only that parents are very impatient but that misbehavior increases after spanking.

(f) Physiologically, punishment will activate the stress response, which is not advisable in early life when thresholds and parameters for functioning are being set.

If you want to optimize a baby’s brain, health and wellbeing for the long term, don’t do these five things.

Warm, responsive parenting is one of the best predictors of positive child outcomes (e.g., getting along with others, doing well in school). Responsive caregiving means attending to the individuality of the child in a particular situation. So caregivers have to be emotionally present, not distracted by their own worries, phones or work. 

“But I’m a tired, frustrated parent” 

Clearly babies take a lot of care to get them off to a good start. That’s why the adage “it takes a village to raise a child” is often mentioned. Yes, it takes more than one person (usually mom) or even two people (usually mom and dad) to meet one baby’s needs. So if you are a frustrated, tired parent, get help with caregiving. Here are just a few examples from experience but parents, please add suggestions:

(a) Arrange gatherings with other families, exchange babysitting, share meal making and clean up.

(b) Lower expectations for your personal goals. I remember hearing a mother say after several months of struggle that she learned to surrender to the needs of the baby. Taking care of baby’s needs is an investment you won’t regret. 

(c) If you can, have one parent or adult family member not work outside the home so she or he can focus on childcare (which should decrease stress). Apparently, stay-at-home mothering has been increasing. This is a good idea as long as parents don’t isolate themselves with their children.

(d) Parenting is not meant to be a solo act. Parents should structure their lives around support systems. And everyone should all give parents help whenever possible.

Babies follow built-in needs (see Ten Things Everyone Should Know About Babies). Deny them at the peril of making a less healthy, happy and agreeable child.

NOTE on BASIC ASSUMPTIONS: When I write about parenting, I assume the importance of the evolved developmental niche (EDN) for raising human infants (which initially arose over 30 million years ago with the emergence of the social mammals and has been slightly altered among human groups based on anthropological research).

The EDN is the baseline I use for determining what fosters optimal human health, wellbeing and compassionate morality. The niche includes at least the following: infant-initiated breastfeeding for several years, nearly constant touch early, responsiveness to needs so the young child does not get distressed, playful companionship with multi-aged playmates, multiple adult caregivers, positive social support, and soothing perinatal experiences.

All these characteristics are linked to health in mammalian and human studies (for reviews, see Narvaez, Panksepp, Schore & Gleason, 2013; Narvaez, Valentino, Fuentes, McKenna & Gray, 2014; Narvaez, 2014) Thus, shifts away from the EDN baseline are risky. My comments and posts stem from these basic assumptions.



Related Reading

More on what scholars say about early nurturing here.

How raising babies is different from raising children.


Related Reading by Dr. Narvaez at Peaceful Parenting: 

An 'On Demand' Life and the Basic Needs of Babies

Where Are All the Happy Babies?

The Dangers of Crying It Out

10 Things Everyone Should Know About Babies

Why Keep Babies Happy? A baby's cry is a late signal of discomfort

5 Things NOT to Do to Babies

12 Ways to Nurture Babies at Conception, Birth, and Beyond

Are you treating your child like a prisoner?

Are you or your child on a touch starvation diet?

Conspiracy Thinking: Understanding Attachment and Its Consequences

Psychology Today: Circumcision Series

Learn More from Narvaez:

The Evolved Nest Institute

Kindred Media

Neurobiology and the Development of Human Morality: Evolution, Culture, and Wisdom

๐Ÿ’œ Peaceful Parenting Community

๐Ÿ’™ Peaceful Parenting on Facebook

๐Ÿ’— Peaceful Parenting on Telegram

References

Batson, C.D. (2011). Altruism in humans. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Caldji, C., Tannenbaum, B. Sharma, S., Francis, D, Plotsky, P.M., & Meaney, M.J. (1998). Maternal care during infancy regulates the development of neural systems mediating the expression of fearfulness in the rat. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA95(9), 5335-5340.

Feldman, R., Greenbaum, C.W., & Yirmiya, N. (1999). Mother–infant affect synchrony as an antecedent of the emergence of self-control. Developmental Psychology, 35(1), 223-231.

Hrdy, S. (2009). Mothers and others: The evolutionary origins of mutual understanding. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press.

Kabat-Zinn, J. (1991). Full catastrophe living: Using the wisdom of your body and mind to face stress, pain, and illness. New York: Delta.

Kalin, N. H. (1993). The neurobiology of fear. Scientific American, 268, 94–101.

Kochanska, G. (2002b). Mutually responsive orientation between mothers and their young children: A context for the early development of conscience. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 11(6), 191-195. doi:10.1111/1467-8721.00198

Ladd, C. O., Owens, M. J., & Nemeroff, C. B. (1996). Persistent changes in corticotropin-releasing factor neuronal systems induced by maternal deprivation. Endocrinology, 137, 1212–1218.

Levine, S. (1994). The ontogeny of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis: The influence of  maternal factors. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 746, 275-288.

Liedloff, J. (1986). The Continuum concept. Cambridge, MA: Perseus Books.

Meinlschmidt, G., & Heim, C. (2007). Sensitivity to intranasal oxytocin in adult men with early prenatal separations. Biological Psychiatry, 61(9), 1109-1111.

Murgatroyd, C., Spengler D (2011). Epigenetics of early child development. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 16 (2), 1-15.

Murgatroyd, C., Spengler D (2011). Epigenetics of early child development. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 16 (2), 1-15.

Plotsky, P. M., & Meaney, M. J. (1993). Early, postnatal experience alters hypothalamic corticotrophin-releasing factor (CRF) mRNA, median eminence CRF content and stress-induced release in adult rats. Molecular Brain Research, 18, 195–200.

Sanchez, M.M., Ladd, C.O., & Plotsky, P.M. (2001). Early adverse experience as a developmental risk factor for later psychopathology. Development and Psychopathology, 13(3), 419-449.

Schore, A. N. (1994). Affect regulation and the origin of the self. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

Schore, A.N. (1996). The experience-dependent maturation of a regulatory system in the orbital prefrontal cortex and the origin of developmental psychopathology. Developmental Psychopathology, 8, 59–87.

Trevarthen, C. (1979). Communication cooperation in early infancy: A description of primary intersubjectivity. In M. Bullowa (Ed.), Before speech: The beginning of human communication (pp. 321–347). London, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Trevarthen, C. (1999). Musicality and the intrinsic motive pulse: Evidence from human psychobiology and infant communication. Musicae Scientiae, Special Issue, 157–213.

Trevarthen, C. (2001). Intrinsic motives for companionship in understanding: Their origin, development and significance for infant mental health. Infant Mental Health Journal, 22(1–2), 95–131.

Turnbull, C.M. (1983). The human cycle. New York: Simon and Schuster.

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