Reprinted with permission from motheringarts.com
How can we support babies in the first year? This question has swirled around me for many years, and I've finally come to an answer that feels right:
In ways that are unique as each family.
Ah, it feels wonderful to not only say that, but to believe it all the way to my bones. With thousands of opinions and parenting techniques (including Steiner-based) surrounding parents at any given moment, how can we learn to trust our own inner voice? It is your unique connection with your child, listening to your inner voice and your family/community culture that will truly set the stage of how the first year will unfold. If we believe that each human has a path of destiny, we can feel a sense of freedom that we don't have to do follow any recipes, rather, we can write our own. When we focus on deepening our relationship with our child, we can cultivate our unique art of parenting.
The guiding phrase that I find most supportive to share with parents is one held dearly by LifeWays North America; relationship based care.
Relationship based care is dynamic, it's co-created by parent and the child in the present moment and is changing along with the needs of the child and parent (or caregiver). Using relationship based care as a guiding principle, you can create a unique experience of how you and your baby can receive nurturing in the first year, in a way that is rooted in authenticity. In the LifeWays training we celebrate the diverse ways we practice care-giving while remaining connected by shared values.
Parents are wired to nurture their babies, we devote ourselves in love to these little beings around the clock to nourish their bodies and spend hours gazing at their bright eyes. We want their baby to feel loved and nurtured, and on the other side of the coin, often times parents are receiving little nurturing themselves. It's a tall order to offer an experience of true nurturing and care when we ourselves are not experiencing that kind of feeling...and somehow, we still manage to continue extraordinary care-giving. Imagine if we were feeling a bit more balanced and abundant in our ability to nurture?
Here is where we can look to the four lower senses, as indicated by Rudolf Steiner, as vital nutrients for your baby and for you. Why not experience these vital nutrients as a parent alongside of your baby?
Many online sources will give you a wider breadth of understanding if you would like to learn more about the four lower senses. You can click here to read a well written article on the twelve senses by Carrie from the Parenting Passageway.
Nurturing the Sense of Life
Ways to cultivate a sense of well-being, nourishment, health and security.
- Nourishment - milks and foods that are offered with tenderness and gratitude. Click here to download a free meal blessing collection.
- Protecting baby's senses- a peaceful and stress-free environment
- Sleep- create a rhythm and ritual that both of you love
- Time in nature- everyday get outside and take in the magic of mother earth
- Connection- when baby cries out, acknowledge his/her needs with voice and/or touch. Create a moment of connection before transitions
- Nourishment- take the time to prepare foods that help you feel vibrant.
- Rhythm-create a rhythm through the day, add in rituals for your family and also some just for you. I have a morning ritual that is just for me. Click here to print our free calendar of kindness to weave in a simple daily act of gratitude and kindness for each day of December.
- Rest- I know that for some it's a tall order with babies, and it's also possible to be restful without sleeping. Find the things that cultivate peace in your heart and make time for those activities.
- Joy- do the things that bring you joy! If you need a reminder, write a list of three things right now that make you feel alive...then put them in your daily rhythm. You will find me dancing in my kitchen just before dinner prep.
- Time in nature- get outside and enjoy the birdsong everyday.
- Connect with others- cultivate nourishing relationships and ask for support when you need it.
Nurturing the Sense of Touch
Ways to cultivate sensations, a feeling of your space in the world and connection.
- Cuddles- touching your baby supports growth, boosts immunity and oxytocin (the feel-good hormone), and creates bonding.
- Dress baby warmly- under woolens and under silks are a great base layer of natural fibers to create a second skin of warmth for baby.
- Time in nature- yes, nature again...touch the grass, the water, the snow, the crunchy leaves and let the sounds and smells of nature touch your baby's heart.
- Touching games- from a caress to a tickle, babies love to be touched. Touching games are fun way to create moments of joy, bonding and help with transitions in your daily rhythm. Click here for examples of touching games to share with your baby.
- Touch- Hugs, cuddles, love-making, massage and partner dancing are all ways to boost our oxytocin and nurture ourselves.
- Quality clothing- Keep yourself warm, wear fabrics and shoes that feel good.
- Create time to feel "touched"- Go to a concert, a play or a museum to let the arts touch your heart...or participate in the arts yourself.
- Time in Nature- Walk with bare feet, sit with your eyes closed, swim and dig your hands into the soil.
Nurturing the Sense of Movement
Cultivate a sense of how you move through the world with your proprioceptive system.
- Trust your baby-Were babies able to sit before bumbos? Were babies able to walk before walkers? YES. Your baby will find his or her way into movement in a unique way. Trust in his capacity to blossom into movement, it's the in-between silly movements that are building the foundation to get to the "benchmarks".
- Create a safe space for free movement- create a safe space that baby can wiggle, roll and explore and you can relax knowing the dog is up out of the way.
- Lap games- Another opportunity for connecting in your own way and bringing moments of joy and play to your day.
- Time in Nature- Pack a little bag of what you might need (extra clothes, diapers, snacks, a blanket, etc) and get outside to explore. Your little one will show you a whole other world that is three inches off the ground.
- Listen to your body- What does your body need? Rest, gentle movement, something playful or vigorous exercise? Pause and check in with yourself and then make time to give your body what it needs.
- Body Gratitude- Your body is a miracle! It is full of systems that work in unison to keep us moving, digesting, breathing and millions of other gifts. Say thanks every now and then, and maybe do something nice like take a herbal bath or get a massage.
- Time in Nature- This seems to be the balm to all that ails! Go for a walk and soak in the sights and sounds. Try at sunrise or sunset, the earth offers quite a show at these in-between times.
- New physical experiences- try something new and wake up new muscles and brain pathways. I started rollerblading last year and besides looking a bit ridiculous in all my protective gear, I'm having a blast.
Nurturing the Sense of Balance
Also known as the vestibular system, this cultivates a sense of where you are in relation to other things; up or down, left or right and behind or in front.
- Rocking- How many hours have we spent rocking our wee ones? It's soothing to both of us and stimulates the vestibular system.
- Rolling- Babies will find their way to rolling and roll clear across the kitchen floor which supports their sense of balance in a fun way.
- Organic positions- Have you seen your baby in a side plank while wiggling a toy? I once saw a professional athlete who imitated his baby's movements for 5 minutes and then gave up because it was too difficult. Baby's are amazing in the ways they move, just give them opportunity to move freely, and they will initiate an expert level series of balance moves...follow along if you dare.
- Create a daily rhythm- You are the weaver of context for your baby. Create balance with a rhythm of rest and activity, lullabies and meal blessings cue what comes next and create a balanced feeling day.
- Create a nourishing rhythm- We need a balance of work and play, of social time and time alone. Notice when you need to let things go and slow down.
- Tune into Mother Nature- She is the greatest weaver of context, showing us when to be more outward and when to be more inward. Follow her lead and create family celebrations that represent your family values and your sense of place.
- Balancing Movements- Try to incorporate spacial dynamics, yoga, Qi Gong, dance or pilates that challenge you to find stillness within.
- Clear Clutter - Life can feel off-balance when we are overwhelmed with too much stuff. Choose a few times of year to clear space, including a busy schedule.
- Neck Rolls- Parents with babies, this one is for you. Many hours are spent gazing at our sweet peas in our arms, roll your neck around through the day to balance your neck and shoulders.
Think of ways to weave these four senses into your day, not just for baby, but for you as well. Each family has an art of living, each is unique and speaks volumes of the bond and story of your relationships. Be yourself. I'd love to hear from you in the comments.
Kerry Ingram is the creator of Mothering Arts. She supports women to create nurturing circles for moms and babies in the postpartum year in their own town. Kerry thoughtfully weaves together her experience and education as a Waldorf and LifeWays early childhood educator, postpartum doula, mother, foster parent and community catalyst into the Mothering Arts vision. You can learn more or join one of her online offerings at motheringarts.com