Everything in quotations can be directly attributed to the authors, unless otherwise noted. These are my own very brief personal notes/interpretation/things I want to remember.
The Five Fabulous Phases of Childhood
Infant, Toddler, Early Childhood, School-aged, Teen
Some parents find a way to dislike every stage of their children’s lives-infants are so “demanding”, toddlers are “terrible”, school-age kids “never do what I tell them to do”, and teenagers….”don’t even get me started.”
We can do better, and should have higher expectations to enjoy each stage:
“we are empowered by grace to experience truly joyful, intimate relationships with our children; to find real meaning and fulfillment in their joy and heartaches inherent in parenting; to thank God every day for another opportunity to share both life and faith with our ‘closest neighbors’-our children.
*Special section from authors briefly, there is no one way to parent, but these methods are offered as an invitation to enter a “fullness of family life”.
Parenting Your Infant With Grace
-Point of self-donative parenting is to know your child’s heart at every age and stage, so the child will come to you first for love, guidance, and formation. This kind of intimate knowledge is called attachment.
-Attachment is established in infancy and toddlerhood. To a parent of an infant and toddler this means:
“I am here to meet your needs. You can count on me.”
Three ways to foster this trust:
1. Staying physically close to your baby.
2. Responding promptly to cries.
3. Self-donative feeding.
Staying physically close:
-Babies are born “too early”-entrainment is the invisible but very real umbilical cord that exists between a mother and baby after the first year of birth-extraordinarily important for health and well-being of the infant.
-Toddlers hold their parents hands to learn to walk, babies use their mothers bodies to learn how to breathe and regulate systems properly.
-When a mother stays physically close, carries infant close to body, and sleeps close to infant, the babies body is “trained” (breathe properly, cope with stress and other systems) “sync up”.
Benefits of Sleep-Sharing or at least Room-Sharing:
-Sleep-sharing is often frowned upon in American culture, but not for scientific reasons, more for philosophical reasons (“my mom didn’t do that”)...90% of babies around the globe sleep with an adult. SIDS is most prevalent in Western cultures, where mothers don’t sleep with babies.
-Sleep-sharing can be done safely (list of “rules”here.)
-If don’t feel comfortable with baby in bed there are many co-sleeper cribs that attach right to mom’s bed, so baby can be responded to promptly.
What is “bonding”? It is not just a warm-fuzzy psychological phenomenon, it is MUCH MORE-a physiological process also! A baby needs security to develop as healthy and efficiently as possible.
“Babywearing”-Downloading the Music of Your Life:
-During pregnancy, baby was in security of mother’s womb and perceived consistent rhythms of heart and respiration.
-After birth, baby needs to continue to listen to same “music” from his mother. In other arms that very young infant’s music soundtrack would sound like it was “skipping”-the rhythm is off. We can all tolerate “skipping” in short bursts, but for long period of times, it becomes stressful.
On “Crying It Out”:
-Babies left alone to cry are experiencing a real trauma-the music has died.
“God didn’t design babies to be alone,
and their crying is a natural God-given response to this unnatural state.”
-Many parents hear that the best thing for babies is to let them “cry it out” (at night or other times) to teach them independence.
-But that flies in the face of science and reason-independence can not develop if trust is not developed first.
-Trust is developed by attentively and generously responding to baby’s cues.
Responding to baby’s cues for feeding, sleeping, cuddling, playing and changing is the singe most important factor in laying the foundation for a proper parent-child relationship and good mental healthy for your baby.
-Whether to let baby cry it out has been a matter of debate between many parents, grandparents and moms and dads (and doctors!)
-But new developments in scientifically understanding baby’s developing brains allow an assertion of definite answers-shouldn’t be debate-able anymore!
(Great article on this science here.)
1. High levels of cortisol (a stress hormone) are found in systems of children who are left to cry it out. If cortisol remains in system over long period, it damages brains ability to recover from stress.
2. Vagus nerve resets all body systems affected by stress-long-term exposure to cortisol damages vagus nerve and impairs body’s ability to calm body after stress. Physical comfort, affection, and affirmation (even in adults) stimulate the vagus nerve when human is crying and upset and helps the body get rid of cortisol more effectively.
3. Studies have shown that even when babies are forced to cry-it-out, they maintain high cortisol evels in their system for hours.
-Crying-it-out promotes learned helplessness’ “When I cry, nothing happens, so why bother?” NOT mentally, emotionally, or physically healthy for a baby.
“…if we believe that God’s intention for human relationships is revealed in the design and function of the human body, than we cannot dispute what science tells us about how the practice of crying it out does serious violence to that design and how responding promptly to a baby’s cries makes for a healthy baby.”
“…by anticipating a child’s needs through keeping him close, feeding him on request, and protecting the invisible umbilical cord that regulates bonding and neurological development, the child does not learn to cry-or at least does not cry as much-in order to get his needs met. He learns to trust. First in his parents…and then in God.”
Breastfeeding Is Fascinating:
-Greatly benefits process of entrainment as nature intended.
-Babies who are breastfed tend to be more alert, because their bodies don’t have to work so hard to digest formula.
-Mother’s body will automatically produce antibodies to combat infection
-Breastfed babies are :
-60 percent less likely to develop ear-infections
-3 to 4 times less likely to have diarrheal diseases
-80 percent decreased risk of lower respiratory infection
-400 percent less likely to contract infections that lead to meningitis
-Recent studies indicate that breast milk combined with enzymes in baby’s stomach creates a chemical that actually kills cancer cells!
-Risk of breast cancer is dramatically less.
-Improves bone strength.
-Burns up to 800 calories per day.
-Oxytocin “hormone of love” from mother’s milk helps BOTH mother and child to feel sense of calmness, attachment and love.
Unfortunately, many American hospitals do not meet standard set by WHO Baby-Friendly Hospital initiative (14,000 participate in the world, only 84 in the US!), which strongly endorse attachment parenting practices. Poor education, lack of support, and psychological factors lead women to believe they “can’t” breastfeed-a problem that hardly exists in the most impoverished, undernourished countries. Most physicians have little if any training.
Self-Donative Parenting: A Lifelong Relationship, NOT a Technique-they lay a foundation for a way of life.
Two smaller sections of this chapter (brief outline once again):
Self-Donative Fathering and the Infant
1. Take the initiative in baby care that you can do.
2. Appreciate the differences that you bring to the table.
3. Dads are the number one prevention tool for post-partum depression.
4. Take charge of your relationship (be present to your wife as much as possible).
5. Pick up slack around the house during this intense time.
FAQ’S About Self-Donative Parenting in Infancy
(There are 12 questions…I am just going through the first three.)
1. “Won’t We Spoil Kids If We Raise Them This Way?”
“Children are like fruit. They spoil when they are left to sit.”
“God is the one who created the infant to be wholly dependent upon its parents. And God is the one who gives parents the resources to respond to those needs.”
God created babies to be dependent, to be touched, to be fed with the food He created for them, Western culture is not supportive of this plan and we are paying the price for this.
2. “Won’t Self-Donative Parenting Practices Inhibit Our Infant’s Capacity for Independence?”
Children naturally want to be with their parents-not with other caregivers. “When children feel like they are being pushed out the door, they tend to hold on that much harder. It is secure attachment that allows a child to have the solid platform he needs in order to spring into the world.”
True independence can NOT be given, it MUST be taken.
3. “We Don’t Want To Be Manipulated by Our Baby”
Certain so-called Christian parenting authors warn parents against infant manipulation.
“The ability to manipulate requires intellect and conscious will and the completely dependent infant has little of either.”
This thought of manipulation springs not from Christianity but for Jansenism. One example of a Jansenist parenting author is the Ezzos of Babywise, who teaches that infants are inherently evil from birth and promote deprivation and corporal punishment. It is an unscientific, uncharitable, un-Christian, warped view of children. (For an in-depth evaluation of Ezzo go here.)
The infant has strong drives for hunger and physical affection-he has been given a voice to cry out for a reason-so that we meet his needs.
My extra note:
Besides all of Dr. Sears books, an excellent book (really, this is the manual that we should all be handed along with that baby! 🙂 is called The Science of Parenting by Margot Sunderland. It explains (in an easy format to read, apply and understand) the science behind infant, baby, and toddler needs. It’s fascinating and one of my favorite books.