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December 12, 2016

Montessori Baby Week 2 -- A Place in the Family

It has been two wonderful weeks with Augustus at home. Every day we all settle more and more into our routine as a new family of five. This isn't to say that it has been totally easy, because that's not true. Everyone is adjusting to our new normal and with that comes some big emotions. 

But, I wanted to talk some about what our new normal really looks like. Because for a Montessori family, it may look a little bit different than some. As a Montessori family, we recognize Augustus as a full human being deserving all the love and respect that any other human should get. We know that he is already absorbing everything around him and trying hard to adjust to the big world around him. 

As Maria Montessori said, "In the first days of life, it is clear that something of the utmost importance is taking place….he has ‘potentialities’ able to bring about his development, and they do so by making use of the outer world." It is through their interaction with the world around them, that a newborn will eventually reach his/her full potential. Dr. Montessori also said, "The needs of a newborn child are not those of one who is sick but of one who is striving to adjust oneself physically and psychologically to new and strange surroundings." 

So, it is with this foundation in mind that we are caring for Gus. It is this foundation that is guiding us through all the sleep deprived days and nights, the nursing, the diapers and the cuddles.

Practically, what does this mean? For me, it means two things. One, it means that Augustus is an active participant in our family life. This means that when we can have Gus near us, we do. We want him to experience his environment. We want him to be in the middle of our family life. This means, he hangs out where we do. He sleeps near us. He's on the floor in the middle of the action. Specifically:

  • Joins us for family meals {even if he's just hanging out near us}
  • Sleeps in the common rooms so is familiar with the rhythm of our family 
  • We read to him and he joins us when we read if he is awake 
  • Spends time on the floor near where the children are playing when he is awake
  • His movement area is part of our living space, not sequestered in the nursery 
  • We nurse in common areas throughout the day
Basically, we try to allow him to experience our house, our life, our family. It's through these interactions that he is adjusting to the world. He isn't swaddled up in a baby-holding device {baby swing, bouncy seat or bassinet}, or tucked away in the nursery. He's in the middle of the crazy, and we couldn't imagine it any other way. 

And, two, this Montessori mindset means that Henry and Nora are as active as possible caring for Gus. We want them to be involved with our new family member. I want them to form that bond from the beginning. And, this is not always easy. Sometimes, I'm short on patience. Sometimes, they are a bit too rough or loud. But, we try our best. Specifically, some ways they are involved include: 

  • Preparing diaper changes -- gathering diapers, wipes and other essentials.
  • Helping with the actual change -- undoing snaps, throwing away diapers, handing me wipes 
  • Picking out his clothes or blanket 
  • Putting socks, hats and other clothing on him 
  • Reading and talking to Augustus 
  • Sitting with him as Gus hangs out 
  • Touching him and cuddling with him 
  • Getting me things I need when nursing/changing/soothing Augustus
I do want to be clear, that even with this participation, the transition has been difficult on both Henry and Nora. We are still dealing with a lot of big feelings and emotions from both of them, even though they are head over heals in love with Gus. Right now, I have found this article from my dear friend Junnifa very helpful in preparing Nora for Augustus' arrival. I have also found this article from Janet Lansbury to be very helpful when responding to the emotions we are experiencing. 

So, if you are expecting a baby, or have a newborn, help them find a place in your family! Include them! Treat them as a person. Respect their natural rhythms and help them adjust to their new surroundings. Give them opportunities to explore and interact with the world around them. 

How do you help to integrate your baby into your family? Have you experienced big emotions from your other children as a result? 

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cpcable said…
Oh, Nicole! Gus is just so precious. Congratulations! Sending you so much positive energy as your family adjusts to the addition. I'll have to admit that I was surprised to see you equate babywearing with tucking the baby away in the nursery and isolating them from family life. The two don't seem to be the same. While I agree that keeping baby in a separate room does isolate him/her from family life, babywearing does the opposite. It allows baby to be fully integrated. There are so many documented benefits (to both mother and child) of babywearing and I fear that folks may get the impression that it's "not Montessori" to do so, which isn't the case at all. Not all Montessori folks will choose to babywear (which is of course fine! We all know our families and our babies best), but Maria had positive things to say about babywearing and encouraged it for all the reasons that you cite in your post (keeping baby with mom and including him/her in family life).

In The Absorbant Mind:
"All the great human groups, nations and races, have their individual differences; for example, they have different ways of carrying the baby . . . . In most parts of the world, mothers put the baby on a small bed, or in a large bag; they do not carry him in their arms . . . . Some hang the child from their necks, others tie him to their backs, and others again put him in a small basket; but in all countries mothers have found a way of taking their children about with them.
One observes, too, that the little one, going about with his mother, never cries unless he is ill or hurt in some way. Sometimes he may fall asleep, but he does not cry."
Asnate said…
Thanks for this article! We're expecting our newest family member any day now, and this was useful to read. This surprised me though: "As a Montessori family, we recognize Augustus as a full human being deserving all the love and respect that any other human should get. We know that he is already absorbing everything around him and trying hard to adjust to the big world around him." I never imagined it to be something specific to a "Montessori family", rather just any normal family.. as I can't imagine it any other way.
And yes, similarly as the comment above, I was surprised about the babywearing - I think it's a great way to involve the baby in the family life. Babywearing is great.. giving all the comfort and closeness that a newborn needs (of course, newborns are all different, with very different needs, but our firstborn was in a constant need of closeness and cuddle, so babywearing was a lifesaver for the first 3 months), same time - which I expect (hope) to be a great advantage with the second child - it will allow to be mobile myself, have the baby mobile with me, as spending days with the older child (mine is just 18 months, so needs a lot of involvement from my side still, even being the independent Montessori toddler that she is). And, btw, while babywearing, the baby can perfectly see, hear and take part. If doesn't like the restricted movement, then surely lets to know. I used it mostly for sleeping time anyway. So yes, babywearing doesn't have to be for everyone, but it sure is great and not "not Montessori".
Nicole @ The Kavanaugh Report
Oh! I LOVE babywearing! I have worn all my babies from a young age, and will/do with Augustus too. I think the post is unclear, I meant swings/bouncy seat/bassinet. I'll edit the post to make that more clear because it is worded funny. Thanks for bringing that to my attention!
Nicole @ The Kavanaugh Report
See my comment above about baby-wearing, I didn't mean it in that way. And, for the first part. I think all families love their babies, of course. But, I do think there is a different level of respect for a baby/a child in most Montessori families than those that do not practice Montessori.