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Protecting and Establishing Points of Reference -- Montessori Baby Week 4

Today, Theodore is a whole month old! I can't believe it's already been a month with this bundle of joy. Being back in baby mode all the time really reminds me how amazing Montessori from birth is. Montessori really is such an amazing "aid to life," one that deeply respects how children grow and develop from the beginning. One of the earliest examples of this respect is the concept of "points of reference." We are literally respecting a baby's earliest experiences - those in the womb - through our actions after birth. Amazing! 

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Points of reference refer to the memories that a newborn has from the womb. It is the familiar environmental conditions and experiences that occurred before your baby was born. These include familiar sounds, smells, and movements. Maria Montessori and those working with her understood the importance of allowing a child to hold on to these comforts during the days and weeks that followed after birth. In The Absorbent Mind Maria wrote, "those working in this field find it natural to believe that ways must exist of helping the child to make his first adaption to the world." 

Once a child is born, these memories are comforting to them. Allowing a child to keep and access them is such a beautiful sign of respect and love. Practically these points of reference are things that are easily supported through our own behavior after a baby is born. Things like holding your baby skin to skin and talking to your baby -- things that I think many/most parents do naturally -- help to protect some of the familiar points of reference from the womb. 
Others are a bit different from traditional parenting - especially access to the hands, a very important and comforting reference, and freedom of movement. Often within a couple of hours of birth a baby is tightly swaddled which restricts access to their hands and constricts their movement significantly. Baby mittens are often encouraged to keep a baby from scratching or rubbing his face. Sometimes, baby clothes - while adorable - can restrict or make movement more difficult. 

I one-hundred percent did all of those things before I knew about Montessori. But, by understanding points of reference, I have been able to modify my behavior and our environment to protect those early points of reference. For Theodore this means, we skipped a swaddle, we never restrict his access to his hands or feet, we aim to give him as much freedom of movement as possible, and as much time snuggled up against up as possible. It's all easy, natural, free ways to respect his transition to the world and his developmental path. 

In the weeks that follow birth, a newborn's points of reference from the womb will start to fade and new points of reference will be established. Dr. Montanaro explains,  "the child, needs to establish a frame of reference for his new life and pass from one environment to another." {Understanding the Human Being.} These new points of reference are established through routine within your home. It's the routines of feeding, bathing, diapering, and sleeping that help to create these new connections. She goes on to say, "these repetitive activities soon become meeting points that promote the development of a relationship with a specific person and an opportunity to become familiar with the environment." 

For us with Teddy it means establishing strong routines around our daily activities. Napping and sleeping in the same locations, playing in the same spots, nursing in the same location. By developing a strong routine and rhythm we are giving him the opportunity to develop those new points of reference and slowly adjust to his new life outside the womb. Over time we will introduce more and more of our environment to him, but for now, we keep it slow and similar.  

How have you protected or established points of reference with your newborn? 


Kalia said…
This is a great blog. Thanks! What do you think on only using diapper at home to promote contact to all surfaces and of course skin to skin.

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