When you know it’s time to go…

Have you met people in your life, whose presence brought you peace and harmony? Rarely I meet people, who have soothing effect on me, and my moods; somewhat elevating effect, that makes you want to be better and think that you can accomplish great things… Have you ever met people that when you start talking to them, you almost immediately feel that you are on the same page, and they waft pleasant thoughts and kind emotions. Such simple words, like kind thoughts and warm emotions.  I wish we didn’t forget these in a string of days.

I and Sophia were staying home for several days, and when we finally got out of the house today to visit my friends, I felt like a caveman, who saw the sunshine for the first time in many months. I have been very irritated due to a lot of factors: staying home too much, and not being able to leave Sophia with anyone, which I have finally understood that I have to in order to keep my sanity. I have to figure out the way to trust others to watch her and put up with the fact that it’s going to be English speaking person most likely. I know that leaving the house and leaving my daughter for periods of time were long overdue.

Ideally, I was supposed to do it 9 months ago, when she just turned nine months. It is very useful for her and formation of her independence. It is even more useful for me – an emotional and complex person, who just needs an outlet to express her creativity… But because of traumatic birth experience, and a feeling of guilt, also having paranoia that my child won’t speak Russian, because everyone around me is an English speaking “enemy”; and because of an absence of my mother and trust issues with my MIL, I just could not leave her. So I held on, and held on, and held on, until recently I have come to notice that it’s unbearable for me and for her.

Children genetically expect their mother to leave, and when it doesn’t happen, some issues start to arise. For instance, they may start nursing more often, almost at the same pace as newborns, up to twenty times a day… The logic here is “I might as well suck on breasts as much as I can, before she finally leaves…” Or they will throw tantrums in their attempts to usurp the mother… NOT GOOD. Not good for my sanity whatsoever.

I am always preaching how important it is to keep them in your arms 24/7 during in-arms phase, which is until they start creeping and crawling. It usually happens at around eight months of age. Until then it is extremely important to be in close contact, and not leave them with strangers and especially for long periods of time. I myself got so attached to my child and so carried away by this concept that I failed to notice that she is one and a half years old, and running around!!! WOW, and they are telling me that it’s other people’s children that grow up fast?! She grew up in a blink of an eye! And it’s time to leave, mommy, for your own sake and for the sake of your child’s well-being. Yet it is heart breaking, I realize that I need to step aside a bit and take my shield off of her… Otherwise, the result will be deplorable.

She has thrown quite a few tantrums recently, screaming and even growling and roaring at times; she would also throw herself on the floor and sometimes even hit her face(!), which I can’t imagine where she got it from??? It is driving me nuts, and I sure do not want to be a walking example of the joke: “Some people belong on a tree, because they are nuts!”

Anyhow, I took myself by the scruff, and drove to visit my friends. As always happens when I go to these precious people’s house, the time Sophia and I spent there was delightful. I always feel almost from the first moment I walk in, that I am understood. It right away makes me turn off my defense mode and just be myself, even though I remain having doubts whether I talk too much or not. Just can’t relax and be myself, shoot…What’s up with that. Sophia was acting fine, almost perfect, she was busy exploring the house, playing with Dante and finding new toys to play with. We were eating healthy snacks, light and tasty, and it made me feel good about myself. I almost believed I can follow a healthy diet and finally start a juice fest I was talking about for so long. I remembered that Mirta gave me “Juicing Bible” – a book about juicing, obviously. All I need to start is… to buy a juicer! Healthy body-healthy spirit, and vice versa.

Beautiful ideas, enlightened mood and spirit, that’s exactly what I needed! And very productive, too – we have come up with ideas for our AP and BF Support Group logo and finally watched “The business of being born”. It was hard for me to watch. I felt so guilty once again for my ignorance, and for what my daughter was put through because I didn’t do my research. Couple times during the movie I cried, but in the end it was liberating and empowering in a sense of gripping my passion and my mission in helping mothers to make informed decisions!

Coming home downgraded my optimism and light mood a little bit, and I questioned myself “why?” I think “light” comes from within, and I have to take responsibility for keeping it live. As everything in life, it is a matter of habit, sustained effort and discipline. And in some cases, mental health. Not my case, hopefully 😉

In the end we always turn to someone who can listen and is compassionate, who respects and accepts others and himself. All these latest, trends about steep personalities, and inflexible minds, don’t work. Einstein said that any kind of addiction is bad, no matter if the drug be alcohol, cigarettes or Idealism.  Outside toughness and agression are just decoys  that intend to cover up one’s incompetency to communicate with others, build lasting relationships, respect other people’s views, feelings, and ways etc, etc, etc.

Does it really matter in the end? I wasn’t talking to a girl, because she thought breastfeeding was pain in the butt. But it’s my problem! Who cares??? Welcome to natural selection, you just entered a ruffle! Some will make it, some won’t, it’s the law of evolution. Will I lower myself to arrogance and deceit? No. I learn to respect others and their choices. I learn to take responsibility for my own actions, moods and feelings, that’s a part of this deal, called adulthood.

Wow, where have I started and where have I ended?? Funny, this post came together to be about responsibility, light people, hope and time to get out of the house!

Hope I didn’t bore you, and Happy Motherhood!

Sincerely, Valeriya Isernia AP trainer

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Why you need to burn your crib, or make it an awesome laundry hamper!

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It seems to me that everything in western civilization is done backwards. In the beginning of life, when infants are the most sensitive and need physical touch and affection, at the point when their wants ARE their needs, parents refuse them this closeness, motivating it by the need to make them independent and for their safety. Then, when the baby is past this dependence stage (in most cases, with already developed sense of “wrongness”) and ready to become independent, parents all of a sudden, start following them around, constantly repeating disturbing messages like “don’t touch this, you going to hurt yourself”, “Don’t touch that, you’re going to break this”, “be careful, you’ going to fall” – basically setting them up for failure and undermining their sense of competency and self-confidence!

The truth of the matter is – holding your baby, breastfeeding your baby, sleeping next to your baby, isn’t just a nice social idea or a new trend. It’s physiological regulation for the baby’s body. It is what baby’s system expects to experience, so its heart rate, its breathing, its body temperature; his hormonal state and immune system will function efficiently.

It is not just an interesting innovation that someone, a middle class, white doctor, thought that the baby should be elsewhere, except where his parents are, but this was an unfortunate belief system that was just a few people’s ideas of what the relationship should be between the parent and the baby at night. But this belief system is completely in odds of what the biology of the infant is all about, and the biology of the mother is all about.

Here are the most popular arguments against bed sharing:

1 .It’s not safe

2. You will spoil them

3. Kids, who bed share with their parents, grow up too dependent.

4. They’ll never want to go to their own bed

5. It will affect unfavorably your intimate life with your husband

6. It’s uncomfortable

I will address every one of them:

  1. It is safe to bed share with your baby unless the mother is drunk, or on heavy medications, which will affect sleeping patterns, and make a person sleep heavier. Other than that it is safe.
Co-Sleeping

Co-Sleeping (Photo credit: Sugar and Vice)

Can you imagine that a pregnant woman would lay on her stomach while asleep, if she’s in sound mind and memory? Of course, not! We can say that a woman, who gave birth, already has an experience of bed sharing with her child. The only difference now – the baby is outside, not inside. Research was done on infant’s deaths from bed sharing, and it showed that all of them had a common feature – they were bottle-fed, not breast-fed. Breastfeeding mother lays her baby upper, close to her breast, so it’s impossible to roll over. Second point – is that breastfeeding mother is more attuned to her baby, and her sensitivity levels are higher, especially when asleep. From my own experience, I can share that even when I was deeply asleep, I’d grab my husband’s shoulder every time he rolled at night! It was so quick and automatic; I would wake up immediately, if my daughter sighed at night.

2.“You will spoil them”. I knew a mother who decided to put her baby in a separate crib in a separate room at three months old. She figured it was time to start incorporating discipline. The baby was screaming and weeping every night, but as she put it she “toughed it out” and he got used to it. She toughed it out… what about the baby, who was left alone screaming his lungs out? Usually this kind of ideas comes to individuals who are hurting, and have wounds from the past. This girl had a history of horrible family relationships, and subconsciously we always want to match our previous experiences with our present reality. You can’t get mad at those people either – the same was done to them, and they don’t know any better.

It is important to understand that at this age baby’s wants are their needs, and they are not trying to manipulate. His crying reflects his state. We all know what it means when the baby is crying, yet we don’t pick them up, because we listen to the “experts” with their parade of theories on how to treat an infant. Instead we should listen to our instincts, which know precisely how to nurture a baby. Every man, woman, boy and girl knows how to take care of the baby. But our instincts are shut down by the Intellect that reasons everything, and attempts to approach and analyze child care with logic.

Babies have certain inborn expectations that match their evolutionary experience and biology. When the expected does not happen they signal us by crying. Every baby cries when we put them down, this way they let us know  NOT to put them down. All babies do that, could they possibly be all wrong? No! This is a call of nature, pure and ultimate.

The baby knows what it supposed to get, his skin is crying out for nurturing touch of an adult, caregiver, he wants to be next to a live body, not in a lifeless box, wrapped in a lifeless cloth! When baby’s crying goes unanswered he develops a sense of wrongness, and the whole world becomes horribly wrong. It leads to multiple disorders later in life and turns on compensatory mechanisms that I can talk about for hours, but mainly, this kind of mistreatment causes the loss of natural ability to be happy.

When natural state of happiness is lost, it becomes a goal. Look how many books are written on subjects like – how to be happy, find happiness, etc! We are so used to our own misery, that we consider ourselves lucky if we are not homeless or in pain. And what was once man’s confident expectation on how he’s supposed to be treated, is now shut off, he’s told what he is supposed to have and want. But there is in him a sense of loss, a feeling of being off center, an intuitive longing for something he cannot name. Asked point blank he will seldom deny it. If I can contribute to my child’s happiness by simply responding to his genuine needs, I will take my chances!

3. Forming child’s independence. A child can become independent only after passing a stage of complete dependency from caregiver. Co-sleeping, and bed sharing as a form of co-sleeping, satisfies one of the basic needs of the child – is being close to his mother, being in constant physical contact. Besides hormonal and biological benefits of co-sleeping that ensures efficient development of all baby’s systems and reduces the chances of SIDS, it offers emotional and bonding benefits. Giving this secure base for the child will help him to feel secure within himself. Children who co-slept with their parents are more affectionate; easier self-disclose themselves to others, more trusting and capable of building long-lasting and harmonious relationships with others.  Another moment – by leaving a baby to sleep alone, we handle to him a responsibility for his own safety, which he’s not ready to take just yet. They are ready to take responsibility at around three or four years of age.

4. Children who successfully passed the stage of dependency will easily go to their own bed when the time comes. It doesn’t happen overnight, and takes certain steps that you can find here. At first the child goes to his own bed during day naps, and slowly transitions to sleep there at night. There are common sense rules that make this process easy and natural for both – mother and child. For example, mother and father need to take up the most of the bed, not giving priority to a child, this way it gets crowded and not very interesting for him, and eventually he leaves.

5. It won’t really affect your love life, considering the fact that there are plenty of different places, besides the bed. That’s all I have to say about that 😉

6. In fact it is extremely comfortable not to have to get up at night to nurse your baby. Sleeping through the night is not recommended for tiny breastfeeding babies. Dr. Sears explains that whether this is desirable or undesirable depends on parent’s mindset, but the facts state that breastfed babies wake more frequently for good reasons. Breastmilk is digested faster than formula, so breastfed babies get hungry sooner. Also, one of the main milk producing hormones – prolactin – is highest at night hours (usually between 1 and 7 a.m.). Could it be that a mother’s body is designed for night feedings? The focus in the first months of breastfeeding, should not be on getting the baby to sleep through the night, but rather learning to cope with his normal nighttime infant behavior. Besides, night feedings satisfy your baby’s emotional need.

Conclusion: Every family is different, and should find a sleeping arrangement that works for them. At the same time, it is important to remember that infants biology and expectations as well as mother’s biology and expectations should work together to reach optimal health, development and overall well-being.

Bed sharing can be really comfortable if you know how to breastfeed when lying down. I was very uncomfortable at first, and lactation specialist showed me the right position. Since then, night nursings are my favorite! Bed sharing is one form of co-sleeping, some people sidecar a crib next to their bed, so the baby is within arms reach. I hope you find the one that works for you. Happy Motherhood! Always yours, Valeriya Isernia

Co-sleeping – it’s safe and even useful!

When organizing bed sharing with your baby, you must be wondering – if it’s safe, and when will it end?

Safety wise there must be one condition met: the woman must be in sound mind and memory.

If certain areas of the brain are shut off, especially the ones that control sleeping, it is not safe to bedshare.

So as a result of alcohol, drugs usage or other conscious altering psychotropic drugs, a woman can accidently lay over the child, which is dangerous and she should not put the baby in the same bed.  All other cases are safe.

Can you imagine that a pregnant woman would lie on her stomach while asleep being In the right mind and memory? … No! Such cases are not known.

You can say that a woman who gave birth already has an experience of co-sleeping with her baby, right?

Only difference now is that the child is outside, not inside. And he continues, as before, to sleep next to his mother!

Now – when will it end?)))

The child goes into a separate bed at 2.5-3.5 years if:

  1. He was sleeping with his mother from birth
  2. There was no forced weaning or putting him in a crib initiated by both child or the mother
  3. Mom promptly established absences from the child, including absences at night.
  4. On the 3rd year the child has his bed for a day nap and he can go there at night, when he wants.
  5. The bed has always belonged to the mother, and the child wasn’t put to sleep there without her by saying: “This is mummy’s bed”
  6. The child was not imposed to separate sleeping before 3 years old.
  7. Father and mother of the child sleep in the same bed with the mother sleeping in the middle.
  8. Mom and Dad take up most of the bed, not giving priority to the child. It becomes crowded, not very interesting for him and he goes away.

The second and third children of the same woman go into a separate bed at an earlier age than the first one.

Just remember to treat your child appropriately to his age, and remember that it is necessary to sleep next to your husband, after all it’s all about balance! The baby’s there temporary=))

Who’s in Control? The Unhappy Consequences of Being Child-Centered

It appears that many parents of toddlers, in their anxiety to be neither negligent nor disrespectful, have gone overboard in what may seem to be the other direction.


by Jean Liedloff

First appeared in Mothering magazine, Winter 1994

It took some time before the significance of what I was looking at sank into my “civilized” mind. I had spent more than two years living in the jungles of South America with Stone Age Indians. Little boys traveled with us when we enlisted their fathers as guides and crew, and we often stayed for days or weeks in the villages of the Yequana Indians where the children played all day unsupervised by adults or adolescents. It only struck me after the fourth of my five expeditions that I had never seen a conflict either between two children or between a child and an adult. Not only did the children not hit one another, they did not even argue. They obeyed their elders instantly and cheerfully, and often carried babies around with them while playing or helping with the work.

Where were the “terrible twos”? Where were the tantrums, the struggle to “get their own way,” the selfishness, the destructiveness and carelessness of their own safety that we call normal? Where was the nagging, the discipline, the “boundaries” needed to curb their contrariness? Where, indeed, was the adversarial relationship we take for granted between parent and child? Where was the blaming, the punishing, or for that matter, where was any sign of permissiveness?

The Yequana Way

There is a Yequana expression equivalent to “Boys will be boys”; it has a positive connotation, however, and refers to the boys’ high spirits as they run about and whoop and swim in the river or play Yequana badminton (a noncompetitive game in which all players keep the cornhusk shuttlecock in the air as long as possible by batting it with open hands). I heard many shouts and much laughter when the boys played outdoors, yet the moment they were inside the huts, they lowered their voices to maintain the reigning quiet. They never interrupted an adult conversation. In fact, they rarely spoke at all in the company of adults, confining themselves to listening and performing little services such as passing around food or drink.

Far from being disciplined or suppressed into compliant behavior, these little angels are relaxed and cheerful. And they grow up to be happy, confident, cooperative adults!

How do they do it? What do the Yequana know about human nature that we do not? What can we do to attain non-adversarial relationships with our children in toddlerhood, or later if they have got off to a bad start?

The “Civilized” Experience

In my private practice, people consult me to overcome the deleterious effects of beliefs about themselves formed in childhood.1 Many of these people are parents keen not to subject their offspring to the kind of alienation they suffered at the hands of their own usually well-meaning parents. They would like to know how they can rear their children happily and painlessly.

Most of these parents have taken my advice and, following the Yequana example, kept their babies in physical contact all day and night until they began to crawl.2  Some, however, are surprised and dismayed to find their tots becoming “demanding” or angry — often toward their most caretaking parent. No amount of dedication or self-sacrifice improves the babies’ disposition. Increased efforts to placate them do nothing but augment frustration in both parent and child. Why, then, do the Yequana not have the same experience?

The crucial difference is that the Yequana are not child-centered. They may occasionally nuzzle their babies affectionately, play peek-a-boo, or sing to them, yet the great majority of the caretaker’s time is spent paying attention to something else…not the baby! Children taking care of babies also regard baby care as a non-activity and, although they carry them everywhere, rarely give them direct attention. Thus, Yequana babies find themselves in the midst of activities they will later join as they proceed through the stages of creeping, crawling, walking, and talking. The panoramic view of their future life’s experiences, behavior, pace, and language provides a rich basis for their developing participation.

Being played with, talked to, or admired all day deprives the babe of this in-arms spectator phase that would feel right to him. Unable to say what he needs, he will act out his discontentment. He is trying to get his caretaker’s attention, yet — and here is the cause of the understandable confusion — his purpose is to get the caretaker to change his unsatisfactory experience, to go about her own business with confidence and without seeming to ask his permission. Once the situation is corrected, the attention-getting behavior we mistake for a permanent impulse can subside. The same principle applies in the stages following the in-arms phase.

One devoted mother on the East Coast, when beginning sessions with me on the telephone, was near the end of her tether. She was at war with her beloved three-year-old son, who was often barging into her, sometimes hitting her, and shouting, “Shut up!” among other distressing expressions of anger and disrespect. She had tried reasoning with him, asking him what he wanted her to do, bribing him, and speaking sweetly as long as she could before losing her patience and shouting at him. Afterward, she would be consumed with guilt and try to “make it up to him” with apologies, explanations, hugs, or special treats to prove her love — whereupon her precious little boy would respond by issuing new ill-tempered demands.

Sometimes she would stop trying to please him and go tight-lipped about her own activities, despite his howls and protestations. If she finally managed to hold out long enough for him to give up trying to control her and calm down, he might gaze up at her out of his meltingly beautiful eyes and say, “I love you, Mommy!” and she, almost abject in her gratitude for this momentary reprieve from the leaden guilt in her bosom, would soon be eating out of his dimpled, jam-stained little hand again. He would become bossy, then angry and rude, and the whole heartbreaking scenario would be replayed, whereupon my client’s despair would deepen.

I hear many similar stories from clients in the United States, Canada, Germany, and England, so I believe it is fair to say that this trouble is prevalent among the most well-educated, well-meaning parents in Western societies. They are struggling with children who seem to want to keep their adults under their control and obedient to their every whim. To make matters worse, many people believe that this phenomenon bears witness to the widely held notion that our species, alone among all creatures, is by nature antisocial and requires years of opposition (“discipline,” “socializing”) to become viable, or “good.” As the Yequana, the Balinese, and numerous other peoples outside our cultural orbit reveal, however, such a notion is utterly erroneous. Members of one society respond to the conditioning of their culture like the members of any other.

The Way to Harmony

What, then, is causing this unhappiness? What have we misunderstood about our human nature? And what can we do to approach the harmony the Yequana enjoy with their children?

It appears that many parents of toddlers, in their anxiety to be neither negligent nor disrespectful, have gone overboard in what may seem to be the other direction. Like the thankless martyrs of the in-arms stage, they have become centered upon their children instead of being occupied by adult activities that the children can watch, follow, imitate, and assist in as is their natural tendency. In other words, because a toddler wants to learn what his people do, he expects to be able to center his attention on an adult who is centered on her own business. An adult who stops whatever she is doing and tries to ascertain what her child wants her to do is short-circuiting this expectation. Just as significantly, she appears to the tot not to know how to behave, to be lacking in confidence and, even more alarmingly, looking for guidance from him, a two or three year old who is relying on her to be calm, competent, and sure of herself.

A toddler’s fairly predictable reaction to parental uncertainty is to push his parents even further off-balance, testing for a place where they will stand firm and thus allay his anxiety about who is in charge. He may continue to draw pictures on the wall after his mother has pleaded with him to desist, in an apologetic voice that lets him know she does not believe he will obey. When she then takes away his markers, all the while showing fear of his wrath, he — as surely as he is a social creature — meets her expectations and flies into a screaming rage.

If misreading his anger, she tries even harder to ascertain what he wants, pleads, explains, and appears ever more desperate to placate him, the child will be impelled to make more outrageous, more unacceptable demands. This he must continue to do until at last she does take over leadership and he can feel that order is restored. He may still not have a calm, confident, reliable authority figure to learn from, as his mother is now moving from the point of losing her temper to the point at which guilt and doubts about her competence are again rearing their wobbly heads. Nevertheless, he will have the meager reassurance of seeing that when the chips were down, she did relieve him of command and of his panicky feeling that he should somehow know what she should do.

Put simply, when a child is impelled to try to control the behavior of an adult, it is not because the child wants to succeed, but because the child needs to be certain that the adult knows what he or she is doing. Furthermore, the child cannot resist such testing until the adult stands firm and the child can have that certainty. No child would dream of trying to take over the initiative from an adult unless that child receives a clear message that such action is expected — not wanted, but expected! Moreover, once the child feels he has attained control, he becomes confused and frightened and must go to any extreme to compel the adult to take the leadership back where it belongs.

When this is understood, the parents’ fear of imposing upon their child is allayed, and they see that there is no call for adversariality. By maintaining control, they are fulfilling their beloved child’s needs, rather than acting in opposition to them.

It took my East Coast client a week or two to see the first results of this new understanding. After that, generations of misunderstanding and the force of old habits rendered the family’s transition to non-adversarial ways somewhat uneven. Today, she and her husband, as well as many of my other clients similarly afflicted, are happily convinced by their own experience that children, far from being contrary, are by nature profoundly social.

Expecting them to be so is what allows them to be so. As the parents’ expectation of sociality in the child is perceived by the child, she or he meets that expectation; likewise, the parents’ experience of sociality in the child reinforces their expectation of it. That is how it works. In a gracious letter to me, the husband of my East Coast client wrote, of his wife, their son, and himself: “[We] have grown and learned and loved together in a miraculous way. Our relationships continue to evolve in a totally positive and loving direction.”


Notes
1. Jean Liedloff, Normal Neurotics Like Us, Mothering, no. 61 (Fall 1991): 32-27.
2. Jean Liedloff, The Importance of the In-Arms Phase, Mothering, no. 50 (Winter 1989): 16-19.

 

The Importance of the “In-Arms Phase”

In the two and a half years during which I lived among Stone Age Indians in the South American jungle (not all at once, but on five separate expeditions with a lot of time between them for reflection), I came to see that our human nature is not what we have been brought up to believe it is. Babies of the Yequana tribe, far from needing peace and quiet to go to sleep, snoozed blissfully whenever they were tired, while the men, women, or children carrying them danced, ran, walked, shouted, or paddled canoes. Toddlers played together without fighting or arguing, and they obeyed their elders instantly and willingly.

The notion of punishing a child had apparently never occurred to these people, nor did their behavior show anything that could truly be called permissiveness. No child would have dreamed of inconveniencing, interrupting, or being waited on by an adult. And by the age of four, children were contributing more to the work force in their family than they were costing others.

Babes in arms almost never cried and, fascinatingly, did not wave their arms, kick, arch their backs, or flex their hands and feet. They sat quietly in their slings or slept on someone’s hip — exploding the myth that babies need to flex to “exercise.” They also did not throw up unless extremely ill and did not suffer from colic. When startled during the first months of crawling and walking, they did not expect anyone to go to them but rather went on their own to their mother or other caretakers for the measure of reassurance needed before resuming their explorations. Without supervision, even the smallest tots rarely hurt themselves.

Is their “human nature” different from ours? Some people actually imagine that it is, but there is, of course, only one human species. What can we learn from the Yequana tribe?

Our Innate Expectations

Primarily, we can try to grasp fully the formative power of what I call the in-arms phase. It begins at birth and ends with the commencement of creeping, when the infant can depart and return at will to the caretaker’s knee. It consists, simply, of the infant having 24-hour contact with an adult or older child.

At first, I merely observed that this in-arms experience had an impressively salutary effect on the babies and that they were no “trouble” to manage. Their bodies were soft and conformed to any position convenient to their bearers — some of whom even dangled their babies down their backs while holding them by the wrist. I do not mean to recommend this position, but the fact that it is possible demonstrates the scope of what constitutes comfort for a baby. In contrast to this is the desperate discomfort of infants laid carefully in a crib or carriage, tenderly tucked in, and left to go rigid with the desire for the living body that is by nature their rightful place — a body belonging to someone who will “believe” their cries and relieve their craving with welcoming arms.

Why the incompetence in our society? From childhood on, we are taught not to believe in our instinctive knowledge. We are told that parents and teachers know best and that when our feelings do not concur with their ideas, we must be wrong. Conditioned to mistrust or utterly disbelieve our feelings, we are easily convinced not to believe the baby whose cries say “You should hold me!” “I should be next to your body!” “Don’t leave me!” Instead, we overrule our natural response and follow the going fashion dictated by babycare “experts.” The loss of faith in our innate expertise leaves us turning from one book to another as each successive fad fails.

It is important to understand who the real experts are. The second greatest babycare expert is within us, just as surely as it resides in every surviving species that, by definition, must know how to care for its young. The greatest expert of all is, of course, the baby — programmed by millions of years of evolution to signal his or her own kind by sound and action when care is incorrect. Evolution is a refining process that has honed our innate behavior with magnificent precision. The signal from the baby, the understanding of the signal by his or her people, the impulse to obey it — all are part of our species’ character.

The presumptuous intellect has shown itself to be ill-equipped to guess at the authentic requirements of human babies. The question is often: Should I pick up the baby when he or she cries? Or should I first let the baby cry for a while? Or should I let the baby cry so that this child know who is boss and will not become a “tyrant”?

No baby would agree to any of these impositions. Unanimously, they let us know by the clearest signals that they should not be put down at all. As this option has not been widely advocated in contemporary Western civilization, the relationship between parent and child has remained steadfastly adversarial. The game has been about how to get the baby to sleep in the crib, whether or not to oppose the baby’s cries has not been considered. Although Tine Thevenin’s book, The Family Bed, and others have gone some way to open the subject up of having children sleep with parents, the important principle has not been clearly addressed: to act against our nature as a species is inevitably to lose well-being.

Once we have grasped and accepted the principle of respecting our innate expectations, we will be able to discover precisely what those expectations are — in other words, what evolution has accustomed us to experience.

The Formative Role of the In-Arms Phase

How did I come to see the in-arms phase as crucial to a person’s development? First, I saw the relaxed and happy people in the forests of South America lugging around their babies and never putting them down. Little by little, I was able to see a connection between that simple fact and the quality of their lives. Later still, I have come to certain conclusions about how and why being in constant contact with the active caretaker is essential to the initial postnatal stage of development.

For one thing, it appears that the person carrying the baby (usually the mother in the first months, then often a four- to 12-year-old child who brings the baby back to the mother for feeding) is laying the foundation for later experience. The baby passively participates in the bearers running, walking, laughing, talking, working, and playing. The particular activities, the pace, the inflections of the language, the variety of sights, night and day, the range of temperatures, wetness and dryness, and the sounds of community life form a basis for the active participation that will begin at six or eight months of age with creeping, crawling, and then walking. A baby who has spent this time lying in a quiet crib or looking at the inside of a carriage, or at the sky, will have missed most of this essential experience.

Because of the child’s need to participate, it is also important that caretakers not just sit and gaze at the baby or continually ask what the baby wants, but lead active lives themselves. Occasionally one cannot resist giving a baby a flurry of kisses; however, a baby who is programmed to watch you living your busy life is confused and frustrated when you spend your time watching him living his. A baby who is in the business of absorbing what life is like as lived by you is thrown into confusion if you ask him to direct it.

The second essential function of the in-arms experience appears to have escaped the notice of everyone (including me, until the mid-1960s). It is to provide babies with a means of discharging their excess energy until they are able to do so themselves. In the months before being able to get around under their own power, babies accumulate energy from the absorption of food and sunshine. A baby therefore needs constant contact with the energy field of an active person, who can discharge the unused excess for each of them. This explains why the Yequana babies were so strangely relaxed — why they did not stiffen, kick, arch, or flex to relieve themselves of an uncomfortable accumulation of energy.

To provide the optimum in-arms experience, we have to discharge our own energy efficiently. One can very quickly calm a fussing baby by running or jumping with the child, or by dancing or doing whatever eliminates one’s own energy excess. A mother or father who must suddenly go out to get something need not say, “Here, you hold the baby. I’m going to run down to the shop.” The one doing the running can take the baby along for the ride. The more action, the better!

Babies — and adults — experience tension when the circulation of energy in their muscles is impeded. A baby seething with undischarged energy is asking for action: a leaping gallop around the living room or a swing from the child’s hands or feet. The baby’s energy field will immediately take advantage of an adult’s discharging one. Babies are not the fragile things we have been handling with kid gloves. In fact, a baby treated as fragile at this formative stage can be persuaded that he or she is fragile.

As parents, you can readily attain the mastery that comes with comprehension of energy flow. In the process you will discover many ways to help your baby retain the soft muscle tone of ancestral well-being and give your baby some of the calm and comfort an infant needs to feel at home in the world.