I am inspired by so many people working in the field of infant and toddler care. Here are some of my favorite learning resources for parents who want to delve more deeply into this topic as well as my perspectives on baby supplies.
I still like to sit down and read a book — I’m old-fashioned. What’s more, somehow babies don’t mind books as much as they mind screens. Pull out your phone or computer and they will want your attention NOW! Pull out a book, and it might be OK.
My Top 10 Parenting Books for New Parents/Parents of Babies
1. Your Self-Confident Baby by Magda Gerber & Allison Johnson
2. You Are Your Child’s First Teacher by Rahima Baldwin Dancy
3. Heaven on Earth: A Handbook for Parents of Young Children by Sharifa Oppenheimer
4. Natural Childhood by John Thomson
5. Between Parent and Child by Haim Ginott
6. Beginning Well by Pia Dogl, Elke Maria Rischke & Ute Strub
7. Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne
8. The Blessing of a Skinned Knee by Wendy Mogul
9. How To Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber & Elaine Mazlisch
10. The Gardener and the Carpenter by Alison Gopnik
Other great books about RIE:
Dear Parent by Magda Gerber
Respecting Babies: A New Look at Magda Gerber’s RIE Approach by Ruth Anne Hammond
No Bad Kids: Toddler Discipline without Shame by Janet Lansbury
Baby Knows Best by Deborah Solomon
The Gesell Child Development Center helps you understand what you can expect at different ages:
Your 1-Year-Old by Louise Bates Ames & Gesell Institute
Your Two-Year-Old: Terrible or Tender by Louise Bates Ames, PhD
Your Three-Year-Old: Friend or Enemy by Louise Bates Ames, PhD
Some books about the Waldorf approach to early childhood:
The Genius of Natural Childhood by Sally Goddard Blythe
Other great books that provide new perspectives:
The Emotional Life of the Toddler by Alicia Lieberman
The Philosophical Baby by Allison Gopnik
Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting by Myla and Jon Kabat-Zinn
The Childhood Roots of Adult Happiness by Edward Hallowell, MD
Last Child in the Woods by Robert Louve
Nurture Shock by Po Bronson & Ashley Merrymam
www.rie.org is the Resource for Infant Educarers (RIE®) official web site — visit it to learn more about Magda Gerber’s Educaring® approach, professional training and conference schedules as well as RIE books and videos.
www.janetlansbury.com is Janet Lansbury’s blog about “Elevating Childcare” — an amazing resource for parents trying to use the Educaring approach and be more mindful in their interactions. She carries on Magda Gerber’s work in a way that keeps it fresh and meaningful today.
thepiklercollection.weebly.com is a great resource for learning more about the work of Emmi Pikler, Magda Gerber’s mentor and inspiration.
www.beginningwell.org is a wonderful resource for people looking to combine the Pikler and RIE approaches with Waldorf education.
The Few Things Infants Need
When you understand what infants need to develop in a healthy way, you get a new perspective on all the baby “gear” out there. Infants truly don’t need a lot of stuff. Here are my 2 cents on some things you can choose wisely or not at all…
Lambie or Blanket for On the Floor
The best place for a baby when not in your arms is on the floor with you looking on. It seemed odd to me to put my baby on the floor, but it is where they benefit the most — they can move, work out their reflexes, even out their body and build muscle. Get an organic lambskin or a nice blanket for your baby to lay on the floor near you and let them discover their capabilities in freedom.
Infants need to be on their backs so that they can build their core muscles, find their hands and begin to play with them. What’s more, they also need to face mommy or daddy and be protected from overstimulation. So an old-fashioned, lay-down pram (like Mary Poppins might have pushed with the twins John and Barbara) is the right stroller for your baby. If they are awake while you are out strolling, they can look at your adoring face — the most important visual stimulation they need in the first six months when they are learning to read faces. Stay away from the other kinds of strollers until they can sit up on their own. When they do sit up, you should still have them face you. Nothing is more interesting or important to them!
Playpens and Playards
Once your baby starts moving, you need someplace safe for them to explore. These old-fashioned playpens, now apparently called “playards” to make us feel better — are actually a great, SAFE space to place your infant while you take a shower or do whatever it is that you need to do for a few moments. We don’t want to leave children for extended periods in these things, but they can give you that moment you need.
Wearing your baby on occasion feels good for both of you. If you are going to use a baby carrier, just be sure to read this article about how to use it in a way that respects your baby’s body development. Also, please note that again it’s important to make sure your baby isn’t getting overstimulated by facing out prematurely. If you love wearing your baby, and of course, you do, just remember to give them enough time on the floor on their back so they can work their core and move as nature has designed them to do.
Things Babies Don’t Need
Ugh — it still makes me cringe when I think how my first child spent time in this kind of chair until I learned about RIE. No wonder she didn’t walk until she was 17 months old! These chairs are entirely effective at immobilizing your baby. It’s nigh impossible to move your arms freely, turn, kick your legs without hurting your heels, or build any of the muscles a baby should be building in the first 6 months. I have also noticed a large proportion of elementary students who are now pigeon-toed. I wonder if these chairs have played a role. Best place for baby is on their back in a safe place on the floor or in their crib.
Play Mats/Activity Gyms/Baby props
These things look so cute, but the reality is they create a lot of frustration for infants. While it does encourage us parents to put our children on the floor on their backs (yeah!), what’s that thing dangling right in front of my face that I don’t yet have the strength to get out of there?! What’s more, children don’t learn to move by reaching upward. They need to be on the floor, with things out to the sides that will eventually get them to want to roll over and begin to move across the floor.
This “tummy time pillow” is even worse. It is baby propping, not allowing them to actually work on those muscles that they build when they do tummy time. What’s more, I see future back problems when I look at how the infants back is over-arching.
These incredibly dangerous contraptions don’t do anything to help your infant develop. They trap them and mesmerize them so we can go take a shower, or do whatever it we need to do — so get the playpen instead. It’s healthy for the baby to be on their back and play and learn to pull up, etc.
Baby Einstein/iPads/Screens/Media of any sort
Babies are designed to learn from human beings and the real world. They need to move and explore and build their bodies, and they need to learn to read your face and see that they can influence the world (that’s you) through their own initiative — smiles, screams, and eventually words! Their senses are built for nature and for homelife. These subtle environments allow them to fully integrate their senses in a healthy way — something teachers report is increasingly lacking in today’s children. Screens are an impediment to your child’s development. If you need to have a moment to yourself (and who doesn’t?) you’ll be much happier later on if you’ve taught them to entertain themselves. Exceptions made for skyping with grandparents, mom or dad.