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Blog

A Baby's Focus

Theresa

The set-up of a child's environment is a key component of Montessori's philosophy. For an infant, a main feature of this environment is the movement area, where they can move freely in their natural position while absorbing their surroundings. Pictures and objects are placed nearby at the baby's eye level and be specifically designed to tap into their visual and cognitive abilities at each developmental stage. For the first couple months of a baby's life, this includes high contrast black and white mobiles, images, and a mirror for self discovery. The idea is that given time and space here, babies will work on concentration, visual tracking, gross motor skills, and develop an appreciation of quiet, alert time.

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Following this, I've set up various movement areas for D around the house. My husband likes to tease me by calling them "cognitive development stations". ;) In these areas, I usually lie her down on a soft blanket, rug, or the Montessori topponcino with plenty of wiggle room, and then provide some kind of visual stimuli appropriate to a newborn's sight and reach. This has been a big success for both me and D. Several times a day, she lies on her own on the floor (up to 30 minutes at a time!), content and focused on the black and white animals, herself in the floor mirror, or the munari mobile. I recently added in a bell on a ribbon that she enjoys kicking and swatting as she wiggles. Each set up is simple, but just interesting enough to capture her attention.

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It has been really fun to see her interest, concentration, and movement develop over the last month or so, as she "plays" on her own. It gives me a chance to really appreciate all those new baby sounds, expressions, and jerky movements. Seeing her happy in these movement areas gives me hope is that the time she spends in these movement areas now will give her an appreciation of independent play as she gets a bit older. It's nice to have that balance of social and independent time. Because it is equally fun to lie down next to her or cuddle with her, and these days, occasionally be rewarded with a smile! In these short spurts of D's alert time, we are finding that balance of quiet time and mama time, both equally sweet.

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The Elusive Sleep

Theresa

Maria Montessori didn't provide any clear cut rules on sleep, but the most common method among Montessori parents seems to be independent sleep via the floor bed. The idea (which I completely agree with if it works) is that the floor bed promotes positive sleeping experience and self-soothing early on. Unlike cribs, floor beds allow the infant or toddler to go to sleep when they are ready. (This also requires fully baby-proofing the bedroom.) But if the child isn’t initially tired or they wake up in the night, they won’t necessarily cry because they are in trapped in their crib. Instead, they can look around and even explore a bit and put themselves to sleep when ready. Importantly, the child's bedroom is kept simple and separate from their main “play/movement” space, so they quickly learn their room is a place of rest. With time and consistency, infants learn how to self-soothe on their own.

Janet Lansbury of RIE parenting emphasizes self soothing too: “Supporting a baby to self-soothe can mean listening to her complaints for a minute or two while she finds her thumb, rather than immediately giving her a pacifier. It can be about remembering to offer two teethers and allowing the baby to choose one and grasp it herself rather than automatically placing something in her mouth. It might mean allowing our baby to cry in our arms to release her feelings at bedtime instead of rocking, patting, or jiggling her, etc., as explained in “Helping Young Children Sleep” from Hand-in-Hand parenting. As I say so often, “Observe and wait.” Sometimes you may even find out that what you believed the infant wanted was only your assumption. Being sensitive to the possibility of self-soothing is the beginning of believing in your baby.”

Those are my #goals. But in these first 6 weeks of having a new baby, I feel more like I'm in a sort of sleep survival mode. The big question is always what will help little D to sleep on her own so I can sleep too? I can see that reaching the point of independent sleep is definitely a slow and gradual process, and I have to remind myself that I can get there eventually. And that sometimes (or all the time in the beginning) you just have to do what you can to get sleep to prevent becoming a momzie/zombie. No judgment allowed!

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Our plan starting out was a simple bassinet in our bedroom where baby would sleep unswaddled at night, and maybe even in the day! Ha. After 1 week, we admitted defeat with the flat surface of the bassinet and crazy baby moro reflex. The only way our baby would sleep more than an hour was in a carrier or on one of our bodies. I learned (thanks pinterest) that booby-trapped has a new meaning: when your baby has fallen asleep on the boob and you're too scared to move them for fear they will wake up. ;) My husband rushed out to Target to get a rock-n-play and a swaddle pod. For the first time since D came home, she slept 2-3 hours at one time. No matter the aids to sleep, I considered this a win.

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It has by no means been easy since then. She still only sleeps max 3 hours at a time. I still spend hours helping Dakota sleep in her little bed. The number of times I've sung Baby Beluga and All the Pretty Little Horses while bouncing on my pregnancy ball is staggering. My back hurts from leaning over her with my hand on her chest until I think she's in a deep sleep in her bed (I'm often wrong). I can never quite figure out the timing of nursing before sleep. The number of different swaddles and sleep sacks I've purchased is embarrassing. And then sometimes just when she's gone down, my dog barks and we start over.

D is still changing patterns every day, so I just remain flexible with our sleep. During the day I often "wear" D so I can actually be a bit productive (and eat with 2 hands!), but we are also working on her taking naps on her own. We've even weaned off the rock in the rock-n-play, and occasionally sleep without arms swaddled. Tiny victories! I try my best to help her nod completely off to sleep in her bed, but I am not above nursing to sleep. And I am okay with the fact that a full-body swaddle is the only route to a few hours of sleep. Baby steps I remind myself. She's only 6 weeks. So for now, for my own sanity and mothering abilities, D often calls the shots at bedtime. Montessori said, "follow the child" and I can at least say I'm doing that. :)

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