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New (in-arms) Baby

What Babies Want - an exploration of the consciousness of infants
I came upon the above 2004 film the other day while researching something for a class I teach, and loved the film so much I watched every section without halting. The editorial frame was too saccharine for my taste, and I skipped some parts, but the interviews with well-known scholars - Joseph Chilton-Pierce among others - made me thirsty for more.


the Connected Baby

It's not just soft mothering anymore. Science is showing how those seemingly small nuances of connection between mother and baby are essential to healthy development.

Becoming a mother in the 21st century is often about learning a new language. It is a journey in which, like all journeys, women start out insecure. Traditionally, there were older people to provide cultural knowledge. Nowadays, authority has moved from rituals and stories passed on generation to generation, to the discussions in newspapers, on television and on the internet of the year in which the woman gets pregnant. Especially if she is far away from her home culture, she might rely on such outside authorities more than the stories and pictures she grew up with. Mothers outside their home circles often rely on books for their wisdom, or on their new neighbors or their medical caregivers. Especially in today's world when advice about 'what children need' is everywhere, it is often very confusing to figure out what is best.  Even relying on 'instinct' does not work well if the mother herself was not mothered well or is not surrounded by a culture where values are shared. 


Baby smiles

Shortly after birth, babies produce aimless, random but well-formed smiles, from the start endowed with meaning by their parents. Between 6 and 12 weeks they smile regularly and selectively at human faces. If the face is turned to present a profile, the baby's smile fades and he ceases to pay attention. Young infants look longer at patterns with sharp contrasts than grey screens and, at 4 months, they smile significantly more at real faces than at models of faces. Between 3 and 5 months, infants big to smile selectively at familiar faces. Infants reared in institutions by multiple care-givers are late in developing selective smiling responses. [View source]

Wolff, S., "Personality development", Companion to Psychiatric Studies, London: Churchill Livingstone, ed.4, pg. 67


Mothering magazine [Buy digital copy] has produced a very interesting analysis of SIDS and bed sharing in which the authors ... readmore logo

A common headline phrase that causes dread among new mothers these days is 'postpartum depression'. It is important to distinguish between 1) a clinically-definable postpartum depression or other mental illness which should be supported and ameliorated with medical care, and 2) the vulnerable state in which it is natural to find oneself after birth, which can be completely cured with things like household assistance for shopping, cleaning and caring for other children, lactation support for breastfeeding, and emotional interaction with other mothers, partner and friends. The trick is that for many women who are stressed already, such as those who become pregnant too young, or in poverty, or who are masters of functioning in the 40-hour work world, suddenly finding themselves vulnerable is so unsettling that that in itself causes anxiety. The right-this-second! needs of a new baby are added to this. And if isolation or marital unhappiness or burdens of maintaining the household are mixed in, symptoms appear that are shared with true clinical depression but could be relieved in simple, non-medical steps. see more about Wochenbett

UK and postpartum depression

"Specialist perinatal services have been established to serve the needs of women who are or requiring management during pregnancy or in the postpartum period (usually up to one year post delivery). Before the development of mother and baby units, when a mother required in-patient treatment in the postpartum period she would be separated from her child causing distress to both mother and baby (as well as other family members) and potentially causing detrimental effects on the child’s development. Mother and baby units have been established to provide support for both mothers and babies. … In the postpartum period, women are at increased risk of suffering from affective disorders, and those with pre-existing psychiatric disorders are at increased risk of relapse. There is an additional group of women who present for the first time in the postpartum period with a ‘puerperal’ psychosis. … One of the major challenges in dealing with this group of service users is management of risk of the illness not only to the mother but also to the baby (neglect, poor mother-baby bonding, reckless behaviour). Great care is required when weighing up the benefits of treating a woman’s illness (or medicating to avoid relapse) with pharmacological agents, and the risk of teratogenicity. Additionally, care must be given when prescribing to breast-feeding mothers. For these reasons, psychotherapy is of particular importance in this patient group." [View source]

Royal College of Psychiatry

Becoming a person

In the first three years of life every human being undergoes yet a second birth, in which he is born as a psychological being possessing selfhood and separate identity. The quality of self an infant achieves in those crucial three years will profoundly affect all of his subsequent existence. Oneness and Separateness


Another example is the debate about circumcising baby boys. Where your baby boy is born will determine whether you are expected to circumcise him and when. Unlike, for example, breastfeeding, which all healthy babies are born with the instinct to do, circumcision is a purely

"The sooner the better. Doctors say that the ideal time for your newborn boy to undergo the circumcision procedure is between 24 to 72 hours after his birth. Your newborn will be less prone and vulnerable to bleeding. So, he’ll be less fussy, agitated or disturbed during the surgery. Some parents choose to get their kids circumcised much later in their life, but doctors find the risk the child will require stitches to stop bleeding increases with the age. … Circumcision after the age of 3 months should be performed under general anesthesia. ... As a parent, you have the choice to delay the circumcision, but all Muslims males should be circumcised regardless of the age or the time of the surgery, for it is considered a must in Islam. go to babycentrearabic

cultural phenomenon. For example, the Baby Centre Arabia website geared towards Moslem readers has articles about taking care of a circumcised baby. Website and literature geared towards European parents often do not even mention it.


Study of Cameroon, India, and Germany

"In this study, the early social experiences of infants from two agricultural societies, Indian Rajput and Cameroonian Nso are compared to each other and to German urban middle-class families. Using spot observations, infants' social experiences were assessed when they were between 2.5 and 3 months. The parenting styles in the three communities are distinctly different from each other. However, the Nso and the Rajputs share a parenting pattern that can be regarded as supporting the development of communion. … The German caregiving pattern can be regarded as oriented towards the development of agency. In the discussion the question of the cultural interpretation of parenting behaviors is raised, emphasizing that the analysis of both shared practices as well as shared ideas is important in order to understand the dynamics of parenting in cultural context. [View source]

Keller, H., Abels, M., Lamm, B., Yovsi, R. D., Voelker, S. and Lakhani, A. (2005), Ecocultural Effects on Early Infant Care: A Study in Cameroon, India, and Germany. Ethos, 33: 512–541. doi: 10.1525/eth.2005.33.4.512

crying baby
What is crying?

"Your baby's cry is meant to be disturbing, for it is his most important means of communication. Only by crying can he let you know that he needs you to help him; to come to his rescue." [View source]

From The Womanly Art Of Breastfeeding, published by La Leche League International, cited in "When Babies Cry and What We Can All Learn From the High-Needs Baby and Child", January 19, 2009,

"The biological function of crying is to signal, and as in any signal, it has import only if it affects the recipient."

"As most parents know, crying is not just a signal of hunger. Even in newborns, it communicates much more- the need for touch seems to be especially important; and clearly a crying baby is announcing its internal state and calling for some sort of change."

"Crying evolved to serve the infant's purposes: to assure protection, adequate feeding, and nurturing for an organism that cannot care for itself. [View source]

From Our Babies, Ourselves by Meredith Small, cited in "When Babies Cry and What We Can All Learn From the High-Needs Baby and Child", January 19, 2009,


Love this blog…

"A passageway, as one would guess, is a conduit to the next thing; a way that allows movement from one place, condition or stage to the other. This blog is entitled The Parenting Passageway; as it is intended to help support and encourage parents as they journey from being a single individual and/or the duality of being a couple to being an awakened parent and unified family. .... go to

Babyhood among the San

"Babies are never left at home when mothers go out to gather, an odd fact in that there is always someone at camp who could babysit. But the mother-infant relationship is considered sacrosanct, so babies stay with their mothers at all times. … Although San babies cry, they do not do so for long, and none of them cries excessively or inconsolably; more than 90 percent of their total crying events during the first nine months last less than thirty seconds." [View source]

Our Babies, Ourselves: How Biology and Culture Shape the Way We Parent pg. 81, see also her footnotes for research studies

Looking at babies via the NBAS 

In the Neonatal Behavioural Assessment Scale (NBAS), there are 28 behavioural items each scored on a 9-point scale, which assess the infant's behavioural response to positive and negative stimuli. The materials used for the assessment are a torch, bell, rattle, and a red ball to look at habituation and orientation. The examiner's face and voice are also used for orientation. There are 18 reflex items, each scored on a 4-point scale, which assess the infant's neurological status, although it is a screening tool and is not diagnostic. The seven supplementary items capture the range and quality of the behaviour of frail, high-risk infants. There are a total of 53 scoreable features, some of which are administered and some observed during the assessment, like startles, tremors, skin colour and other signs of stress or withdrawal, approach signals and smiles. The optimal scoring on all items is either 1, 9 or 5. This was planned to avoid one overall score which can be misused (e.g. to predict future IQ). The NBAS has nothing to do with predicting IQ. Clusters of items can be analysed, such as: Habituation, Orientation, Motor Performance, Ranges of State, Autonomic regulation and Reflexes. The NBAS should be carried out in a warm, quiet, darkened room on a medically stable infant half-way between feeds. The assessment takes 20-30 minutes. The examiner should be an experienced observer and handler of newborns, and flexible enough to bring out the infant's best performance. Examiners should be trained to reliability in the NBAS. To better understand the infant's behavioural repertoire and adaptation over time, the infant should be assessed more than once within the first four weeks of birth. For use as in intervention, the NBAS should be done three times within the first 4 weeks of birth. The most important factors of the NBAS are the infant's states (awake and asleep), habituation, state regulation, quality of alertness, and the infant's ability to self-quiet. [View source]

NBAS developed by Dr T. Berry Brazelton in Boston during the 1960's and first published in 1973.


Sucking thumb

"There are advantages to allowing your baby to suck her thumb rather than a dummy. But it's fair to say that both can have their problems, particularly when it comes to giving up!

Your baby may even have started sucking her thumb before she was born. Pictures have been taken of babies sucking their thumbs in the uterus (womb). Sucking is a natural reflex babies use to calm and settle themselves." more at babycentre


An enchanting documentary following four babies from Tokyo, San Francisco, Mongolia and Namibia. I kept this on the top page because it is so wonderful. Watch with your children, too! Even your 'rambunctious' boys will love it...

Akk! Cloth diapers

"If you’re having visions of a white cloth nipped at the sides with large safety pins, covered with stiff plastic pants – fear not. Cloth diapering has had a huge face lift, and you may be surprised at just how cute your little one’s bum can be.

But with the modernization comes choices. Lots of choices. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, you’re in good company. When pregnant, it took me a month to understand the difference between a soaker, a prefold, and a wool longie. So, we’ve put together a Cloth Diapering Glossary to demystify the world of washable diapers." go to The Other Baby Book

The story of disposable diapers

Arte Film (in German/French) researches how diapers have made modern mothers' lives easier, yet have created an enormous environmental problem in only one generation. The film discusses the selling of American diapers to 'new' markets in China and India, while questioning the necessity for this. And it describes the psychological implications of disposable diapers on our children's relationship to their bodies and the environment.

Baby classes

There are PEKIP classes, baby massage, Rueckbildung (postpartum gymnastics)

Interested in more? Here are other articles:
Mongolia Diapers
cloth diapers circumcision
Caregivers Breast-feeding
Asia Africa

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