A little More pondering on Anthroposophy and care of the Infant

credit: abutterflyemerges.com
credit: abutterflyemerges.com

To put my previous post into a bit more context, I thought it best to clarify just why this is so personal for me.

I was brought up in an anthroposophical home, by two anthroposophical parents. There are many positive qualities in myself that I attribute to the nurturing that I received at home. There is however a lasting impression that I have been left with in my life – one that emotions don’t count, or are secondary to intentions or spiritual goals/aspirations.

I found it very difficult reading about the Madonna Cloak that Joan Salter writes about in her book, the Incarnating Child. This thinking that the environment can play a protective role in the upbringing of a child and can essentially protect a child from mistakes the parents will make, makes me a bit nervous. I wholly believe in creating a loving, gentle and safe environment for babies and young children, and certainly do my best to do just that in my home. However to say that there is some sort of spiritual bond created between mother and baby that allows for the mother to respond in thought and not in action greatly distressed me. Babies need actions. They need the mothers physical body. I am quite sure that thoughts can be reality, but I am also quite sure that thinking how much you love your baby while the baby lies in another room alone is not the same as picking your baby up to snuggle and kiss it.

I know I was left to cry. I know that I did not breastfeed enough (although my mother did try with me and did pump for months – in 1977). I remember sucking on my dolls arms to get to sleep and my mother just replacing the arms when they got too damaged from the sucking. She never thought to ask herself why I was sucking my dolls arms so much or what I needed that I was not getting. Nothing in her anthroposophical environment would have told her there was anything to question. I was eating organic food, dressed in cotton and wool, sleeping on a sheepskin, playing with a doll she had made me. It was all as it should be.

To me it seems an injustice to babies to impose our reality on them with evidence (crying) that it is not working. It just seems so cruel to dismiss the cries of a baby as a fundamental approach to caring for that baby.

And my last thought for this morning on this issue.

I was talking with my father about searching out bio-dynmaically grown food as I am sure that it is superior in nutrition to organic food, as well as being more sustainable and earth friendly. (this is just a hunch mind you) Anyway, I was saying that I have no idea what the spiritual significance of biodynamic agriculture is, but practically it seems to care for the earth and encourage biodiversity and nutrient rich soil. My father responded that in his experience the spiritual is made evident in the physical, so if it is working in the physical, you can find the spiritual there too. Which took me in my mind back to the issue of breastfeeding. If it makes sense physically (nutritionally and immune system development wise) and it makes sense emotionally (as long as it is working for both mother and child) it cannot be a spiritual truth that it has to stop. At least not to the way I am thinking.

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “A little More pondering on Anthroposophy and care of the Infant

  1. Well, you know, everyone makes mistakes now and then. I did know Joan- she even cared for two of my sons at her baby center- which she ran in her home. (She hadn’t written the book at that stage.) She made adjustments in her advice. I don’t think she had any children of her own.
    Norbert Glas also wrote a good book about baby care.

  2. mamawork

    Bruce,

    Thank you for stopping by and leaving a comment.

    Of course everyone makes mistakes, and I realise this book was published in the 1980’s and might not reflect current anthroposophical thinking on care of infants, although having recently been back in my parents community, I had some questions about my breastfeeding my son.

    I also have Norbert Glas’s book and was equally unimpressed at what he had to say on breastfeeding. In fact, from what I can gather, what he has written is the most authoritive in anthroposophical literature, with Rudolf Steiner himself not having direct quotes on the issue.

    In my mothering experience I am questioning people giving other people advice at all. I really am not sure it is something I support. There is far too much possibility for flawed advice. I am more comfortable with support, rather than advice.

    I fully support mothers and fathers developing the confidence to parent as they feel is best, meeting their own needs and the needs of their babies/children. Experts get in the way of this, in my experience. It really doesn’t matter how unique, experienced or skilled the expert is.

    I am sure your sons received excellent care. Someone that passionate about children and child care had to be getting many things right.

    I am by no means a perfect parent. I am trying my best with the tools I have and what I know to be true. My life experience left me with the the impression that anthroposophists look after the physical and spiritual needs and neglect the emotional, or are less comfortable handling emotions honestly. In a very broad and general sense and certainly in my home environment.

  3. I guess that people who call themselves “anthroposophists” are of various types and temperaments.
    One cannot be too dogmatic about all aspects of child care. Some things are more important than others. Your love for your children should be the foremost concern- everything else follows from that.

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