This has been a post waiting to happen for some time now. And having recently received the Incarnating Child by Joan Salter, I have finally started to get my head around some of the issues that bother me about how anthroposophists (some, not all) approach babies and how to care for them.
My biggest issues are with breastfeeding, crying and sleeping. I think the broad anthrophosophical approach with toys, clothing, decor, rhythm, toiletries, media, parent staying home, not vaccinating babies etc is pretty much spot on – but weaning at 6-9 months, leaving babies to cry and forcing babies to sleep in their own beds just does not sit right with me. I suspect that anthroposophists who choose to parent their babies in this way, using justifications put forward in anthroposophical literature are missing the developmental needs of babies. As soon as the child is independent in the sense that s/he can get to where they want to be and ask for what they need, then I am more supportive of the anthroposophical approach and I think there is much wisdom there.
Weaning a baby at 6-9 months as his spiritual needs recquire him to be independent of the maternal forces of inheritance, giving him a good start in life to be a strong independent person just boggles my mind. Authors who suggest this are obvisouly not up to date with the significance of extended breastfeeding when it comes to developing the immune system and protecting the infant. I was absolutely floored to read that while breastfeeding does offer superior nutrition and it is relaxing and comforting for mother and child, on a spiritual level it is not the right thing to be doing for a modern baby with a modern conciousness. How can someone recommend weaning when it makes abundant sense to breasfeed as it is superior nutrition and it is meeting the emotional needs of the child. How can you turn your back on those truths for the possibility that spiritually it is not a good idea. That just seems ludicrous to me. If physically and emotionally it makes sense, I personally would want a lot more evidence of just how potentially dangerous breastfeeding can be on a spiritual level. So, here is a mother who is most decidedly not weaning her child any time soon, and definitly not for any spiritual reason. (I realise I may eat my words one day 😉 )
On the crying issue.
Joan suggests leaving a child to cry as it is not really distressed, not like an adult who is wracked with grief and cannot be comforted. As soon as you comfort the baby s/he stops crying and this is proof that they are not really that distressed. Again, my heart just plummeted. I am still not sure how to get my head around this. It really is just unbelievable that someone could justify ignoring the cries of a baby as it will stop when you pick them up and is therefore not that serious! Again, I have to just be thankful for my child that I have had the sense not to do what I have read/been told (that pretty much goes for any book and any person). I cannot fathom how this can be in line with the developmental needs of a baby. I get that it is hard as a parent to have a crying infant. I have been there, admittedly only with one, but I was there for 16 weeks of daily crying that did not stop no matter what I did. But for an approach that claims to be child centered and in tune with the developmental needs of children, I have to say that ignoring a babies cry is not in line with it’s developmental needs.
And lastly, sleep.
I think that where a child sleeps in a cultural expression. This post does not have the scope to go into the history of the family bed, but it is worth noting that it is relatively new that babies get their own bedrooms and are expected to go to sleep alone. I personally am wary of this drive to make babies independent before their time. They need us, our love and our attention. Emotionally and physically they are relying on us – and it is not enough to have good intentions. It helps. But an intention is meaningless to a baby. You as a parent need to respond appropriately and honestly.
As a final word. This rant may come across as passionate. It is. I am passionate about the care of babies and the power of the mother baby entity.