Saturday, October 29, 2011

Mahler's Separation/Individuation Theory





            When Q-ball started crawling, she did not only reach a significant physical milestone, but also huge emotional and cognitive developments.  She now has the ability to see that she is a separate identity from me, her mama.  Ironically, this ability to move away from me is a significant step towards greater attachment between us.  Margaret Mahler, a psychoanalyst whose own mother kept her at a distance, developed a theory that describes the normal phases of separation for infants and toddlers.  Over a period of seven phases, from birth to 30 months, the baby moves from only acknowledging inner physiological sensations in a half-awake state to the knowledge that he is a separate being from his mother who is about to be able to do his own thing (which can be quite the cause of heartache for the mamas!)  Her theory is known as the separation/individuation theory. 

            According to Mahler, at 6 months, Q-ball “hatched,” becoming her own person who is very aware she is separate from me.  Q-ball’s actions at this stage mirrored many of those observed by Mahler: grapping mama’s glasses, digging her nails into mama’s lips, and pulling mama’s hair.  This is the “separate” part of Mahler’s theory.  She’s also loved taking off crawling and exploring her now accessible world.  This is the “individuation” part of Mahler’s theory.
Today, Q-ball turned 7 months old, and I’ve noticed some other firsts over the past few days. She’s occasionally shy around strangers - turning her head to my chest to avoid them or actually whining when they try to woo her.  Cue the early development of stranger anxiety.  Her reactions are mild, however, compared to some observed by Mahler.  In these more severe cases, the babies had likely not developed basic trust and strong attachments earlier in infancy, often a result of under-responsive parents (i.e.- those who do not respond to baby’s basic needs of food, sleep, and comfort at the baby’s demand.)  These stress reactions, then, serve as one of the first indicators of the importance of being very responsive to baby’s needs from birth. 
As Q-ball continues to crawl and eventually walk around her new world, her curiosity and excitement about the world around her should continue to grow.  During this period of time, Mahler’s research led her to the same conclusions concerning the mother-infant relationship as Ainworth’s research had previously revealed.  That is, the mother should serve as a “secure base” for the infant’s explorations.  The mother should encourage her baby’s new independence by not being overly controlling or disruptive in her baby’s play.  Simultaneously, she must also remain “emotionally [available]”  for the baby- a presence in the background should baby look back for his mother’s approval and encouragement of his actions.  Interestingly, cases in which parents are overly anxious of or involved in a baby’s explorations produce similar emotional disorders and excessive clinginess as parents who are unresponsive to their infant’s wants and needs. 
            So, in order to serve as a secure base for Q-ball, we plan to make nearly all of our next home a “yes” environment for her (the notable exception being Daddy’s man cave.)     In this way, she’ll be able to explore as she pleases with little disruption from me.  I plan to be emotionally available and guide her at times but, largely, allow her to develop her independence.  Maybe I’ll be able to check up on some reading as while I’m lounging on the couch!  (It’ll never happen, I know, but it’s my current daydream…)


How did you serve as a secure base for your baby while he was learning to crawl or walk?  What did you do with all of your new “free time?” 

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Move Out Cookout!

The movers arrive tomorrow to pack up our stuff and kick-off Q-ball's first (out of womb) move.  We are excited about a new place, but not about the transition.  I will work on keeping the blog updated over the next two weeks, but no promises!

Tonight we held a clean-out-the-fridge-cookout.
 
 
Q-ball is also enjoying her new treasure box of toys!  These pictures were taken by her  
adoring dad.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Parenting Conference


When Q-ball turned six-months old, my husband and I held our first official parenting conference to figure out what kind of parents we wanted to be.  We had discussed this before Q-ball was born, of course.  But, as first time parents, I must admit that we had more conversations about what to buy and about labor and delivery.  At the six-month mark, Q-ball was sitting up, rolling all over the place, reaching for everything, and crawling was surely just around the corner (and has since happened!) Also, my idealistic thoughts of being a SAHM (peaceful coffee and newspaper in the mornings, yoga in the afternoons, lots of time after baby goes to sleep at night…) have been banished, so I felt we could analyze where we wanted to go from a more realistic perspective.
Here was our topic: Based upon a discussion of our beliefs and objectives towards parenting, how did we want to raise our children? 
I thought that it would be super easy to find resources for such an event on the Internet.  I was surprised to find, however, that there was pretty much nothing.  Our conference was based upon internal assessments of our personal attitudes, but most of what I found did not necessarily encourage personal reflection.  These sites seem to be grouped into three categories:

1.          Organizations or groups that propose a certain parenting style - These sites are very informative and offer great resources and a sense of community, but they were not what I was looking for because they assume you have already decided what parenting style you want.
2.          Sites that resolve conflicts between parents who have different parenting styles - Here, it appears that parents did not have a “parenting conference,” which is unfortunate for the children, because they were likely receiving mixed signals, and for the parents, because major conflicts appeared to have erupted.
3.          Quizzes based upon actual daily scenarios that allow you to determine your parenting style based upon your answers - Again, it appears that the quiz taker did not necessarily have a plan in place going into events and is now trying to figure out their style. 

So, to help others who might be interested in holding their own parenting conferences, here is what we did.  We thought it worked quite nicely and would recommend it others.
1.          Make ice cream sundaes. (Beer or wine would also suffice.)
2.          As a couple, answer the following questions:
a.            How were we disciplined growing up?  This question helps uncover any bias and/or background experience.
b.            How do we envision our home?  What does a typical day look like?  What does family time look like? 
c.            How do we find “balance”?  (Or, how will we stay sane?)
d.            What are our goals in raising our children?  How can we accomplish these?
e.            What is the role of a parent?
f.             How do we believe a child should- be fed? Sleep? Play? Take part in day-to-day activities?
g.            How do we want to respond to our children’s- fears? Tantrums? Successes? Happiness?
h.            How do we want to communicate with our children?
i.              Are boundaries necessary?  If so, how will we set them?
j.              What is the goal of discipline? 
k.            How do we envision discipline?
l.              How will we make decisions? Resolve differences between us?
3.          Repeat conference regularly, noting that as parents and children grow, opinions change.

Our answers helped us determine that attachment parenting with a touch of Montessori’s educational philosophy best match our beliefs. Because of our parenting conference, we think hope we are better able to learn from these communities and the resources they offer, but, ultimately uphold our beliefs and help our child flourish. 

Do you think it’s important to determine a parenting style?  How did you determine yours? Has it changed over time?

Friday, October 21, 2011

Baby-Led Solids

I just introduced solids to my 6 month-old.  Like most new parents, I had lots questions.  When? How? What? How much?  After a bit of research, I decided to use the baby-led solids (or baby-led weaning) method in which baby feeds herself from the get-go with food that is suitably sized (not too small to choke on, big enough to hold, but not too big to fit in baby mouth, and not pureed). 
 I am a big fan of the logic behind the method.  It recognizes and furthers baby’s developmental abilities (Palmer and pincher grasps, hand-eye coordination, budding decision making).  It also acknowledges that breast milk (or formula) is baby’s primary source of nutrition for the first year of life.  Nearly everything I read was very positive towards BLS and further convinced me to try it (although I was still nervous- I am a new mom, after all!)  But, there was a study that was reviewed in several news sources that made me take a second look.  
The title reads “Baby-Led Weaning Is Feasible but Could Cause Nutritional Problems for Minority of Infants.”  True, it says minority, but no one wants to possibly cause nutritional problems for their infant!  The article focuses on a study that is one of the first looks at BLS from a formal, research-based approach. The article lists some of the findings of the study (see link above), but I didn’t think the findings listed completely supported the researcher’s conclusion, which is: “BLW might be feasible for a majority of infants but could lead to nutritional problems for infants who were relatively developmentally delayed. A more pragmatic partial BLW approach would probably be the wisest option.” (Quoted from the original study.)  So, I decided to track down the original study and analyze all of the findings.
I found some very interesting information that is not listed in the article.  First of all, the data used was not collected with BLS in mind; it is from a survey of parents of over 600 infants from 4 to 12 months in the UK who were asked to keep a finger food journal for their babies.  As such, all methods for introducing solids to infants were included, a fact I believe serves as a possible bias. 
Next, the researchers found a “substantial discrepancy” between infants who were over 6 months in age and actively reaching for food and those that were allowed to grab the food.  Even for infants who had been reaching for food for over 2 months, less than two-thirds were offered finger foods more than once a day; while 25% of parents reported their infants could not feed themselves at mealtimes.  Sadly, these parents held low expectations of their infants’ abilities as they were never given a chance to eat finger food, although they had been reaching for finger food for at least 2 months!  This is even more tragic given that the study also quotes research that says that in some countries, later onsets in social skills and self-feeding have been observed when infants are fed purees, in lieu of self-feeding. 
Another interesting fact is that “15-month-old infants eating a finger-fed meal took 50% longer to eat only just over half the weight of food eaten at a comparison spoonable meal, but the average energy intake at both meals was the same.”  A study found that even when self-feed babies took less bites than babies fed with purees, they gained just as much weight.   So, babies are getting more bang for their buck with finger feeding versus purees.  I imagine quite a few adults wish that they could find a way to take in healthy nutrients with half the Brussels sprouts.     
Finally, in regards to the “minority of infants” for which BLS may not be feasible- this amounted to 6% of the study.  These infants were observed to be developmentally delayed in other physical and mental milestones.  As such, it makes sense that their ability to self-feed may also be delayed.  This is a fact noted by the BLW community, and the BLW forum (www.babyledweaning.com) advises against this approach for such infants.
So, in the end, this study actually made me more interested in BLS!  It highlighted everything that attracted me to BLS in the first place- an emphasis on recognizing my baby’s capabilities, likes & dislikes, and needs.  

Here's what Q-ball's tried so far-- 
sweet potato, apple, pear, peas (this is the only thing she hasn't successfully eaten yet), blueberries, whole wheat toast, Cheerios, Chex cereal, broccoli (this was very easy because the stem was perfect for her to hold!), baby carrots, bananas



Sources:
Aboud, F., Moore, A., & Akhter, S. (2008). Effectiveness of a community-based responsive feeding programme in rural Bangladesh: a cluster randomized field trial. Retrieved from http://www.psych.mcgill.ca/computing/aboud/MCN08.pdf.
Baby-Led Weaning Is Feasible but Could Cause Nutritional Problems for Minority of Infants. (2011, January 14). Science Daily. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/01/110112081454.htm
Wright, C., Cameron, K., Tsiaka, M., & Parkinson, K. (2010). Is baby-led weaning feasible? When do babies first reach out for and eat finger foods? Maternal and Child Nutrition, 7(1), 27-33. Retrieved from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1740-8709.2010.00274.x/full#b3.




Thursday, October 20, 2011

Breaking News! Crawling


Just shy of 7 months, Q-ball has started crawling!  She doesn't get it right every time just yet, but she certainly has the idea.  Soon life for this SAHM will not be the same!



She has gotten quite good at moving from laying on her tummy to sitting. It's her new 
favorite move!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Bisbee 1000

This past weekend we completed our first official family 5K!  We walked in the Bisbee 1000- a 5K that includes 9 staircases of 1000 steps. It's not your normal race, besides the stairs, people run in wigs, dresses, and there are tons of walkers. Q-ball enjoyed the ride- she was too excited by all of the activity to sleep.  And, she only required one snack break.  Enjoy the pictures!  And, obviously some of them are taken on the go!


 Getting ready to race!

 Bisbee has such fun architecture.  We loved seeing all of the different, colorful houses and
yard decorations. 

 
At the top of some staircases.






Our medals!





That race made me hungry!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Pass and Fail

This was such a timely topic from Growing Up Geeky! Over the past two weeks, I’ve started to imagine my mothering habits as a continuous post on the FAIL Blog in order to maintain my sanity. I should have started to do this much earlier considering that I would have even had a post to write even before the birth.

March 28, 2010- Like the doctor ordered, I showed up at the hospital to get some initial drugs to help with the next day’s induction of Q-ball. But, I didn’t realize that this meant I was actually going to be admitted to the hospital and not going home again. I hadn’t packed my bags or my husband. Fail.

And, the last 6.5 months have continued in much the same fashion…

Sometime Just Last Week- What’s this extra snap for the carseat? Should have been using this the whole time. Fail.

Sometime During Planning Our First Family Vacation
- This will be so restful! We’ll catch up on tons of sleep in the hotels! Fail.

Any Sunday Morning- Dress baby early for church in her best dress. Baby spits up. Fail.

Any Night-
Carefully place nearly sleeping baby in crib. Baby looks at Mama with big, beautiful smile. Fail.

Every Passing Minute
- She grows. And grows. And grows. I never realized how fast the time with infants really does go. And, despite the countless times I was warned, I just couldn’t realize how true it is. Fail.

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Science of Babywearing

            This week is International Babywearing Week , sponsored by Babywearing International.  My husband and I love babywearing.  While I heard all of the wonderful facts about babywearing ( baby cries less; baby is more attached to parents; healthier development for babies, especially premies,) I was initially drawn to it because, frankly, it was easier to carry Q-ball in a carrier than in my arms, especially when shopping or doing chores.   But, I recently read about the science behind some of the benefits of babywearing and learned about benefits that typically aren’t mentioned.  These have made me love babywearing even more!
            It’s a common fact that babies love motion- rocking in their parents’ arms, swinging in swings, and bouncing in chairs.  The reason behind this is that babies have a very sensitive vestibular system (ranking with touch in terms of most sensitive sense in a newborn), which controls the body’s ability to sense movement and balance.   The vestibular system is located in the inner ear (which explains why balance is sometimes affected during ear infections).  In adults, we know that our vestibular system is working when we don’t notice it; it is what keeps our field of vision constant when doing and activity like jogging- even though our eyes are bouncing up and down, our view remains steady.  When our vestibular system is off, dizziness and motion sickness can result.
 Now back to babies- in the womb, it’s one of the first brain structures to develop- at only 10 weeks old, a fetus can detect movement!  An eight-month fetus’s vestibular system is so developed that it actually sets off a baby’s first reflexes!  When a mama changes from sitting to standing, the change can activate the Moro reflex or startle reflex which is seen in newborns until about 3 months.  Even the fetus’s ability to position itself downward when it is time for labor and delivery is a result of a well-developed vestibular system.  After birth, nearly all newborn reflexes continue to be the result of activity in the vestibular system, including the doll’s eye reflex (in which baby will continue to look forward, although you may move his head) and asymmetrical neck reflex (identified by Gesell and discussed in this post.)  In fact, a human’s vestibular system reaches its peak of sensitivity between six to eight months of age.  So, any rocking or swinging of baby (like when baby is in a baby carrier) between these ages will especially activate the vestibular system. 
So, how does this help baby?  The vestibular system is the primary method that a newborn experiences their new surroundings, so it is likely that activating the vestibular system may improve their ability to take in all of the new sights and sounds.  This increased sensitivity could improve the development of motor, cognitive, and even emotional abilities. 
An experiment tested this hypothesis.  Infants between 3 to 13 months were put through 16 sessions of chair spinning, during which they were held by a researcher and spun around in a swivel chair.  Super fun for the infants!!  But, a control group was just held by the researchers in the swivel chair- no spinning and certainly not as much fun.  Well, the infants who got to spin around in the chairs also demonstrated more advanced development in reflexes and motor skills, especially walking, sitting, crawling, and standing.  This was even true for a set of fraternal twins- one of which had the joy of spinning in the chair and the other that just had to sit in the researcher’s lap. 
Another sign of the benefits of vestibular stimulation can be seen in neonatal units.  Preterm babies that are rocked, carried in baby carriers, or able to rock themselves in specially made baby water beds (I need to look into purchasing one of these as it could lead to 3 hours of uninterrupted sleep…) gained weight faster, breathed more regularly, slept more, and had more quiet, alert time than babies who did not experience vestibular stimulation. 
Parents also likely know one of the best aspects of continued vestibular stimulation.  A sleepy baby!  Babywearing provides as awesome opportunity to stimulate the vestibular system with the continuous, gentle rocking the babies (and toddlers!) feel.  Babies will be better able to experience the world around them, while being close to and encouraged by their parents.  So, strap on your baby carrier and start babywearing today!


We love our Erog and teething pads from RedCharlotte!
Sources:
"Babywearing International Resources." Babywearing International. Babywearing International, n.d. Web. 10 Oct 2011. <http://babywearinginternational.org/articles.php?article=1>.
Eliot, L. (1999). What’s going on in there? How the brain and mind develop in the first five years of life. Bantam Books: USA.






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