Sunday, July 16, 2006

Seven Months Review

How's That Working Out For You?: The Seven-Months Review.

Summer camp's over and the Montessori Baby is back! If you can believe it, we've been doing this now for seven--almost eight months.

In that time, as you can imagine, we've made a few minor adjustments to the academic rigor of the Montessori Baby Experiment. Let's review:

What Nuvy's up to now: Nuvy is doing all the things seven and eight-month-old babies are doing everywhere. She sits up, crawls, pulls up on furniture (if she's motivated to see over it), dumps things onto the floor, eats a variety of foods, vocalizes a lot, saying "mamamama", "dadadadada", and "bababababa", none of which seem to have any specific meaning attached to them, and says "aynaynaynaynay" when she's annoyed, tired, or otherwise unhappy. Just now, she's taught us how to play peek-a-boo.

Principles we're still sticking to: No bouncers, swings, exersaucers or other strap-in contraptions, no buzzers and light-up toys, no TV (unless I catch her watching "Deadwood" with Daddy--then watch out!), no crib, and no high chair. She doesn't have any bottles or sippy-cups. She drinks water from a regular glass with no lid, and gets her milk from the breast. The sippy-cup restriction is Montessori, the bottle thing is just me, as I never get around to pumping, and I'd rather not give her formula.

All her play is still Nuvy-initiated, except for walks and other outings. She's a real people-person, I suspect because of spending lots of time in the sling, at grown-up eye level. I still don't demonstrate for her how to use any toy. I let her try to self-feed, and I still put her in her bed awake. She sleeps in her floor bed, usually from about 9:00pm to about 5:30am, at which time I usually put her in bed with us.

We don't use baby-talk with her (much--but everyone else does), and we haven't tried to sign. Anybody have any experience with that? The Montessori people were a little conflicted about it, as they weren't sure how it would affect oral language development. I'd appreciate any wisdom any of you have on baby sign language.

Things I've found it useful to modify: These are things that still feel Montessori to me, but are a little tweaked because they just weren't working for us.

The Floor Bed: She rolled out of the floor bed every night for the first week I put her in it. To keep her in bed without confining her with a crib, I rolled up blankets under the sheet and made little bolsters all around the floor bed. It seems to keep her in the bed, unless she means to get out and actively climbs over them--which she does infrequently. She usually just makes a little noise early in the morning, and I come and get her.

The Noisy-Toys Rule: I am giving her rattles with invisible beads, Lamaze butterflies with crinkly plastic inside, and the Audubon Society birds. I did this because she became very interested in rattles, and I wanted her to experience some sounds and textures other than wood-against-wood. The birds got in by being reasonably authentic representations of actual local birds, and by making the actual accompanying birdsong when you squeeze them. And anyway, they're really cool. You should get some. Follow the link below.

Things I Have Totally Bagged: There are a few Montessori recommendations that I have completely given up on. If you manage to make these work, please let me know how you did it so I can try it out on my next child.

Lap Feeding: Oh, how I have come to hate lap feeding. Nuvy sits up now, but unsteadily, so she still can't really use the weaning chair yet. Lap feeding became a hurricane of food, a writhing, whining baby, and a glass of scotch for me when it was all over. I caved and used what I must now endorse as a really great baby product--the Bumbo seat. Props to Aunt Hyster for that. The bumbo seat sits on the floor, and I sit on the floor in front of it. It supports Nuvy very securely while she eats, and allows me to interact with her without having to restrain her with my arms. The idea behind lap feeding is that there is bodily contact (the only kind of restraint theoretically allowed) and the physical closeness allows the parent to be well-attuned to the baby's body language, ending the feeding session immediately when the child loses interest. Problem: Nuvy lost interest in being held on my lap WAY before she lost interest in her food, which amounted to tremendous frustration for both of us. The Bumbo seat (available at, among other places), while somewhat confining, represents a pretty good compromise. It is situated on the floor, where the weaning table and chair will go, but is pretty hard for her to worm her way out of--though let me say not impossible. Now, Nuvy's dinner is much more pleasant, AND she uses her cloth napkin for peekaboo--which is beyond entertaining!

The Six-Months "Sensitive Period for Weaning": Sorry, folks. The attachment parent in me is just not ready to give up nursing. The American Association for Pediatrics is backing me up, and giving me a year. Here's why. 1) Breastmilk is better for Nuvy than formula. 2) I hate, HATE pumping. It makes me feel even sorrier for dairy cows than I already did. 3) She has begun to cut herself back now that she's eating solids, so I don't feel any real need to rush her. 4) We both still love it. So there.

However, I am trying to give her the opportunity to wean herself, and she seems to be doing it to a certain degree. She no longer needs to nurse for comfort if she's hurt or scared. Hugging and rocking while she sucks her thumb is enough. She takes less and less milk at mealtimes, and I've begun nursing her after she eats, rather than before. I never got into the habit of nursing her to sleep, but I do wake her up that way. When she gets up at 5:30am, she's like a sleepy little baby bird, chasing my breast with her mouth. That one's going to be tough to let go.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006


Heigh-Ho!: The Montessori Baby Goes to Work

Ever thought of taking your baby to work? Ever thought of doing it every day? The Montessori Baby is here to de-mystify the world of the working infant. Right after we finish sweeping away the cobwebs from our blog.

After three months of maternity leave (on April 3 of this year), I went back to work as the director of a small Montessori preschool. Before the baby, I loved my full-time job, the children, the parents, the environment. It was a beautiful thing. It had been my plan from the start to return to work with the baby in tow, but as my maternity leave ran short, I began to understand (and share) my employers' apprehensions. It was decided that part-time was best.

So, Nuvy and I went back to work part time in our Montessori school. Does going to work with your baby sound like a dream come true? It is! Sound like your worst nightmare? Yep, that too.

Are you crazy?
I don't think so. The Montessori environment is meant to mimic a family dynamic by integrating children of different ages in the same class. This allows a kind of social development seldom found in single-age-group environments. Older children seek new challenges, but they also enjoy nurturing and caring for the younger ones. Their perspective tends to make them precociously empathetic. Nuvy has been wonderful for our community in that way. Even the youngest children had someone to care for, and I found their intuitive gentleness remarkable.

Don't you worry that she'll get sick?
No again. She has been a very robust baby, and I made a few common sense rules, mostly those I heard from teachers with children and other parents. Wash your hands before touching the baby, and don't touch her face or hands. The second was harder to enforce, as holding her hands is irresistable. In the time between April 3rd and June 15th, which was the last day of school, she had one cold. If she had an older brother or sister in school, the exposure to school germs would be about the same.

But can you get anything done?
Depends what you need to do. I was able to operate pretty well with my three-to-five-month-old baby in the sling. She could ride with me to bring the children in from their cars and take them out again, to make snack or coffee, and to supervise the playground or lunch time. If I needed to be in the classroom, she was the star attraction. In mobile, child-oriented parts of the job, she was fine.

There were times, however, when I needed to hand her off. Any kind of computer work, meetings or long phone calls, more office/adult-oriented tasks were harder, and everything got done a little more slowly. Time out for feeding and changing added up, and long jobs had to be saved for nap times or taken home. I delegated shopping and other in-and-out errands to other people, and I was lucky to have very supportive colleagues, children and parents in my school, who welcomed us both back in as loving and uplifting a way as I could have imagined. Colleagues frequently stepped up to have baby visits in their classrooms or to take her out to the playground with the rest of the children.

Will you keep doing it?
For the summer, yes. A wonderful partner and I are operating a summer program at the school, and I have an on-site babysitter. It's an absolute dream.

In the fall, no, but it could be done. My school is not equipped for infant care, and both liability and productivity issues loom large (less so for summer, as the program is small and I am self-employed). If I ruled the world, I would make on-site infant care the norm for Montessori teaching staff.

Picture this: a nursery area, just for the infant children of teachers, with a small staff and limited access to the primary Montessori classroom, plus separate space for naps and the ups and downs of baby life. Imagine the relief for young mothers who teach. Imagine the enrichment of life for the infants and the preschool children. Imagine being able to go to work AND be with your child.

But you don't rule the world, so what now?
It's true. I don't (yet) rule the world. After summer, I'll join the ranks of SAHM's with pride and delight. We'll be on the playgroup circuit and among the park-walkers and weekly bloggers again, and we'll continue our Montessori baby adventures until it's time for school.