Choosing Proximal Parenting
Part of a newborn's development is genetically programmed. The other part is influenced by different experiences he will have at birth and during the first months of his life. Thus, his environment is crucial; as are the choices we make for him as parents.
Human beings possess all the resources necessary to an optimal development within them. Our role is to accompany baby throughout this process and to guide him. We give him the opportunity to construct himself, at his own pace, by giving him a favourable environment. These are the foundations of the proximal parenting philosophy. Human nature principals guide the decisions we make, especially in relation to birth, breastfeeding, babywearing and co-sleeping.
When our parenting style takes less popular paths, we are often confronted with the looks and opinions of others. Our choices aren’t always understood or accepted. We receive all sorts of comments. And we feel that many people's vision is tainted by prejudice and misinformation. In the eyes of others, these decisions do not respect the norms and go against nature. Unfortunately, in our society, being different is often frowned upon. Nevertheless, the benefits of proximal parenting principles should be better known. To help the evolution of popular belief, we can try to explain our position when we are questioned about certain topics.
What we hear about this subject...
Don't allow yourself to be in pain! You should accept medication and an epidural as soon as possible, so that you don't feel the pain. It will be easy! Then, all you'll have to do is lie down in the bed and push when they tell you that it's time to do so. If you can, you should choose to have a C-section. It seems to me that it would be much easier and faster.
Choosing a natural birth
What is more incredible than to give life? We have apprehended this day for many months and once it’s over, we will remember it forever. In addition to the roller coaster of emotions, this moment corresponds to our first encounter with baby. We can't wait to see him and to hold him in our arms. We are tempted to want to press the 'Fast Forward' button to avoid all that comes before. Some decide to press the 'Pause' button for pain while others opt for a natural birth. Why choose this option?
Natural birth can be very enlightening on a human level. Pregnancy has allowed us to connect with our body. When we give birth to our child, we realize the power we have within us. We rediscover our femininity in a new light. We are strong and capable of enduring so much. We want to allow human nature to run its course, even it that means testing our own limits. Pain is the price to pay for the feeling of pride that will emerge. Not because it's an achievement, but simply because we listened to ourselves during the process and chose to follow our convictions.
The hormonal cascade
When we choose a natural birth, we choose to respect the hormonal cascade of childbirth. This has positive effects on us as well as on baby. It helps natural processes, such as lactation. We fully live the experience, for everyone's benefit. We choose to play an active part in our delivery, because we don’t want to simply be an executer. We want to be at the control station. We are experiencing one of the most important moments of our lives and we want to be part of the process. We consider this as teamwork with our baby. We both work hard to get there.
Passing through the birth canal
Giving birth by C-section, even if sometimes necessary, has impacts on baby's future development. When possible, we opt for a vaginal delivery. This is the only time in his life where baby will feel such a heavy pressure on him. This will allow him to become aware of his own body and activate several neonatal reflexes, such as the defense reflex called the Moro reflex. This body awareness will promote better-developed coordination as well as global and fine motor skills later on in his development. Natural childbirth also stimulates baby’s receptors that allow him to self-regulate. These are used to reduce his crying and irritability. We help him to integrate neonatal reflexes that will be important during the rest of his development.
What we hear about this subject...
Milk flow. Pain. Difficulty to produce enough milk. No thanks! I’m not interested in being enslaved to my child. I won't be able to do anything else. If I give him baby formula, it will be easier to manage and we will even be able to take turns for baby's feedings. Besides, it's the same thing...
When we choose to breastfeed, not only do we decide to prioritise our child's well-being and development over our own needs; we also choose to experience this unique connection that we alone can offer him. We do it because the benefits outweigh the sacrifices we have to make. In return, we will get privileged moments where we stare into each other’s eyes and develop a strong connection that will impact our relationship forever. It won't always be easy and there will be discouraging moments. We will have to remind ourselves that we are doing this because we want to offer the very best to our child.
The human body is fascinating. Not only can it conceive another human being, but it is also capable of producing, by itself, the nutritive supply that baby needs in his first months of life. Surprisingly, no other product equals the nutritional value of breast milk. And it is false to think that baby formula won't make a difference.
Motor and neurological benefits.
That's not all. Breastfeeding contributes to motor and neurological benefits. According to an article published in the Pediatrics medical journal, breastfeeding may protect against delays in young children's language and motor skill development. To breastfeed, baby must be in a lateral position and frequently alternate from side to side. This enables him to learn to stabilize one side of his body while the other side is in movement. Therefore, he develops lateral movement skills (left/right, up/down). In addition, according to statistics, breastfeeding is associated with a significant increase in reading comprehension skills between the age of 8 and 9, as well as math skills between the ages of 10 and 13.
Skin-to-skin contact during breastfeeding satisfies baby's need for warmth and safety. He feels safe and content. Therefore, he develops a deeper bond with his mom. Not to mention the positive impacts it has on mom's hormonal and postnatal processes.
External pressure is huge when you choose to exclusively breastfeed your child. Members of our entourage keep reminding us that they are eager to take care of baby on their own. We are perceived as an egotistical human being that refuses to share these moments of joy. When in reality, this choice is selfless. We place our child and his well-being at the top of our priority list. We are happy to know that we are so well surrounded. We feel bad to disappoint them when our choices affect them. We must listen and trust ourself. For us, the bottle is not an option and breastfeeding is much more than the action of feeding baby.
What we hear about this subject...
When I need some me time, I put baby in his Bumbo or an exerciser. During this time, he can have fun and I can get some chores done. Still, I can't wait for him to take his first steps. Since he is very intelligent and has good motor skills, I wouldn't be surprised if starts walking earlier than others do at 9 months old...
Everything that happens during baby's first year may be of significant importance for his future life. He experiences several important stages, especially in regard to motor skills. When he moves, he builds the different zones in his brain that will allow him to control each one of his body members. He learns to dissociate these parts and to find his balance in the face of gravity. His body awareness develops naturally by following his insticts. The surrounding environment also influences baby. Without doing things for him, we must offer him optimal conditions to experiment. We must be present to reassure and accompany him. We want him to feel safe and supported.
Discovering his body
Throughout the first few months of his life, baby slowly builds his strength and begins to gain control over his posture and his coordination. We must allow him to experiment in an active way, and to move freely. This will enable him to discover his body's capabilities on his own: controlling his head, rolling, crawling, walking on hands and knees, and then walking. He must establish all the necessary connections between his brain and his body. He creates bearings relating to time and space. Slowly, he becomes more confident in his abilities. These leaning experiences are enabled through movements, particularly during floor time and tummy time. Thus, to ensure his good development, we must encourage these moments.
Respecting the steps
It is important to allow him to do things his own way and at his own pace. Leaning to walk isn't a speed contest. Despite popular belief, it isn't a sign of superior intelligence either. And trying to get him to this pivotal stage as fast as possible will not help him. Every single step that precedes this one is important. They are the foundation to the adult he will become. If he skips one, he interferes with the development of multiple neural connections and generates an unbalance that could impact his long-term functioning. So, we can guide baby to work on walking on hands and knees before encouraging him to get up and move around on his feet.
The sitting position
Yes, the sitting position is practical. However, it shouldn't become our go-to solution. This is not a recommended posture for baby because he struggles to maintain a balance that is not yet familiar to him. First, he must learn to control his posture during other movements, like crawling and walking on hands and knees. He must acquire the sitting position autonomously, rather than by being placed in this way by us, using cushions to stabilize him. The sitting position will become stable and controlled. At this time, we especially want to teach him the pleasure of moving and being active from an early age.
What we hear about this subject...
If you wear your baby, he will always want to be in your arms and won't learn to walk. He doesn't look very comfortable in his baby carrier. He is cramped when he is stuck to you like that, and he can't see anything. He keeps arching his back and crying. Clearly, he doesn't like it.
Babywearing isn't a question of habit; it's a question of needs. It brings him confidence and security, the basic ingredients he needs to build his autonomy and make him want to discover the world that surrounds him. Baby likes to be carried in our arms and in a baby carrier. Let’s listen to him.
Carrying baby in a baby carrier enables him to better develop core stabilization and head control. Although baby may appear to be cramped, he is comfortable and warm, thanks to our body heat. Thus, we offer him close physical contact. Skin-to-skin contact generates many benefits; it soothes pain, and stabilizes baby's body temperature and cardiac rhythm.
Adapting to the outside world
Thanks to the physical proximity that unites us, we can quickly comfort baby and meet his needs. He hears our voice, he sees our face and he smells our odor. Our presence reassures him, which has a tendency to reduce his tears and agitation. Babywearing offers baby a better view of his surroundings. We offer him the opportunity to experience visual cohesion with all the stimuli of this environment. He can then create sensory bearings that enable him to feel more confident. We want him to develop the ability to adapt to the outside world. As he adapts to it, he will feel safer, and more inclined to explore his environment.
A baby carrier is an interesting solution for carrying our child. This position allows him more freedom of movement than in a stroller or a car seat. We can easily integrate baby into our daily activities. This also allows dad to wear his child, and share moments with him that develop their complicity.
Choosing a baby carrier
There are different types of baby carriers on the market. We want to choose one that will meet our child's needs and that will optimize his development. It is therefore necessary to pay particular attention to its functions and to choose one that is ergonomic and evolves. Every child has different needs, and they must be taken into consideration. It is important to keep in mind that the baby carrier must adapt to our child, and not the other way around. We also want to be sure that the product is safe and without danger for our child.
What we hear about this subject...
Sleeping with your child is dangerous for his safety, not to mention the effect it has on the couple. It is best to put him to bed in his own room and teach him to sleep alone. The 5-10-15 method allows you to manage his tantrums. Anyways, his tears are just his way of manipulating us. Over time, he will understand and put an end to his fussy behaviour.
Choosing to co-sleep
To baby, sleep rimes with anxiety and fear. Plunged into the darkness of the night, he finds himself alone and he no longer has his bearings: his parents. When we respond quickly to the needs and tears of our child, it reassures and soothes him. We help him understand that everything is okay and that we are there to take care of him. His stress fades as soon as he feels safe and when he sees that you are nearby. It is for this reason that co-sleeping is a widespread method in Europe and in other cultures.
Co-sleeping essentially means sleeping in close proximity to your child, allowing you to breastfeed, reassure him, and share tender moments with him. In addition to help build a relationship, this proximity provides peace of mind and a better rest to parents since they are by baby's side, ready to intervene when needed. It is possible to safely practice co-sleeping by using a bedside sleeper, or placing a crib or bassinet next to one side of our bed. What's most important is to learn about standards and safety recommendations.
Baby's true intentions
Days when things aren't going as well, we question ourselves, just like any other parent. We dream of one thing only: getting a good night's sleep. We tell ourselves that we could use the 5-10-15 method for a few days so our child would finally sleep through the night. However, we cannot bring ourselves to let him cry alone in his bed because we know that he needs us. We also know that this is not a form of manipulation on his part since his brain is not yet able to voluntarily trigger and control his tears. He simply needs to be reassured. He needs to know that his parents are near him and that he isn't alone.
When we chose proximal parenting, we choose to prioritize our child's needs and well-being. We put ourselves in second place because we know that this is the right choice for him. We want to give him the best possible foundations to develop and flourish. It’s difficult to sacrifice ourselves this way. We put a lot of pressure on ourself to do everything and to succeed. There comes a time when we lose sight of ourselves, as an individual and as a couple. However, we must find balance. It is important to make time for our well-being and ourselves. To give the very best of ourselves, we must take care of our body and our mind. We can offer ourselves relaxing moments, as a couple or alone. We must be at peace with our decisions, and ourselves, to be at peace with baby.
When we become parents, we realize that there is a lot of information out there and that it can be difficult to find our way. To make an informed choice, we must be well informed and turn to trustworthy resources. We must also be open-minded and resilient. We try things out, and we slowly learn what works for baby. We can also opt for a hybrid style by using elements that suit us and disregarding those that don’t. Choosing proximal parenting is completely up to us, and our child. We must listen to ourselves and respect our deepest convictions, without letting others get to us. An exercise that can sometimes be difficult, but that is possible when we guide our decisions with our values.