Montessori's Thoughts on Babies
I have been going through my lectures by Miss Child from the early 70's at the St. Nicholas Training Center. I am still amazed at Montessori's advanced ideas about newborn babies. Over 70 years ago Montessori had the same ideas concerning newborn babies as are being published today. Here are some highlights that are especially interesting.
Montessori traveled throughout the world and studied how each culture cared for newborn babies. She theorized that environment and culture mostly affected the baby's health, happiness and development. Montessori strongly believed that what you do after a baby's birth is more important than what happens during the birthing process. Basically, we all go through the experience of birth so it must be what happens after a healthy baby is born that causes differences. She thought these differences were the cause of many emotional, physical and psychological problems later in life.
Her idea was that mothers should immediately hold and nurse their babies. Let the hospital wash and probe the baby later. Also, she emphasized that mothers should be with their babies right after birth. She maintained that long separation from a mother could surface as "separation anxiety" later in life. She visited western, world-renowned hospitals and poorer countries that many times did not have hospitals. The western hospitals of the 30's with their sterile environment, bright lights, and baby nurseries left much to be desired. She preferred the quiet, cozy, home nest provided by parents in poorer countries.
Dr. Montessori was concerned about newborn baby's sensation of his or her radically altered surroundings. A newborn baby comes from a warm, dark place, floating and protected in amniotic fluid. When a baby is born, he or she has to breathe, feel gravity, experience the feeling of falling, loud noises, bright lights, and cope with the weight of air pressure. Montessori felt that the hospitals did not take into account these needs of newborn infants. She referred to a newborn baby as "an embryo." Basically, a newborn baby was an embryo to his or her new environment as much as the created embryo in the womb.
Montessori thought that the infant's family should be able to love and nurture their new baby. She believed you should hold, touch, kiss, feed and nourish your newborn. She was confident that nature's way was best and that parents knew intuitively what to do for their babies.
Also, Montessori believed that massaging a baby helped develop better motor skills and coordination later on for babies. Babies and parents bonded when touching as well. She felt that saying or singing little ditties while playing with the baby's feet, hands, and so on were a cultural type of massage.
She asserted that affection should even include play and amusement. She felt that a bored baby would not develop into an intellectually, physically, and emotionally strong individual.
Montessori's main maxim for education is that you follow the needs of each child. She felt even more strongly that babies should be treated as individuals, to be kept in loving, stable and stimulating environments. In essence, we are encouraged to follow the Montessori baby the same as we follow the Montessori child with regard to his or her need for love, respect, stimulation and growth.