My Waldorf Babies
When I was pregnant with my first daughter I never imagined I would end up being a Waldorf/Attachment Parent. I was determined to do things ‘by the book’. In my corporate life I was about efficiency, effectiveness, results. Parenting, surely, wouldn’t be that different – I had already worked out a schedule for feeding, bought bottles so that I could express milk for baby sitters and looked into childcare options. Her nursery was filled with stimulating toys, black and white flashcards and CDs of music to develop her tiny brain.
But when my daughter arrived I quickly realised that all this stuff – well it just didn’t sit right for me or for this tiny bundle of love. My place was with my daughter, and she made it very clear that her place was with me – screaming blue murder if I left her, while content and delighted when at the breast or in a sling. Her happiness gave me the confidence to ignore those who warned that she would never be independent, that she would still be breastfeeding at ten, that I would never get her out of my bed.
When I discovered ‘attachment parenting’ with its support for extended breastfeeding, baby wearing and co-sleeping I actually cried – I wasn’t the only mother in the world who felt this way. Yet, at the same time I knew there had to be more. For me, mothering was a deeply spiritual task, and I searched for answers as to how to honour and develop this.
My daughter was one when I came across the work of Rudolf Steiner, and joined a Steiner/Waldorf parent and toddler group. From our first morning, I knew we were in the right place. Copies of ‘The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding’ and ‘Mothering your Nursing Toddler’ sat next to ‘Lifeways: Working with Family Questions’ and ‘You are Your Child’s First Teacher’. As I learned more about Steiner’s teachings that babies are still very connected to the spirit world, and the mother’s role as a ‘shield’ to help them come in to this world gently, light bulbs kept turning on in my head.
What a different way I approached my son’s early weeks, with so much more love, more confidence, and so much more respect for this brand new soul that had arrived on earth.
So what does Waldorf baby care look like? Essentially it means deliberately protecting all of the baby’s senses. So we sleep him in a pure cotton hammock with merino wool blankets, and a pale pink muslin creating a veil over his sleep space. At night he comes into bed with me, sharing my rhythm and he quickly learnt night from day in this warm haven. His room is kept calm, no brightly coloured pictures or singing mobiles – but a simple mobile of pastel coloured silk fairies hangs in one corner
We keep him dressed warmly in layers of wool and cotton. His feet are always covered, as is his head. We refused a hospital baby bath with their strong chemicals and bright lights – in fact he had his first bath with me at ten days old and only weekly after that. Also, we insisted that he be weighed with his clothes on – keeping him warm and protecting him from the harshness of being thrust unprotected on to cold scales.
As far as possible we keep him at home, and away from anywhere with fluorescent lights and too much noise. When we do need to take him to the supermarket I either have him facing into me or his father in a baby wrap, or we cover his pram with the pink cloth from his hammock.We sing and hum softly to him, which he is beginning to respond to with his beautiful baby laughter.
Most of all though, we remember that he is still so new to this world, that as Rudolf Steiner said, he is “all sense organ”. Our responsibility as his parents is to protect those senses, and allow him to wake up into this world gently and with my love surrounding him.
Being a full time mother to two children is extremely challenging, and all the more so because there is a lot of societal pressure to put children into care. I couldn’t even count the number of conversations I have listened in to about the wonders of nannies, or how amazing such and such a daycare is. So many mothers, even those who don’t work, put toddlers into care so they can have a break, and I am looked at strangely for not doing so. But only a mother can do what a mother does: I truly believe I have a spiritual calling to be mother to my children. This means being with him, and my daughter, creating a warm ‘nest’ for us to all be together as a family.
Gypsy (New Zealand)