Saturday, July 30, 2011

Montessori from the Start, II of III

This is the second in my three-part series on Montessori from the Start, by Paula Polk Lillard and Lynn Lillard Jessen.  For part one, and a little background on the book, click here.  Today, I'm going to discuss some questions the book raised for me, and some recommendations I'm probably not going to follow.

First, scheduled feedings!  No!  This book was last edited in 2003, so there is no excuse about outdated advice.  While they strongly advocate breastfeeding, which I love, they also make some assumptions about how nursing will be used to create order in the child's life:  "By the time of weaning at approximately six to nine months, the baby is most often on a schedule of five meals a day, usually at six and ten'o'clock in the morning, and two, six, and ten'o'clock in the evening."*  Hello!?  Have you met my child?  She likes to eat all the time, and at four months, she's nowhere near a four-hourly schedule.  And I'm not trying to push her there.  Scheduled feeding has been linked to failure to thrive, to which we've come dangerously close in the past.  Thanks but no thanks on this one.

Second, the quote above references another sticking point I'm having:  early weaning.  Now, let's be straight about what "weaning" might mean.  To some people, it means the introduction of any other food or drink besides breastmilk.  So, in that case, because my baby gets a tiny bit of formula three times a week, she might be considered as already in the weaning process.  To others, it mean the cessation of breastfeeding altogether.  Lillard and Jessen are talking about the latter.  Current medical advice on this is a minimum of one year of nursing, if the nursing couple (mother-baby) is capable of that.  In fact, the World Health Organization advocates two years of breastfeeding. 

But here is the quote on weaning:  "Now at nine months, mother and infant are challenged with a new mission - that of separation . . . weaning from the breast is a move toward independence from the mother and represents the child's further embrace of the world."**  There seems to be some Montessori wisdom at play here, about the sensitive period of the child for weaning, but I've worked so very hard to establish a good nursing relationship that I'm probably going to carry on for as long as the baby wants to.  At least a year is my goal.  Check in with me in another six months!

Finally, there was a whole section that was essentially on sleep training.  This is, of course, a controversial subject among parents, but my child and I sleep together.  This is primarily a convenience for night feeding, but now we are also both reliant on the closeness of one another to sleep well.  "Sleeping through the night" seems to be of paramount importance:  "It is essential to work toward this nightly sleep pattern from the beginning.  Otherwise a 'wake up' nighttime habit becomes firmly established."***  I'm left wondering why this "wake up" habit is so objectionable.  "The sooner you can get the baby into a nighttime sleep patter, the sooner you can be a better parent.  If by three to three and a half months, your baby is not on a stable schedule, it is time to get seriously to work on it."****  Uh-oh!  I'm in trouble.  They also reference Weissbluth's Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, which is not necessarily totally against bed-sharing, but is not the most avid supporter.  So, I'm leaving this recommendation behind altogether.  I know there is a Montessori principle behind it (encouraging the independence of the child and confidence in sleeping alone), but I suppose I'll choose to follow the child on this one.

All of these divergences seem to come from the attachment parent side of me, and there is a long-standing dialogue between Montessori adherents and attachment parents about how the two philosophies can work together.  In any case, I feel confident in my decisions about these matters.  I may be inexperienced, but I know enough about my baby at this point to make these adaptations. 

Next Saturday I'll wrap up the series on Montessori from the Start with my final take-away:  the changes I'll be making in environment and approach to support my child's development.

*Montessori from the Start, p. 137.
** Ibid., p. 136, emphasis mine.
*** Ibid., p. 124.
**** Ibid., p. 126.

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