In her book What babies and children really need, Sally Goddard Blythe explains that meeting infants needs in the first year of life is the surest start they can be given. These needs are for early attachment, which is reflected in the physical care the child receives from adults; for good feeding choices – the long term benefits of breast v bottle feeding; and for sensory experience and motor opportunity which she describes as, ‘tummy time, physical play, songs and rhymes, the music of language and conversation’. These are the critical interactions that too often are forgotten in the rush of modern life and the demand on mothers for an ever earlier return to work.
In this edited extract from Chapter 12, by kind permission of Hawthorne Press, Sally explains the critical importance of intimacy between mother and child; the importance of a mother’s responsiveness and how putting children’s needs first in the early years adds up to giving them an alphabet for life:
“The first love affair of life is a child’s unquestioning love for its mother. The ways in which that love is returned will have a major influence on how the child views him or herself and treats others in later life. The first A, B,C, is not the one that children learn when they go to school and begin the process of formal education. The first A,B,C, is the one they learn at home, the alphabet for life.
The A, B, C, of children’s needs is only a beginning:
A is for Affection, Attachment and Attention………….
B is for Bonding, Breastfeeding and Balance………..
C is for Communication, Coordination, Consistency, Cherish
D is for Developmental opportunity and Discipline
E is for Emotional Education
F is for Fathers, Fun……….
G is for Games, Gentleness
H is for Hugs and having the safety, security and comfort of Home
I is for Interaction and Imagination
J is for Joy
K is for Kindergarten
L is for Love, Laughter, Listening
M is for Mother, Movement and Music in the early years
N is for Nourishment and Nurture
O is for Opportunity
P is for Play
Q is for Quantity and Quality of time spent together, Quietness, Quest
R is for Rough and tumble, Risk, Reading to your child
S is for Sensory experience, Space, Stability, Story telling,
T is for Touch, Time
U is for Understanding
V is for Values, Verity
W is for Wonderment
X is the hidden factor which makes every child different
Y is learning to be Yourself
Z is for Zest and Zeal for life
Of all the letters in the alphabet of childhood, the most important is the letter for Love.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”[i]
A child’s capacity to love begins with its mother though love received and love returned.
Every new life is nature’s individual miracle and society’s opportunity to learn from the mistakes of the past. Despite all the advances in modern technology and the complexity of the modern world, the greatest miracle of all is still the creation of new life itself. With the birth of each child, parents have the chance to begin life again.
“Life is a clown, hiding a million hurts. A dancing, happy clown, born with the gift of laughter. This clown came to earth one day and danced naked through empty lands. Civilisation clothed him, but he is dancing still.”[ii]
If we want our children to carry laughter – the gift of life – into adult life, we do not need a Nanny State. We need a state that gives children their parents and most of all gives babies their mothers back.”
[i] 1 Corinthians 13: 4-8
[ii] Eichler L, 1924. The customs of mankind. William Heinemann Ltd. London