When you hold an infant, hold him not just with your body, but with your mind and heart.  --Magda Gerber

 

Inspired by the work of infant specialist Magda Gerber and educator Maria Montessori, Lee currently offers "Discover Your Baby" parent-infant classes in the SF Bay Area. 40 years of experience as a parent educator, trainer of child care professionals, administrator of child care programs, author. Master's Degree in Child Development, RIE® Alliance Associate, Certified Montessori Teacher.

 

Lee Fernandez

Parent Educator and RIE® Associate

 

RIE® (Resources for Infant Educarers™) Associate, Los Angeles, CA

M.A. in Infant & Toddler Development Pacific Oaks College, Pasadena, CA.

Certified Montessori Preschool Teacher, Springhill College, Mobile AL and St. Nicholas Training Centre, UK

 

 
Which brings us back to Fernandez in the Redwood Shores Public Library when she told a mother not to help her baby stand up. Fernandez explained that if the mom helped her baby get to her feet, the infant could get off balance. By letting her child do the work herself, the mother was helping that child build up her own muscles.

 
As Caruso from the Toddler Care Center explains, “Magda (Gerber) believed children should never be put into positions they can’t get into or out of themselves.” RIE says babies should never be put in bouncy chairs, exersaucers and similar devices. And they shouldn’t be propped up to sit before they are ready to do so on their own.

 
RIE also does not recommend giving infants awake “tummy time” because they can’t roll onto their bellies themselves. Yet when Gerber first developed RIE in the 1970s, many babies were still put to sleep on their tummies. Now that the AAP has advised that we put babies on their backs to sleep, fewer babies overall are spending time on their tummies.


San Francisco pediatrician Lisa Dana, M.D., agrees that “artificially propping babies up into a sitting position is not appropriate.” When babies are propped up in exersaucers, Bumbo chairs and the like, their core muscles are not engaged, says Dana, a fellow at the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

 
Dana does believe, though, that awake tummy time is important. Babies learn to move from the tummy position, and they develop arm strength when they are on their tummies. It’s a critical part of developing their fine motor skills and strength, says Dana.

 
“RIE has a lot of great ideas,” says Dr. Dana. She embraces their philosophy of talking with children, letting them know what’s coming up next and giving them space to develop their own skills. She just notes that awake tummy time should also be part of an infant’s development.

 
Ultimately, RIE’s advice to slow down, respect and build a bond with your child, and then let him or her amaze you with what they can do, is valuable to anyone who is embarking on the road to parenthood. Parents and caregivers who use RIE all say that this approach has made caring for young children feel so much more enjoyable and easy.

 
That’s the feedback at the Santa Cruz Toddler Care Center. Director Caruso says, “We hear every day that parents are so grateful for learning a technique that makes sense and is so easy to apply. Parents feel so much more competent and at ease.”

 

Noelle Salmi is a freelance writer and mother of three in San Francisco.