Infant expert Magda Gerber never shied away from controversy. She knew that her child care approach was an uncommon one, often misinterpreted. In fact, she invited conflicting opinions, would even inquire, “What do you disagree with?” She’d then argue her point of view with spirited enthusiasm, a gleam in her eyes and (always) respect for her challenger.
I was reminded of Magda’s appreciation of a good debate when I happened upon a parent’s question about the RIE approach on Dr. Laura Markham’s “Aha Parenting” Facebook page. As an admirer of Dr. Laura’s passionate support of parents, I was curious to read her response. And, of course, I couldn’t help chiming in… Here’s the conversation that ensued.
I was just reading something about the RIE approach. And at first I thought it sounded interesting — letting children develop at their own pace, not hovering, etc. But then I did a little more research and I’m seeing a lot about it not being compatible with an instinctual style of parenting. Curious if you’ve heard of RIE and your thoughts on it?
That is a great question. I like many things about the RIE philosophy, especially around respect and play:
1. Respect for the baby as a real human with opinions, perceptions, needs. This includes talking to the baby, observing, saying what you see (“You don’t like it when I change your diaper”), empathizing.
2. Seeing myself as an assistant during play, rather than a director.
3. Showing up with full presence with our child and giving her our full attention.
4. Sensitivity to meeting each child where he is, and supporting him to explore and grow from there, rather than pushing him to meet some external model of milestones/ achievements.
HOWEVER, Magda Gerber lived at a different time and did not have the information we have today. So, for instance, she believed that babies will “learn to self soothe”… “if she isn’t picked up at the slightest expression of discomfort.” We know from brain research that this is simply not true. Babies learn to self-soothe by being soothed by parents, that is how the neural networks develop that are necessary to deliver the soothing biochemicals.
Gerber says that if a baby’s needs have been taken care of, she should be allowed to express her feelings through crying. I agree completely. BUT she thinks the baby should be left alone to do that crying, which I think is barbaric. Babies don’t want to be left alone to cry, and we know that because it sends their body into a stage of emergency, with their cortisol levels through the roof. Of course babies are allowed to have and express their feelings as Gerber says, but they need us with them or they get the message that they are all alone with those big feelings.
Also, I find it surprising that Gerber was so rigid about some things. For instance, she felt strongly that babies should be left to play on their backs while they are awake. Some babies will love that. Many will not, they insist on being held. Some like a mixture. Obviously, I would listen to the needs of my individual baby, which I am surprised that Gerber did not.
Gerber was also against the family bed, concerned that parents would not get enough privacy. All I can say about that is that it shows a lack of imagination which I assume came from her age. I think I speak for a lot of family bed moms when I say that for me it was actually exciting to find new places in the house to enjoy some privacy with my husband when our bed was occupied with small children!
So what you read about RIE being at odds with instinct might be about what I would call Gerber’s cultural resistance to what we think of today as the practices of Attachment and Continuum parenting, which are basically instinctual in nature. Does that sound like what you meant? –Laura
p.s. Janet Lansbury (http://www.facebook.com/janetlansburyElevatingChildCare) and Lisa Sunbury (http://www.facebook.com/regardingbaby?sk=info) are both RIE advocates, and I admire them both. So you can also check out their pages for more info on RIE as well.
Yes, that’s exactly what I meant! I almost purchased a book on RIE, but started to become concerned pretty quickly as I read the few negative reviews the books were getting. The rest were so positive, but the few negatives all voiced concerns that I personally would have with the theory as well, if they were true. And it sounds like they are. I will check out the links you sent, as I’m curious for a more modern take on RIE. I’m a big believer in fostering children to be independent, but I also believe that comes from a close bond with their families — not from just letting them “figure it out” on their own via CIO and such. Anyway, thank you so much for responding, I very much appreciate it!
Dr. Laura, I appreciate your detailed response to Shannon’s questions…but there are quite a few misinterpretations here…. The one I want to clarify immediately is that Magda Gerber would NEVER advise being unresponsive to a baby’s cries. Like Aletha Solter, she believed that babies should be listened to, supported and allowed to cry when they want to cry, when their other needs have been met.
The RIE philosophy is all about tuning into the individuality of the baby, perceiving a newborn as a whole and separate person and beginning a mindful connection from the start. Magda offered specific suggestions for doing that, like *observing*, and always communicating verbally before picking a baby up and giving the baby the opportunity to subtly communicate readiness. She believed that our “person to person” connection needed to begin right away.
Yes, babies need to be held, and Magda Gerber advocated “attentive” holding, holding a baby with the mind and heart, not so much as a passenger while our focus is elsewhere. (And, yes, this is different from practices in some primitive societies, like the one the Continuum author wrote about). Gerber and Dr. Pikler were unique in that they advocated time for infant free movement as well, so that the baby can begin to explore “self“. Babies are able to move most freely on their backs, but this is never something to be FORCED on a baby when a baby doesn’t want it! Babies let you know quite clearly when they need to be held…but it’s almost impossible for a young infant to let you know she needs time to move on her own. In fact, that isn’t something a baby knows she needs the way she knows she needs contact with us. It’s up to us to recognize self-initiated play as valuable, and provide opportunities for it, while closely observing the baby’s response.
And that reminds me of something else that Magda Gerber recognized (that I don’t hear other experts acknowledging). Babies become accustomed to our choices for them. The habits we create (like pacifiers for soothing, constant carrying, etc.) can then become our child’s “needs”. This can be confusing for parents as they try to recognize the difference between an individual baby’s true needs and the “parent-created” ones.
Dr. Laura, once again, I so appreciate all you do. Thank you for your support and the opportunity to engage in this conversation.
I’m enjoying your response a lot, Janet. I have a fairly “AP”-ish outlook on child-rearing, but for me, that means more than anything knowing your baby, responding to their needs, and using intuition over anything else. For instance, my son hated being in a carrier. SOOOO many people told me to let him get used to it — but that wasn’t his thing. It still isn’t. He doesn’t like being held close. He wanted to be held all the time as a baby, but only so he could see and look out at the world, and as soon as he could play in any sort of bouncer that let him sit up and be independent, he was suddenly the happiest baby ever. At 19 months, he is a never-ending bundle of energy who doesn’t stop — holding is out of the question, unless he actually “needs” me for comfort and such. He also totally rejected co-sleeping early on. He likes to sleep where there’s lots of room to move. I had a lot of guilt over that at first. But I realized finally that that’s his temperament. He’s his own person and I respect that. Son #2 is on the way in a few months — I can’t wait to see how this one differs from his brother. 🙂 It’s all part of the journey! Thank you for your very thoughtful response, I appreciate it!
Thanks, Shannon. You sound like a great mom to me…and, as I’m sure Dr. Laura would agree, you shouldn’t ever feel guilty about listening to your baby and doing things that work for both of you!
Dr. Laura and Shannon, thank you again for this exchange and for allowing me to share it. Since I wasn’t able to take the time to address all of Dr. Laura’s issues with the RIE approach on Facebook, I’m hoping to continue the discussion with everyone here…
(There are more exchanges with Laura Markham in the comments.)
For more about RIE parenting, please check out my book: Elevating Child Care: A Guide to Respectful Parenting
(Photo of babies enjoying a RIE Parent/Infant Guidance Class is by Jude Keith Rose)
Shannon sounds a bit like me when I first discovered RIE. 🙂
I love, love, love that I was able to take part in this discussion. Thanks to both Dr. Laura and Janet for all of the great feedback. I hope to be able to read more comments here from moms who have taken the RIE approach and how they feel its impacted their babies/children.
@ Shannon- I understand completely what you went through with your son number one! Mine was the same! Heaven help me if I tried to hold him when he didn’t want to be held.
The thing I love most about the RIE approach is the reliance on instinct and attention to what the baby is telling you. The acknowledgment of a child as an individual is so important to my philosophy- I believe that our job as parents is to let our child unfold as himself in a safe environment, with the gentlest of nudging when he makes unwise choices. RIE is the only philosophy I’ve found which supports this without telling me to follow a dogma of practice regardless of what a baby might be telling me.
This post is helpful in clarifying some of the misinterpretations of RIE parenting. The title of the post also brings to mind the value and challenge of hearing others opinions on RIE. My husband and I believe in most aspects of a RIE parenting approach and this is how we have been raising our infant son (5 months old now). However, there is endless negative feedback from family members who have chosen a different lifestyle/parenting approach. Most recently my sister-in-law asked “why don’t you stimulate your baby?” ugh! Initially, I stood my ground and was proud to share with others how we’ve chosen to parent. Unfortunately our choices are constantly challenged, seen as ‘self-righteous’, and even mocked. Now I find myself avoiding answering questions about our choices because there’s such a negative reaction from family members. I’m unable to connect locally with like-minded parents, so find comfort in blogs like yours! I’d love to hear more about how you and your readers deal with negative feedback from family and friends that don’t support RIE parenting choices. Thanks again for another inspiring post–as always, I look forward to reading more!
Ahhh the stimulate the baby thing! Who started that and can we punish them?
I never understood that. I did it for a while, But it seemed exhausting and pointless. Isn’t everything stimulating when you’re new?
Yes!!! And often overly so…
I completely understand this sentiment. Most of my family get it, but my husband’s side DOES NOT! It’s not much of an issue for us because they all live on the other side of the world…the long visits are very difficult though, as they often stay for weeks/months at a time and when we go home, we’re kind of at their mercy as we stay with them. I also feel anxious, almost, going against the grain. We try very hard to avoid conversations about TV for example…it’s always uncomfortable trying to distract our 20 month old son from seeing an on tv at friends and then saying ‘we don’t believe he should watch it into, he’s three!’. But then I remind myself that we are doing the best we can for our son and the conversations become easier. Thank goodness for one of my son’s carers in childcare for introducing us to Janet and RIE
This is a great debate. I have always thought that parenting need not be a “my way or the highway” approach. We can all take the parts that we need and like – and work for us – from the very different parenting advice out there.
I am no RIE expert. I’ve just done some reading of Magda’s book and Janet’s website. The thing that struck me from this discussion was the idea that Magda and RIE folks advocate leaving your child alone to cry. I haven’t come across this.
Rather, the message I’ve taken away is that sometimes, after all the obvious needs have been met (diaper, feeding, sleep, etc.), sometimes a baby just needs to cry. We all probably know that feeling of relief after a big cry… I’ve come to understand that this is because tears of stress (not just from an eyelash in your eye) actually contain cortisol. When you cry, you are literally flushing the stress out.
So the idea, as I understand it, is to support your child when they are crying (again, assuming that you’ve already met their other needs). Not to leave them alone… but also not to shush or grab the pacifier or any other things that we tend to do to quickly stop the crying.
I began to learn more about RIE when my son was 2.5. And I can attest to the power of simply being present with my son in the throes of his crying. He gets those big feelings out… and then can move on. It’s magic!
This was the biggest revelation for me and relieved a lot of my anxiety! My son cries before almost every sleep whether he’s being held or not. I do the basics first to make sure needs are met (change diaper, feed, offer pacifier), but if none of that works, I just tell him, “I hear you, you are uncomfortable and have a lot of tension to release. I will be here for you and listen to you.” And then just hold him, not as an attempt to soothe, but just to let him know I’m there. Sometimes he keeps crying for a while, but usually that helps him wind down faster to know he’s being listened to and supported.
Let me begin by saying I’m a fan of Dr. Markham’s and Janet Lansbury, but as a RIE mom, I definitely agree with Janet here. The one thing I find missing from this discussion is the idea of maternal instincts. So much of the way we respond to and parent our children, whether we like it or not, is based on how we were parented. As much as people vow to do things differently, the default position, particularly in times of stress, is to do what has been done to us. That is what we know. (That’s why people who were abused, abuse.) The gift of RIE is that it helps parents bypass their “instincts” and to be thoughtful and mindful in the way they care for their babies. This can be plodding and feel unnatural at first, but then you make your own. RIE actually saves children from their parents instincts that have been shaped both by how they were raised and our culture. Janet, Dr. Markham….any thoughts on this. I’m not an expert!
Jennifer, thank you, you make a very good point. Our experiences certainly shape our point of view and childhood experiences are the most potent of all. The RIE approach is interesting to me in that it often feels counterintuitive in practice, but at the same time, it makes sense to the parents who choose it. It’s the way we always thought it should be…had we known to think this way…
I agree that we are inclined to “do what has been done to us”, or perhaps go to the opposite extreme, because we fear repeating patterns. Dr. Laura would definitely know more about this than I do and I would love to hear her thoughts…
I am so glad you make this point. “Instincts” are driven by so many factors, including biology, culture, what we have been taught and modeled, emotions, etc. Creating an open, honest relationship with your baby is not the same as relying on “instincts.” My instincts might tell me to stop Baby from crying because I am instinctively (biologically, culturally, emotionally) conditioned to feel very uncomfortable with my baby’s crying. Waiting and observing Baby as she cries may help me understand that she simply needs to cry for a few minutes and prevent me from hushing her and denying her needs.
I love it when these debates are so respectful.
Whenever I hear/read talk of the crying issue and CIO I am always struck by the thought about how different kids are. I know parents who are vehemently against any form of not immediately acting when a child cries, because their individual child responded in such a negative way. Where as, I don’t see it as at all barbaric- because I know my child very very well and I know when she needed to be supported to release tension. Crying has always been a release for her and helps her calm. Her sleeping habits have also always displayed a preference to fall asleep on her own. For other children, falling asleep alone is almost unthinkable until they are much older.
What I love about RIE is that it respects the individuality of children by encouraging parents to really listen to their child before they react. I think, first and foremost, about things from my daughters perspective, rather then what others think I should or shouldn’t do. This helps guide me to the best decision for my child. More then that, I LOVE how RIE respects how capable our children are- rather then viewing them as poor, helpless creatures. This also shifts one’s perspective.
What a great discussion.
Kathleen, thanks so much for your thoughtful additions to this conversation. As you know from the many wonderful discussions you’ve hosted on your website, crying is an intensely emotional issue and a lot of fear abounds.
Since crying is the manner in which infants communicate a wide range of thought and emotion, Magda Gerber believed that our baby’s cries require a careful, mindful response on our part, rather than a quick jump to a conclusion. Some of the parents I work with have video cameras in their baby’s bedrooms and they can see that when their baby cries in the night, the baby is only partially awake and working on finding a comfortable position so as to go back to sleep. So, should we pick up the baby, wake her up and disrupt her “self-soothing” process? Should a mom like you, who knows and understands her baby’s needs “very well” feel guilty for allowing her to release tension? Absolutely not!
Magda Gerber trusted babies, and by doing so, empowered parents to know and trust their babies, too.
Thank you Janet- yes, I think it is all about trust. We need to trust ourselves and our babies. I agree- it is all about stepping back and really trying to understand their perspective.
Janet, thank you so much for bringing these questions. What I learned as an attachment parent is that sometimes the attachment and drive to pick up a crying child is about our own needs from childhood. In exploring RIE and Magda Gerber’s work, I have learned to see the child before me as his own person and to really observe the child and help him learn to find his balancing point by being more conscious and seeing, hearing and feeling the person before me rather than projecting my own “stuff.” In doing this we can help children learn to self regulate, to find their point of balance by lovingly observing and waiting rather than swooping in to rescue without trusting and watching first. I am grateful for the respectful conversation here. And so grateful for the work of Magda Gerber and Emmi Pikler. Thank you.
Thank you, Lisa, for your point about projections. One of the great eye-openers for me once I began observing babies was the abundance of projections I had! Now the subject fascinates me… Observing babies can be like a mini-therapy session for adults.
Mini therapy, hee hee Observing babies is such a respectful deed and really gives us the space to pull back those projections and wonder who is this being? And it is so much simpler with other people’s children, again that need for space to really see the other. I am so grateful to you for bringing this important and healthy work to more parents.
I was fortunate to participate in a week long intensive training with Magda Gerber and Ruth Anne Hammond at Pacific Oaks College in the nineties. The RIE approach has greatly influenced me and I make many RIE based suggestions to my clients in my parent coaching practice (and not just related to infants).
HOWEVER, I do not advocate adopting any one parenting approach or philosophy in it’s entirety, believing parents risk dulling their own instincts and become resistant to necessary changes.
The advice of “experts”, our own experiences, our child’s personalities and evolving needs, the requirements of our household, and our personal cultural and religious beliefs should all inform our parenting.
Carolyn, I advocate something similiar…take with you what inspires and works, keep ears, eyes and mind wide open.
How lovely to read in your post, Carolyn, that you still carry with you ideas from our Pacific Oaks intensive back in the 90s! And I agree with you (and Janet) that we must utilize all available resources to do the best for our children. I think Magda and I must have succeeded in the class…because she always maintained that RIE was not a bunch of codified rules, but a way of being with infants that respected their capabilities. And since Magda has left us, I have had the good fortune to study Affective Neuroscience and Regulation Theory with Dr. Allan Schore…and I feel very confident that Magda’s Educaring™ Approach is a great set of guidelines for helping parents be good co-regulators so that their children can eventually be self-regulated (which will always include relationships with significant others). Carolyn, I’m still at Pacific Oaks, on the Children’s School campus now, if you want to see our wonderful new space!
You are such a warm and generous person; Magda Gerba could not have a better representative. I think that you and I agree on just about everything relating to child development, including the importance of listening to baby’s cries, as described so well by Aletha Solter. But I think we are reading Gerber differently!
I agree that Gerber says we should listen to the baby’s crying. But the comments below seem to indicate that she does not think the baby should be held while he cries, which we now know is an important part of the baby developing the ability to calm herself. In fact, physical contact with the infant helps her regulate her physiology.
Instead, Gerber has us listen (which is great in itself) but repeatedly admonishes us not to pick the baby up. She also tells us that babies left to cry will learn to “self soothe.” So my question to you is, do you disagree with these comments? Do you think I’m misinterpreting them? I’m certainly no RIE expert, but her writing seems very clear.
From Your Self Confident Baby:
Helping Your Baby Learn to Self-Soothe
“During her awake times out of her crib, I believe in placing a baby on her back on a blanket….If she isn’t picked up at the slightest expression of discomfort, she will learn to calm herself….Children may not want to be held when they cry or are upset….An infant’s cry can stir in us feelings of fear or pain from our own childhoods and we may assume our baby is experiencing the same pain. With babies, this is not necessarily so. A child can calm herself by sucking her blanket or thumb. Some children cry to calm themselves….As with everything concerning babies, they need time to learn a new skill. The more time she spends on her back, the more she will adapt to it…Eventually she will be accustomed to spending time on her own in her safe place, which will give you more free time.”
I don’t know any way to interpret this other than that Gerber is telling us that when the baby is awake she should be left alone on her back. If she protests, we should not assume that she is in pain. She is merely crying to calm herself. (That doesn’t sound like listening to the baby to me!) She will get used to being left on her own, if we don’t (listen to her and ) pick her up! This is, according to the heading, how babies learn to self-soothe. But we know now that babies do not learn to self-soothe from being left to cry. They build the neurological pathways to self soothe by being soothed when they cry.
Sure, children may not want to be held when they are angry, because they are defended, and holding them brings up the vulnerable feelings behind the anger. But I have NEVER met a baby who did not want to be held when she was upset or crying. They aren’t yet defended in this way. And besides, if they stop crying when we pick them up, then they are saying they WANT to be picked up. So why aren’t we listening to them?
I also see this as incredibly rigid. My babies wanted to be held most of the time. Of course I put them down, often, on both their backs and their stomachs. They let me know– usually fairly quickly– when they wanted me to pick them up again. They loved being carried in slings so they could see the world. Much more interesting, I guess, than lying on their backs, and evolutionarily makes sense. Babies who were left on their back in the jungle were probably eaten and didn’t pass their genes on to us. So quite simply, why would we force an infant — and this is in the infant section– to lie by herself on her back if she didn’t want to?
And I resent the last comment about this giving us more time. I thought we were talking about what’s good for the baby?
“Remember that a crying child may be simply complaining. It may not be in her best interest to rush and pick her up.”
Whatever happened to listening to the baby? We know now that when babies are left to cry their stress hormones shoot up. When we hold them and listen while they cry, their bodies return to a normally regulated state, because they no longer feel like it’s an emergency.
Where Should My Baby Spend Her Day?
“I don’t feel a baby needs to have her mother near her at all times. I believe that there is too much emphasis on the idea of holding and touching one’s baby…what is the value of being held or touched if it’s only the skin that is in contact? I believe it is better to be with your baby while giving her your full attention….Place her in a safe area where she can play …you will have free time of your own.”
We now know that there is tremendous value in skin to skin contact. Babies are born not yet able to regulate their basic physiology and being held helps them to do that. That doesn’t mean we don’t also give her our full attention at times. And it doesn’t mean we don’t put her down to play at times. But if she protests and is happier being held –which is the case with most newborns (and this is the newborn section), why would we not listen to her and respond? Again, the agenda of the mother’s free time is disturbing.
How to Respond to Crying
“How long should I let the baby cry before I pick her up? There really is no answer to this…After her basic needs have been met, it depends on your tolerance.”
“If you allow you child to cry and settle herself, you encourage her to learn coping skills. She will discover what she needs to do to feel better. If allowed to self-soothe, an infant can learn to suck her wrist or thumb, find a comforting body position, or focus on an object in the room, as suggested by Dr. William A. H. Sammons in The Self-Calmed Baby.
The Sammons book encourages parents to let babies (under the age of two months!) “cry it out.”
Preparing for bed
“To form good sleeping habits, your child needs the opportunity to settle herself and go to sleep. This can be difficult for parents because some amount of crying is usually involved. Some children are better at self soothing than others…However, all children should be put in their cribs awake and allowed to work this out.”
Sounds like cry it out to me. On page 80, she suggests that parents try the Ferber method.
“New babies should be allowed to sleep as much as possible….In the Europe of my day, babies were expected to sleep much of the time.”
I have never met the parent of a baby who wasn’t desperate to get the baby to sleep as much as possible. But she clearly thinks this happens by letting the child cry himself to sleep. I think when a newborn needs to sleep, he sleeps. I don’t think I need to decide how much he should sleep and leave him alone to get on with it.
Where Should the Baby Sleep?
“I feel it is important for a child to fall asleep alone in her crib….What does it do to a marriage to have a baby in the parents’ bed? It certainly cuts down on privacy.”
Dr. Laura, thank you for putting so much thought into this conversation. I love your thoroughness. And I agree that we’re reading Magda Gerber differently. You’ve given me a lot to respond to, so I’ll go one page at a time.
“I don’t know any way to interpret this other than that Gerber is telling us that when the baby is awake she should be left alone on her back. If she protests, we should not assume that she is in pain. She is merely crying to calm herself.”
I understand your interpretation, Dr. Laura, but not picking a baby up right away does not mean leaving the baby to cry alone. What Magda is addressing here is the belief many of us have that babies must be scooped up as soon as they cry, as if that is the most obvious or only answer. Often, it is not the answer, but we teach our babies that they need to be picked up immediately and that they can’t handle the slightest discomfort. Sometimes babies just want their feelings heard and acknowledged. Often a baby is calmed when we talk to her, ask her why she cries, or acknowledge the fact that she may be, let’s say, struggling to roll from back to tummy or working to find her thumb. We can stroke her gently to help calm her and then, if that doesn’t work, we can hold her in our arms while we stay sitting on the floor.
When we rush to pick up a half-asleep crying baby, we quite often needlessly bring the baby into a fully awake state.
But our more patient and thoughtful responses allow our babies to do the little bit of self-soothing they might be capable of doing. Often a baby will settle herself when we provide calm support and begin “playing” again or find a more comfortable sleeping position. This is about believing in our baby a little bit, calming ourselves, and being open to what she might do on her own. It’s certainly not about abandonment, or telling a baby to go and do it herself.
It dismays me that these responses are thought of in such extreme terms (pick the baby up or abandon her) when infants are human beings who attempt to communicate a wide variety of thoughts and feelings when they cry.
You may not be aware of Dr. Kevin Nugent, a Boston-based Irish psychologist specializing in the development of newborns and director of the Brazelton Institute at Children’s Hospital in Boston, but several of us shared a wonderful article about his work from the Irish Times today… Here are his observations regarding infants and self-soothing:
“A baby’s “remarkable ability” to get his hand or fist into his mouth -even when he is not hungry – is no random movement. He may do it when he is upset and then settle himself by sucking on it, enabling him to remain alert and examine his surroundings. By this simple act, “your baby is showing you how competent he is and how, even in these early days, the urge to explore his new world is paramount”, writes Nugent.”
Should we discourage these remarkable abilities by responding “instinctually” rather than thoughtfully? Listening and thinking before we rush to respond is the difference between Magda Gerber’s approach and the “instinctual” approach you are suggesting, Dr. Laura.
Babies need us to give them opportunities, our patience and our faith to be able to achieve these small feats of competency and independence. (To be continued!)
I just wanted to add a couple of short comments from personal experience. I think (I’ve noticed this in previous comments on other articles) that you have more experience with the sort of babies you’re describing. And Dr. Laura possibly has more experience with different kind. Not that either of you is wrong as such, but you’re working from different notions of “average baby”.
For example earlier in your comment you talk about why pick up a baby and bring it to fully awake state when you could wait a couple of min to see if they settle. Or the bit at the end about babies having an urge to explore the world and soothing themselves to do so.
Personally, I’ve noticed that the opposite of what you were saying was true for my son – if he started crying when half asleep, picking him up or offering similar physical contact as quickly as possible actually ensured him remaining asleep. If I let him “self-settle” he would fully wake up and had to be put to sleep from scratch. So having enough sleep was a higher priority on my list then persevering with self-soothing.
Similarly, I noticed that being held close to me in the sling actually induced him to be in one of 2 states: sound asleep or alertly awake and observing the world. So you can guess that I had to learn to be quite AP in the early days. It wasn’t so much a choice of parenting method as a survival mechanism.
As he got older (3 now) I found RIE really comes into its own. But I think as a child gets older RIE and AP kind of converge anyway. But I’m not a member of any organisations and this is just the way it looks to me.
Wow. What an incredible exchange Dr Laura and Janet! Something that stands out to me is Janet’s comment: “Should we discourage these remarkable abilities by responding ‘instinctually’ rather than thoughtfully?”
This seems to be the ‘difference’ I’m reading in this conversation. Instinctual can be good–following our gut is often reliable and preferred in many situations. “Trust your gut!” How many times do we hear that, and how often it is exactly right–especially in emergencies and safety situations. Yet it can also become the reactive way to interact–just ‘move in’ and DO to a baby. Responding thoughtfully takes intention, the ability to pause and observe, to quiet ourselves a bit, to be okay in our baby’s upset–what a way to communicate a sense of calm and safety! And it seems to me the more we pause and thoughtfully consider our infant, their needs, what they are ‘saying’, the more we grow our ability to respond instinctually in a way that is respectful. Moving in with care and thoughtfulness with a crying baby is so essential for understanding just what it is they need. Touching them, slowly picking them up following asking them if it would help, rubbing their backs, or just bending over near to them and talking softly…this seems to me to be the respectful way to answer their needs and deposit into the kind of relationship we intend–respectful, kind, thoughtful; one that communicates our confidence in their capable selves, our willingness to listen and understand them, our respect for who they are becoming.
As I read both Janet’s and Dr Laura’s comments, I hear similar things being communicated in different ways–that simply the need to respond to a baby crying with care and concern is paramount for healthy development. And for each parent to discover what works for them and their baby is truly key–it may be 100% RIE, it may be something else, it most likely will be a combination of things. Hopefully it is respectful for all involved.
I did have to chuckle over the family bed and privacy! I think that may have come from a dated perspective…though in our family we never co-slept with our children. It just wasn’t what would work in our situation, and I was certainly okay with that (and I did like the privacy!). I DID create a comfy place for me to be in my baby’s room as necessary, however. Made everything in the middle of the night so much easier.
Thank you to both of you for sharing such a thought provoking exchange. I appreciate the work you both do to support and encourage parents, and I am grateful for the passion you each have that spills over to all of us. What a way to help all families thrive! Thank you.
LOVE this conversation Janet and Dr. Laura. Please keep the conversation going, you are both addressing a topic that I have been struggling with, and I can’t think of two better people to answer my questions. Thank you!!!!!!!!!!!
Teresa, thank you so much for the encouragement! The discussion with Dr. Laura continued here on my FB page: https://www.facebook.com/janetlansburyElevatingChildCare/posts/212716988778536 As you’ll notice, Lisa Sunbury from Regarding Baby and Laura Herndon Ling from Positive Parenting – Toddlers and Beyond also shared thoughts.
For further clarification for readers (who don’t own the book Your Self-Confident Baby), I’d like to fill in just a few of the sentences Dr. Laura left out of the passages she quoted… I highly recommend reading the whole book (available HERE or at http://rie.org/) to understand the context in which these suggestions are shared.
The last word in the world I would ever use to describe Magda Gerber’s opinions is ‘rigid’!
Where Should My Baby Spend Her Day?
“When your child is not in her crib, or you are not holding her or tending to her needs, she should ideally have an indoor and outdoor safe place to be where you can place her on her back… On her back, she has the maximum mobility and support. She is freer to move her arms, legs, and body, and do what she can do on her own…”
“Touch is, of course, essential… Babies need attention and physical contact from a caring adult. When you hold your baby or simply observe her, be fully aware and tuned in to her. Then you are both freer to separate when necessary, feeling “filled” by the other. In my mind, a few minutes of this special receptiveness is much more valuable for both of you than feeling you must remain with the baby constantly or hold her without paying attention to her.”
Where Should the Baby Sleep?
“Parents often wonder if their baby should sleep in a crib or with them. This is another deeply personal issue [like feeding choices].
…I feel it is important for a child to fall asleep alone in her crib, a learned behavior that will serve her well in life.
…Doing this is a way of learning togetherness and separateness, and that separateness is not the same as abandonment. A child sleeping in her own bed still knows that if she cries or if something happens, her parents will be there. …However, if a family is happy having their baby in their bed, I wouldn’t advise them not to do so. Nobody has proven that those who sleep with their families will have a better life, or vice versa.”
Another option to consider for sleeping is the bed on the floor. A mattress on the floor offers a baby not only unconstructed visual access to her environment, but the freedom of movement to get into or out of bed as she is ready. Of course this means a room that is safe for her to be in! The bed on the floor is an easy place for a parent to be with the child for a nice night time story and cuddle before the adult gets up and leaves. This is a practice that some parents familiar with Dr Montessori’s work will be familiar with.
I’m really glad you filled in the missing lines. I learnt in my history lessons at school to always be wary of evidence like “….brilliant….”
And yet reading Dr Laura’s piece about Gerber I totally forgot to consider the other parts of Gerbers sentences that had been left out. It sounds so incredibly different when you add those extra lines.
Yes, thanks, Dave.
I love the respectful debate! I’d like to say, in response to Dr. Laura’s feelings about it being entirely about the baby (that’s how I interpret her dislike of mother’s free time being a consideration), this is one of the reasons I was drawn to the RIE “method”. I knew becoming a mother was going to involve a tremendous amount of focus on our new baby, but I also wanted to hold on to my own sense of self. I am a person, with needs and wants, and my little girl is a person with needs and wants. We are not the same being, we are individuals, and we both deserve our own “free time” 🙂
Beautifully said, Rachel. Thank you…
Right on Rachael!
Yes, I was honestly a bit disturbed myself by how disturbed she seems at the idea of considering the mother’s needs. I started out very AP. I held or wore my daughter constantly, and she slept in my bed. It really drained me, and my mental health suffered. (Understatement, trust me.) When I found RIE, I cried such tears of relief. I didn’t have to bleed myself dry in order to be a nurturing mother! I think AP might work well for someone with a very different personality and needs, but it did not work for me. I NEED the alone time! It makes me a much better mother. I love the concept of giving my child 100% of myself part of the time, rather than only part of myself 100% of the time. (Misquote, I know… but I can’t find the actual quote!)
A very interesting debate. But, I didn’t notice a mention of the mother/baby relationship being co dependent. I had a strong need to be near my babies, particularly as infants, just as they had a strong need to be near me, with me, held by me and breastfed by me. Often mothers are chastised for those needy feelings but they are instinctive and surely necessary given that a newborn would have been eaten pretty quickly if the mother didn’t keep it close and quiet. Of course, the intensity of neediness comes and goes for baby and mother and so you all work with it. But, I’m sure Magda wouldn’t have suggested not picking up your baby if you simply want to ‘love them up’ even if they aren’t asking for it! I couldn’t think of not giving my babies or children a cuddle and kisses just when the mood takes me (keeping in mind that you’re always reading your children’s moods) – 99% of the time they love it and respond with love and cuddles and smiles right back. If they don’t want it they have always let me know.
On another note, I don’t think it’s helpful to connect co sleeping vs crib sleeping decisions with feeding decisions. While it’s true that where the baby sleeps hasn’t been shown to affect future health outcomes, what you feed your baby has significant health consequences. As we all know, many studies indicate that formula feeding puts babies at risk of many diseases so breastfeeding needs to be supported and encouraged while artificial milk feeding needs to be discouraged by health professionals and society in general and clear warnings on all packaging etc should be mandated.
Hi Jessica! I like the way you mention our needs as parents, because this is the reason many wish to keep their baby in a carrier constantly, or in your words, “keep it close and quiet”. There’s nothing wrong with that choice. This isn’t about chastisement. It IS about awareness of this truth you’ve expressed: co-dependency. Many of us choose practices like these for our babies because of our own needs to hold on (or perhaps, because an adviser has told us we should). Later, we might mistakenly attribute these habits to our child’s needs (for example, “she’s a clingy baby that won’t be put down”).
The RIE approach is about seeing as clearly as possible and being aware of our tendencies to project. At RIE, we learn to do this through observation, which is an art and great challenge, but a very worthy one.
Regarding primitive times…I find it ironic that Dr. Laura refers to Magda’s advice as “outdated”, when Dr. Laura advocates “ancestral, primitive” parenting practices and talks about babies getting eaten by wild animals. We’ve evolved in a very positive direction since those times. The world our children will live in could not be more different. Free expression (which babies engage in through independent play, and by feeling safe to fully express feelings) is valued in modern western society (thankfully). The wild animals haven’t been devouring babies during floor play for quite some time. So, why are we holding on to these outdated ideas? And if there’s one thing babies are built for, it’s adaptation… Let’s catch up and allow them to be citizens of the world they will actually live in.
In response to your points about breastfeeding. This is a personal choice and must always remain one, in my opinion. There are plenty of studies about the dangers of bed-sharing, too.
Dear Janet, hi! I woke 3am today morning and I could think of no better way to use my free time than reading your blog on some issues that still represent a question mark in my work.
Could you please provide some links to the research on the danger of bed-sharing? Crying and Sleep is Nr. 1 question coming up from parents in my playgroups!
Love you, with gratitude as always,
Hi Fernanda! Hope this helps: http://www.theguardian.com/science/sifting-the-evidence/2015/mar/18/bed-sharing-with-babies-is-it-safe
Thank you, thank you, thank you for this wonderfully respectful discussion. I wish the whole world worked this way. What a valuable resource for parents!!!
I took the RIE intensive in the 90’s also. From my readings and from the discussions during the course, I ascertained that Magda Gerber had total respect for the relationship between the mother and infant. She seemed to understand the dynamics involved. I agree that it is important to recognize the context and time from which she was speaking, but she always encouraged mothers to trust their instincts, but to never forget to ask the infant what they needed and to give the child time to respond and to participate. Mothers of course are encouraged to be authentically responsive. It is the projections that adults inevitably have that we need to tease apart from our response. This takes practice.
Thank you, Gwen! I couldn’t agree more about our projections being a huge roadblock to understanding our babies. That was a big theme in all three of my classes with parents just last week.
I love your interpretation! It’s about slowing down long enough to see what your baby is asking for, THEN responding.
I can think of a time when my fiancé made me angry and realized this before I did. He tried to “fix me” before my feelings had fully “come into focus.” I remember telling him next time to wait a few minutes so I could yell and realize what I felt before jumping in to help me solve my problem.
I think this is exactly what Gerber is instructing us to do with our interactions and caregiving for our babies.
You have to be aware you have a certain emotion present before it can be offloaded or the need addressed.
If you pick your baby up immediately without observing, your baby is being denied the opportunity to “converse with you” and further develop the nuances of communication and human interactions.
I learned a valuable lesson when I was a nanny in Italy many years ago. The small baby that took care of was very fussy one night, and I couldn’t get her to quiet down. A friend of the family took her and put her in her bed. She fell right asleep. All the baby wanted was to just be in her bed alone so that she could settle down to sleep. I never realized that such a small baby would want to be alone! The other thing that I was told, that turns out to be true, is that babies will tell us their schedules and needs–we just have to allow them to do it. So perhaps this is what Madga Gerber meant–to leave babies alone a little bit so that we can learn to understand their cues. But people are taking it all too literally and a little out of context.
Well put Mary.
You need to look into current research. Also, educate yourself on how the brain develops and functions. The RIE approach is out dated. I recommend reading “The Whole Brained Child ” for starters.
Kara, I can’t imagine what aspect of the RIE approach you are referring to as “outdated”. The Whole Brained Child and all the other recent brain research corroborate Pikler’s work and Magda Gerber’s RIE approach. You must not be understanding. I strongly recommmend familiarizing yourself with the research of Alison Gopnik, Elizabeth Spelke and Paul Bloom, for starters. They are proving (finally!) that infants are amazingly competent human beings. Babies no longer need to be kept quiet and passive for survival’s sake, as they did in primitive times. Magda Gerber and Emmi Pikler knew this and believed in babies 50 years ago…
No one is saying to NEVER pick up your baby, cuddle or comfort. But why must it be done instantaneously? I think this adds to a new parent’s anxiety. Your baby needs to know he has your undivided attention when you care for his needs.
I translate this as, (when/if I know the baby is in a safe place) go to the bathroom or quickly finish the task if the task is within moments of being completed. You will feel calmer and ready to pay total attention to your baby.
I’ve just finished reading “No bad kids” and am now reading “No Drama discipline” from the author of “the whole brained child” and so far they seem to be reflecting each other.
Thank you so much for everyone’s input to this I have found it really useful 🙂
I am newly pregnant (only 10 weeks) but I have always known that I want my child to learn things for itself and not have an over-reliance on being stimulated by TV and high tech toys. I have some concerns that my partners family automatically put kids in front of the telly to keep them quiet, and I would appreciate anybody’s advice on how they have dealt with this without causing family arguments!
Thank you, Laura. Such exciting news! Here’s a post you might find helpful:
I am just reading Magda Gerber’s book now. I really enjoy the RIE perspective on infants, but for some of the sections, I find myself thinking that Magda’s strongest influence on her perspectives was during her time directing Loczy, which is really different than parenting your own child, often times only one or two children. For example, she states infant carriers are unnecessary. This would have to be true if you were one of her educarers that was assigned to 9 children, but for myself, only having one child, it is mutually desirable to use the carrier at times. I feel this way about her sleep advice, too. If I were an educarer at Loczy, of course I wouldn’t co-sleep and night nurse, but with my one baby, I find this is what he needs. I wouldn’t say her advice is “outdated”, but sometimes not relevant to a first-time parent with only one baby…
Sara – you have a right to your opinion and choices, of course. But your perception of Magda Gerber and her influences is false. Dr. Emmi Pikler was a pediatrician in private practice renowned for her pioneering approach to child care long before she became director of the Loczy orphanage. Magda Gerber was first deeply inspired by Dr. Pikler’s approach when she brought her child to her to be examined. She was blown away by the respectful way Pikler spoke to and treated her child. Much later, Magda was able to deepen her understanding of infant development by observing the infants and toddlers at Loczy.
Gerber and Pikler believed in free movement for infants. They believed that babies should be held in our arms and attended to or allowed unrestricted movement.
I don’t see AP as rigid as mentioned above. The AP groups I meet take what is useful to them and leave the rest, and I don’t find that they judge when other people do things differently from them. I really love RIE, and I’m working on incorporating most of it into my parenting as most of it makes sense to me. However there are aspects of AP that I like and works for our family, and so we use that too. My biggest hang up with the RIE community is it seems to be the RIE way or the highway. In the RIE Facebook group anything not RIE is not allowed. I think discussions like this are helpful.
I’m glad you found this helpful, Courtney. It sounds like you are referring to one particular RIE discussion group on Facebook (RIE/Mindful Parenting) that has no connection at all with the official RIE organization. From what I understand, the RIE/Mindful Facebook group (https://www.facebook.com/groups/430048730397133/) is a place for parents and professionals to only share issues and information pertaining to the RIE approach. When it began, there were a lot of compare/contrast AP and RIE types of discussions that became divisive and unconstructive. I believe that is why the RIE/Mindful group adjusted their guidelines to keep the focus on RIE. There are, however, forums where AP and RIE are both discussed: https://www.facebook.com/groups/401497099874498/
Since commenting on this post I have learned of several people who have been banned from the RIE/Mindful Parenting group. I’m really disappointed to learn this as it confirms the discomfort I have felt regarding the environment of that group. Real people who genuinely want to learn about RIE have been hurt by how they were treated. How can those who so passionately advocate respecting babies treat parents of those babies with such disrespect?
Courtney – With respect, it sounds like you and your friends may have misunderstood the purpose of the RIE/Mindful discussion group (which is not an official RIE group and has no connection with the RIE organization). That particular group is for learning more about the RIE approach, but not for debating its merits, as I did here with Laura Markham.
I have the greatest respect for Dr. Jinny Prais, sole founder and administrator of the RIE/Mindful group (which now has over 7,000 members), and I can assure you that she takes exceptional care to preserve that group for those genuinely interested in deepening their understanding of Magda Gerber’s theories and recommended practices. Unfortunately, as with any FB group, there are those who join to argue their point of view, promote personal agendas, troll, etc., and Jinny has had to make some tough calls and decisions to the keep the group productive and on topic for those that wish to read RIE-focused information. She’s also taken great care to make the guidelines of the group clear. Jinny volunteers many hours each week to this group. I imagine she has also made some mistakes, as we all do.
As I replied to you earlier, there are apparently other groups out there that debate, compare and contrast RIE and AP, etc.
Janet, I love your blog and am so grateful for everything I’ve learned and have gained from it and from you. Beyond grateful!! Truly I am living a different life because of you!!
I wanted to share that there has actually been a very healing, helpful dialogue on the toasted group over this issue. One thing that has come out of it is the common thread that many who were removed without warning were genuinely looking to learn more about RIE and part of learning for them is questioning and comparing and sorting through what we had been doing and comparing it to what we might do differently if that piece of our life looked more RIE. The other common thread was the surprise and hurt at being seen as antagonistic rather than genuine and of being blocked without warning or discussion. Many loved RIE and the changes they were making so much that they worked very hard internally to separate the hurt and silencing and lack of respect they received from that group from Magda’s RIE theory so that they could continue to grow. It seemed ironic and sad that a group so devoted to respecting people has treated so many people disrespectfully. The toasted group is an amazing group of generous, peaceful people who are desiring to grow in implementing RIE in their life and it is really too bad for the mindful group that they gave away such beautiful people.
It was agreed that there is no problem, (and in fact we all would want it), to holding the RIE way up in discussion in an RIE group. The admins didn’t give that as an option many times. The discussion was ended, told that particular principle wasn’t RIE and they were banned from the group with no warning.
At the very least many of us would like it heard that many many people have been surprised and hurt when all they were doing was genuinely trying to learn.
Discussion is so often the key to growth. Thank you for listening!
Also there are a number of people who have shared that they don’t ask questions in that group for fear of asking the ‘wrong’ question. I just don’t see how that is helpful for growth.
Claire- thanks for sharing. I must admit I’m perplexed, because all I see here are positives. I hear you sharing about a group in which members are free to question the validity of the RIE approach. That sounds like a helpful place for those who enjoy debating, comparing and contrasting RIE and other approaches, etc.
Then there is the RIE/Mindful group, which is specifically for people interested in asking questions about the RIE approach. From what I have witnessed, ALL on-topic questions are welcome. Problem is, some people have difficulties accepting the “RIE” answers given, and will persist in arguing their points and asserting their opinions. Again, I’m glad that there are groups that welcome those kinds of debates and are open to members sharing their non-RIE advice. The RIE/Mindful group is not geared towards that.
Yes – both groups have positives and offer amazing positive things. But I don’t see only positives in my comment. I was talking about women being hurt. It seems inauthentic to say there was only positives in my comment.
Not inauthentic, but insensitive, perhaps. I am truly sorry people have felt hurt. The problem is that I cannot agree that these people were treated unfairly, disrespected, banned easily or without warning. (The guidelines themselves provide a very clear warning.) I obviously can’t speak to each specific situation, but I believe in the admin 100%. She is the epitomy of respect.
Hello Janet. I have to agree with the ladies above. When I started reading Magda Gerber’s book and your blog Janet, I was so excited, inspired and thought provoked..and began implementing RIE straight away. Since joining the group 3 months later, RIE/Mindful Parenting, while obeying the group rules I can honestly say I have almost been put off RIE entirely. I would have thought that the group would have been based in respectfulness and thoughtfulness…instead I found the opposite. Many unhealthy beliefs and “all or nothing” thinking dominate that group, which I felt very uncomfortable with and pressured. The common belief that if your child is not raised under RIE that they will have their “little spirits broken” is of the extreme. The groups immense fear of questions asked even if they correlate with RIE is astounding. I thankfully left the group – to try and see if I can get any passion back for RIE. To be honest it now has me questioning the entire philosophy. I hope that it’s helpful to share this with others as it’s so important to be part of something where questions and positive respectful debates are not feared or banned. It is also so important to challenge an ideal even if you believe in it 100%. It is also important that one parenting philosophy is not acting as a dictatorship in a group and that when you ask a question you do not feel belittled. No one parenting philosophy is perfect and no one can interpret or follow something perfectly. There needs to be a bit more attention for this as well. Thank you.
Isn’t it so wonderful that there is something for everyone, and everyone is free to choose the something that works for them? No need to debate.
You’re not acknowledging what some are honestly and genuinely trying to reach out about, which is that they have been hurt. No one is trying to debate the point of the group.
I agree with you Courtney 100%! The above comment “no need to debate” astounds me, especially when it’s offering a point of view respectfully. The group and people in it have started to feel very much like a cult. Glad to be out!
Thank you for your answer. I don’t think any of us are saying that we want to debate RIE for the sake of debate, but rather to employ it and learn it and that involves discussion and comparing and contrasting for many (most? all? people). It is hard to go from point a to point b without questioning why b is a better fit than a. Everyone I know that was kicked out of the mindful group without warning was asking a question about how something they do fits or doesn’t fit within RIE because they/we are new to it. And everyone I know was being respectful in their questions. Part of their asking involved sorting through how they have been doing things and asking about why that is different or how come this fits with RIE or doesn’t fit. No one was ever being malicious or trying to debate to be right or prove a point, but rather to learn and grapple and sort out so they can find the way to move from what they were doing to being RIE in that area. It is astounding to me that a practice so rooted in letting children find their way and treating them respectfully could do neither for sincere, respectful women.
Not only that – but if a situation is turning into a debate for debate sake, we have all agreed that it could be handled respectfully while still being honest and upholding the purpose of the group. For instance something written on a pin post that says, “Discussion about non-RIE topics like co-sleeping, babywearing, BLW, that are brought up will be instantly removed.” Or responding to someone in this manner “this question is starting to veer away from RIE’s response to the matter. Unless it stays on the topic of learning from RIE the responses will be deleted” There is no problem with upholding the purpose of a group. None of us deny that.
I don’t know if you know how inspired people feel by RIE and how much joy they have in seeing aspects of their lives improve and when learning is genuinely sought to be kicked out does feel like a kick in the gut.
You are an incredible role model, you write so beautifully and insightfully and inspirationally. It truly is no exaggeration when I say your writing has changed my life. I site your blog everywhere I turn, twins groups, AP groups, other RIE groups, in emails to friends – everywhere! I love when you put a new post up. Your feed on my fb is one of my very favourite. I mean that with all of my heart, this is not empty flattery. However, the mindful group, whether you and Lisa and Ginny want to admit it or not has treated many respectful women disrespectfully and left many people baffled and hurt. I don’t know of anyone that felt hurt personally by you Janet, with the exception of your lack of acknowledgment of the hurt from that group. But I do hope at some point the three of you will look inward and be willing to admit that the admin and leaders of that group has been less than respectful in its dealing with many women. Either way, it is the job of the women who have been hurt to speak up. And that is what we are doing.
Claire – I thank you for your kind words. I am sincerely sorry people have been hurt and confused by the policies of the RIE/Mindful FB group. I admit that I am not a regular contributor to that group, so I don’t know all that goes on, but I do know, again, that the admin is an intelligent, highly educated university professor who could not be more careful and fair. I realize that the group is not what everyone who joins it wants it to be. It is what it is…a group focused on one particular approach to parenting, a rare place where those interested in the RIE approach do NOT have to defend their practices. It really is the only place on the web where Magda Gerber’s perspective is not up for debate. It is only explained and clarified. Personally, I am exceedingly grateful for a group like this.
Questions of all kinds are welcome, and answers from the RIE perspective are provided by the parents and RIE educators in that group. Unfortunately, time and again, commenters invested in other parenting approaches refuse to accept that the RIE perspective isn’t what they want it to be. They push their agenda and won’t let up, turn informational threads into arguments. This just happened today, so it is fresh in my mind — some very unreasonable people obviously not seeing how unreasonable they were, or how disrespectfully they were responding to the RIE enthusiasts in that group. It was truly baffling… Why were they in this group if they only wanted to bash the RIE approach?
Claire, I can promise you that the only people who have been removed from that group were misusing it. They may not have realized it. Perhaps they didn’t read the guidelines. But this is not the fault of the admin who, again, donates her time and is incredibly thoughtful and careful. Parenting is an extremely sensitive subject for many people… It can be hard to see clearly, I know that from personal experience and my many years working with parents. Again, I’m sorry for the misunderstandings and hurt.
And, by the way, there are debates going on all the time on my FB page! I try my best to participate.
In other words Claire, you’re wrong and Janet’s right lol…because “it can be hard to see clearly”. There are many people who were blocked from that group who did not misuse the group unintentionally – respectful, appreciative, sincere people who wanted RIE perspectives. But thank you for the discussion it has re-affirmed how unhealthy people can make a perfectly great parenting philosophy!
I don’t see how this is about right and wrong, Kath. Are you suggesting people were removed randomly by the group founder and admin? She certainly has that right, but it’s highly doubtful she would do such a thing. I imagine she has made mistakes as anyone would in a group so large. Again, I am sorry feelings were hurt. I’m not sure I understand what you want from me in this discussion.
Although this is an old post, I see that some of the concerns highlighted in the comments about the Facebook RIE group are still relevant. I agree with comments from Claire, Kath, and Courtenay regarding how respectful, genuine questions and comments are treated. I had a similar experience of it not being OK to question RIE practices for the purpose of understanding them, and of being abruptly dropped from the group without an initial warning (in my case for trying to respectfully clarify a point about an AP practice that was being discussed in a comments thread).
When questioning is not allowed, and people who ask reasonable questions about the philosophy are shamed or essentially excommunicated, there is serious problem with how the group is functioning. It also doesn’t make a lot of sense given that Magda Gerber is no longer with us, and her writings can be interpreted in different ways by thoughtful people, as this blog post and subsequent comments demonstrate. And to restate a previous commenter’s point, it is important to understand the why of something, especially if it doesn’t easily mesh with our own parenting experiences, in order to understand it an apply it.
Thanks for reading.
Elizabeth – you’ll notice I removed your inflammatory statements about a particular member of the RIE/Mindful group, so that I could include the rest of your comment. As I’ve explained to Clare, Kath, and Courtenay, above, the RIE/Mindful FB group is not intended to be a debate group and the guidelines are meticulously laid out (which must be why so many join, then read the guidelines and leave). It is a private group, not at all affiliated with the RIE organization. There is no official RIE group on FB besides the RIE page: https://www.facebook.com/RIEorg?fref=ts
What this means is that the admin of the RIE/Mindful group is an individual, who has the prerogrative to admit or remove anyone at anytime. She and she alone chooses what the tone of the group will be. The admin of RIE/MIndful is a university professor, who holds both a doctorate and a Master’s degree. She is an intelligent, stable, and certainly not hasty or rash person, who is passionate about the RIE approach. I am truly sorry you disagreed with her opinions and judgment calls. There are many other RIE discussion groups cropping up, and I hope that if you are interested, you’ll find one that suits your needs.
I am sincerely sorry you were disappointed!
Hello again Janet,
Thank you for posting and responding to my comment! The fact that you did so is helping me renew my interest/faith in RIE (great timing as I have a second baby, now 4 months old).
Regarding the FB admin, are you sure that it’s a single individual? When I was abruptly dropped from the group I looked to see who the group admins were (I considered emailing them) and there was quite a list of them. So I don’t know who actually dropped me.
Also, I had posted about AP in response to comments about AP earlier in the thread, but the people who had posted earlier on AP had done so more than once and did not seem to have been removed or have their comments deleted.
In general, one of my take-aways was that people known to the group administrators are given lots of lee-way, but others are assumed to be trolls trying to start conflicts rather than assumed to be sincerely questioning/ offering their best understanding.
Thank you for all your thoughtful work and your blog, which is so helpful to so many! There is a RIE FB group that has started up in my town so I will be going there for ideas and discussion– unfortunately none of us has RIE training. but we will do our best.
Yes, more people are helping now that the group has grown to over 17,000 and they are apparently several thousand in the waiting list to join. The challenges of monitoring such a large group are great and adherence to guidelines must be kept very strict or discussions quickly veer off topic. A similarly sized parenting discussion group recently fell apart because of all the challenges presented. You might be interested in the story: http://nymag.com/thecut/2016/02/longest-shortest-time-shutdown.html
Again, I am sorry that you felt you were treated unfairly. I sincerely hope that your experience won’t discourage you from learning more about a parenting approach that has been helpful to you. I wish you joy in your journey!
I had exactly the same experience as Shannon. Let me guess that swaddling was near impossible even with fancy velco ones? Even the guilt for a while about not baby wearing and cosleeping. I credit my son for leading me to RIE. I find that people focus too much on the tools (ie baby wearing) and not so much on the communication with infants. Not that i want to knock baby wearing, it just didn’t work for us and im seeing that now more as a positive rather then a negative. Sometimes i exclaim “and this is the baby i wanted to cosleep with!”. If i have another child, i am looking forward to trying to read what they want rather then what conventional wisdom told me they needed.Thank goodness i found RIE and Janet!
Well! As headachey as it can be to get into these discussions, the most always comes out of them! So many great ideas and different points, this is how real truths and philosophies are born. Not something you could sustain every day of course, but so important to do from time to time! 🙂
Yes, looking back, that’s exactly how I feel about it. Thanks, Rhiannon!
What an interesting discussion! I am new to RIE and have been devouring as much as possible. Janet, your tone and format has been especially relatable and helpful… I am loving your podcasts especially in that it helps me to hear (rather than read) the way a parent would talk to her child.
I wonder if my perspective might shed any light on the discussion regarding the RIE/Mindful Facebook page. I am currently in a position of trying to learn about RIE so that I can decide if this philosophy makes sense for me and my 8 month old son. Since I am still in the research phase I would think that the RIE/Mindful Facebook page would not be an appropriate place for me at this point. This page sounds like it is meant to be a place for those who have already bought in to the philosophy. They are past the questioning phase and want a format where they can learn more of the “how to” aspects from those who have been living this way. I can understand that the people on the RIE/Mindful page want a place to be free from the need to defend or explain themselves to beginners. At the same time beginners want a place to ask questions and compare and contrast. It sounds like Janet is saying that both types of Facebook page exist and this seems like a fair and wonderful thing! The RIE/Mindful page wouldn’t be as useful or satisfying to current members if the feed spends time on getting people accept its belief system. These people are not looking for those discussions. Though, this IS what I am looking for so I will look for pages that provide that debate/questioning format rather than expect the RIE/Mindful page to change its format for me.
Maybe this perspective will help to ease the hurt feelings of those who were removed?
Now…off I go to read more about “cry it out” vs. “pick him up right away”. I am truly torn on this topic. Thanks to all who participated here – this has given me lots to think about!
Thanks for your feedback and all your kind words, Gina. Actually, the RIE/Mindful group IS for people like you in the “research stage.” But it is not a place to argue the validity of the approach or share the other approaches that are working for you, etc. The latest count of members is over 21,000 with almost 5,000 apparently on the waiting list, so the group must remain very focused. The purpose that the admins have chosen to focus on is to offer a safe space for people who are interested in absorbing and understanding every aspect of Magda Gerber’s RIE philosophy (which takes a lot of time to understand because it is holistic and complex). If someone posts a question and then members who do not have a comprehensive understanding of the philosophy offer their opinions or personal philosophies, etc., it is confusing and distracting for the people who are genuinely there to learn. The admins do not care at all whether people “buy in” to the approach. Questioning is welcome, (i.e., “why is it recommended to ____?”) but debate (i.e., “Well, I think it’s better to _____”) is not. Hope that makes sense!
It’s unnerving to me that you appear to genuinely see no issue with repeatedly telling people that a RIE discussion group is an appropriate place for questions, exploration, and learning, but that it is an inappropriate place for people to ask questions that (apparently) rub against the orthodox grain, or to share approaches that work for them but are not sufficiently RIE.
I’ve gotten a lot of really good material out of Manda’s work and periodically explore your site for parenting checkups. I’ve been thinking seriously about taking a RIE class with my next baby. But this thread, and your inability to see the fundamental tension between the underlying philosophy of RIE in terms of respectfully and trustingly interacting with a person who is learning about her world, and the doctrinaire attitudes of many RIE groups and RIE teachers toward people who are learning but happen to be adults, is really and truly disappointing and disturbing to me. I need to be able to question and think in the exact way I need to respect my baby’s need to question and explore. We are the ape that thinks. I consider it biologically inappropriate to tell humans that it is wrong to question. You seem to believe that a person not immediately becoming a RIE “true believer” is all the grounds needed to find them unworthy of remaining in community with other teachers and students. I find this very unsettling.
I am really disappointed in how your answers over this thread have evolved. People are telling you that they are hurt and confused and feeling unnerved and you keep escalating the level at which you are informing them that they are wrong in their perceptions, wrong in their experiences, and certainly wrong in their conclusions.
This is the opposite of how I want to raise my babies and the opposite of the type of in intellectual and emotional life I want to model for them. I’m feeling really disappointed and really taken aback right now. Please open your heart and hear what I’m saying. I’m a thoughtful person. I don’t jump to conclusions. I’ve been thinking about Mazda Gerber’s teachings for 6 years. My disappointment is not the disappointment of an idiot or a shallow thinker. I have zero involvement with the Facebook group mentioned here.
Ugh. Feeling so disappointed right now.
I’m listening, Cory. Can you explain what you mean by “the doctrinaire attitudes of many RIE groups and RIE teachers toward people who are learning but happen to be adults”? I honestly don’t understand what or whom you are referring to.
And to clarify… I wholeheartedly welcome all questioning here, in emails, and on all my social media pages. I only wish it were possible for me to respond to all the questions and comments I receive on a daily basis. There can be no learning without questioning!
The comments you have read here are in regard to one particular Facebook group that I have only minimal involvement with, though I very much support the hard work they are doing… which they do completely as volunteers, BTW. There are currently 21,000 members and the group is very, very active. There is currently ONE active moderator. Perhaps it will help for me to copy/paste the groups guidelines here:
GROUP PURPOSE & GUIDELINES
Please read and follow closely. We remove members when these guidelines are violated.
This is a learning community devoted to the study and practice of Magda Gerber’s philosophy of infant care called Resources for Infant Educators (RIE). It is a space for participants to learn more about the implementation of RIE in their parenting and caregiving. It also seeks to foster connections among people around the world who are interested in Magda Gerber’s teachings.
This group is NOT a general parenting group. It is specifically reserved for parents and caregivers who are learning about and implementing RIE. Please do not come here to discuss non-RIE approaches or to debate the pros and cons of various parenting philosophies. This distracts from this group’s purpose.
1. KEEP ON TOPIC OF RIE: Keep on the topic of Magda Gerber’s philosophy of caregiving (RIE) when posting, commenting, and offering advice. Please do not offer advice if you are unsure of what Magda Gerber taught or of what RIE is. If you are new to this approach, we suggest these resources:
Your Self-Confident Baby by Magda Gerber
Janet Lansbury’s blog post on RIE
2. RESPECTFUL COMMUNICATION: Treat members with respect and practice respectful online communication. We ask that all members who participate here do so respectfully and mindfully. Do not offer quick and thoughtless comments. There is no right answer, but there are thoughtless, provocative, and hostile comments. These must be avoided. Please consider reading a longer document on respectful communication in our files, found here:
If you notice that a member is misusing this board for the purpose of inciting conflict or posting inappropriate or inflammatory articles/materials, please do not comment or engage with the poster; rather tag (the admins). You can also PM one of us if you sense a member is misusing this group.
3. NO SELF PROMOTION: Do not use this group to advertise or approach it as a business opportunity. This is a free resource to support families and caregivers. Do not use this group to solicit business. Sending unsolicited private messages to members for business purposes is not tolerated. Please alert admins if you receive an unsolicited PM trying to sell products or services. There will be no posting about or promoting your classes, websites, programs, schools, blogs, books or anything even if it is relevant to the group goals. For schools, classes, and other programs or services that are genuinely implementing Magda Gerber’s teachings, please look at the file that contains a directory of caregivers and programs worldwide and consider adding your details.
4. AVOID SHARING LINKS: Do not post articles/blogs, especially on controversial issues, just to get a reaction from the group. Please save these posts for other groups or your personal page. I also ask that unless you are truly seeking support and advice, please refrain from complaints about the ways that other parents and caregivers care for babies and children (e.g., the woman that did x,y,z with her child at the park). It creates a negative atmosphere that is often not conducive to learning.
5. RUN A SEARCH BEFORE POSTING: Search previous posts *before* you post. This group is very active, and many issues have been addressed in a careful and thoughtful manner on previous threads. All of us will benefit if we use the search function to find information on topics that concern us before posting our questions. This is not to discourage questions, but to enhance our discussion and reduce the number of repeated posts. The group files contain additional resources for common issues. Some of the hot topics you’ll find many threads on include: independent play; swimming lessons; baby led weaning; “babywearing”; toilet learning; sleep learning; milestones.
OTHER RECURRENT ISSUES & THINGS TO KNOW:
Magda Gerber did not advocate Cry It Out (CIO). To learn more about Gerber’s thoughts on emotions, please read Your Self Confident Baby. Here’s a link to get you started:
Magda Gerber’s teachings and Attachment Parenting (AP) are different and this is OK. But, if you are here solely to argue these differences and advocate AP practices, please leave. There are groups that welcome these discussions, but we have had too many of them already and find they take away from the purpose of this group.
To learn more about these differences, see:
Please appreciate and enjoy this learning community!
AGAIN, ^ this ^ is only one of many, many Facebook groups and pages that discuss Magda Gerber’s teachings. Just ONE group.
With respect, Cory, this could not be farther from the truth: “You seem to believe that a person not immediately becoming a RIE “true believer” is all the grounds needed to find them unworthy of remaining in community with other teachers and students.” I would certainly not be here and in so many other places sharing and discussing and debating if that was what I believed. Nor would I be here online sharing this approach I love if I had not been able to follow my own learning process of questioning and discussing and debating it with Magda Gerber and other RIE Associates. I considered that education a great privilege and gladly paid a substantial tuition for it. I gave it a great deal of my time and focus as well… happily! Magda and her RIE community were precious gifts that I have never, ever taken for granted.
In this new age with the internet, information is offered far more widely and freely. The obvious result of that is that the information is taken for granted. In that context, I believe that everyone should, at least, have the right to form their own pages, discussion groups, etc., and be allowed to designate the rules and guidelines of their groups. I hope you’ll agree.
I want to add something about RIE vs AP. I live in Africa. My children’s nanny is an incredible and inspiring person to watch and learn from. She has never read any parenting books, but has cared for her own children, three sets of twins, and is also the oldest of 9 children and helped her mother to care for her siblings while their father was off fighting a war.
What I love and what fascinates me the most, is what a perfect blend of AP and RIE she uses, and how naturally this comes to her. She has back carried my children (she uses a towel) to calm them and at times to get them to sleep. I loved to watch the blissful, peaceful look that came over their faces when they went onto her back (this did not always happen with me, not sure if it was the modern carrier or the stressed out first time mom). She has also at times put them in their cots awake and allowed them to niggle a bit.
When I ask her about sleep in her culture, she told me that no child ever sleeps alone at night. They are always with a family member, even if it is a sibling. To some degree I believe this could be because of space restrictions. She laughed when I asked her the question, because I think she finds our western ways overly complex.
There is also the other side to this. She has absolutely no fear of a child crying. Her facial expressions do not change at all. Before I read about RIE, to be honest, I thought she didn’t care. But since learning about allowing crying, I have watched her again. She is always right there, right next to the child, reflecting “oh you are tired” with no attempt to stop the emotion. She never interferes with their play unless they invite her into an imaginary tea party or some other game, but even then, she often declines with a hearty laugh, reflecting what they are doing “you are having so much fun at your tea party”. The thing that fascinates me the most about her is that she never loses her calm demeanour, she never feels conflicted or stressed. As a result, she never raises her voice. She’s not focusing on being unstressed, it just simply isn’t natural for her to go there. To her, they are children, not a project, she has no expectations of how her day with them will go.
If we have to simplify all of this AP vs RIE, I like to look at it this way. The main difference between the modern, western parent and parents of other past and present cultures is this – the focus on the child. Now we have the time and resources to read about what’s “best”. We “try” things. We “learn” with our logical mind about parenting in an academic way. We weigh up approaches. But ultimately if we were that mother living in rural Africa with nine children and a husband at war, we would do whatever worked and whatever we had seen our mothers do. And it very likely would be a strong blend of AP and RIE. There would be no conflict in our minds about getting it right. When you have nine children, you can’t back carry them all the time. Sometimes they will cry without being picked up. You certainly aren’t sitting down to play with them all that often. They won’t be sleeping alone in a cot. But will they grow up as secure, independant individuals having experienced clear boundaries? I’m quite sure they will.
Such a thoughtful and interesting comment, Marcia. I really appreciate it!
I love this so much. She sounds like the parent I would dream to be. I admire how she is calm and respectful of the child and herself. And the part about no expectations that they are not a project or experiment but a child (person). Thank you for sharing. It opened my eyes a bit more.