Updated: Sep 30, 2019
One of the first parenting books I read, before my first baby was born, instructed
me to do nappy/diaper changes as thoroughly, but as quickly as possible.
The author emphasised that the change shouldn’t take me more than 3-5 mins.
The message was: ‘Get it over with’ and it painted the picture that this was a most traumatic experience.
At home, we didn’t do it that way, but before I tell you how we did do it, let me share about an epiphany I had.
One day, I went to the toilet - as you do - and noticed we had ran out of toilet paper. From the corner of my eye though, I saw some baby wipes. Phew!
I wasn’t really looking forward to walking with my pants half down, looking for something - anything - to wipe my bum (you all think of a time you have been in a similar situation please!)
I proceeded to pluck a wet wipe out of the box and moved it slowly to my bottom when...
The shock of the coldness, almost knocked me off the toilet seat. It was free-zing!
Why? Why would anyone choose to wipe their bum with a cold wipe? Do you agree that's just a little bit rude? Of course, I got it over with as fast as I could! And I was very close to tears.
Now, let me ask you:
What does a bottom, a tear, an apple and snot have in common?
Connection is the answer to my most profound riddle.
When we are wiping our baby's bottom, or our toddler's nose...when we are hugging our tearful preschool child, or cutting an apple for our hungry school-aged son or daughter...
Those are all opportunities for us to connect, to be present, to be fully available
with, and for our child.
Time together during care-connection activities, and time alone, such as play, are two important components for our baby, for our child, to learn how to self-regulate.
Self-regulation is "the ability to act in your long-term best interest, consistent with your deepest values” (Stosny, 2011). The ability to self-regulate will successfully support our children in negotiating the challenges they will face in life, among many other things.
Care-connection activities, such as feeding, changing and bathing, are the times when our children fill their emotional cup up, and then, they can move on to self-initiated activities much more happily.
So when my husband and I changed the hundreds of nappies (yes, some
cloth ones, others compostable, others not. I’m sorry Mother Earth.I am
making up for it!), we instead slowed down.
1. First of all, we had a cloth or cotton balls for wiping, preferably to be used with warm water (in other words, NOT cold!)
2. We had everything ready so we wouldn’t have to leave our babies unattended on a changing table (please don’t ever leave a baby unattended on high surfaces, too many dangerous falls) nor get distracted.
3. We would explain to our sons what we were doing, every step of the way. In other words, we would narrate what we were about to do, then pausing and making eye contact, before doing what we said we'd do ("I'm going to lift your legs up...").
Nappy changing became one of my favourite activities ever! Who would have
Mostly it was relaxing and fun. There were lots of smiles, and my interactions with my sons during those times are embedded in my heart. I can tell you something: I did not want to rush those moments.
Of course, there were other times when we needed ‘emergency’ nappy changes
(Those ones were there is poo and wee and everything is overflowing...) But! They were the exception. We still narrated what was happening, even if we had to do it quicker. Afterwards, once everyone was calm, dry and comfortable, we would make time for cuddles.
This is how safe, harmonious environments begin to be created.
When we talk about neglect, it doesn’t have to be about leaving your child in someone else’s doorstep. It can be as simple as not connecting, as not responding - physically and emotionally.
In the same way, when we are feeding our baby, ideally, we are present vs reading a magazine for instance. Connecting, observing and getting to know our baby vs multi-tasking.
When we are giving our toddler a snack, we are there - engaged - rather than cleaning the kitchen or sending an email.
I am not saying that I have stayed present every single snack of my children’s
lives. No. But, we have indeed made it a priority.
If our children are constantly ‘competing’ with our work, with our other activities,
they might feel uneasy about the times when they do have our time and our full, undivided attention ('how long do I have her for?' 'Is he just gonna go any second'?).
But if our children know that we / their carer will be there, present during various times during the day, then they feel free and confident to explore and be by themselves when needed.
What are other times for care-connection?
- Reading to, and with our child
- Hair combing
- Nail clipping
- Tooth brushing
- Good-byes, hellos
- Helping get dressed
- Bath time
Ah BATH TIME...
Bath time doesn’t have to be a traumatic experience either.
Granted, there are babies who like water more than others, but when we look at ways to connect and to be respectful to both our baby's and our own needs, there are always options.
In our home, after the birth of my second child, and with my husband traveling a lot for work and no extended family around, I ended up ditching bath time ‘every night’ years ago (A good way to save water too!).
Instead I would alternate between shower and bath and not even every day, if not needed! Also, bathing/showering would happen during the day when I felt calmer and no-one was (as) tired.
These days we make some baths an extra special care-connection time. After the bath, I give my sons’ a foot massage while listening to instrumental music and they sip yummy tea. They love it! And me too!
Sometimes these are the times when they tell me about things that are very important to them. Priceless, connection-moments indeed.
"Caregiving activities of feeding, dressing and bathing are viewed as opportunities for building this relationship. The infant is not viewed as an object to be acted upon—to be fed, for example. Rather, the infant is seen as a capable human being and is invited to participate at his own level in the feeding, which is viewed as a cooperative activity. The adult’s responsibility is to make the child feel welcome, to read his cues and to take into account his individual preferences; for example, does this child prefer the cereal lumpy or smooth? ~ Jane Swain
Happy connecting with your child!
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