Monday, August 23, 2010


Once again my friend asked me a question that made me think: "Can the rocking and bouncing of a baby can be so wrong if it is something people have instinctively been doing for so long?" I am not answering the question with a right or wrong because with babies you have to be careful, there are such and such.

I am citing another woman from a forum where I occasionally read about parenting problems and ideas. On a thread about Pikler she said: "If my baby is crying and I take her and rock her or walk around with her and she then stops crying - she had the need to be moved around and I fulfilled this need." And I am asking: "If a baby is crying in a supermarket and I am plugging her mouth with a pacifier and stop the crying - did this baby have the need to suck her pacifier and I just fulfilled that ?" Exactly.

My friend had started the rocking and bouncing after her son was a few weeks old and she found it hard to live to the Pikler method exclusively. She said it was a natural instinct and that she was also walking around the flat with her son in her arms. After a while she was frustrated, she sat down with me and did not know what to do. She was exhausted, her son was unsettled and would want to be entertained most of the time. I told her what my day looked like, that still I was not rocking my son to sleep even on really hard evenings, that only shortly I would walk around the flat with him, usually between feeding and changing times just to extend "mommy time" a bit. But most of the time he would play in his safe area, every now and then I would join him or I would just sit and observe or do the household etc.
A few days later we met again and she was much more relaxed. She had given up on the rocking and bouncing and the walking around. Instead she had bought a playpen and created a safe area for her son to play in. She said: "You know I can't entertain him 24/7 I realise how this would lack in quality. I just feel so much more with him when I have some time for myself in between."
Today she called me and said "I'm totally back on the Pikler thing. The last days have been so much easier, I am so much more relaxed and my son is too."

Since our son is some sort of best practice example but there are no siblings to compare if it's his nature or our education or both I am happy to share an experience from another person that shows what I have believed in from the start. Even before I had a child I did not understand how a child can be happy when she is upset and is bounced forth and back. And when reading in forums or hearing other women talk this is not the solution to most problems anyway. Most of the times parents talk about how they try EVERYTHING to calm their baby or make her go to sleep. They walk, they talk, they sing, they swing and when the baby finally sleeps they can't put her in her bed for hours because she could wake up and the game begins all over. So I would like to reply to the initial question with another question: "Is the rocking and bouncing of a baby really the solution to the crying or unsettled behaviour when this is going on for hours?" We may have been doing this for centuries but has it really helped ???

We have had some difficult nights with our son especially during some bad growth spurts or after a vaccination. But we usually sat down with him quietly and tried to calm him by holding and talking and stroking him. Of course it wasn't always easy but it has never taken us longer than an hour and usually he would just go to bed and sleep very well afterwards. On rare occasions I would stand up with him and slowly swing from one side to the other in very slow motions. But when I did so I made sure I'd stop right after he had calmed and that he would fall asleep without the movement.
Strangely he never insisted on being moved around either - as some women claim their children to do. How can they if they don't know it? A midwife said last week to a woman "A child does not demand chocolate before she knows chocolate."

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


The other day my friend, who is also raising her child after the Pikler method, asked me "But how come it is still such a niche? It all sounds so logical but why do only so few parents pick up on it?" And I began to wonder...

The first answer I found was that Emmi Pikler is always related to her orphanage in Budapest. Most people think that it was there that she developed and researched all the principles she came up with. From this they conclude that the principles aren't compliant to single families with one or two children. This is one misunderstanding I wanted to clear up for a while now.

Emmi Pikler started to rethink early childhood development much earlier when she was a medicine student and working in a children's hospital with Prof. von Pirquet and Prof. Salzer. Both were as much interested in the children's wellbeing and motor development as they were in their health. They put the intensity of care time, a nice and friendly atmosphere and the understanding of the importance of the gross motor development as high up on the scale as the need for medication and surgery.
When Pikler's first child was born she and her husband decided to take that into account and let her move freely and patiently wait and watch her development.

Later when she was working as a pediatrician herself she developed this knowledge further and gave advice to hundreds of families. She also started thinking about the intensity of care and wrote first articles, gave lectures and in 1940 wrote her first book. This was six years before she opened the orphanage Lóczy. Only here she seriously studied and researched her insights. The way she chose nurses and gave the children a warm atmosphere, allowing them to develop freely was just extraordinary and this is what she then became famous for. It does not mean that her principles can not be adapted to children in families. If anything - most of them SHOULD be adapted - especially when it comes to care times and undivided attention the child really needs. But this is not the topic here.

The other argument that the Pikler method can be adapted to families is Magda Gerber's work. She had learned from Emmi Pikler first as a mother when she watched Pikler dealing with her daughter in a certain way and was amazed. She then worked as an assistant to Pikler in the Lóczy orphanage. In the 1950s she emigrated to the USA and worked with a pediatrician where she used the knowledge she gained from Emmi Pikler. From this experience she founded the „Resources for Infant Educarers“ (RIE) organisation where the Pikler principles are passed on to parents in classes and play groups.

Now having cleared that up I believe there are some more reasons why Pikler is still a niche.

For once - there is still a lot of belief out there that parents should not read any books on parenting or take advice from others. Many women appeal on their instincts and feelings. I thought that too until I had a child and realised that my instincts are either hidden somewhere or I am not capable of using them. And why is it that so many parents in the end do raise questions along the way? Because their instincts aren't the answer to everything and I believe it is good to have a framework to rely on and work with your emotions within that. This will help you not to focus too much on what you read but also help you when things are out of control and your instincts let you down.

Another answer to the question of this post I believe is that the Pikler method is too "cold" for many parents. When you read about it or mention it to others it does not sound like the cuddly and loving method people think about when they are expecting a baby. When people first hear about letting your child be, let it lie on the floor and play independently, don't interfere - they think this is cruel. They do not continue to read until they find out about the loving and warm intensity of care and feeding times. About the way "Pikler parents" should sit and watch their child, get to know this little human being while showing respect and appreciation.
Most parents misunderstand love with physical attachment. But there is more to it.

And last but not least I believe Emmi Pikler's principles are (don't get me wrong here) somewhat "too difficult" to some parents. Not in a way they don't understand it but in the way of patience and holding back. I have to agree - sometimes it is hard to resist to give your child this little push he just needs to finally roll over on to his belly for the first time. But look at the child's face when he finally manages himself. The happy smile of achievement. And yes, some nights are hard when you decide not to plug your childs mouth with a pacifier but help him get through the tough first weeks until he is able to find his thumb to comfort himself. But believe me - this is all worth it too (read here)
And of course - there are all these toys out there and most of them you want to play with yourself (admit it) and now this Emmi Pikler says you should let your child play alone and just sit and watch? Well yes, this can be difficult too (although she is not saying you never should - you should just wait until your child invites you to play with him). But I experience observing my child as really satisfying and much more entertaining than any TV show.

So these are a few thoughts why I believe Pikler and Gerber are still a niche. If you have some more - feel free to share and comment. Because I am not just interested in the reasons but also solutions on how to help parents find out about Pikler earlier and with a better understanding and learn about about a parenting method that is so exciting and satisfying !

Thursday, August 12, 2010


With 8 weeks our son discovered his thumb and has ever since used it to comfort himself in all sorts of situations. Every time a stranger is looking into our pram we get the same line with some sort of criticism in their voice "Oh, a thumb sucker!"

The first few times I felt weird and a bit uncomfortable just because the word itself has this negative touch to it. And of course because of the old fairy tale about the "Thumb sucker" who gets his thumb cut off with scissors because he wouldn't stop sucking it himself.

When walking pass a mother with her son the other day, the son clearly old enough to walk by himself and talk but with a big pacifier in his mouth I wondered, why this is not weird to anybody. How come something natural became something negative and something modern and plastic we accept just like that?

Once when talking about Pikler parenting classes a woman said that she has attended such class before and was shocked because she has never seen so many children sucking their thumbs or blankets before. When I attended some breastfeeding classes I thought the opposite - 90% of the children there had a pacifier in their mouth and most of them got it put in by their mothers when they started making "noises" like squeaking or babytalking.

I have to admit that sometimes it was hard before Leander was able to use his own thumb to comfort himself. But it was worth the wait. At night when he wakes up he does not cry for us to come and help him go back to sleep (unless he is hungry). Mr. thumb helps him do that. During the day whenever something is bothering him Mr. thumb is there. That doesn't mean - like some women presume - he has given up on us. When he's hungry, wet or can't get some rest by himself he will call for our help and we are there. It just means that he is not crying in every situation he is not feeling happy in. This has made our day a lot more quiet and easier too, when he cries I usually know exactly what's up because it must be something Mr. thumb can't help with.
And sometimes in the pram when on a cobble stone street makes Mr. thumb pops out of his mouth he can get him back in no time and does not need us to pop him back in. This is very helpful until he can actively grab for stuff around him.

So yes - our son is a thumb sucker. And that makes life much more comfortable. For all of us.


For almost a month now I have placed some random toys around Leander. So far he hasn't paying much attention to it. And I never forced him to and just waited.

Yesterday he discovered one of those toys. And is now busy discovering it. Isn't that just much more exciting and inspiring than placing mobiles above his head he gets bored of not being able to touch ? Watch for yourself.