so it all started with an article in vanity fair magazine that I read about a trendy parenting style that is particularly popular in LA right now. my immediate thought, after reading the first paragraph, was ugh, enough!! because after spending the past few months reading the 5 million different views out there on feeding, sleeping, teaching and entertaining your baby, my brain had shut down and being a mom ceased to be enjoyable. i did NOT need to read about another parenting style that was likely going to tell me I’ve been doing everything wrong
But I read the article anyway, because it was only two pages long and, well, I was curious. And something unexpected happened. I found nearly 95% of the article resonating with me, and making me feel better — not worse!! — about my parenting decisions thus far. I felt relieved.
The parenting style is called RIE and while I certainly don’t agree with everything they preach, most of it just makes so much sense. I read the book Baby Knows Best to get a better idea of what they’re all about.
The RIE approach is actually very similar to the Montessori method, in that they’re all about babies and children being self-motivated and independent. They view even the littlest babies as intelligent and capable of learning new things. However, while the Montessori book made me anxious about parenting (they are super particular about what kind of mobiles, clothes, toys, etc babies are given – so intimidating and rigid!) the RIE one made me feel like, oh yeah, that sounds simple and intuitive and awesome!!
I’ll give some examples of things from the RIE book that I liked and put into action immediately. Some I had been doing already but reading about them made me more conscious and purposeful about it:
•giving hafiz a heads up when I’m going to do something to him. “I’m going to pick you up now” or “I’m going to brush your hair” rather than coming out of nowhere without warning.
•narrating basic activities and going slowly. Like when I change him I don’t just rush, I go through every step “I’m unsnapping you pajamas” “this wipe will be really cold” and he usually is looking into my eyes and really paying attention the whole time.
•not interrupting. this is a big montessori thing, too. If hafiz is, for instance, staring at the ceiling fan, I don’t put a toy in his face or call his name – I just let him finish whatever he’s doing.
•leaving him be. This was the most freeing realization for me. Every single little thing is new, interesting and exciting to a baby. I don’t need to entertain him. He is learning so much just by lying on a blanket and kicking his legs around, looking around the room. It’s actually good to just leave them alone (as long as it’s a safe place of course) to take things in and discover their world and their body on their own. No toy, mobile, etc is even necessary – especially at hafiz’s age. Putting one toy in his reach that he can choose to touch if he wants is enough. He rarely does, though. Right now he much prefers his own hands.
•letting babies express their emotions. If we never let our baby cry, they will think it’s not okay to show that emotion, be it sadness, frustration, exhaustion, etc. I used to think it was my job to prevent H from crying at all costs. Now that I let him cry without letting my anxiety rise, I feel better equipped to decipher his cry and help with the root cause. And sometimes I have no freaking idea why he is crying! So I literally tell him, “hafiz I’m really not sure why you are upset but I’m trying to help.”
•focusing on him. when I’m feeding him or changing him, I’m not multi- tasking. I am giving him my full
attention and acknowledging him.
•not putting a baby in a position they can’t naturally get in and out of yet. this makes sense because if you force a baby to sit up, for example, when they can’t yet, they aren’t safely able to get back down and it’s really not helping them learn faster. This is another reason I stopped tummy time. I realized hafiz was always unhappy when I put him in a position unnatural to him – he’s much more content if he gets there on his own (ie, now when he rolls on his side).
•observe! this is suuuuuper montessori as well, and I couldn’t agree more. Watch your baby and see exactly how they interact with different things, to see what makes them smile or laugh, or cry. When in doubt, just observe. When hafiz used to cry I would react before actually looking, listening and thinking. It has been enormously helpful to just observe him. I have learned so much about him and understand his cues far better now. And there are still moments when I’m clueless but I try to just calmly observe first and then try to find a solution. I also just love watching him play alone (aka lay on a blanket alone, that is the extent of him playing) because he does all these fascinating little movements, sounds, focused staring, etc. sometimes I lay down next to him to try to see the world as he does. How fun is that to imagine? And it makes me realize how easy it is for a baby to become over stimulated. Everything is just SO overwhelming and new and incredible!
While those were a few of the things that really resonated with me, there were definitely aspects of the approach that I’m not on board with.
•pacifiers. They are anti-paci, as is montessori, and while I understand their issues with it, I still personally find it very useful and not detrimental to hafiz’s development. They think pacifiers are a tool adults use to silence a baby trying to express emotion. They think babies’ urges to suck should be handled themselves, using their thumb if desired. However, for us, the paci is working. If that was the only way he could self-soothe, sure, that wouldn’t be good. But I find the way we’re using the paci right now (sometimes he uses it for naps and often to go down at night) to be no big deal. He spits it out and stays asleep. My only rule is that if I put it in three times and he doesn’t keep it and doesn’t fall asleep then I just let him fuss bec I refuse to play the paci game all nap time (or bedtime).
•baby-wearing. RIE is against wearing your baby which I really don’t agree with. I mean, you obviously shouldn’t be wearing your baby 24/7 since they need to be moving and discovering on their own. But for transportation and to sooth fussiness I think it’s the most natural thing in the world. I love it and hafiz does, too.
•swaddling. They are anti-swaddle (so is montessori) and honestly, I get it. It’s very restrictive, sure. But it also helps hafiz get the rest he needs, he seems soothed by it, so I see nothing wrong with it. It’s not appropriate to do forever and I should probably decide on a time to transition out and actually follow through, but for the early months I think it’s great.
•picking up your baby. Okay this part I actually laughed out loud because it’s insane. The book basically says to only pick your baby up with them horizontal and never vertical. Uh, what? First of all, often after hafiz eats he needs to be held vertically otherwise he screams in discomfort. Also, a baby should be allowed to see the world vertically. I just think this is too extreme and weird.
I think that covers it. I mostly focused on the part of the book that related to infants, but the parts about raising a toddler were very interesting as well and I will definitely be re-reading when Hafiz becomes the willful and energetic little guy that I foresee in our future.
Oh and since a post without a picture is just depressing, here ya go: