An Infant is Not an Object

When I had my baby, I was a devoted student of the late Magda Gerber, author of Your Self-Confident Baby: How to Encourage Your Child’s Natural Abilities from the Very Start. Gerber advocated for minimal interference with infants. She held that babies need caregivers to feed and clean them, and critically, to keep them safe, but beyond that, the best kind of parenting involved leaving infants alone to explore their world. It proved incredibly difficult for me to follow this advice, and even harder to advocate for it with the child’s other caregivers. (Perhaps the hardest part to enact was ‘forbidding’ the grandparents to give hugs and kisses outside of bathtime and diaper changing time.) But as a matter of philosophy, Gerber’s method is a rock solid foundation for childrearing (during and beyond the infant years). Provide a safe and structured environment for those you are charged with nurturing and then get out of the way and let them grow.

3 thoughts on “An Infant is Not an Object

  1. Dear Karen, I am proud to read how my mother’s work made an positive impact on you parenting efforts. As one who experienced Magda Gerber’s parenting approach, just want to let you know that hugs and kisses are not taboo. They are a expressions of love. The key is to get consent whether implicit or explicit from the baby and not impose your or the grandparents will on them.

    The time to get out of the way is when the infant is exploring, reaching for something, trying to roll over, crawl, stand up or in some other way attempting to learn something new. That is when it is important, though difficult to stand back, observe, but not “help”.

  2. Bence, I am honored that you commented on the post, and your point is absolutely appreciated. Your mother’s work with infants continues to inspire me even as our family grows well past that stage. I believe it is a relevant framework for adults, even!

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