🔅1. Babies are social mammals with social needs. Social mammals emerged over 30 million years ago along with intensive parental investment. These include many months of breastfeeding for optimal development, nearly constant touch and physical presence of caregivers, free play with multi-aged playmates, and soothing experiences. Each of these has significant and lasting effects on physical and mental health.
🔅2. Babies thrive on affectionate love. When babies receive food and nappy changes and little else, they die. If they receive partial attention and stay alive, it is still not enough—they won’t reach their full potential. Babies do best when at least one person thinks the sun rises and sets with them. In fact, babies prefer a community of close, responsive caregivers with their mother nearby.
🔅3. Babies expect to play and move. Babies expect to be “in arms” or on the body of the caregiver most of the time. Skin-to-skin contact is a calming influence. Babies expect to be in the middle of community social life. They are ready to play from birth. Play is a primary method for learning and builds social and practical intelligence. Babies and caregivers share intersubjective states, building the child’s capacities for the interpersonal “dances” that fill social life.
🔅4. Culture does not erase the needs of babies. Yet, some cultures advocate violating these needs so mother and baby can better fit expectations of how things 'should' be. The failure to meet these needs creates stress that is encoded in the baby’s body, affecting things like their immune, endocrine and vascular systems. The rationalisation of “culture over biology” reflects a basic misunderstanding of human nature.
🔅What can with do with this knowledge?🔅
Be aware of these needs & interact sensitively with the babies you encounter. Support parents. Continue to learn and read, and be open to lessons from the best teachers around – our babies themselves.
References: Anderson (1991), Faircloth (2014), Narvaez (2011)