First things first…
Disclaimer: This is not intended to be a Montessori tutorial in any way, shape or form; but rather, this is intended to share how we attempt to incorporate our understanding of Montessori priniciples in a DIY-minimalist-eco-friendly-raggamuslim-kinda way. Proceed, if you wish.
Last summer, we shared our reading list with you and it included two Montessori books. While many of us have heard of Montessori schools and the amazing learning environment it offers children, we had no idea that Dr. Maria Montessori had insights to share about childrearing from birth. Lil’ Z was a few months old when we discovered this and the little taste that we got via the internet whetted our palate for more.
In the beginning, we were really stuck on the cool Montessori stuff and found it neither practical nor possible to acquire “the stuff”. However, Urbndervish, being the utililatarian guerilla that he is, emphasized that if we understand the Montessori principles, we can “flip it” and make it our own- meaning, make it relevant to our values and practical for our needs. We don’t know of any local “Montessori stuff” suppliers nor do we have interest in importing from suppliers abroad. We don’t own our apartment and it’s already furnished, so we can’t make too many modifications and we have no desire to add clutter to our living space. We don’t agree with every single Montessori idea that we’ve come across and we’re okay with leaving a few to the wayside. Now that the “don’ts” are out of the way, let’s get to the “do’s”, shall we? ;)
Below we’ve listed a few (not uniquely) Montessori concepts for newborns and shared ways that we’ve applied them in our home. For other Montessori nomads out there, feel free to add some of your creative ideas in the comments to share with us and others. Thanks!
Gentle Birth and Early Bonding
In our experience abroad, there were very few birthing options. Though the ideal would’ve been a warm, dimly light, serene cozy environment to usher Lil’ Z into her home outside of the womb, this was not amongst our available choices. We were limited to private vs. public and city vs. town. The private hospital environment would’ve probably allowed for a bit more serenity and calm post-partum but at triple or quadruple the cost. We ended up birthing in a public hospital. We wanted the opportunity to bond with Lil’ Z immediately following birth but Urbndervish wasn’t allowed to be present at the birth (long story) and after Lil’ Z was shown to me, she was whisked away for assessments and dressing. About half an hour following the birth, we were reunited with our little one for family snuggling and nursing.
Breastfeeding, Cloth Diapering, and Comfy Clothing
Breastfeeding is the nomadic mama’s greatest ally! The perfect food for the newborn without any excess gear, heating, or waste!
Cloth diapering is the eco-mama abroad’s greatest ally! When you can’t find non-chlorinated, eco-friendly diapers, you can always count on cloth diapers. Yes, people may wonder what’s going on in your child’s pants, but who cares? You know that “bubble bum” is saving the planet and saving money!
Instead of the hand-sewn silk kimono style shirts that Montessori advocates for, we opted for soft, cotton kimono-style onesies. Easy to wear and oh-so-cute on Lil’ Z!
Crafted Mobiles, Natural-Material Toys, and Freedom to Move
We completely flaked on the mobiles and the natural-material toys! We only knew of the annoying, busy, jingly mobiles and had no idea that simply crafted mobiles can help a newborn with their eye tracking skills. Also, we were hard-pressed to find any safe or creative rattles that weren’t plastic. But, we did take Lil’ Z out for daily walks, gave her free use of our fingers for teething, and full use of our hair for pulling. :D
We did our best to give Lil’ Z as much freedom for her range of motion as possible. No swings, playpens or bouncy seats! Soft comforters on the floor or spacious beds were her play gym.
The Infamous “Floor Bed” and Adjacent Mirror
No Montessori bedroom is complete without the floor bed! The principle being that a baby can enter and exit their bed freely, once they’re able. We loved the idea and the simplicity of it but we both felt very strongly that a newborn should co-sleep with us. We were committed to co-sleeping for the first few years until Lil’ Ms. Rolly Polly began practicing her gymnastics while sleeping at 4 months old and it kept me up at night. I initially thought that she was going through a developmental transition and needed extra comfort and nurturing, but it turned out that she wasn’t in need of more nursing, just more room. So, the floor bed was placed, not in her own bedroom in true Montessori fashion, but right next to our own. The floor bed started as a single mattress from our guest bedroom and later became a folded, cushy King-sized comforter. For us, it’s the best of both worlds.
The floor bed should have a long mirror along the adjacent wall to encourage the baby to lift her head while lying on her tummy, see herself and the space around her in her reflection. We had no success in finding such a mirror but we did find this!
To summarize: whether hermit or nomad, the following Montessori principles can assist all babies irrespective of context:
- respect all babies as individual human beings
- allow them as much freedom of movement as possible
- help them to become increasingly independent by creating a safe, child-friendly environment that makes it easier for them to explore. (How to Raise an Amazing Child the Montessori Way by Tim Seldin)