Baby Baths Mean More than Getting Clean
Sometimes a company’s marketing department gets it right. A commercial for a baby soap that is currently running on network TV does a better job demonstrating why parents should engage with their infants than any lecture I’ve ever attended.
All you see is a charming 3-month-old little girl being caressed and bathed by a mother’s hands. The baby wrinkles up her little nose and eyes and smiles an absolutely angelic smile while surrounded by bubbles.
The voice-over is almost hypnotic. “In just this one moment, your baby is getting even more than clean. You are nurturing her mind and helping her development.” They are absolutely right.
When a client told me that he would only be able to relate to his newborn when she could talk, I got worried. Apparently he hadn’t been watching the baby soap ad. She needs him now.
Babies are not, as my client believed, little blobs of neediness who just have to be fed, cleaned up and kept quiet by being plopped in front of a TV until they can carry on a semi-adult conversation. No. They are little social and behavioral sponges. By watching and experiencing give and take with the people who raise them, they learn language, nonverbal cues and social rules. In fact, it is only by interacting with other humans that they learn how to be fully human.
Researchers have determined that children’s early experiences with those who care for them affect the development of their brain’s very architecture, creating the foundation for every dimension of learning throughout the rest of life. How we parent our children in those early years has a long-range effect on everything from future success in school and on the job to how happy they will be in their own marriages and families someday.
How can we make sure our children have the brightest possible future? Thinking about the responsibility we have to our kids can be daunting. But nature has done well making the job as rewarding for us as it is essential for them. When we connect, really connect, with our babies, we have the opportunity to take time out from the stresses of life and to participate in the give and take of pure love.
Fortunately my client was an interested learner. When he realized he had often had full “conversations” with his much loved (and non-talking) dog, he was open to reconsidering his notions about how to relate to his child. Over the next few weeks we went over these basic principles. Over the next few weeks, he was surprised and delighted with his new connection with his infant daughter.