Parenting in 3D

By Kirstin Buick
10 September 2013

Our parenting blogger Meg Faure looks at why it’s so important to engage with your baby.

I am sure you have seen this picture – a mom sitting in a coffee shop, baby in the pram next to her. Baby is staring adoringly at mom and mom is staring just as intently at  . . . her smartphone. It’s a scenario that happens all the time, in my world and yours and to be honest it could well be you or me.

So what’s the story, well I am going to call that parenting in 2D – mom is staring at her device – a million miles away from her baby.  Her focus and her sensory attention are not in the moment and not with her baby at all. Two-dimensional parenting takes half the experience away. On a sensory and emotional level she is just not getting or giving the full picture.

If you are cringing now – fear not – so am I. It doesn’t feel right, the thought of a baby wanting to engage and get mom’s attention and mom being unavailable.

And there is science to back up how negative this is. Dr Edward Tronick, a psychologist in the USA carried out Still Face Experiments, where moms who normally respond to their babies suddenly stop responding and their faces display no emotion. It is terribly disorganising for the baby and if it takes place over a longer period of time (for example with a very depressed mom) it can have devastating consequences for the baby emotionally.

It strikes me that when we stop engaging with our babies in lieu of our technology, they are in effect experiencing a still face.  The negative effects are:

  • The baby may stop trying to engage and withdraw into his or her own world.
  • Mom may experience depression – engaging with your baby releases feel good neurotransmitters such as Oxytocin, which is released with positive social interactions.
  • The mom and baby bond may be negatively affected.
  • The baby doesn’t develop language and other cognitive abilities because mom isn’t talking to or teaching her baby.

The list could go on and on. This message really is a caution. In our plugged-in world of twitter, SMS and Facebook, we need to remember that the real interactions happen live. The real world goes on while we detach ourselves and live in a virtual social space. Parenting in 3D means experiencing all the sensory and emotional aspects of our baby in real time, in real sensory experiences.

Put your smartphone down today and engage in 3D. I am going to try hard, because today I want to engage, teach, nurture. I want to parent in 3D.

To view the Still Faced experiments and their effect, check out:

Baby Sense Seminars will be happening in Joburg  on 14 September. For more info or to book visit http://babysense.co.za/seminars/ email bookings@go4word.co.z a or call 021 461 4669

-       Meg Faure

Meg is an occupational therapist with a special interest in treating fussy babies and those with sleep problems. She brought the Baby Sense brand to life in 2005 and is the owner of the Baby Sense Company, for whom she develops innovative baby products.

Meg also co-authored the bestsellers Baby Sense (published in 2002, new edition 2010) and Sleep Sense (published in 2007) with Sister Ann Richardson. She has recently written Feeding Sense (published in 2010) with dietician Kath Megaw and Dr Simon Strachan and her fourth book, Your Sensory Baby was published in May 2011.

Meg has also developed a collection of innovative Baby Sense products based on her Sensible Sensory Parenting principles outlined in her books.

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