In the Pikler approach, daily care routines, such as breastfeeding, bottle-feeding, changing diapers, bathing, dressing and undressing are the adult’s best opportunities to satisfy the child’s need for security and affectionate attention. This care should inspire the child’s trust, meet his fundamental need to feel seen, and leave him feeling untroubled and joyful. As we care for our child, we can give her our undivided attention, using this time to get to know her better.
Empathetic care includes telling your baby in advance what you plan to do and what she can expect to happen next. Give her a little time after you tell her, waiting until you have the impression that she’s ready for the next step.
For example, “Look, Sawyer, here is your shirt, and now I’m going to put it on you.” Tell him this and wait until he has gotten used to the idea before putting on his shirt gives him confidence and lets him know that you value him. This act of waiting is your moment of connection and often reveals wonderful surprises.
Just from observing your child in these moments, you can tell by her looks, gestures, and movements how she feels about what you’re doing, and through these “ordinary” moments, you can build a strong, trusting relationship.
Dr. Pikler writes: “Getting to know each other is of course reciprocal. While we get to know our child, our child also begins to get to know us, and particularly our hands. Our hands form the first relationship of a baby with the world (apart from breastfeeding). Our hands lift up the baby, lay him down, wash and dress and perhaps feed him, too. What a difference: how different is the picture of the world that is revealed to a baby when calm, patient, caring, but also secure and decisive hands take care of him – and how different the world looks when these gestures are impatient and rough or hurried, agitated and nervous.”
Respectful and empathetic care routines offer a beautiful opportunity for our baby to interact with us. This is a foundation for her ability to cooperate and form relationships, as well as for her social development.
When a child has had enough mindful interaction while being cared for, she feels appreciated, protected in her environment, and free to investigate herself and her surroundings.