All daily care routines such as breastfeeding, bottle-feeding, changing diapers, bathing, dressing and undressing are opportunities to satisfy the child’s need for security and affectionate attention. This care should inspire the child’s trust and leave her 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.
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 foundation for the baby to be able to participate. This is a foundation for her ability to cooperate and to form relationships, as well as for her social development. When a child has had enough mindful interaction while being cared for, she feels protected in her environment and free to investigate herself and her immediate surroundings.
As a primary care physician for families with young children back in the 1930s, Emmi Pikler recognized the value of children’s independent activity and autonomous motor development for the unfolding of their personalities. She made it clear that children are naturally capable of sitting up on their own and of learning to stand up and walk. In this learning process, any kind of support from adults is not only unhelpful but can actually have negative consequences. For example, she describes what happens when a baby is brought into a sitting position too early, when the musculature and the spine are not yet strong enough. A baby who sits up on his own does not sit hunched but noticeably straight.
Children themselves attempt things in the course of their motor development when they feel ready. The child has an intuitive knowledge of his own motor capabilities, and out of this he knows what he can attempt as he develops motor skills. Of course, the child still requires an attentive adult in case she gets into a situation which could be dangerous.