The Montessori approach has a great deal to offer to adults who are considering parenthood. It also focuses on pregnancy where an important work of creation is taking place. It is during this phase that nature is silently at work. The mother’s womb has prepared the most perfect environment – the temperature, the sounds, and the light that penetrate the womb are just right – offering the baby exactly what it needs in order to develop.
After nine months of living in this ideal environment the moment of birth arrives. It is a moment when the foetus will have to transition to an environment that is totally different from the one it has been living in over the last nine months. We consider this transition to be of the utmost importance since the baby will need to adapt to a dramatically different environment. This is where the Montessori approach plays an important part, both in preparing this new environment and in educating the new parents, thereby ensuring that the child’s transition will be as smooth as possible.
For every newborn, the moment of birth is an important step towards independence. As soon as the newborn becomes physically independent from the mother, a new dependency begins, a new attachment, of great importance to the baby’s continued growth and development.
The first 40 days after birth Dr Montessori named “the symbiotic period”. It is a period when mother and baby are once again together, but in a different way. Outside the mother’s body, mother and baby are engaged with one another on a different level, united in their common task of survival and development.
The food that the mother offers her baby, and the way in which it is given, provides an important source of love and care, creating a sense of security in the newborn. It is now that a most precious bond is created. This psychological bond between mother and baby continues throughout life. Both need time to adjust to a new reality in order to build a new relationship. The mother’s tender caressing and breastfeeding, her caring of the baby, bathing and changing it, all serve as a gentle reminder of the strong tie that existed between mother and baby during pregnancy. By maintaining such consistent points of reference, the baby gradually comes to adapt to her new environment and begins slowly to gain a sense of how this new world functions.
The symbiotic period, therefore is a very important time for the baby and it is crucial that she finds herself in a safe and loving family. For that is the only way she will build a positive image of herself and acquire a basic trust in her immediate environment – two milestones which are critical to every child’s development.
… αnd as the child grows and develops, we need to keep adapting the environment so that it responds constantly to the rapidly changing needs of the infant!