Infants, babies and toddlers are so much more than blobs...
Babies do have thoughts and feelings and needs. They do not just need clean bottoms and full tummies and love from whoever happens to be looking after them. More and more knowledge is out there about how baby’s brain develops and this includes how baby develops emotionally.
I am not writing this as a judgment on working mums, or stay at home mums, or stay at home fathers...or fathers who never see their children.
All I am saying is that the first 2 years are when human’s brains grow faster than they ever will again. Also that in that time the person they will become is created. Structures in the brain are formed that will last their whole lives and influence the way they live their lives. Yes, the genetic signals are there – but what happens in the baby’s environment will form the kind of person s/he will become in a complex intermingling of genes and environment.
We now know that we can see in the brain development when a child is abused. We can see when a child has had a great deal of ‘good enough experiences’ and also when they have had too few. Just by looking at the brain...
Babies are not lumps. Observe a baby quietly for an hour and watch how they respond to what is going on around them – even when just a few days old.
And relationships in humans are all. To become a resilient, reasonably stable adult all humans need to form relationships and at first they need constant relationships. (Actually we all do). So when mom or dad goes to work they will notice the absence. If Nanny is fired suddenly or leaves baby will need support and it will effect how baby sees relationships in the future.
So a baby brought up by a stay at home parent, or a nanny and working parents or a crèche and working parents, or granny and a single parent will have different environment and relationship experiences. It will make a difference to the kind of person s/he becomes.
Or baby brought up by a depressed parent, a mentally ill parent, a very absent emotionally or physically parent...all this will have an effect on baby.
So decide when you have a baby what you want for your baby realising fully that it does matter.
So if for some reason one parent cannot be your babies main caregiver be very careful of what you provide in the way of care. Personally I think (despite or perhaps because of being a pre-school teacher and art therapist) that babies should not be in crèche care if possible. Unless the crèche offers one to one care...Granny’s and carefully chosen nannies are almost always better as babies really do thrive best with a sense of one to one care.
Babies do not even know they are separate from mom at first and it takes the first 2 years and more for them to work this out. They are immensely egotistical – developmentally – when things break down for them – they think they are the cause of the ‘bad’ or ‘good’ experience.
Babies need full, all round care and are fully experiencing, learning to think human beings even in the womb. And when people say all they need is full tummy, a clean nappy and love – I ask what kind of love – an impersonal ‘institutionalised’ general ‘I love babies’ love from a crèche caregiver or a once removed love from a nanny who would actually like to be with her own kids more? It does matter and I know that for many years it has been known just what babies are – but unfortunately this in depth knowledge is quite hard to impart as it takes rather a lot of hard work to attain but also those who have it have not always shared it in ways that could be received by parents. Most lucky humans just ‘have it’ inside them because their parents had ‘good enough parents’....(D.W. Winnicott).
No judgement, no ‘this is the way to do it’. Just know that what happened in your baby and toddlers first years determines what they will become and the kind of baggage they will carry and the extent of their resilience and ability to create a satisfactory life for themselves.