What if there were a gift that your baby had come to give, something you were missing simply because you didn't speak their language? What if you could learn the subtleties of this language so that you could communicate better, in ways that make them feel unconditionally loved by you? Aboriginal tribal cultures see the baby as a gift to their community, as an important part of the whole community:
From "MamaToTo" by Carol Dunham of the Body Shop team [no longer in print]: "When a woman of the Dagara tribe in West Africa becomes pregnant, elders put her into a trance and invite her unborn baby to reveal its mission in life. This way the baby won't have to fight to remember the purpose of his or her life."
How differently would you engage with them if, gazing into their face, you suddenly felt you were looking into a loving mirror, a reflection that could help you discover more about what it means to be human? And what if not only parents, but "villagers" [the circle who surround new parents and can support them] were in possession of a secret that could immediately put them in touch with deep, loving feelings for themselves and for this new little person? A secret that would have the villagers clamoring for their chance to baby sit? That secret is bonding.
All of us need bonding, the deep intimacy that initiates us into the human club, that sustains us when we are alone as well as in the company of others. Bonding is not just what babies must do in order to thrive, although science has established that this is necessary. Bonding is a shared experience of belonging. Bonding requires a willingness to look deeply, and the courage to allow another to see deeply into us.
The Four Ways of Belonging - touch, eye contact, voice, and body language, all come into play when we bond with an infant. These happen simultaneously, meaning they involve all of ourselves, all at once. The practice of infant massage incorporates all of these parts of us. Consciously developing the ability to communicate love to your baby through touch, brings with it profound satisfaction and new confidence. Although you may give them a massage simply to soothe and to aid sleep, or to relieve colic and congestion, you may also give a massage expressly for the purpose of bonding, and of getting to know each other better. Enjoying and exploring touch for its own sake while practicing attending to your baby's signals is a natural way to convey love to your child in the language most meaningful to them.
Early on, a baby reveals a preference for the human face over any other visual stimuli. Babies need to look into faces with accepting eyes transfixed by their features. Fortunately nature has given us an innate affinity for the "baby look". A large head with large eyes: we naturally want to look at a baby. The bonding gaze differs from parent and baby just "looking at" each other. The eyes of an infant move communicatively, with fascinating variety, gathering and interpreting the changing reflections of themselves in your face. Likewise you look into your baby's eyes for signs of love and acceptance, even for wisdom. Sometimes there will be a deep recognition of "knowing" each other before. Face to face, parent and child both inwardly ask the same question, "Do we belong together?"
Infants given a choice of their mother telling a story or a stranger learned to suck on a pacifier at the speed that was programmed to play their mothers voice rather than the stranger's. Infants synchronize their body movements with the speech of their caregivers. Their ears are more attuned to the high-frequency range which most of us do automatically when speaking to babies. An infant's movements trigger a response in the parent, which help unlock their parental blueprint so they feel in "synch" with their infant. Massage provides the rhythmic strokes and movement that may remind the infant of being in the womb.
Pay attention and watch for cues through out the massage and during singing or talking that your infant has something to say. Stop talking if it looks like they want their turn. Let them tell their story in their own way. They will look you in the eye and babble or vocalize. Encourage them to continue until they look like they expect a response from you. Doing this on a regular basis with focused attention will enable you to become intuitive about what they are telling you. Use your imagination, you may be closer to the truth than you think. Babies are also great listeners. They will listen for hours but need their turn too.
Using head to toe attention [meaning you are listening with your whole body, not just your ears] will allow you to be fully present for this new little being. This can be practiced by anyone who has contact with them. Self esteem is formed in the first year of life. Think how great our children's self esteem would be if they were surrounded by people who gave them their full, undivided attention, as though they were the most important person in the entire world. This is what an infant's world should be like.