Our daughter, Hannah, was born in 1993. She was a much wanted baby in perfect health and was a complete joy, but as the weeks went by she became difficult to settle, with long periods of crying and short periods of sleep. Despite our best efforts, at times it seemed impossible to stop her crying which became physically and emotionally exhausting.
Much later, we came to learn that Hannah was a "sensitive" baby who in turn, was to became an extremely active toddler and child! At the time, post Thatcher, pre Labour there was little support... "babies do cry, they grow out of it" said our GP.
Fortunately for us, a close friend had worked as a psycho-social family-centred nurse, working with children therapeutically in the community, at the Cassel Hospital in Ham (Richmond UK). It was she who first made us aware of a child-centred approach to parenting, and some of the reasons why Hannah might be behaving the way she was. Without this friend's support and understanding, we may well have had a very different daughter to the one we have today.
In this video Liz Andrews, Health Visitor and co-author of The Social Baby book, talks with new parents about baby communication 'the Social Baby way'. Seeing behaviour from a baby's point of view, and being guided by them helps us understand what babies are trying to show us. This not only reduces their stress, but also our own frustrations as parents.
We had made a conscious decision to parent without smacking. Our own experience with a baby and toddler who was at times extremely challenging, made it clear to us just how important it is for the health and well-being of all families to receive help and support right from the very start. And, even with the best intentions, how easy it can be for us to slip into a negative cycle, especially when tired and exhausted. We also began to understand why some people reach such a low point that they might harm their children.
In 1995 we founded The Children's Project and began learning, researching and observing. We felt that if we could show why babies and young children behave the way they do, parents and carers would be better able to understand them and respond appropriately.
We don't call ourselves "experts", but we are specialists in the area of infant mental health and parenting, and we are parents first. We draw upon the experience and expertise of parents, health professionals and academic research to provide information that is easily understood by everyone.
It has been a remarkable journey.
Helen and Clive Dorman