I have three close friends who have completed the Assistants to Infancy training course (to work with children from birth through age 3). When they found out I was pregnant, all three told me to make a topponcino. What is a topponcino? It’s a thin pillow that’s a little longer than the body of a newborn, and about twice as wide. They explained that it was used to provide the newborn with a sense of security when being passed from one person to another or when being placed onto his bed after breastfeeding.
Being the crunchy momma that I am, I argued that the topponcino would interfere with the child feeling the mother’s arms around him, which somehow sounds like it should be a comforting thing, right? Upon hearing my argument, all three friends wisely said: “Well, you don’t HAVE to use it if you don’t want to.”
I went ahead and made it anyways, just because I’m a Montessori nerd (and it’s a very quick and easy sewing project)… But then I put it in the back of the baby’s closet and promptly forgot about it.
The baby was born, and as most parents of newborns will tell you, my life was turned upside-down. I went into survival mode, trying to figure out who this little person was, what he needed, and how to best satisfy those needs. For almost four weeks I struggled with his naps; he’d fall asleep without any problems in my arms after breastfeeding, but whenever I placed him in his bassinet he would quickly stir and begin to cry.
Two nights ago around midnight (about 3.5 weeks since his birth), after two hours of “feed, burp, sleep, put in bassinet, wake up & cry, repeat”, I somehow remembered the topponcino in the back of the baby’s closet, and my friends’ suggestion to use it when transferring the baby to his bed. I took the topponcino, placed my screaming over-tired baby on it, offered the breast, and watched him soothe and fall asleep. I lowered him down to his bassinet with the topponcino, very slowly and gently removed my hands from beneath it, and held my breath in anticipation of a meltdown.
Nothing happened. Baby slept. And slept and slept! And guess who’s sleeping as well??? I’ve been using the topponcino for two nights now, and it has been a blessing!!
This little anecdote illustrates why Montessori works: It is not some hokey quick-fix that works for the parent but restricts the development of the child. It is simply an approach that bases itself on the observation of millions of children around the world, and derives a series of sensible tactics to support the needs of the child at each stage of his development.
Zachary didn’t need to feel my arms under him; he needed to feel the consistency and security of a surface that wouldn’t change temperature, firmness, or smell during those fragile moments of first sleep. The topponcino does this beautifully, and I am once again humbled by the simplicity and elegance that is Montessori.