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Twelve Ways to Grow a Happy Child

1. Fall in love with your baby through a positive birthing experience for baby, mother, and father. Then strengthen that love by breast­feeding your child until he or she no longer needs it.

2. Keep your baby with you as much as possible. Separations and changing caretakers make it harder for your child to learn trust and to grow into a loving and trusting adult.

3. Breast­feed your baby until he or she no longer needs it. Breastmilk contains immune mechanisms which help keep your baby healthy. Any other food, even sugar water, permanently destroys many of these important substances. A healthy baby is a joy!

4. Share sleep with your baby. This makes nighttime parenting easier and can help prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Your child's need for your presence does not magically disappear at bedtime.

5. Responding quickly and compassionately to your baby's cries, both day and night, reassures him that he is important to you. Picking up your baby will not "spoil" him. Carrying him increases brain cell connections. You can't love a baby too much!

6. Breast­feeding has many benefits for babies, and it's also good for mothers. A nursing mother produces hormones which help her to be patient and loving, making parenting easier.

7. Remember that punishment teaches violence, destroys self-esteem, creates anger, interferes with learning, and damages the relationship between parent and child. "People are not for hitting, and kids are people too!"1

8. Allow your child's sense of trust plenty of time to grow strong before having a new baby to claim your attention. A three or four year spacing between children reaps enormous emotional benefits for each child.

9. A breast­feeding mother and her infant share sleep cycles and dream in unison, so the mother is less likely to be awakened by her baby during dreams or deep sleep. A refreshed mother is a patient mother!

10. "Bad behavior" is a sign that a child's basic needs have not been met. Remember to give your children undivided attention, eye contact, and touching, and try to see things from their point of view.

11. A close bond between mother and child, naturally achieved through breast­feeding, holding, and shared sleep, is the best prevention of child abuse.

12. The best gifts you can give your child are your time, patience, and understanding.

1 Valusek, John, Ph.D. "People are Not for Hitting and Children are People Too."
Jan Hunt, M.Sc. is a parenting counselor, director of The Natural Child Project and author of The Natural Child: Parenting from the Heart and A Gift for Baby.