I’m learning that one of the most challenging things for Wonderfully Wired babies and children is self-regulation.
All babies need to move from the dependence on and completely controlled environment of the womb to self-regulation when they can “take in sensory information; decide what is important; create a picture of the world; and then respond to the world” in a way that is adaptive and mature, explains Meg Faure.
Tiny babies can’t do this for themselves and so we train them in self-regulation by our attentive co-regulation. But Wonderfully Wired kids, for various different reasons, struggle with this for longer than other kids.
Although the game is different, some toddlers and school-going Wonderfully Wired children can still be facing the same self-regulation challenges that we faced in the early days of parenting, and the response is the same.
In our conversation, Meg explained to me that the same process of helping a foetus mature and become able to self-regulate, can help a teenager learn to “change the volume” of his sensory world.
It is always co-regulation that is the key to unlock self-regulation.
‘Somebody is super attuned to another body, and another mind.’ until that mind and body has the skills to do so for herself’, says Meg.
I’m so excited to get to talk to parents of tiny babies this month because the task of co-regulation is learnt best in the very early days of being a parent.
“the trusting relationships that parents build through predictable, loving, and attuned interactions help a child thrive.” explains Dr Delahooke in Brain-Body parenting. “They need us to help them physically through our loving connection so that their brains begin to anticipate and make memories of safety and trust.”
Meg explains two-fold consequences of being attuned and responsive to the baby in front of you.
Most immediately it makes your baby-parenting days happier. You are able to create a flexible routine that allows for a more settled, content baby who sleeps and eats well most of the time making your life easier. Tools like the ParentSense app Meg created can be your best friend as you read your baby's signs and figure out how best to respond to them at every stage.
But the implications for long term learning are even more important. Meg explains that how babies receive and respond to sensory information and the emotional engagement they experience with caregivers in the early days are critical for thriving emotionally and developmentally.
We often debate how much is nature and how much nurture in the challenges our Wonderfully Wired children experience. We know, as Meg points out in our conversation this month, that attention deficit for example is part of attention difference in Wonderfully Wired kids: a trade-off for the gift of hyper-focus and creativity. That’s the part where we CELEBRATE WONDERFUL WIRING.
But research also shows attention deficit in kids who lack early emotional engagement through attentive co-regulation and learning through sensory stimulation. That’s the part where responsive parents do whatever it takes to
SUPPORT WONDERFUL WIRING.
It’s always both. The debate is less important than the response. You guessed it: Co-regulation.
”It’s the most protective thing that you can do”, says Meg.
When to worry
Meg helpfully explains that normal infant colic can be identified by the rules of three: Three hours of crying, 3 days a week while a baby is under three months old is typical and no cause for alarm.
It’s when these behaviours extend beyond those tricky first three months that we could look at colic symptoms, as a possible indication of Infant Regulatory Disorder (IRD).
IRD has a sensory component, (with baby either being over or under responsive) and a behaviour component, (difficulty with sleep, feeding and mood). Infant regulatory disorder might well be an early indicator of the kind of self-regulation challenges we see in Wonderfully Wired kids. Our task is not to diagnose (time will tell for responsive parents). But our solution is that golden key again: Co-regulation.
In practices like Meg Faure’s and Dr. Mona Delahooke’s, parents can find help in understanding just how they can use co-regulation to help regulation challenges. These professionals coach parents in watching the state of the baby more carefully, adjusting the space around the baby and teaching self-regulation.
It’s helpful to understand that bad parenting isn’t the problem for your struggling baby, but again in the sweet design of it, responsive parenting is the solution.