The Mindfulness of Diaper Changes

While we were pregnant with Sloanie (the 15 month-old rockstar you see here), we enrolled in a Mindful Self-Compassion course at InsightLA.  Mindful Self Compassion can be summed up in the following way: that during life’s most challenging moments, we take a step back to really see and listen to ourselves -- ultimately giving ourselves a break and accepting our imperfections.  So when one makes a mistake or decision that unintentionally harms themselves or another, instead of whipping ourselves with our thoughts or through additional poor decisions, we treat ourselves like we would a good friend -- letting ourselves know that while this moment is challenging, it's also perfectly normal to have moments like these.

Taking the Mindful Self-Compassion class was some of the best new-parent training I received.  By learning how to better see, listen to, accept and acknowledge my own feelings, I gained so much awareness of the necessity of doing the same with my kiddo.

Just an example: For the first several months of Sloane’s life, she wasn't much of a diaper-changing fan.  When her mom or I placed Sloane down on a table or mat to change her, she would usually express discontent.  Our instant response would often be distraction -- handing her a bottle of lotion, a toy, etc.  Early on, distraction seemed to nearly-always do the trick, but it gradually lost its efficacy.

Thinking about my MSC training, I began to approach diaper changes from a different perspective: my baby's.  So now, before I put Sloane down on the changing table, I let her know that I'm going to place her on her back (usually rubbing her back while saying, "I'm going to put you down on your back to change your diaper"), and when she expresses discontent (which happens less and less frequently), I'll say something like, "I know, you really don't want to change your diaper right now" or "I know... it's late, you're hungry, and the last thing you want to do before dinner is to change your diaper...I'd feel the same way."  My kiddo's expressed feelings of discontent sometimes linger for a few seconds longer, but they tend to go away in 3 - 30 seconds.  And while she’s expressing that discontent, I make eye contact with her and let her know that I’m hearing and seeing her.  And then the diaper change happens -- or really, a couple-minutes of bonding, eye contact, and conversation happens while changing her diaper -- a much-preferred alternative to attempts of distraction.

But MSC training was really more than a diaper-changing class.  I've applied the training to so many aspects of parenting.  Babies are human beings, after all.  Just like the rest of us, they want and need to feel acknowledged.  Practicing this sort of "baby compassion" -- of proactively making sure Sloane feels seen, heard and acknowledged as much as possible -- has allowed the art of mastering ponytails to arise as the toughest part of daddyhood right now.


A little poem that I jotted down this morning while thinking of this stuff:

When you cry
When you shriek
When you fall
When you choose quiet
  May I see you
  May I hear you

When you laugh
and giggle
When you step
and leap
 May I see you
 May I hear you

When you step forward
or back
When you prepare
and launch
 May I see you
 May I hear you

When you fear
When you hope
When you run
When you conquer
  May I see you
  May I hear you

- - -

PS: Special shout out to Janet Lansbury, an amazing parenting expert who has published a tower-full of articles on how to make sure one's baby feels acknowledged, seen, and heard.

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