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Re: [xmca] Honestly....


I am sure that you have a very smart daughter!  But I do think that what you've described is not as unusual as the nurses viewed it. Nurses do so much more than their fair share of the work in a hospital that they don't generally have the time or opportunity to observe what neonates are doing.

A few weeks ago I mentioned here the research of Fajans, one of Kurt Lewin's students, who showed that the response of an infant to an interesting object varied depending on whether an adult was present or not. The infant seemed to perceive the object as more potentially available if someone were around to fetch it, and of course during the first year infants require that other people not only feed and clothe them, but move them around and fetch and carry for them. In your case, you facilitated your infant daughter's response to the nurse entering the room by supporting her, probably holding her in a seated position, because the newborn's head is so large in proportion to the body that they have very limited ability to move it unaided.

It's interesting that your second observation was when she was about 2 months old, because there's a marked change in the organization of infant behavior at around six weeks. Neonatologists distinguish 6 behavioral states in newborns, but around 6 weeks it gets very hard to apply the criteria. I had the opportunity to discuss this with Hanus Papousek, who I believed first developed the scoring of these states, and he confirmed my observation. One has the impression that already the infant has acquired some degree of control of their own reactions to the environment (note how I wove in those Vygotskian terms!), and consequently has greater ability to initiate interactions, such as the overtures to the other baby that you describe. 

Why infants are so fascinated by other infants continues to puzzle me, however! Perhaps it's the similarity of tempo. 


On Apr 27, 2010, at 7:40 PM, Helen Grimmett wrote:

> When I was in hospital with my first baby I was sitting on my bed one
> morning holding my new daughter and singing her a song, engrossed in how
> intently she was watching me. As I sang, a nurse entered the room and
> Natalie immediately swung her head round to look at her. The nurse was
> stunned, saying she had never seen such a young baby (a few days old) do
> that.
> About 7-8 weeks later at my new mums group the maternal health nurse
> commented on the way that Natalie (being held on my lap) was watching
> and smiling at the baby on the Mum's lap next to me. "She's going to be
> a bright one, that one!" she 'warned' me.
> Being my first baby, I didn't recognise any of these actions as unusual
> and thought this must be what all babies do, but the maternity nurses
> who had seen hundreds of babies thought it was very unusual. Perhaps
> Martin, it was those very early (within hours) intense interactions of
> talking, singing and reading to her that 'summoned' her to expect others
> to be interesting to interact with too? But don't all new parents do
> this? (Well perhaps not the reading! - That was the luck of this child
> to have two primary school teachers as parents!)
> Interesting....
> Helen
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: Martin Packer <packer@duq.edu>
> Date: Wednesday, April 28, 2010 8:13 am
> Subject: Re: [xmca] Honestly....
> To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>
>> Andy,
>> Thanks for the Levontin, which I will read with pleasure. But on 
>> this issue I'm drawing more on my own experience than what I read 
>> in books. After I finished my undergraduate degree I didn't want to 
>> get a PhD, so I looked for work around London and managed to get a 
>> research job that involved conducting observations of neonatal 
>> behavior at birth and an assessment (designed by pediatrician Berry 
>> Brazelton) of their capabilities during the first weeks of life (we 
>> repeated it at intervals from about 3 hours to 6 weeks of age). I 
>> am attaching a photo I took of one of our research participants to 
>> illustrate why I think it's not quite right to say that children 
>> must 'acquire' the tendency to engage in interaction. To talk of 
>> the child being 'summoned' to interaction works better for me, and 
>> obviously children need to be drawn out (but 'trained'? Not so sure 
>> about that!). I forget the exact age of this child, but he was 
>> about 3 days old. My students are always surprised to see how 
>> attentive and intent such a young baby can be.
>> Martin
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