BIRTHFIT Podcast Episode 89: Jill from RIE
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Hello, BIRTHFIT. This is Dr. Lindsey Mathews, your BIRTHFIT founder. Today is the last episode that we will be sharing from the one and only BIRTFIT Summit 2017. We had Jill come to speak to us from RIE. RIE stands for Resources for Infant Educarers. You can find their website rie.org.
But this is parenting style and, yes, as you know, many of these things are not for everybody. But this is an awesome resource and Jill was an awesome speaker. We wanted to share what she had to say with the rest of the world. So, I encourage you to listen, open heart, open mind because in person she is just as gentle as her voice sounds and we loved having her at the BIRTHFIT Summit 2017. So, enjoy.
This is Jill from RIE. RIE has been one of our sponsors for the BIRTHFIT Summit. She’s going to talk a little bit about it.
Jill: Okay. Can I just sit?
Jill: Okay. Well, first I’d like to say wish I looked as good as everybody here is in good shape. I’m kind of impressed but makes me remember that I was in better shape when I was pregnant than I am now. I learned a lot of things. I learned about pelvic floors and different kind of junctions. This is a whole new language for me and I think it was vagina bulking. I’m going to take that back to RIE.
I’m a RIE associate and I’m speaking for myself, not for the organization, because I’m afraid I might say something that’s not exactly correct. I’m speaking for myself but I am a RIE associate and RIE stands for Resources for Infant Educarers. My job, what I do is with babies after they’re born. I admire everything that you all are doing and it’s new information to me, some of it, although I know the importance of working out and being in shape when you are pregnant.
I have twin boys. I have tween twins who will be 13 at the end of this month. That being said, we have a joke amongst ourselves in RIE, what’s your elevator explanation or description of RIE, because we’ll be on the elevator and somebody will say, “Oh, you’re with RIE. What is it?” We’re like, “Uh.” Because it’s hard to explain in a couple of sentences. I’ll just try to make it brief.
It’s a therapeutic way to raise children so they feel seen and heard. I got involved with it because when I started they have parent-infant guidance classes and I would take my sons to the park where we’d go out and people would come up to me and say, “Why are your boys so capable? Look how high they climb? You’re not really doing anything. They’re so autonomous. You’re just sitting there watching. They don’t ask for help. How did you teach them to do that? How did they do that?”
The answer was, “Well, I didn’t really teach them to do that.” And I thought why don’t I get some training so I can explain it? But through the educaring approach I allowed them to learn things on their own. And anyway, they’re amazing. There are a list of qualities which I don’t think I can just say off the top of my head. It’s probably on the brochure that I don’t have with me.
Competent, autonomous, cheerful, there’s a list of qualities, cooperative, that I do see in the children raised with the educaring approach even though each child is so unique and so different. I have twin boys who couldn’t be more different. And yet they all have these qualities. It’s a way to set up children so that they can be the best that they can be.
It doesn’t mean you’re never going to come across a problem or situation. That’s just not life. But it allows them to have these qualities that in the future — With technology we don’t know what skills they’ll need. We don’t know what the jobs will be. So, what are the characteristics you would need to succeed? We believe this gives them those qualities.
One of the things that I would tell you, this approach is based, it’s a relationship-based and it’s for babies. The parent-infant guidance classes start from three months and they are all grouped, small group size. All the children are in a couple of months of age with each other and there’s no more than seven babies in a class. They come with their parents. And the classes go in eight weeks session. They’re parent-infant guidance classes. And they end when the youngest child turns two years old.
What it really is, it’s a class based on attachment as well and we give the children uninterrupted time to play. So, I heard some common things though here like the kegels. Am I saying it right? I’m sorry. They don’t really work. Am I getting that? But when I was pregnant, I was told, “Do kegels.” I couldn’t. I’d forget. I didn’t really do them.
But it’s like there’s ideas about things that are ideas that don’t work. And doctors will say, I heard people saying, “Well, doctors said you can’t do that. You can’t lift 20 pounds.” My groceries are more than 20 pounds from Trader Joe’s. I can promise you that. My point being that there’s a lot of things out there, there’s a lot of money to be made on babies and selling products and selling things.
There’s adult ideas about what would babies need and then there’s the things that babies need. They can be two different things. There’s two main things about the educaring approach. One main thing is that we always tell the baby what we’re going to do before we do it and then we wait. We call that tarry time.
We wait because it takes the baby longer to put it together than it does for us. By allowing them the time to put it together it’s creating brain structure and it’s giving them the gift of their time to put it together and the gift of our time because in order to do that we need to slow down. And so that’s one of the things, we tell the baby what we’re going to do before we do it and then we wait.
Like, “I’m going to pick you up,” and we wait and then we slowly pick them up. And you’ll see a cue. You’ll see something in your baby’s eyes. That’s the different thing about RIE. I won’t talk too long. But we believe that infants have a level of competency from birth. Okay, they’re not these blobs. They’re not blank slates that you have to fill with things in order for them to learn.
They’re born with a level of competency and we believe that they also have a point of view from the time they’re born. I remember that almost six months old I said to my one son Jackson, I’d say, “What diaper do you want, the one with the blue band or the one with the green band?” I wanted to test it because I didn’t really believe it. And he kicked the one with the green band in my right hand and I went, “Oh, well, he just kicked it. He didn’t really make a choice.”
I gave him the one with the green band. And then the next time I changed his diaper I switched them. “Do you want the diaper with the green band or the diaper with the blue band?” And he reached for this diaper with the green band. Every time I offered him that diaper he chose the one with the green band and I couldn’t believe it. If I didn’t slow down and ask him and give him that choice I wouldn’t have learned that about him. That’s just one thing. And then we believe in them having uninterrupted play.
Now, the second thing about the educaring approach — And this approach is not for everyone. It has to fit you just like anything else. There’s lots of ways to raise children, lots of good ways. This is one way and it’s a way that I wholeheartedly believe or I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing. But the second thing about this approach is that we believe in allowing children, and it was interesting because what you all are doing with talking about core strength and then going back and getting on all fours and how good that is for you and doing all these postures, is that we want children to have freedom of movement because all that movement, every muscle strengthens every other muscle.
We don’t want to restrict their movement and we don’t want to put babies into positions that they can’t get into on their own. You know that — I’m always ready for everyone to, “What?” Okay. I’ve got the right crowd. So, once they can get there, it’s great. You can put them in that position. Once they can sit up then you can put them in the sitting position.
But we don’t want to put them in those positions until they can get there on their own. And as you all well know there’s so many transitional postures. Have you ever seen a child sitting down and they move like this to get some place? That’s because they’ve never been — They’ve always been put in the sitting position and they don’t have the transitional postures and so they don’t know how to pull through and get something.
They don’t know how to crawl but they know, “I want to get over there.” They’re so smart. They’re going to do it that way. They’re going to do it the way that they can. But we know now with neuroscience, and I’m so lucky I’m in a really — One of the top neuroscientists around, I’m in his study group because I asked. I said, “Please, oh, please, can I be in your study group?” I’m in Allan Schore’s study group.
Everything they’re learning with neuroscience just supports this. The brain forms the body and the body forms the brain. Everything is so interrelated. You can’t isolate one thing. This affects their confidence, how they feel about themselves. We want them to have all those transitional postures so we put the baby on its back and the first milestone in a natural gross motor development is when the baby rolls on its side and then it goes back again, rolls back and forth, and it goes on its side.
Babies do what they can do. When they can do more they will do more. We don’t want to rush it. We don’t want to rush them to the milestones. Then they turn on their stomach. We don’t really believe in tummy time and I teach pediatricians why not to give tummy time and it’s really just a lack of information.
Again, I hear so many common themes with the best of intentions. With the best of intentions, they think we need to give tummy time to strengthen the neck and chest muscles because of the back to sleep campaign. But that’s not why in the Bailey chart which is based on putting babies into positions that they can’t get into on their own which is used in America by pediatricians, which is very different.
What the pediatricians don’t know is the reason why those neck and chest muscles and weaker once they’re doing their test is because babies in the United States spend most of their hours in restricted positions. Babybjorns, boppy pillows, bouncers, swings, lots of things. Because we sold those things. Your baby needs this to walk or your baby needs this to learn. Anyway, those are two main things about RIE. Are there any questions? I don’t know anything else. That’s a lot. I could probably talk all day. Okay.
Female: I think it gets interesting too like you’ll hear this a lot with baby, they’re doing something early like sitting up early and it’s like, “Oh, my baby’s so strong because they could do this.” And it’s almost like [0:19:16] [Inaudible].
Jill: And it’s hard. It’s the peer pressure of parents. My baby’s walking now and yours still isn’t. They’re not talking. Your child isn’t talking yet. Why not? You hear it all and it takes trust. There’s seven principles. That’s the first principle. It takes trust. Trust that your child is going to learn what they need to know. Magda Gerber, and this is founded on Magda Gerber’s approach with Emmi Pikler.
Magda Gerber used to say once you teach a baby something you take them away from what they’re learning because they’re doing — In uninterrupted play they’re doing all of these things. There’s physics, there’s math, they’re adjusting their grasp, they’re testing the properties of things.
And then somebody who doesn’t know what they’re looking up might come up and say, “Oh, look, it’s a red ball.” And they’re working on these amazing things. And the rate of which they’re learning. That’s why when you can sensitively observe them and they have this uninterrupted play so they have their ideas from within coming out, you get to see their plan through completion.
The only way you can have trust is when you observe them because then you can see how competent they are. And when you see that, it puts us in awe. I mean, we’re in awe of the babies. We wish. I think we lose it as we get older. This is almost like — So, the RIE children, they do all these amazing things and then people say, “Wow, it’s because they did RIE.”
You wonder, well, is it because they’re doing this approach or are all babies like this? We’re just allowing them to keep what they come into the world with. They sleep when they’re tired. They eat when they’re hungry. And I know adults who can’t do that because society is taking that away from them. So, it’s a therapeutic approach which is what I would describe this.
Female: I think Magda Gerber and Emmi Pikler’s book are about out of print, or some of them are.
Female: Emmi Pikler’s [0:21:29] [Inaudible].
Jill: And Baby Knows Best is RIE’s most current book and I love it because it answers questions that I think Magda Gerber’s books didn’t answer. It’s like how do you put the principles into practice? You see what it’s like in real life. You see the benefits of it.
Female: So, if you don’t have RIE or your classes available in your area.
Jill: That’s a tough one.
Female: Actually, Janet Lansbury’s blog is really [0:22:05] [Inaudible]. Is she an affiliate?
Jill: Janet is a RIE associate. You can read her blog. I would recommend you can buy the books. We have DVDs. We’re working on some streaming things. I’m also on the RIE board of directors and there’s a lot of things I’m excited about the future of RIE. So, we’re looking for streaming things but there’s not a lot of associates but there are more associates. We’re increasing the organization.
It is tough, I would say. One thing that I would say to answer that really, the best thing what I would do is if you become — I think you can get a membership for RIE for $45 for the year. But it comes with benefits. You get the educaring newsletter quarterly which is great. But what’s really great too is you become part of the RIE Parent Network and it’s not a Google group but it’s like a big Google group.
You can say, “Listen, I live in Minnesota, in the city, are there any RIE parents around me? Let’s get together. Let’s have get-together and we can have some uninterrupted play time with the children.” Because you’re like-minded in how to raise your children and that’s what I would do. That’s what people do.
Female: My son has been in RIE since [0:23:32] [Inaudible].
Female: [0:23:38] [Inaudible] We’ve had like five or six months without her. It’s hard. But we’ve all had been learning from each other.
Jill: Yeah. And that’s the thing is that the class has attachment and also with neuroscience. We know that we are wiring the brains. It’s through the care giving activities. Because when we are in sync with the baby’s ebbs and flows during the care giving activities, it’s like two ports really, right brain to right brain connection. It’s like two parts connecting. And you’re downloading your nervous system onto your baby.
I get a little sidetracked there. But it’s based on attachment. So, the babies become attached, the parents become attached, the babies become attached to the parents. Everybody becomes attached because the group is really staying together for two years. But we don’t say that right off because that’s overwhelming. I mean, if somebody said that to me, I would have been, “Whoa.”
But it goes in eight week sessions. You don’t have to stay there for two years. People usually say, “I don’t want it to end.” They wanted to go on longer. But, yeah. And my boys, they met up with the other kids from their RIE class and it was amazing.
They didn’t even talk to each other. They just starting playing line in sync, like they knew. It was amazing.
Female: [0:25:17] [Inaudible].
Jill: Okay. I made my mistakes with both of them. I need a third now because I know so much more. We’re human and nobody’s perfect. Every family has some dysfunctions. That’s part of the beauty and struggle of life is that we’re not perfect. It’s not about being perfect. Because if you try to be perfect — It’s the good-enough mother.
If you try to be perfect, I promise you you’re not going to succeed. It’s impossible. But that for me is what I — I have goose bumps. This is what I love the most about this approach for me personally with my upbringing because I knew, well, I don’t want to do what my mom did. I want to do something different. You are never backed into a corner.
You are never backed into a corner. “You know what? I was really crabby the other day. I don’t like how I said that or something. I’m not sure why I did that. I’m sorry.” When we were trying to do something, that didn’t go very well. We don’t want to talk about it in the moment. But when things are going well, “That didn’t work very well. How do you think we can make that go better?”
Always make them part of the problem solving process. I promise you their solutions are brilliant. I wouldn’t come up with half of those solutions. By the time you’re two, the way you problem solve is already formed. Your view of the world, how you problem solve, your attitude develops in the first two years of life. But it is never too late.
People come to the class and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard it that people say, “It’s changed my marriage.” It changes your view of babies and then you start to see things differently.
Female: [0:27:33] [Inaudible] going to be for parents or in-laws and they have different capacities.
Female: [0:27:46] [Inaudible].
Jill: We do have a nurturing nanny class. We have a before baby class. Actually, I am working on a curriculum for extended family members for RIE because it’s such a common question. My number one thing to say is you don’t ever want to alienate a family member. You don’t want to alienate people. It’s really important that your child knows. “This is your grandma. This is our family.”
Because that registers to them subconsciously. “Well, something happened to my mom or my dad. I belong to these people. They would take care of me. I belong to this tribe.” It gives them security. So, you never want to alienate anyone. And children are so resilient. They’re resilient and they learn. “When I go to grandma’s house, she never believes I’m full. She keeps wanting me to eat more.”
And then you talk about it when you get home. “How was it at grandma’s? She didn’t believe that you were full and she kept wanting you to eat. How did that make you feel?” “Yeah, when you go to grandma’s, it’s different.” And they know. They know. “I’m going to grandma’s. This is how it’s going to be.” And they differentiate between — They know it’s going to be different.
But what they do know is they know themselves. They know when they’re full and when they’ve had enough. “Oh, she wants me to eat.” So, they know. They know the difference.
Female: [0:29:25] [Inaudible] My son is 18 months now and it’s so hard to get to eat which is non-stop. And so we put on a show now and I’m like I do not want that to be his eating habit, watch a show to get him to eat.
Jill: That’s interesting because I would not eat if somebody was doing a show. I’d be mesmerized with the show. What children get, they come to expect and eventually need.
What children get, they come to expect and eventually need so you want to make really sure what you’re giving them because then they’re going to expect it and they’re going to need it. And I always say if you don’t want to be putting on a show when he’s 18 so he can eat, don’t do it now. It’s easiest to establish healthy patterns from the very start.
A lot of times I like to take babies in a class even at two months old even though the classes really start at three because a lot of times by six months old there’s so many things going on but it just takes time. But to get these healthy patterns established from the very beginning is good.
Okay, getting back to the show thing, you don’t want to distract them. You don’t want to distract them during the care giving routines. We don’t want to bribe them. We don’t want to distract them from what they’re feeling but acknowledge their feelings. I would ask them, “Are you not hungry? Why don’t you want to eat?”
Because being hungry is a basic need. You’d try to make things they like. Eating should be very enjoyable. It should be fun. So, you try to make things they like. You serve small amounts and then you keep asking if they want it and as soon as they’re done, they’re done. And you stay seated. We don’t believe in high chairs. We don’t recommend them.
Female: [0:31:28] [Inaudible] But he’ll just get up and leave.
Jill: Okay. So, I would make a smaller area. I don’t know what your area is like but you want kind of a smaller area. Are you just serving him on a small table?
Female: It’s sort of in our kitchen table and we’re all seated together.
Jill: It’s not a family meal though, is it?
Female: Yeah. [0:31:55] [Inaudible].
Jill: So, I would recommend, and everyone is a little different, but I would recommend at 18 months you want to just give that 18 month-old your undivided attention. You want to give 100% of your attention. Because it’s better to give 100% of your attention 50% of the time than 50% of your attention 100% of the time. You’re just going to give him, you’re just going to feed him, giving him 100% of your attention, small amounts, see if they want more and then when he’s done, he can go in his safe space and play and then you and your husband can have dinner.
Female: Should I have him on a table in the ground or have him at the kitchen table?
Jill: No, he should be on his own table. When children eat, their bottom should be down, their feet should be on the floor. And the great thing about that stool, the round stool, they can get on it from any angle. There’s no back. They don’t tip over. And then when you’re done, you can just walk away. And that’s how they learn. The most learning I think occurs during eating. That’s the most learning of all the care giving activities. That’s where we believe the attachment occurs, during the care giving activities. She had one. Go ahead.
Female: [0:33:15] [Inaudible].
Jill: Very compatible. I mean, Montessori is for older. Yeah, Maria Montessori was a huge fan of Pikler’s.
Female: Question from [0:33:36] [Inaudible]. From what I’m hearing from you, would you say even earlier than that a little bit?
Jill: Okay, this is based, I’m going to go back just a little bit to get to that answer. Yes, it starts from putting babies into positions they can’t get into on their own. Their spines are soft. Think about how many hours they’re in the car seat. One of the worst things for babies was a Snap-N-Go because people thought, “Oh, I can just take my baby everywhere.” They put them on the floor, they put them on a counter. That’s kind of objectifying a baby.
We don’t want to objectify them. They’re not a loaf of bread. So, you want to — We have to go back to the question. I’ve been teaching since 7:00 this morning so I apologize. I lost my train of thought. Their spines are soft that’s why we want to keep them flat on their backs until they can get.
When they get on their stomachs, their head, their neck and chest muscles are plenty strong. This is based on thousands of babies under naturalistic observation. And what we don’t want ever do is rush a child to their milestones. What we realize through all these naturalistic observation is that babies, they have a way wider range of when they do things.
But they all kind of do these positions in a certain order. We don’t care when they get there. We care about what order they get there. And the babies who are never put into positions that they can’t get into on their own, their spines are straight as arrows and they can stand and sit for hours effortlessly, something I can’t do. I had bad posture. I asked my mom, “What did you do when I was a baby? I’m just curious.” Well, she had one of these bouncy little things and she said I put it on the kitchen table and I put you in it every day. Well, there we go. And that’s why I am like I am.
Female: What would you say they use the excuse of like babies having flat heads by not getting enough tummy time?
Jill: Okay. Yeah. And things go in fads. You have to realize things go in fads like helmets. Now the fad is reflux. All babies are in medicine because they all have reflux and there’s a whole thing about the helmets. When I had my babies you had to give them Baby Einstein so they’d be smart which we all know screen time is the worst thing for children.
You want to — I’m sorry. I’m fried. I’ve been teaching since 7:00 this morning and then I came here. When babies move they do get flat heads from laying on their backs and they lose their hair sometimes. But once they become more mobile the flatness comes out. There is a rare condition that a baby would need a helmet but it’s very rare. You don’t want to put them in helmets unless they absolutely needed it. But things go in fads. That flatness comes out as soon as they become more mobile.
Female: And I would add that if they are showing flatness on the head they can get cranial chiropractic care done and that can help with the [0:37:39] [Inaudible] the cranial bones and that also does then allow them a little bit more freedom of movement as they start moving their head. So they don’t end up with a flat head because they have mobility.
Jill: I’m sorry I’m so tired today.
Female: I want to hug you right now.
Jill: I’m so happy. Thank you, thank you. Usually when I say no tummy time, I just want to say quickly, usually when I say no tummy time I can get a very adverse reaction. And I completely get it because I’m saying something different than a pediatrician.
But recently I did a private consultation and I was talking with this couple and this gentleman said when I — I cringed and I said no tummy time and he said, “Oh, yeah. It makes perfect sense. They made one mistake and then they did another mistake to fix it.” And I looked at him and I was like, “That’s brilliant really. What do you do for a living?” And he said, “I’m a scientist.” That just made perfect sense.
Lindsey: Thank you so much for coming and sponsoring. All right, listeners. I hope you enjoyed listening to Jill Lee. She is based out of California. And as you heard, she is a mom of twin boys and she works with RIE. If there’s one thing you can take away from this, it is to allow your small little humans space to grow, space to evolve and explore and stay curious.
I think that’s the biggest takeaway. RIE does a really great job of trying to allow humans the space to move, explore and stay curious on their own and evolve from there. If you have any questions, look up rie.org and you can reach out to Jill Lee of Studio City, California or anybody else there. I know they will be great resources. Thank you and enjoy.
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