Who We Are and Why
Humans are biologically wired to grow, live and thrive in a village; a clan; a tribe. Because of this, infants have a high dependency on multi-generational modeling, interaction and near-constant sensory contact from caregivers. They rely on these interactions to develop and thrive as compassionate, regulated, resilient, confident and empathic beings.
Today, in the United States in particular, new caregivers live in isolated and individual spaces, often far from family. Infants are regularly being modeled by often over-tasked, over-stressed and increasingly distracted parents.
Over the last couple of decades, advancements in science have given us the ability to observe learning in the infant brain allowing us to deepen our respect of the first three years of development. The quality of brain development in those first three years of life directly impacts the human we become, including our resilience against stress or trauma and the relationships we are capable of having. Genetics play a significant part as the blueprint of development, but it is the environment of those first three years – of which the caregiver is the center – that builds the brain after birth.
Unfortunately, as our society becomes increasingly isolated and distracted, support for the caregiver – the core and essential part of an infant’s development – is waning. Even a financially comfortable and ‘prepared’ new parent can become quickly overwhelmed in the post-partum period, feeling secluded and insecure about their parenting abilities. Thankfully infant physical wellness is a priority, but support for the caregiver, whose mental, emotional, and physical state outside the standard six-week medical check-up, is often deficient or lacking.
However, that caregiver’s well-being has everything to do with the infant’s mental health and potential to thrive. New parents are expected to navigate their own physical and emotional needs and care, all while exhausted, often in pain, learning their own new identity as a parent, a couple and an individual, and feeling insecure (even guilt-ridden or embarrassed) as to whether their struggles are ‘normal’ or expected.
Enter Mind Body Baby NC. We are a collective of infant and postpartum practitioners that plan to be a part of changing that narrative for new families in Charlotte because taking care of the caregiver IS taking care of the infant.
Mind Body Baby NC (MBB), a non-profit collective, strives to educate and support new caregivers through the postpartum experience because when caregivers are nurtured and knowledgeable, children have the ability to reach their fullest potential.
MBB is founded by four infant/postpartum practitioners - Cynthia Wood of Infant Massage Charlotte; Dr. Brenda Gajowski of She Thrives Physical Therapy and Wellness; Dr. Jen DiCicco of Baby Steps; and Morgan Griffith of Sleep Pea Infant and Toddler Sleep Consulting.
The organization will expand to a large collective of practitioners and volunteers to provide prenatal and postpartum support to caretakers and families. The term ‘practitioner’ includes services (beyond those of the founders) such as lactation consulting; financial planning; emotional preparation and postpartum therapy; doulas; midwives; and other support and education services.
MBB plans to fulfill its mission as a facilitator of a village for new parents, working to include all the elements of Charlotte’s diverse population. In the short term, we want begin with several program ideas, including:
1. New Caregiver Group gatherings in strategic locations around Charlotte on a regular, reliable basis. These gatherings would be a place families can relax with baby and commune with others in the midst of the same journey. Infant/postpartum practitioners would be available, on a pro bono rotating basis, to allow caregivers to troubleshoot their concerns in a gentle, non-judgmental environment. Other volunteers would be on hand to support additional siblings, or offer caregivers some hands-free time, while still providing valuable care and sensory input for the infant.
2. ‘Top 5’ Video Program - Nearly every new caregiver we’ve met has a list of things they cannot believe no one told them before having a baby. Through YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and our website, MindBodyBabyNC.org practitioners will share the top 5 pieces of advice they believe most new caregivers need to know but often don’t. Ultimately, we will build a virtual resource library that new and expectant parents can visit to feel more prepared and less anxious about the journey ahead.
3. Baby Wearing Initiative - With our (pending) 501c3 status, we’ll strive to collect gently used baby wearing carriers to pass on to other parents – with no concern for cost – so that all caregivers can have increased opportunity to provide the essential multi-sensory input our bodies and presence are biologically intended to provide an infant.
The ideal and long-term goal is to have multiple permanent locations to serve various Charlotte communities. These permanent locations would offer a multitude of offerings and services to support any and all new caregivers in our community. We aspire to build the village that our community’s littlest humans need to thrive, and make it easily available to those responsible for their care.
Location elements will include:
1) Large, comfortable areas to congregate and commiserate.
2) Background-checked volunteers available and prepared to provide an extra set of hands and eyes (even to watch the older siblings).
3) Multi-generational modeling, including but not limited to co-programing with retirement homes for mutually beneficial touch and interaction.
4) Kitchen for support management of nutritional needs, wholesome food to support caregiver and sibling health, perhaps even quality food donations from local restaurants, and farmers markets, and prepared dinners to take ‘one thing off the plate’ for the family.
5) Full bathroom availability - to actually ‘get a shower’ with the support of volunteers (to watch and care for infant).
6) A quiet room for sleep or a meditative break.
7) A classroom to continue learning and support efforts, like the new caregiver groups outlined above.
This nurturing environment would be TV/video-free and cell phone use would be requested for emergencies only. This space is a chance for the caregiver to avoid isolation, gain support, find a listening ear, and be a place where these new citizens of the world can gain the modeling relationships and sensory input their brains crave, all while helping them become compassionate, empathetic, resilient, confident and capable of great learning.