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Dr. T. Berry Brazelton's Touchpoints (Part I)

Studying with The Dr. T. Berry Brazelton Institute and Touchpoints Center has had a profound influence on me and my HUG teaching. I want to take a moment to give an overview of The Touchpoints concepts.

Martha is a delightful and energetic first-time mother. She is proud of her nine-month-old, Molly, who has been great at both sleeping through the night and adding solids to her diet of mommy's milk. Though Molly does not seem sick, Martha brings her in "to see if she has an ear infection."

Over the past two weeks Molly has been getting up several times at night. She has nursed at each wakening and then has seemed very resistant to taking her cereal in the morning. "She just wants to nurse and cuddle," Martha explains, "and she generally seems in a grumpy mood!"

Martha goes on the describe that Molly "is just plain weird!" when she is taken to childcare. "She loves her teachers and has always laughed when I drop her off at school--until two weeks ago! Now, she just cries and clings to me. Martha and I are both miserable!"

Molly is demonstrating a great example of what Dr. Brazelton describes as a Touchpoint. A Touchpoint has the following characteristics:

1. It occurs at a time when a baby or child is having an important developmental surge - learning and practicing something new in life.
2. This surge of development causes the baby to regress, becoming temporarily more "baby-ish."
3. This regression in behavior usually causes difficulties with sleeping, and often with eating and her general mood as well.
4. The baby's regression causes a sense of chaos in a family.
5. Most families don't understand what is going on and panic, fearing that the baby is growing "backwards instead of forwards," as one mom told me.
6. There are ten Touchpoints between birth and two years of age. They are predictable moments in child development. Aniticipating these changes, and knowing how to respond to them, will save parent (and baby!) a lot of trouble!

The nine-month-old usually has a Touchpoint around developing "Stranger (or Separation) Anxiety." At this time her brain is getting much smarter, and she suddenly realizes that Mom is going away. You see this new realization in a nine-month-old who delights in the game of dropping her spoon off her highchair only to have you retrieve it. She is practicing her new understanding that things "go away and come back" (object permanence).

So Molly cries when left in daycare because she understands that "Mommy has gone away." Unlike in the months before, when Martha's comings and goings seemed magical to Molly, a nine-month-old understands that Mom has gone--and might eventually come back. With no concept of time, the baby misses her mom. The anxiety caused by the separation has spilled over into Molly's sleeping and nursing habits, prompting the same kind of grumpiness all of us feel when life suddenly seems not as reliable as it used to be.