Marshmallow Study, REALLY?!

There is more to the story; much more.

The basis of a Stanford study, called “The Marshmallow Experiment”,

One now, Two in a While

One now, OR Two in a While

that was begun in the 1960’s and has been replicated several times (and validated)… looking at the long-term effects of delayed gratification that could be demonstrated in 4-5 years old who were followed through adulthood, for 40 years!

The ability to delay eating a marshmallow for 15 minutes to get TWO instead of just one marshmallow, was indicative of abilities that would translate into an increased life-long capacity to delay immediate gratification for long-term benefits.  The implication was that the inherent genetic programming of the child had already pre-determined their path.

NOT!

That was the implication of the study, but further study brought out more insights which creates a picture of a much more complicated process; one in which the environment actually plays a significant role, in the first 4 years. The environment that the parents create, actually.

As a labor & delivery nurse for some 25 years+ I’m well versed in the innate personality differences that are present from the very moment of a newborn’s first breath. Having had the unique experience to be part of over several thousand births, it always continues to be incredibly inspiring.first breath

A newborn, in those first few minutes of life, show great variability in their response to emerging into the world. Some open their eyes and look around at the new world that they have entered, calm & accepting, while others have their eyes clamped shut as they scream bloody murder until placed in their mother’s arms and are calmed by her heartbeat and touch. There is indeed a whole spectrum of responses.

Some, of course are a response to the type of deliver: varying from easy, short labor vrs long, traumatic vrs newborn’s responses depressed due to being recipients of drugs for maternal pain relief, vrs those that had oxygen issues during labor and delivery. But generally, for those rough deliveries, these are temporary adaptive responses and the newborns innate personality shortly becomes apparent.

Differing Personality Types

From the moment of birth,  normal delivery and  Cesarian section deliveries, newborns show a range of responses that are part of their own personal patterns.  It’s easily recognizable at birth; how does the newborn respond to brighteyesstimulation, to change, to touch, to comforting measures, to voice, etc. He recognizes mother, and father, in the delivery suite, illustrated by the quiet, calm responses when parents interact with the newborn, who “tunes in”.

Dr. T. Berry Brazelton wrote a book, in the early 1970’s that looked at how newborn’s communicate with us, as well as identifying newborn temperament that are all within the normal range of development. He moved beyond the “sick” or premature newborn, to what the normal newborn brought to the table.

Infants and Mothers: Differences in Development  Dr.T.Berry Brazelton 

While babies may not speak their first word for a year, they are born ready to communicate with a rich vocabulary of body movements, cries and visual responses: all part of the complex language of infant behavior.

He identified three major personality groups he called Quiet, Average, Active Baby.

Brazelton was able to identify ways that mother’s could interpret their newborns behavior patterns and work with them. So yes, many things are innate, part of our genetic backup. It turns out that being able to “hear” our newborns and respond to their needs influences the way they interact with the world around them. (To learn more about the specifics of the process check out this webpage: Brazelton Assessment ).

Reliability?

Getting back to the Marshmallow Experiment; if a newborn or toddler, is raised in a world where their needs are heard and met fairly consistently then they build a picture of a world that is dependable.

The Marshmallow Experiment, with a Twist, at the University of Rochester; divided the children into two groups.

  • The first group was exposed to a series of unreliable experiences. i.e. promises were made but not kept.
  • The second group was exposed to a series of  promises that were made and consistently kept.

Each group was learning something about the world around them.

The first group had no reason to build trust. “A bird in hand is worth two in the bush” would be an apt expression for that group. If your world is constantly changing and unreliable… you tend to live for the moment.

The second group was learning two important things: waiting can be worth it, and, I have the ability to wait; in fact they would wait up to 4 times longer than the first group! Impressive. Especially given that it only took a few “reliable experiences” to influence their behavior.

birdInHand

As mothers and fathers we have an enormous effect on the world our children experience. If we build a framework that is caring and consistent, then our children find it dependable.

In an experiment: when a newborn cries are answered within 3 – 5 minutes, they quickly settle. That same newborn if left to cry for 10 minutes, so that they are not ‘spoiled’,  are unable to settle for over 30 minutes.  Babies do not get spoiled, they only know their needs are answered, or not. But once they are “out of sorts” (i.e. abandoned) it takes much longer for them to calm back down when their needs are attended to.

Responding & nurturing our children works toward building healthy adults, as we create a dependable world as much as is possible, from which to reach out and deal with a world full of experiences.  Over time, as our experiences and awareness expands we are able to tolerate more “ambiguity” in our world and work toward the goals we have set.

Incredible Value of Parenting

I often think, that we don’t realize just how important our young mothers and fathers are, in the development of their children.  It’s not enough to “birth” the child, feed, cloth, & educate. Not if we want them to successfully navigate the future world. Here is 3 min video on how dependent the child is to social interaction with mom: Mother/child interaction

The biggest complaint that we heard voiced, when working with “street kids” (those who had left home, and were roaming the country)… was the sense that they had been abandoned by their parents to the TV, the video games, to someone else, while their parent’s focused on their careers. (NOT my statement, but what I heard from them). Or parents just were too tired to interact with them, when they did come home from work.

Few (uh, as in none) had been taught life-skills (cooking, mechanics, gardening, sewing, etc). This was true of most of our farm interns, as well. (Usually from stable families and educated.) They lived a life of either processed foods out of a box/bag or fast foods. (In the ’70’s only 2% of meals were out of the home; today over 50-70%).

I worked hard to get my nursing degree and to work in Maternal-Child nursing. I will say that we tried to make it a point that at least one parent was home most of the time, and that I worked only 3 days a week for most of my nursing career.  I felt like 4 days a week, life revolved around work but working 3 days a week allowed life to revolve around family.  This is NOT a choice most people have, though.

I ended up dropping my nursing program with my 2nd child. I delivered her in the middle of my semester on Maternal-Child Nursing (with lectures on how important the maternal connection was in the first two years of life).  The dichotomy was crushing.  Coming home from a lecture to a newborn that I had abandoned for school (a choice I had the luxury of making) was more than I could emotionally deal with. My first responsibility, if within my power to do so, was to the child. It’s not always an easy choice, it was a high price to pay. It took me years to get my nursing degree because of the detour.

CHOICES

Just before the housing crash, when we put our 10 year project of a remodeled home (we were all involved in the building process) on the market, the kids were devastated (not little kids but young adults, college & senior in high school).

We had all poured heart and soul into creating a home that worked for us.  All I had to say to them was, “would you rather have dad home/retire or he continues to work full-time ?” They opted for having dad there & getting to live life, in lieu of having “things” (possessions that posses us, I guess).

Real happiness is not things, of course, but it is meaningful work and relationships, after all. It felt good to see the choices the young adults opted for.

The take home message for me, from “The Marshmallow Study, with a Twist”, was how important our interactions are, with little ones.  To be consistent, to follow through on our word, and to nurture them creates a world they can trust. That trust factor allows them to look past grabbing the immediate satisfaction, building the capacity to work toward longer range goals.  Your interactions with preschoolers is more significant than you might think!

With a Twist:

 

Orginial:

 

 

 

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Newborn calf’s first steps, pt 2

The calf finally balances enough on his little legs, to actually MOVE around!

Newborn calf’s first steps, pt 1

http://youtu.be/xzGXjXBI-SI

You can hear the pig in the background… he was SO curious about what was going on!

Calf delivery..lots of pics, graphic

We were getting a bit worried that the calf had not been born yet, the weather forecast was calling for rain, in a few days.  All these warm, sunny days had been perfect for a newborn but we were going to lose that window.

But Jim came in from his morning rounds to tell me to get ready…                                camera, coffee, and coat!  Chocolate was pacing around the pasture.

early labor? pacing

Pacing around the pasture

She moved behind the trailer, behind the truck, behind the barn. Never staying long, and not eating… early contractions? She kept lifting her tail head. More mucus discharge.

Bessie watching out for Chocolate

Bessie keeps a close eye on Chocolate

Bessie was following a short distance, keeping her company the whole way.  The neighbors cows came over to stand by the fence, watching her carefully.

If you didn’t know, birthing time is of great interest to all the other livestock!  Often they come peek around the corner to see what is happening.

Chocolate finally chose to go into the barn paddock stall.  Jim closed her in so she would have a protected area to move around in.

Paddock where Chocolate settled

Paddock for the delivery area

Our intern carefully spread fresh straw down so that the calf would have a “soft landing”.  Two interns had just finished mucking the stall area out the day before… . perfect timing.

Our boar hog in the next pen kept watching and pacing, quite curious about what was going on.

Jim made a few phone calls to alert neighbors that the big event would actually be happening!

Early active labor

Jim gives some TLC to Chocolate

This Jersey birth was quite strikingly different from our lowline angus beef cows.  Much longer process, 1 1/2 hr.  But it makes sense.  Beef cows tend to be out on rangeland, or large pastures.  They are at risk for predator attacks.  They don’t have the luxury of a longish labor.  Those livestock would be dead and their genes NOT passed on.

Beef cows do what I call, “The Stop and Drop”!

Milk cows have been domesticated for thousands of years.  In a protected environment those quick genes were not quite as critical.

Chocolate got up & down, moved around between contractions.

laboring & the chickens stop by for a visit!

Chickens drop by, as Chocolate labors

She finally chose to lay down and completed her labor in that position.  She would thrust her upper rear leg out as she had a contraction and slowly began to push. Nothing to see… just a contraction, a push, and then she would stop and chew her cud for a few minutes.

The important thing is to remember to stay out-of-the-way! Let nature take it’s course.

And finally, she began to push and I had the delicate job of explaining why seeing poop was a GOOD sign.  That as the calf moved through the birth canal, the rectum runs above the birth canal.  As the calf move through and out, it was also pushing out any stool left in the rectum… it meant we were getting very, very close.

some of the observers...

Watching the delivery, from the barn

It was an awesome experience (we had from age 6 – 60 watching).  I think birth is one of the most mesmerizing things to watch.  Our barn setup is excellent because one side is open to the lower stalls.  It’s for ease of taking the hay stored in the barn, and being able to toss it into the feeders, just below.  Perfect viewing platform to be OUT of the way and yet see what was going on.

It’s time!

All of a sudden, more mucus, a tinge of blood, and then a bubble emerging… the bag of waters.

white filmy membrane, bag of waters broken

Bag of waters broken, finally

Under the pressure, it suddenly burst. Clear fluid and the path was lubricated for the calf.

Next contraction and we were seeing a tiny hoof peek out and then pull back.

a hoof, at the birth canal

First sight of a hoof

Over the next few contractions, we would see more of the hoof and then finally a 2nd hoof… a good sign.

Calf was in a good position (only one hoof might mean a leg twisted back that would impede the delivery).

two hooves showing

Two hooves showing!

Beautifully, the beginnings of the muzzle appeared. Perfect position for an uncomplicated delivery.

calf's muzzle

The beginning of the calf's muzzle are showing

Another contraction and the head was through.  Amazingly, the calf shook its head… long ears flopping.

Delivery Done!

Birth is complete!

Over the course of a couple of contractions the calf’s body slipped through, and suddenly he was there.

Breath held we waited, waited to see him actively take a real breath.  No active movement, but watching carefully you could see his ribs rise and fall.  But at first, no movement… scary.

Two of us nurses, again, having to fight the impulse to jump in, and stimulate the calf to breath, to rub it dry. Instead, having to just watch.

Laying perfectly still...

Is the calf OK, He's so still?

Amazingly, Chocolate immediately got up and started lick her calf… vigorously.

This flaccid little limp frame of a calf was a little scary.  Was he normal? He looked like skin and bones.  But the more his mother licked him, the more active he became… and the healthier he started looking!

Finally, I breathe a sigh of relief when see him lift his head, a spontaneous movement on his part.  He’ll be fine.

the calf begins to move!

The Calf begins to move!

stimulating by licking

Mom is quite vigorous at the licking!

His soft white hoofs were hardening up now that they were exposed to air.

At birth, they are soft & pliable.  Think of fingernails after washing dishes or taking a bath.  Makes sense, cause a sharp hoof could lacerate the bag of waters or the uterus or the birth canal.  He did not even try to stand for the first 30 minutes, but the hoofs were quickly firming up.

He begins to stand

Attempting to get his balance & stand

His little legs spayed out as he would try to stand… from legs slipping away from him; ok, try the back legs… same thing.  But wait, rest, and try again… all the while mom is licking him so vigorously she knocks him around a bit.  She’s cleaning, drying him off, getting the “birth smell” removed so he will not be a target for predators. Her instinctual behavior is amazing to watch.

almost up on all four feet

Almost Up!

He finally gets a bit more control and is able to stand, taking his first wobbly steps, he actually begins to explore the world around him. Amazing curiosity.

Jim approaches the calf, carefully. The calf IS curious and wobbles over to him.

Calf checking out Jim

Who's that stranger???

Mom isn’t to sure.  She lets out a mooooo-o-o.  Jim stays very still and just holds his hand out for the calf to sniff.  Mom is OK with this.

And then the calf decides to take off and explore the rest of the paddock… our visitors have moved the back area of the ground floor paddock so that they could see what was happening.

A world to explore

The Calf take off to explore!

The calf takes off to check these new creatures.

WHOOOPS, I’m thinking we might be in trouble with mom... but no, as long as we stay still, and the calf does the approach she is OK with this.

We had a great groups of folks who moved slowly and quietly… did not bother mom at all.

 She just follows him, still getting a lick in when she can! He is beginning to dry and fluff up… getting that cute fawn look to him, with those big eyes staring at you.

The next big step… for him is nursing. He needs to get that first milk, the colostrum, in his gut before the first 6 hrs are up.

Calf looking for the teat

Beginnings of the search for the Teat

But he’s got time.  Born at 11:30 and exploring the world by 12. Now that is some action.

It will actually be another hour before he is able to find and latch onto the teat… again, much slower than beef calves.

Dried off and his fur fluffed up, he is so soft to touch. a gentle calm little creature.  He’ll be a great addition to our farm stead. He’s turning a light golden color… Hmm, now a name?

And at the end of his first exploration… he collapses… and takes a nap.

Napping

Getting ready to Nap!

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It’s a Boy! An Old World Jersey fullblood…

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I’ll fill you on the story… when we get all the work done, that we put off for “the birth”!

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