Tuesday, October 13, 2009

5 Tips for deciding whether to have your baby vaccinated.

If you are a parent or are soon to be one, chances are you've heard a little about the controversy surrounding the practice of routinely vaccinating babies. Many parents do a lot of research on their own and decide to either go forward with the vaccinations, or they decide not to. However, the information that is out there is very difficult to sort through, and it is often hard to know just what to believe. The choice of whether to immunize or not is an important one, and I've gathered some tips to consider when the time comes for you to make it.

1. Space out the immunizations.
One of the biggest concerns about vaccinations is the possibility of their link to Autism. While there have been studies done in which the link between the two has been disproved, the anecdotal evidence supporting a link continues to mount. There has also been a growing support for a third theory, the theory that there is a link, but it has to do with how many vaccinations are given all at once. The reasoning is that when you vaccinate a baby, their body is tricked into thinking it is being attacked by various illnesses, and when a baby's body has so many confusing signals going on, things get mixed up and a cloud of symptoms is formed. This cloud of symptoms is what many who support this theory blame for the development of Autism. If this theory has any truth to it, there is a simple and effective way to avoid it. Schedule your vaccinations for once every few months. Don't worry about meeting preschool deadlines for vaccinations, you can always start preschool a little late, or find an in-home preschool with no vaccination schedule required.

2. Delay immunizations.
Another related theory about the link between Autism and vaccinations supports the idea that it is not so much the lumping together of the vaccinations that is harmful, but the young age at which the vaccines are given. Part of the reason that the vaccines are given at such a young age is because the younger a child is when they contract one or more of these ailments, the more likely they are to die from them. Delaying having your child/ren vaccinated is a calculated risk, but the payoff of possibly lessening the risk of developing Autism is worth it to some parents. One of the only drawbacks to this strategy is that it could delay preschool. Also, for most kindergartens children need to be fully immunized, so delaying too long could affect their eligibility. If you do decide to delay immunizations I recommend the double strategy of waiting until your baby is 18 months old, and then also spacing out the immunizations as far as you can.

3. Verify the ingredients of the vaccines.
Another of the concerns that people have discussed as a possible cause for the autism link is the idea that there is lead and other harmful ingredient in the vaccination shots that are distributed to kids. Although lead has not been an ingredient in vaccines for some years, it is best to double check the exact ingredient list with your pediatrician. Don't just read the information booklets given by the vaccination producers, and don't only read the information put out by those who oppose vaccinations. Research for yourself any ingredients that you are not comfortable with, and ask for alternative methods of vaccination if you have doubts about the safety of any of the ingredients. Often there are oral vaccines or even inhaled vaccines that have fewer ingredients, but because they are somewhat less effective they may not be carried by your pediatrician. Ask for a special order if your pediatrician does not carry the particular type of vaccination that you would prefer.

4. Consider risk factors.
There are certain risk factors that you should consider when deciding whether to immunize, or not. I'm not talking about the risks that stem from the vaccinations themselves, I'm talking about the risks that are posed to your baby if he was to contract one of the horrible diseases that are routinely vaccinated against today. Many people have said things like "no one gets Polio anymore" or "how bad can Diphtheria really be?" or even "how could my baby even contract Hep-B?", but the very fact that we are unfamiliar with just how bad these diseases are is attributable to routine vaccinations. If you are considering risking your baby's exposure to any of these diseases I strongly advise that you both do actual research on exactly how devastating they can be, and how common they are in your part of the world. Also, consider pre-existing risk factors such as prematurity, compromised immune system and regular exposure to other children. In cases where your baby's personal risks of contraction is higher than normal, use careful and very deeply thought out reasoning before deciding not to immunize.

5. Use natural methods to reduce your risk factors.
Whether you decide to immunize or not, there are some natural methods that, while they have not been proven to work, are said to be able to reduce and even eliminate Autistic behaviors in some children. Using these methods earlier, during the first exposure to foods and throughout the first four years is one way to try and reduce your baby's chances of developing Autism-spectrum symptoms. The most commonly used is the DAN! diet. Of course you should carefully monitor your baby's nutrition and ask your pediatrician for advice before starting any child, but especially a baby, on a specialized diet. This diet basically eliminates wheat gluten, milk casins and artificial food colorings and flavorings. While your baby is still receiving most of his nutrition from breast milk you might also want to reduce your own consumption of these foods. It has been suggested that nursing mothers should limit their intake of any of the 8 common allergens anyway, so reducing especially those two, wheat and milk, is something you might want to seriously consider. As you introduce foods, try to steer toward rice, beans, veggies and fruits that have not been processed and that are organic when possible. Also, a daily multi-vitamin is always a good idea, to help supplement you and your baby's diet. Ask your pediatrician for recommended brands. Though these food suggestions are not proven to help reduce or eliminate the symptoms of Autism, there are many parents that swear by them. As long as this type of dietary change is something that you can do safely, if it even has a chance of reducing your baby's risk factor it may be worth it to give it a try.

Unfortunately there is still no known cause for Autism, and no proven cure. The fear that parents feel when confronted with the possibility of raising a child with Autism is very strong, and it can sometimes lead to decisions that are based more on feelings that on actual facts. Carefully read and weigh the validity of any information you use in making your decision of whether or not you will have your baby vaccinated. There is a lot of information out there on both sides of the issue, and all of it cannot be true. If you have found these tips to be helpful please forward this site to any new or expecting parents you know. Comments, questions and suggestions are always welcome. Happy parenting!

Friday, October 2, 2009

5 tips for understanding baby talk.

If babies could talk they could tell their parents what they need and things would be so much easier, right? Well, maybe, but since a baby comes into this world with relatively few neural pathways and practically no activity in the language center of their brain, chances are that your baby has pretty much no idea what she needs either. For the first few months the pain that your baby feels from gas, hunger or even getting a finger pinched is very similar. They don't have an understanding of the different parts of their body yet, so when they cry at first they will usually just cry louder and higher pitched with more intense pain. There are a few sounds that your baby makes that come from naturally reacting to certain kinds of discomfort though, and becoming familiar with these will help you decipher the general meaning behind basic forms of baby talk.

1. High pitched grunts.
Quite often, just before your little squidling starts crying in earnest he will make a series of grunts that get higher in pitch each time. These will often be accompanied by kicks, turning his head back and forth and arching his back. Sometimes these actions can indicate that your baby has reflux and if they happen after every feed and result in large amounts of spit-up, you might want to have your pediatrician check for it. However, most babies will do this five or more times a day, sometimes even in their sleep, and it is merely an indication of gas. A burp, to be specific. For your baby, a burp bubble that hasn't come up yet can feel like a tightness it their chest and arching their back provides a little relief. Also, if the bubble is moving up their throat it can bring some spit-up with it when your baby turns his head back and forth it can dislodge this bubble from behind the spit up and help the burp come up. As the burp bubble moves up the esophagus pressure on his vocal chords will tighten them, making the grunts of discomfort sound higher and higher in pitch. So generally if your baby is grunting in a high pitch, try burping him.

2. Low pitched grunts.
These grunts can also be an indication of gas, just gas that is headed out of the other end. When your little princess is feeling a bowel movement coming on she will probably lean forward, stretch her legs out straight and grunt like a walrus. It is certainly not the most delicate sound you will hear her make. Quite often, parents who have their baby swaddled will misinterpret this movement and sound to mean that their baby is trying to get out of the swaddle. This is usually not the case, however if your baby shows signs of frustration (fast kicking with bouts of rhythmic crying), you could try another type of swaddle so she can wiggle a bit more. Wiggling, especially from side to side, really can help to get a bowel movement going.

3. Coos and gurgles.
Now there is absolutely nothing wrong when your baby is cooing and gurgling. These sweet little sounds are where some of the payoff for the sleepless nights and stinky diapers comes from. However, these beautiful sounds are not just cute. They are helping your little linguist figure out how his vocal chords work. The best thing you can do with your baby when you hear him chirping and blowing raspberries is to talk to him, imitate him and generally give him face time with positive feedback. Face time is hugely important all throughout your baby's first year so let yourself enjoy it as much as possible.

4. Rhythmic crying.
Rhythmic crying can best be described as "Waa waa waa waa waa waa waa!" and it is the most frustrating sound in the world for a parent to hear. When a baby cries like this parents try everything they can think of to sooth their baby, and yet the baby usually does not respond to most of it. Rhythmic crying is often caused by one of these two issues: pain and frustration. Or it could be the result of a combination of them. Most often, your baby will begin to feel a pain, like gas, hunger, diaper rash, headache or even something more serious like a bug bite or a twisted arm or leg. Then, when the remedy you offer does not relieve the pain, your baby gets frustrated and even angry. Don't worry, this anger is not directed at you, your baby does not have a concept of blame yet. Don't beat yourself up, just very methodically try to rule out any of the more serious issues that could be making your baby cry, and when you think you know what is wrong try to distract you baby from her frustration long enough for her to accept the remedy that you are offering. Good distractions for babies are: noise from a vacuum or hair-dryer, bouncing with you on a bed or exercise ball and a change of scenery, like going outside for a brisk walk around the yard. It is important that you distract your baby before you offer the remedy to their pain because while your little drama queen is in the middle of her frustration she will be too upset to cooperate.

5. High pitched, long screams.
These are rare, and they will chill your blood if you hear them. I've never met a parent yet that didn't know what this kind of cry meant. However it can scare you so bad, that you cannot think of what you should do. This type of cry means your baby is in severe pain. When you hear this kind of cry, the first thing you should do is look at your baby and his surroundings to assess what the source of the pain might be. If you don't see anything immediately that could be the cause of the pain, unwrap and undress your baby. Look for any bite marks or unusual movement . Check the diaper too. If you cannot find any surface reason that your baby is in pain, try to sooth him. If he is somewhat soothed by you but is still crying intermittently, try burping him or giving him a warm baby massage. If you did find a source for the pain when you looked at his body, depending on how serious it looks you might want to call your pediatrician for further direction. Often this kind of crying is the result of muscle cramps. Imagine the growing pains that you had when you were in your early teens, only magnified, and with no rational explanation for what is happening to you. This is why I recommend trying a warm baby massage. Gas can also lodge suddenly and painfully in your baby's abdomen, both baby massage and burping are sometimes effective at helping to relieve this kind of pain. Another thing that many parents are surprised to discover is that their baby, through wiggling and kicking on a fuzzy blanket on a carpeted floor, can get quite a shock from static electricity. To prevent this from happening, try using a humidifier. Static electricity does not build up nearly as badly in a moist atmosphere as in a dry one.

As your baby grows she will learn to tell the difference between the things she needs, and you will start to notice a difference between her various types of cries. The level of non-verbal communication between parents and their babies is really quite amazing to observe from the outside. If you have found these tips helpful, ,please forward them to any new or expecting parents you know. Questions, comments and suggestions are always welcome. Happy parenting!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Toddler Tuesday! 5 tips for knowing when to take your toddler to the ER.

For most bumps and bruises a kiss will do. For fevers, coughs and colds a visit to the Pediatrician might be in order. But how do you know when a symptom that your little bug collector has is more serious than the rest? Well, besides the obvious things, like gushing blood or getting bitten by a snake, here are a few more subtle symptoms you should watch out for.

1. Refuses to use an arm or leg.
As your little gymnast grows his bones will to solidify and thicken. suddenly one day a fall from a bed could snap a bone that just days before would have been able to bend and spring back. So if your child does break a bone, you might not know it right away. Some kids show pain very vocally, while some will keep it to themselves. However, if your little one is limping, crawling or suddenly left-handed all the time it's time to go get it checked out. A broken bone that is left unset can not only heal improperly and leave a child unable to develop normally but it can sometimes damage other tissue including nerves and blood vessels. So if you have a strong suspicion that your little boy has a broken bone, don't let it go for a few days, head straight in to the hospital for an x-ray.

2. Redness from a bug bite begins to travel up the arm.
Most bug bites, even spider bites will be itchy but ultimately harmless. Of course if your child shows evidence of an allergic reaction you should rush to the hospital right away, but if they just have an itchy bump most of the time it will go away after a day or two. There is an exception to this rule though. Sometimes a bite will develop an infection. The skin does not have to be broken for this to happen, and though there might be a low-level fever it might not be high enough that you would notice. The danger with infection is that it would enter your little entomologists bloodstream and travel to her vital organs. However, as long as you keep an eye on the bite it is easy to tell if this is happening. If an infection is traveling up an arm or leg, you will see a bright red line leading from the bite. Some infections travel faster than others, so as soon as you notice the stripe, get moving!

3. Absence of urine, or urine that smells like solid waste.
After the first 6 months or so most parents start to lose track of how often their baby is peeing. However, it is very important that you keep a habit of making sure that your little toilet-paper sculptor has gone pee at least once a day. If you notice that it has been about 24 hours since the last wee-wee, watch carefully to see if there are any wet diapers or potties over the next 12 or so hours if there are not, take your baby in. Also, if you begin to notice that your child's urine smells just like a poopy diaper this is another alarming indication that there might be something very wrong with his kidneys, bladder or digestive tract and a trip to the hospital is in order.

4. If your child is extremely lethargic.
Now when you think lethargic, you might just think sleepy. Well, what I mean when I say lethargic is if your child is so sleepy that you can put her in a cold bath and she will barely open her eyes for a few seconds. This type of lethargy can be a symptom of quite a few majorly dangerous problems. Whether there is a problem with your doodle-bug's blood sugar or some type of pressure on her brain you want to get the worst possibilities ruled out fast.

5. Inability to keep solid food down over an 8 hour period.
Many viruses and colds can cause your child to vomit. However, no matter what the reason, if your little wall artist can't keep solids down over a fairly long period, chances are that he is in danger of becoming dehydrated. There are many very serious reasons that a child could be vomiting, as well as thousands more that are nothing to worry about. However, if your little one goes too long without taking in any solids, even if he can keep down fluids it is important that you have him checked out. Remember that often fluids will be expelled along with solids when your child throws up, and the serious things that could be causing this type of reaction, which could be anything from an allergic reaction to an obstruction of some kind need to be caught early to prevent serious complications.

I know that most parents who read this are going to feel immediately freaked out, but keep in mind, that most children will probably never have any of these things happen. The purpose of this post is to give you more things to keep an eye out for in the worst cases. Too often if a parent does not know that a certain symptom can be serious it can be left to cause more serious damage before it is eventually discovered and sorted out. If you have found these tips helpful, please forward them to any new and expecting parents that you know. Questions, comments and suggestions are always welcome. Happy parenting!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Wordless Wednesday!

Rock and ROLL!!!
(And whatever you do, don't go to bed when you're supposed to)

Friday, September 4, 2009

5 tips for the best baby toys for 6-12 months.

Nearly over night sweet little babies has grow and changed so much that it can be hard to know what toys are best at ay given age. Are rattles still a good choice now that your baby can sit up? Or should you brows the local toy store looking for toys that are approved for the specific age that your baby is now? Well, despite what toy manufacturers would have you believe, baby development, and its relationship to the toys your baby plays with, is far from an exact science. I think that there are a few toys that seem to be a pretty good bet, but beyond the basics, it is 100% personal choice. You know your baby better than anyone and if you think your baby will enjoy playing with a certain toy, you are most likely right. Here are a few suggestions as a place to start from.

1. Lamaze Spin and Explore Garden Gym.
After your baby has a strong and stable neck, but before he is creeping and crawling all over the place, it is the perfect time for this toy. Rarely will I recommend a toy from a specific manufacturer, but to my knowledge, this is the only toy of it's kind right now. This toy might strike you as a bit odd the first time you see it because of the slightly elevated lady-bug in the center of the mat, but once you and your baby get the hang of it you will both enjoy exploring the circular "garden". Making tummy time more enjoyable for your baby is a constant struggle for parents, but this is one toy that many parents find helpful.

2. A ball.
Once your baby can sit up on her own for several minutes at a time, the magical toy that has existed for many a millennium can be introduced to your little pip squeak. Well, you can introduce a ball or two before now, but around the age of 6 months will be when your baby should start to engage with and really enjoy playing with a ball. Try rolling it to your baby while she sits with her legs crossed. When she picks it up tell her that she "caught" it. Then encourage her to roll it back to you. This type of play encourages the development of reciprocal play, the concept of taking turns and gives you an opportunity to build your little chickadee's self esteem as well as her vocabulary.

3. An electronic floor piano.
An electronic floor piano or a low-to-the-ground regular piano are toys that encourage tummy time while stimulating your little pianist's cognitive development. If the version you select is electric but not battery powered, I recommend that you closely monitor your baby while he plays with it in order to avoid the possibility of his becoming entangled in the cord or becoming interested in where it plugs into the wall. Another fun option is a cordless synthesizer. You can change the sounds from piano to marimba or even saxophone or human voice if you prefer. Just be careful about monitoring play with one of these because since they are generally not intended for babies, the keys or buttons might come off with rough use.

4. Toy remote control or cell phone.
Since your real remote control and cell phones are going to be favorite toys whether you want them to be or not, you can try to give your baby a safer option for these fun things. It may sound funny to offer toys to your baby that are such adult tools, but it is natural for babies to want to be like their parents from a young age. They look to you as the source for all things fun, interesting and good, so when they see you constantly talking into something covered with buttons that shows pretty pictures too, of course they want to play with it. Offering them their own version can save you both a power struggle and the hassle of having to replace your cell phone every few weeks.

5. A walker.
This is going to be my most controversial suggestion in this post. Infant physical therapists have come out pretty strongly against walkers, because of the tendency of little ones to begin putting weight on their legs before their bones are ready for it. However, after your baby is naturally beginning to creep and even crawl, pulling up onto furniture is a natural progression. As long as the walker is introduced at a developmentally appropriate time, and your home has been sufficiently baby-proofed for the added height that a walker gives, this is a wonderful way to let your baby explore her world while encouraging physical activity and giving you a little bit of a break.

Honestly, almost anything makes a great toy for a baby in the age range of 6 months to a year, the only real limitation you need to consider is for safety. Coins are shiny and make a great jingling sound, but they are germ-ridden choking hazards. Real cell phones are colorful and covered with neat buttons, but they melt down at the first hint of baby drool and they can come apart more easily than you'd expect. Plastics often leach questionable chemicals, especially those not used in baby-specific products and glass or wooden objects are breakable and can be finished with toxic chemicals respectively. When considering what to give your baby to play with, always ask yourself "what's the worst that could happen?" and if the answer is not good, choose something else. If you have found these tips to be helpful and informative, please forward this site to any new or expecting parents you know. Questions, comments and suggestions are always welcome. Happy parenting!

5 tips for staying organized after you have a baby.

Although having a new baby can throw your life into chaos, you don't have to let that decrease your ability to keep an ordered household. Try setting small goals for yourself, and setting out generous time lines for their completion. Chances are you will have less than half the time and less than half the energy you used to have to spend on organization projects. I recommend picking one tip that looks particularly helpful, like the clothing tip, and getting started on it early. As babies grow, they sleep less and less during the day, use the day time naps wisely in your first 3 months. By the second month you should have a good system in place for keeping incoming gifts of clothing organized, and you can move on to implementing another tip that seems particularly helpful to you in your own circumstances.

1. Separate baby clothes into like sizes and store in clear bins.
After the birth of your little sugar bee, you will most likely find yourself inundated with gifts of second-hand baby clothing, as well as gorgeous new stylish outfits from friends and family. However a good 90% of these wonderful donations and presents will be too large for your baby to wear right away. Rather than just stuffing them all into drawers and boxes and bags in the closet, developing a system to easily sort and store them will relieve a constant irritation and frustration from your first year or two. I recommend getting 5 large clear bins from an office supply store and labeling them: 3-6 Months, 6-12 Months, 12-18 Months, 24+ Months and Give Away or Store. When you first receive clothing, immediately put it in the baby's laundry. This is not meant as an insult to friends and family, but keeping the detergent that your baby is exposed to limited to your exact brand will help limit possible allergic reactions, and many new clothes are packaged with harsh chemicals that should be washed out before your baby wears them. As the new clothing emerges from the laundry, take your regular laundry-folding time to sort the clothes by the sizes listed on the tags (if there is no size, compare it to similarly sized clothes and write a size in the neck or lining with a permanent pen). Then, as you put the clothes away, you can place the cleaned, sorted and folded clothes in their appropriate storage bins. This also will help you keep an eye on what sizes of clothing you might need to get more of. Sizes 0 (or infant) through 3 months can be fairly easily organized in most baby nurseries, and as you move up in sizes, use your sorting time while folding laundry to remove items that are too small, and place them in the 5th bin for give-away or storage. Just try to stay on top of maintaining this system, because if it gets out of control the job becomes pretty intimidating pretty quickly.

2. Implement the "one toy at a time" rule early.
Baby toys seem to have a life of their own sometimes. I have a theory that they secretly multiply at night, but I have yet to catch them in the act. To keep your living room from becoming a mine field of ankle-twisting toe-stubbing hazards, I recommend that you, your partner, your friends and family all be held to the rule that only one baby toy can be out at any one time. No doubt they will call you crazy, and think you are taking things too seriously, but eventually they will marvel over how clean you are able to keep your living room. You will also be able to spend less on replacing broken toys and vacuum cleaner parts.

3. Use decorative dispensers that you can place things in while still in their original packaging.
There have been about a million times that I have seen beautiful nurseries set up with all kinds of pretty diaper-dispensers, wipes dispensers and fancy bottles to put baby lotion in that get completely over run with packages of diapers propped up against them and packages of wipes on top of them and bottles of baby lotions jammed in between the pretty bottles that are empty. If you have a hanging diaper holder that is the right size, you can just slip the whole package of diapers in there, and save yourself the hassle of unpacking and stacking. I would do away with the idea of decorative bottles for baby lotion all together, or use cozies instead. Also, refills of diaper wipes should be able to go into just about any container while still in their plastic over-wrap. You may be reading this thinking that you'll never be so busy that putting a bag of diapers away will seem like an enormous job, but once you have a baby you might find yourself quite surprised by how fast you move through things, and how little extra time and energy you actually have.

4. Incorporate a 10 minute tidy/top off into your evening routine.
Just after your little luv-bunch nods off for his 1-2 hour sleep in the evening, try to spend ten minutes picking up things that didn't make it to where they were supposed to go, topping off containers that are near empty and making sure that your changing table is properly stocked. Just ten minutes every evening will help keep your organization systems running and your sanity from taking a vacation. If the ten minute tidy becomes a habit, you might find that it can help you stay on top of your household order for years to come.

5. Place baby logs near where you feed your baby & attach a pen.
Keeping track of what is going on with your baby is both important and deceptively easy. All you have to do is jot down the last few things that happened with her every few hours or so. The problem comes when you are unable to find the book that you log your baby's bowel movements in or you can't find a pen to write with, or you know where they are, but you have a sleeping baby on your lap, and you don't want to move from fear that she will wake up. I recommend that you attach a pen with a short string to your baby log, and attach the baby log with a short string to the chair or couch where you normally feed your baby. This way, you'll always know where it is, and you will find yourself tied down near it often enough that keeping at least a partial record of your baby's ups, downs, ins and outs will be much easier. Wet and dirty diapers, sleep patterns, medication administration times, feeding amounts and feeding times are all important things to keep a record of. If your baby takes ill, and you have to rush to the Pediatrician, it is great to have a written record of all the things that you will be asked. It is surprising how much information we lose through each day if we don't write it down, and new parents are hardly getting refreshing sleep every night.

As with all lifestyle changes, the most important thing to keep in mind is to make organizational changes that you can maintain. Setting unrealistic goals for yourself will only lead to frustration and self-defeat. If you are an organized person, many of these suggestions may come as second nature to you, but for many parents figuring out where to start when trying to organize a growing household can be overwhelming. I hope that one or two of these suggestions helps relieve a bit of the stress that comes with the chaos of an expanding family. If you have found these tips helpful please forward them to any new or expecting parents you know. Comments, questions and suggestions are always welcome. Happy parenting!

Monday, August 31, 2009

5 tips for avoiding the biggest mistakes parents make in the first 2 years.

Making the right choices for your baby's safety and proper
development is the first priority of nearly all parents. However,
there is so much conflicting advice out there, and so many
different philosophies on how to raise your children, it can be
very overwhelming. Many parents find themselves just winging
it as they face the small day-to-day decisions, and that is
where some of the biggest mistakes can be made. Here are a
few common mistakes that parents often make, so you can
watch out for them.

1. Too much T.V.
I used to be a great fan of the "Baby Einstein" videos, and
generally scoffed at the idea that a little T.V. now and then
could be harmful to babies. After all, T.V. today is much
different than it was when I was a kid, the educational aspects
seemed to outweigh the idea that T.V. could be harmful. That
was before the latest study came out showing that babies who
were exposed to T.V. on a regular basis during their first year
displayed a significant developmental delay in many areas.
Most notably, their social development was affected. I have
seen myself the positive effects on a borderline-autistic toddler
who had T.V. removed from his routine. The social skills
flourished and the delays in his gross motor coordination also
dissipated. I highly caution parents against falling into this bad
habit, the effects on your baby are likely to be negative and any
potential positive benefits are generally over estimated or

2. Weening too early.
This is a difficult one, because there are often reasons both
personal and physical why a mother must help her baby ween
early. However, whether your baby is breast fed or bottle fed and
whether she eats breast milk or formula, most of her nutrition is
going to come in fluid form for the greater part of the first 2
years. Even after she is consuming three or more regular meals a
day, a baby's digestive tract is not strong enough to break down
many foods. Even when you puree table foods, they will only yield
a fraction of their potential nutrients to an immature digestive
system. I recommend that parents always feed their baby a bottle
first and then top off with the solid foods, instead of allowing
your little munchkin to fill up on indigestible roughage before
trying to squeeze a little nutritious breast milk or formula in

3. Unsafe teething toys.
A baby will chew on anything. From a pinky to a pencil, everything
is fun for him to munch on. But there are many common things
that a parent might want to think twice about before allowing in
their baby's mouth. The number one things ironically, are fingers,
yours, or other peoples, especially children's. Hands go
everywhere, they touch everything, and they get washed way too
rarely. Make a habit of asking visitors to your home to wash their
hands as they enter, and be sure to always wash your own hands
when you get home. Carrying a bottle of hand sanitizer with you
is another good tool for keeping yourself baby-ready. Another
terrible chew toy is a key ring. Keys are filthy. They have many
crevices where germs can hide, and no one ever washes them.
However, babies love to chew on the cool metal and shake them
to hear the jingling they make. I highly recommend using a
sterling silver multiple-ring teething ring in the place of a key
ring. Watches, necklaces and other jewelry are also terrible choices
for teething toys. Jewelry, even if it is well-made, is rarely made
strong enough to hold up to the drooling, shaking and chewing
abuse that a baby can put it through. Besides the risk of illness
from the types of germs that might be hiding in the crevices of
your jewelry, the main risk is that your jewelry might come apart
and become an immediate choking hazard. Beaded necklaces are
at an especially high risk for this problem.

4. Too little sunshine.
From the moment your little butter cup takes her first stroll
outside you will probably find that you have suddenly become
hyper-aware of the amount of sun exposure she gets. Though
many pediatricians do not recommend sunscreen for infants,
others prescribe the liberal application of sunscreen from the
first month on. Many parents end up covering their babies from
stem to stern with layers of cloth and sunscreen any time they
might encounter a drop of unfiltered sunlight. The problem with
this is that the best source for vitamin D is from sunlight and
vitamin D is a wonderful mood booster and sleep regulator. As
babies become more and more shielded from the sun, reports of
sleep problems continue to rise exponentially. While you do want
to avoid burns at all cost, gentle exposure to indirect sunlight is
wonderful for your little sun bunny. Practice moderation, and use
common sense, but do regularly give your baby a dose of the
sweet warmth of natural light. You'll both sleep better, and feel

5. Not enough rough-housing.
While, like anything, physical play can be taken to the
extreme, regular tossing, swinging and rolling of your baby
after 2 months has enormous benefits. While your baby is
becoming aware of his position in relation to the world he
will also be developing his sense of balance and a rudimentary
grasp of general physics principles. Of course this can also be
called becoming sturdy, but whatever you call it, it is an
important part of physical development. Fathers are generally
very good at engaging in this type of play, but mothers and
other caretakers can do it just as well. I recommend that this
type of play be done over soft surfaces, like carpets and
blankets, and that the delicate nature of your baby's joints be
considered. But as long as you are safe, this type of fun is
healthy and very beneficial to your little gymnast.

One mistake that I don't have an answer for is the tendency of parents
to beat up on themselves for every mistake that they make. Give
yourself a break, and try not to let every little thing that you wish you
had done differently keep you up at night. Parents today are some of
the most well educated and responsible people ever to raise babies in
this world. By all means, educate yourself, and do the best you can, but
always remember that babies are resiliant and as long as you are giving
them love and doing your best, they will probably be okay. If you have
found these tips helpful, please forward them to any new or expecting
parents you know. Questions, comments and suggestions are always
welcome. Happy parenting!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Tripi's Baby Tips and Tricks will be back shortly.

Hi everyone!
I have an announcement. My family and I are moving! Soon we will be living in the natural splendor that is offered by the beautiful state of Utah. So, since we will be needing to pack up the computer, I will not be able to post any new baby tips this week. I will be back and better than ever next week. While I am away I am hoping that you all will still find my archives of baby tips helpful. As always, questions, comments and suggestions are always welcome! See you soon!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

5 tips for the best kinds of baby toys months 3-6.

As babies grow and develop, they will be able to play with, and learn from new toys. But as any parent who has visited Toys "R" Us knows, there are hundreds of different toys to choose from for any age. Though many toys are labeled with an indication of the age range that they are appropriate for, it is difficult to know which ones are going to be the most fun and educational for your little wiggle-bug. These are the kinds of toys that I have had the most success with for babies ages 3-6 months. Although, if something looks fun to you, your baby will probably appreciate it too.

1. Toys with lights.
Your baby is probably enjoying a new found control over his hands right now, and he is looking to grab a hold of some new and exciting things. Toys that light up when your baby hits, kicks or shakes them are not only fun, the help spur the next big development: recognizing cause-and-effect. There are battery powered rattles that light up, some hand held toys that need to be pulled on to light up and many that light up if your baby takes a swat at them while laying in the baby gym. Any of these that are in your price range and look fun to you will be great for your baby.

2. Musical toys.
It is a truth of baby toys that you will rarely, if ever, find a toy that lights up which does not also play music. However, there are some musical toys that do not light up. A little piano, a caterpillar that plays songs when you touch his feet or a stuffed animal that sings songs when it is snuggled or grabbed are fun choices if you want to separate the two types of stimulation. Music of any kind has been shown to very beneficial for babies, but especially classical, and most especially Mozart, so even if you don't get musical toys, getting in the habit of regularly playing some classical music in the play area is a great idea. I do not recommend the "Baby Einstein" DVD series however. A very recent study showed no improved mental functions from watching them, and a marked lag in social development from lack of parental face time among babies who did view the DVD's regularly.

3. A baby-safe photo album.
One of the first things your baby learns is to recognize facial structures, and one of the next things is to be able to tell one face from another. Giving your baby a safe, flexible photo album is a great way for your baby to enjoy these new-found skills and to stimulate the next social skill: facial memory. Being able to see different faces on a fairly regular basis is one thing that helps to reduce the frequency and intensity of stranger anxiety. It is a great idea to fill the album with pictures of friends and family, as well as pictures of you and your little diaper model. Having a variety of faces, both familiar and those seen less often, will prompt your baby to associate the same positive and comfortable emotions she experiences when looking at you with all of the faces in the album.

4. A bouncy seat or an exersaucer.
I will admit right off the bat that most infant physical therapists will disagree with me on this one. Before your baby can crawl putting weight on his feet will stimulate both the urge to stand and the muscles that he will be using to keep his balance while erect, but most infant physical therapists place such a strong emphasis on crawling before walking that they would not recommend putting your baby in an exersaucer until after he has started crawling. I still do recommend these play structures for babies because, in my opinion, the interactive and independent play behaviors that are stimulated outweigh the worry that it might discourage crawling. If your baby is getting an appropriate amount of tummy-time, and is developing the skill to roll over, there is no need to be worried about them playing in an upright position. When a baby is always oriented tummy down on the floor, it is hard to use toys effectively because they need to use their hands to hold themselves up. I have seen so many babies become frustrated with this aspect of tummy time, and after a while, they don't want to have tummy time at all. However, if after a long and productive session of tummy time you notice that your little blankie surfer is getting frustrated, a bouncy chair or exersaucer (the "circle o' fun!" as my friends Beth and Brad called it) makes a great place for your baby to take a break while still being entertained.

5. Cloth baby books.
Cloth baby books are the best thing since board books! They crinkle, squeak and jingle. They have flaps that cannot be ripped off, and baby saliva wont cause them to crumble into millions of tiny choking hazards. You might still have board books, but it is best to keep them out of your little librarian's reach unless she is sitting in your lap. Cloth books, on the other hand are good for reading time and for independent play time. One of the best features is that they lay flat on the floor, making tummy time more fun. And, when your baby gets tired of playing with one part of the book, you can just turn the page for a whole new selection of fun. This kind of toy stimulates tummy time, fine motor coordination, image recognition and cause-and-effect relationships. These awesome toys/books are one of my top recommendations for new parents.

Armed with these tips, your next trip to the toy store should be a lot easier. Don't be too quick to throw out old toys though, some baby toys will still be fun for your little goof-ball when he is two years old! A good strategy for keeping your baby from losing interest in his toys is to periodically take about a quarter of the toys in your baby's play area away and store them out of sight for about 2-4 weeks. Then, when he begins to lose interest in the toys he has, trade out the toys for the ones he seems to be getting used to. With fewer toys around you will be able to tell more easily if there are certain toys that your little firefly just doesn't use anymore and you can give them away or donate them to charity. If you have found these tips helpful, I hope you will forward them to any new or expecting parents you know. Questions, comments and suggestions are always welcome. Happy parenting!

Wordless Wednesday!

At least he knows the rules about greeting strange dogs.

Even if
the "dog" is a wolf and what is "strange" is that it's cast from bronze.

Monday, August 17, 2009

5 tips for caring for your toddlers teeth.

At some point your little toothless butter ball is going to sprout some teeth. Toddlers teeth appear in a fairly predictable pattern: two on the bottom in front, four on the top in front, two more on the bottom front, four molars two on top and two on the bottom, four canines two on top and two on bottom, and finally four more molars. From the time that your baby's first tooth sprouts it is time to start implementing oral care. For the first six months or so, after those first couple of teeth show up, a washcloth dipped in a weak mixture of water and baking soda should be enough to combat any type of decay. However, at some point you will need to introduce the toothbrush in order to continue to maintain good oral hygiene for your toddler. Here are a few more helpful ideas for getting the most out of your little beavers tooth brushing routine.

1. Get an electric toothbrush.
It may seem a bit extravagant, but for your toddler it will make brushing his teeth a lot more fun. A regular tooth brush is fine if you can't afford or find an electric one, but it has a lot of drawbacks. Firstly, your little grin master will only let a foreign object which is under your control in his mouth for a very limited time, so getting to all the teeth and brushing them thoroughly will be harder. Also, your toddler will quickly lose interest in the idea of using the regular toothbrush as a tooth-cleaning tool and will begin to think of it as a funny spoon that is for feeding him baby toothpaste, which kind of defeats the purpose. And finally, the struggles that you have over trying to get your little guy to use the regular toothbrush properly might instill a strong aversion to the idea of brushing teeth. An electric model is interesting, fun and easy to use. You can often brush your little chompers teeth in half the time with half the struggle.

2. Teach your toddler to chew gum.
I know that this might sound counter intuitive, and just so we are clear I'm not talking about huge wads of sugary goo. I'm just talking about huge wads of goo. The American Dental Association has come out in support of sugar free gum, especially gum that contains xylitol. They recommend giving your children gum to chew for about 20 minutes after meals in addition to regular brushing. To teach your toddler how to chew gum, give her a large amount to start with. One and a half sticks should be enough to discourage swallowing without raising the risk of choking. The entire wad should be about the size of your toddlers thumb. After your toddler has gotten the basic idea of chewing without swallowing, you can reduce the amount of gum you give.

3. Offer your toddler a sippy cup of water before bed.
Throughout the day food, milk and juice will leave residue in your toddlers mouth. Even if you brush once in the afternoon and once at bedtime the food and drink particles in your little nibbler's mouth can do some damage during the rest of the day. Having some water will help rinse away most of those harmful little tooth destroyers. I recommend giving your toddler a sippy cup of water in the morning and in the afternoon. Not only is drinking water a great habit for preventing tooth decay, but the health benefits of drinking water throughout the day will have lasting positive effects in all aspects of your toddlers development.

4. Sing a fun song or rhyme while you brush.
Getting your toddler to spend an appropriate length of time scrubbing his chompers can be very difficult. A great trick to help extend the time he spends brushing his teeth is to sing a little song or recite a rhyme while he brushes. Having a nice rhythm to brush to helps your toddler grasp the concept of repeated up and down/back and forth brushing. Also, knowing that the song comes to an end will help you little brush man anticipate how long he should brush. Time is still a slippery concept, and after 10 seconds your little fella might feel like he's been at it for hours, but a song or rhyme will keep him going for a few more minutes.

5. Give your toddler a turn.
To make sure your toddlers teeth get sufficiently clean, you should take the first turn with the toothbrush. A quick once-over from you will get the best results, but then turn over the tooth brush to your little chicklet so she can both imitate the example you just set and gain a feeling of personal pride in her ability to brush her teeth by herself. Doing the brushing at the beginning, rather than after your toddler has had a try at it, will help avoid your little bubbie from feeling like she has done something wrong and is being corrected while giving her a good example to follow for her own turn. As she gets better at brushing, you can eventually let her take over and do the whole routine herself.

One of the best ways to save money as your children get older is to eliminate expensive dental bills, and this starts with good oral hygiene habits. Teaching your little sugar-fiend how to care for his teeth early will instill a great sense of awareness that can have lasting positive effects. Remember to talk to your dentist for the latest information on childhood tooth care and to schedule regular checkups for your little snuggle bug. If you have found these tips helpful, please forward them to all the parents of toddlers that you know. Questions, comments and suggestions are always welcome. Happy parenting!

Friday, August 14, 2009

5 tips for parents returning to work.

Eventually, whether it is after four months or thirty, you will have to return to work. Leaving your baby in the care of a person or group of people is undoubtedly one of the hardest things you will ever have to do. Just finding someone you trust is hard enough, let alone managing the intricacies of the transition. Your baby knows you, and trusts you to always be there when he or she needs you. Adjusting that roll to include other people can be tricky, but there are some things you can do to help smooth the transition.

1. Investing true trust in the child care you choose.
At some point you will have chosen a nanny, a daycare or a preschool that you like and you will have decided to invest a certain amount of your trust in them. Now the real test comes when you leave your precious baby in their care. If you have chosen them to care for your baby, it will be counterproductive to both your relationship with the child care provider and your baby if you second guess every rule, or executive decision they put in place. Trust is a principle that you will teach your children through example, and the sooner you exercise this emotional muscle the better. If you invest nearly full trust in your child care provider, you will be spared many headaches, ulcers and sleepless nights. However, trust should always be given conditionally, and if you ever have the feeling that something is wrong, or that your child's safety is at risk, do not hesitate to investigate and remove your baby from the child care situation.

2. Leave an overlap of at least a half an hour for arrival and departure.
When you drop off your baby, or when your nanny arrives always have that time be at least a half an hour before you have to leave. Most day cares will accommodate this transition time, because they know how much easier it is to help a baby or child adjust to a new environment or new people if their parent is there during the transition. Clingy, and separation-anxiety prone periods will happen, but if your baby is used to your comfort and support during times of transition, he will be much more likely to adjust easily.

3. Make a voice recording of you reading a book for nap-times.
This is an easy and simple tip. Buy a small tape recorder, and a small tape to go in it. then, record yourself and your spouse reading stories and singing songs to your baby. Any skilled nanny or reliable day care should be able to ensure that your baby gets to hear these recordings before nap times or any time that they are feeling sad or lonely. It is amazing how strongly babies react to hearing the voices of their parents and other voices that they hear regularly.

4. Take unannounced lunch trips to visit your baby.
Especially if you are a family who has hired a nanny, I recommend periodic unannounced visits home, just to check on your nanny and your baby. It has been shocking to many parents to discover the liberties that daycare institutions and nannies can take with child care when left unsupervised for too long. Just two or three unannounced visits home every two or three months is enough to leave an impression on your caregiver that your are always watching and invested in insuring your baby's care level is maintained. It is also helpful to let your daycare and your child care worker know that you will be making these unannounced visits because just the idea of an unannounced visit has been shown to promote a higher level of consciousness about maintaining the level of care that you expect.

5. Leave your work at work.
When you come home from work, you will be tempted, even pressured to bring projects and deadlines home with you. These extra curricular activities may have only eaten into your personal time before, but now that you are a parent, they will take a big bite out of the time that your baby needs from you. No matter how great the care your baby receives each day is, and no matter how important the deadline you are looking at is, your baby needs you. Your baby needs to hear your voice and to experience you choosing her over your work. This will teach your baby self esteem and basic self respect early on. Sacrificing the opportunity to help your baby understand their own important status in your life as above and superior to work is an opportunity you should not squander lightly.

As you ease back into the workforce and you begin to find your place again, keep in mind that your position as a person has changed. You are basically someone who is the CEO of the business of raising your little bib dribbler but have been put in the position of outsourcing many of the day-to-day aspects of that business to another entity. It may be helpful to always make an effort to view your regular job as something you are doing to supplement your ability to focus on your baby's growth and development. If you have found these tips helpful please forward them to new and expecting parents you know. Questions, comments and suggestions are always welcome. Happy parenting!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

5 tips for using a pacifier efficiently.

Many parents choose to try offering their baby a pacifier. There are quite a few good reasons to introduce a sucky to your little one, as well as a few concerns. If you do decide to try soothing your baby this way, you should wait until your baby is at least one month old and breastfeeding is firmly established, or concretely ruled out. When the time comes to introduce the pacifier, you might want to try some of my helpful tips that follow.

1. Offer the Pacifier as a last resort in the daytime.
During the day most babies will not need to suck on anything unless they begin to feel hungry. There is so much to see and do in the daytime. But there are times when a pacifier in the day can be helpful. Gas pains can sometimes feel very similar to hunger pains, and some babies find some relief by sucking on a pacifier until they pass the gas. If your baby does begin to feel hungry, she will probably take the pacifier, but only for a short time.

2. Warm the pacifier by sucking on it.
Breastfed babies are often much less likely to accept a pacifier than a bottle fed baby. Part of the reason for this is that the pacifier feels nothing like your nipple. It is cold, rigid and doesn't taste or smell like you. When you are just beginning to introduce the pacifier to your baby, try sucking on the pacifier yourself for a minute or two before giving it to your little Swee'Pea. Also, try giving the pacifier for a few minutes just before breastfeeding as this is the time your baby is going to be the most receptive to suckling.

3. Use a burp cloth to prop up the pacifier at night.
Night time is the best time for babies to use a pacifier. The sucking motion is soothing and relaxing and the use of a pacifier at night reduces your chances of SIDS. The problem is that often as babies get sleepy, their pacifier falls out waking them up. A little trick I learned from the nurses who cared for my son in the NICU is to roll up a burp cloth and lean it up against the side of the pacifier while it is in your baby's mouth. If your baby sleeps directly on his back, you can also drape the burp cloth across his chest, with one edge just high enough to cover the bottom half of the pacifier.

4. After your baby is asleep, remove the pacifier.
Whether you use a burp cloth to prop up your baby's pacifier or not, as soon as your little nightingale is asleep you should remove the pacifier and the burp cloth if you used it. This way, your little cub won't get used to sucking on something all night long while asleep. Also, even if your baby is not sucking on a pacifier, if it drops out of her mouth, the sudden motion can startle them awake. And if the paci is laying right next to her cheek while she sleeps, it may make her uncomfortable or make her think it is time to eat.

5. When the time comes to wean, cut a small hole in the tip of the pacifier.
This is a great, easy way for your child to naturally lose interest in his pacifier. When he is not teething, and has been needing the pacifier less that he did in the past, nick the tip of the paci, leaving a small hole. This makes it impossible to keep suction on the pacifier without a lot of work. Your little chimpanzee will tire out his sucking muscles and end up using the paci less and less. Eventually, you should be able to whisk it away without him ever asking for it again. Once the soothing magic of the suction is gone, or too much work to be worth it, your little dude will wean himself off of it.

Like many things, a pacifier is just another parenting tool. It has been around for a very long time in one form or another, and so have the troubles that parents have had with them. Whether you choose to use a pacifier or not, there will be challenges that result from your choice. I hope that if you do decide to offer your baby a pacifier that these tips will come in handy, and might even save you a little grief. If you have found these tips to be helpful, please forward them to any new or expecting parents you know. Questions, comments and suggestions are always welcome. Happy parenting!

There is a NEW post from NAOMI up today (9/5/14)! Check it out HERE.

Wordless Wednesday!

Looking spiffy! Dress up is so fun!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Toddler Tuesday: 5 tips to help your toddler build social confidence.

As your baby grows and develops into a little person, social skills and confidence will become increasingly important. For your little one milestones, like entering preschool or going to a new park, can be terrifying experiences, or exciting new adventures waiting to be explored. To help your little trooper prepare for these new challenges it is important to inspire a strong sense of socially appropriate behavior and respect for himself and others. Though there are many strategies out there, these five are my personal favorite, because I've seen them work.

1. Play dates with older kids.
Play dates of any kind are great for toddlers. However, for learning social skills a slightly older child is a wonderful roll model. Just one or two older children are plenty, any more, and your little social butterfly might start feeling shy or get ignored. The ages of the older child or children shouldn't be more than a year older than your little one so they will still identify with one another. The benefits to your little cub will be quite obvious, but the older child will benefit as well. When older children play with younger ones, they build their sense of empathy and gain confidence too.

2. Sign up for gym class.
Or a dance class, or a karate class. Physical activity can help children of all ages overcome social barriers. Class settings provide a great social structure complete with rules, turn taking and example setting and following. These skills translate directly to social interaction, and the confidence your little ducky will get from learning new physical skills will translate into confidence when confronted with any new and intimidating situation. You might think that a toddler is too young for a class like this, but there are many classes available, including Gymboree, that are specifically designed with toddlers in mind.

3. Introduce manners.
As your little flower blossoms, language skills will begin to develop right alongside physical feats like walking and running. From the very beginning if you model appropriate manners, and insist that your toddler use them too, your little half pint will be ahead of the game when it comes time to interact with other children. Saying please, thank you, I'm sorry and excuse me are still some of the best ways to begin friendly conversations. Other manners, like eating with your mouth closed, taking turns and sharing might be a bit harder to instill, but starting early will make the lessons easier to learn when the time comes. And once your child has these skills, social interactions will be a lot less confusing and intimidating.

4. Puppet shows.
Puppet shows aren't just a great way to spend a fun afternoon giggling with your little playmate, they are also the perfect setting to model appropriate and inappropriate social interactions. A great way to do this is to make puppets using pictures of your toddler and some of her friends. Then tell stories about real and imagined social situations, like the time Suzy asked to borrow your toddler's toy rocket ship. Highlighting positive moments when your toddler made the right choice is great. Negative situations should mostly be imaginary, to keep a positive light on your toddler's experience. Also, try to cast your toddler's puppet in the roll of instructor to the other puppets, showing them the polite way to behave, and reminding them of fun ways to play together. If your toddler wants to control the puppets, of course let her. Then pay close attention to the way she makes the puppets play and talk together. Often a child's concerns and fears can be expressed more clearly through this type of play than through any other.

5. Ask your toddler for help with chores.
Nothing builds confidence better than a job well done. As your toddler begins to identify himself as a member of the family more and more, he will probably express interest in grown up activities. He may want to help sweep the floor, carry the groceries and wash the dishes. Every time you let him help he will learn that he has valuable contributions to offer the world. That may sound dramatic, but right now, you and your home are his world, and if he can offer a part of himself to make that world better for everyone in it, he must be a pretty great person. Whether you want to introduce standards that his contributions have to measure up to now or later, I just urge you to keep those standards reachable. For example, if he wants to wash the table it would be reasonable for you to require that he wash all around the edges. But if you insist that the table must be completely clean, with no missed spots, he may learn that he is not good enough. It is a delicate balance to strike, but as long as you express appreciation and show that you value your toddlers contribution, he will gain loads of confidence which will benefit him for years to come.

Many parents see themselves in their children, and many of our own anxieties about our childhood social interaction will color the fears we have for our kids. It's always a good idea to take a moment or two when worries start to crowd in to step back and take a good look at your toddler. We can hope to make the best possible impact on our little ones, but in the end, our kids will be their own people, with their own experiences. If you have found these tips to be helpful, please pass them on to any parents of toddlers you know. Questions, comments and suggestions are always welcome. Happy parenting!