Saturday, May 30, 2009

5 tips for better sleep during baby's 2nd month.

So your baby is in the second month of development now, starting to do things like focus on your face while eating, smiling and sometimes laughing in their sleep. This is a very cute stage, and it's even cuter when they sleep well at night. Babies at this age still need to eat at night, but they should be sleeping longer and eating a bit less over all. This is a great time to begin to lay some very basic groundwork for future sleep training. Whether the sleep-solution you go with has crying, or no crying, the adjustment will be smoother if your baby is already sleeping well with some basic positive associations in place.

1. Warm your baby's crib mattress before you lay baby down.
Whether you use a heating pad or a sack of lentils heated in the oven, warming up your baby's bed mattress will help when transferring him into bed, or even relaxing him when placed there awake. For an adult the feel of crisp cool sheets might feel like the most relaxing and comfortable place in the world, but for your baby, your arms are the most safe and relaxing place and they are warm. So it makes perfect sense that your baby would associate a warm surface with safety. Do not leave the heating pad in you baby's crib for too long (over an hour) or heat it too hot (it should feel about as warm as your baby's forehead) and if you are using an electric heating pad check the cord regularly for any hot-spots or fraying. I really recommend using the lentils since they are not a fire-hazard, if you don't have a good bag, you could use a pillow-case or a large sock.

2. Place a recently worn T-shirt in the crib with your baby.
Your baby's eyes might not work so well, and their hearing largely lacks focus and reference points at the age of two months, but their sense of smell is already working quite well. A mother has certain pheromones in her scent that a baby responds to very powerfully. Preemie babies who are given a "scent doll" that their mother has slept with while she was pregnant are calmer, eat more, and sleep better than preemies who aren't. I've observed that this holds true for older babies as well. When a baby can smell her mommies natural body scent, she will be more relaxed and sleep longer. I think it is best to only use the T-shirt at night, because it will encourage a sense of safety and security that will hopefully become associated with their sleeping area and with night time in general.

3. Extend time between feedings by 15 minutes.
Eventually your baby will need to give up the feedings in the middle of the night, and with a little prep work that should be a lot easier. As soon as you hear your baby begin fussing respond, but instead of offering them the feeding right away, try to soothe them without it first. Use a pacifier (or dummy), bounce, sway, sing, hum and jiggle. Try to put off your baby's feeding as long as you can, to a minimum of 15 minutes and a maximum of 30. If your baby falls back to sleep without eating, then the next time they wake up, go ahead and feed them right then. Your baby still needs about 2-3 feeds a night at this point, so the delay in the feeds only serves to prepare your baby for sleep training by widening the gap between when they expect to be fed. If your baby is not responding well to your attempts to soothe them without food, discontinue the delays for a while, some babies are not ready to try this until the third month.

4. Pull the night cap down over your baby's eyes.
This trick won't work for long, just a month or so. Your baby's eyes are just starting to develop enough that they can see more distinct shapes, and they are fascinated with high-contrast images like black and white mobiles and posters. They are often so intent on looking around it is hard to relax and let their eyes close. However if you just pull down the front of their hat to cover their eyes they are still too young to realize why they can't see and begin resisting. It is a great way to help your baby relax and drift off to sleep, but like I said it won't be long before your baby catches on to what you are doing and starts to turn their head back and forth to wiggle out of the hat.

5. Use a metronome in the nursery at night.
The rhythmic might be reminiscent of your heart beat, though I think the reason this works is because it gives your baby's conscious mind something to focus on and that makes relaxing easier. Years ago mothers used to tuck a pocket watch under their baby's pillow to help sooth them to sleep. It was this old tradition that led me to try the metronome with one of the baby's i was taking care of a few years ago. He had a particularly hard time going to sleep during the day while I was tending him and his mother was at work, but one day I tried the metronome, and he calmed right down and was asleep in his crib before I knew it. I've been a believer ever since. In homes where there is no metronome, I'll some times tap a pencil on the night stand in a steady rhythm, and it seems to help most of the time too.

The second month is usually a bit easier for parents than the first month, whether that is because your baby is finding a more predictable routine, or because the you are getting used to the sleepless nights it's nice to feel it getting easier. Hopefully these tips can help for those times when your baby has forgotten that the second month is supposed to be easier, and help prepare you all for the next few months (One more great sleep tip can be found here: If you find these tips helpful, please refer them to any new or expecting parents. Happy parenting!

Friday, May 29, 2009

5 tips for naturally reducing a baby's fever.

One of the scariest things for a parent to encounter is kissing your baby only to find that they are burning up with a fever. If your baby has a fever of over 100 degrees Fahrenheit or 38 degrees Celsius you should consult your pediatrician right away. Only after your doctor has sent you home with instructions to "wait and see" should these methods be used. Most pediatricians will recommend infant Tylenol or Ibuprofen to help bring down your baby's fever, but there is a growing feeling among many parents that they would rather take a more natural approach. While there is nothing quite as natural as letting a fever run it's course without interference, this can be very uncomfortable for your baby. Here are 5 tips to help you naturally reduce your baby's fever (and if you need some additional ideas, here are 5 more tips on the same topic).

1. Cool water baby massage.
In a warm room lay out a towel on a waterproof pad (like a changing table pad with the cover removed). Get a bowl of lukewarm water, add a chamomile tea bag to the water if desired, and set it near by. Lay your baby on the towel and remove their clothing (you can leave on the diaper if you want to). Now dip your hands in the water and gently place your hands on your baby's chest. Fan your fingers out and slide your hands down your baby's sides. Take each leg in turn and gently slide your hands up the leg from the toes to the hip 3 or 4 times in a row. Now repeat this motion on each arm 3 or 4 times from fingertips to shoulder. Cup your baby's shoulders in your palms then slide your hands down to the chest and begin again. continue to dip your hands in the water throughout the massage as needed. This soothing combination of simple strokes should have a calming effect, if it seems to cause your baby any stress discontinue the massage right away. Every baby is different, and some remedies will work better for some than for others.

2. Cucumber pacifier.
The cucumber is often used by spas as a way to reduce tissue inflammation and swelling around peoples eyes. It can have a similarly soothing effect on your baby when used as a pacifier. I recommend that parents take a whole young cucumber (young cucumbers have fewer seeds) and peel one end, then use a paring knife to whittle it into the shape of a thick finger tip, thicker at the base, and slimming near the rounded tip. Remember not to expose any seeds, if the seeds are exposed, they must be trimmed away before the cucumber is offered to your baby. Hold the unpeeled body of the cucumber like a bottle, and offer the cool peeled tip for your baby to suck on. Keep a close eye on the cucumber to make sure that it is not starting to come apart. The cooling effect of the cucumber should start to reduce your baby's fever right away. Keep in mind that you should take your baby's temperature under the arm once they begin to suck on the cucumber.

3. Feed your baby more frequently.
Though your baby may seem to have less of an appetite, they actually need more fluids than normal. Dehydration is a very real danger when your baby has a fever, and since often the last thing they want to do is eat, try to offer them smaller feeds more often. If they are breastfeeding you can let them self-regulate, but just offer the breast more often. If your baby is bottle fed, offer about half what they normally eat, but twice as often. Also bottle fed babies can be offered room-temperature bottles rather than warm ones to help cool the fever further.

4. Take a lukewarm bath together.
Both the skin-to-skin contact and the tepid bathwater should be soothing and cooling for your little one. Even if you just give your baby a bath instead of joining in, it is a great way to reduce a fever and sooth the aches and pains that a fever causes. As you probably know I am a big fan of chamomile, so I personally recommend adding a chamomile tea bag to the bath water, but it isn't really necessary to help reduce the fever.

5. Use a cool swaddle.
Having a baby with a fever is extra hard because swaddling them like normal will just cause over-heating, but chances are they still sleep best when they are swaddled. I do have some help for you though, it is a certain doctor recommended swaddle wrap I designed to keep babies cool. Just use a normal receiving blanket, folded in half to form a triangle.

 Lay your baby left-of-center with shoulders and head above the folded side of the blanket. Now tuck your baby's left arm under the blanket

and fold the rest of the large right side under your baby so both tips of the folded edge of the blanket are on
 the left side of your baby.

Now tuck your baby's Right arm under both layers of folded blanket,

and fold the bottom layer of blanket under your baby's arm and body so it is once again on the right side of

your baby.

Now bring both of the folded tips of the blanket to the front of your baby, and do a starter-wrap with them, ("left over right, then under and pull") as if you were preparing to tie your shoe.

Now bring the bottom tips of the blanket up and tuck them under the starter wrap.

Now your baby is securely swaddled, but exposed on the chest, shoulders and neck. This is the best wrap for a baby with a fever, secure, but not too hot. I recommend using light cotton blankets for this wrap. Even a sheet would be a good material for it.

Always keep a close eye on your baby's temperature when they are running a fever, and never hesitate to contact your pediatrician if they get too hot, or if they develop new or different symptoms. These tips are only meant to sooth the effects of a fever, not to treat or cure any underlying cause for it. I hope this proves useful for you and your poor sick snuggy-bug. Questions and comments are welcome, and please pass these tips on to any new parents you know who might need them. Happy parenting!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

5 tips for natural teething remedies.

It happens to every new parent. You just got things settled, your baby is in a great routine, when out of the blue... teething strikes. Yikes! Teething! Whether that image brings up crying babies or painful nursing it's not a pleasant thought. Some types of discomfort that often accompany teething are: fever, diaper rash, facial rash, excessive salivation, upset stomach and, of course, tooth and gum pain.

Now there are as many treatments for the tooth and gum pain as there are stars in the sky (I didn't count, but it looked like it was ballpark). But with all of the concern about problems with plastics, chemicals and choking hazards, it is very difficult to know where to begin looking for safe and effective methods for helping your baby feel better. Here are 5 tried and tested techniques that I trust, which use no harsh chemicals and are completely natural. Today I am including some links to a few sites where you can find the products that I am talking about, these are not solicited or paid endorsements, they are simply sites that I trust to provide quality products. You might also be interested in trying my acupressure point for teething pain.

1. Sterling silver or stainless steel teething rings.
There is a reason that key-rings are the unofficial teething toy of the known universe, babies find the feel of smooth cool metal on their gums unquestionably helpful in reducing inflammation and pain. However, key-rings are full of sharp edges and germ-filled crevices that make them less than ideal for your baby's safety. Substituting a classy and safe sterling silver ring is a great option. I recommend getting at least three, and have two chilling in the refrigerator while your baby chews on one. There are many beautiful designs, some more affordable than others. I personally like the multiple-ring styles.

2. Cool food teething sticks.
Whether you use a refrigerated bagel, carrot, cucumber or celery there is one important safety consideration to keep in mind with this technique. Do not let your baby chew on these things without your supervision. Any kind of food, no matter how soothing and comfortable for your baby to use, will eventually break down, and not always into easy-to-swallow portions either. To play it safe it is a good idea to use a mesh fresh food holder. The carrot is probably the best teething food before your baby has any teeth, but after those chompers pop out, it becomes a risk for choking. I personally like the celery the best, because even when it starts to break down, the thick fibers running the length of the stalk prevent any separating chunks from being too big. I recommend using older, wilted celery (still refrigerated and cold) because it has a more rubbery texture and is less likely to break off into chunks than if it was fresh.

3. Amber bead necklaces.
It is easy to come across criticism for this time-honored natural technique from those who haven't tried it, but if you are looking for a disappointed parent who doesn't believe it is effective after having tried it, you'll have a hard time finding one. The criticism focuses on the fact that the amber beads are choking hazards if separated from the necklace, and that the necklace itself is a choking hazard simply by virtue of the fact that it encircles the baby's neck. I have a solution for these issues though, take your amber necklace or bracelet and wrap it around your baby's ankle. Put a sock on over the beads to hold them in place next to the skin, and away from your baby's mouth. If your baby is at the "taking-off-my-socks-and-sucking-on-my-toes-is-the-funnest- thing-in-the-world" stage, simply put on a pair of footy-pajamas over the socks. You can find beautiful and natural amber necklaces for yourself and your baby here: . I recommend buying two so one can be warming up in the sun while your baby is wearing the other one. Try to always warm the amber in the sun for an hour or two before letting your baby wear it because this softens the amber and mobilizes the oils that will help sooth your baby's pain.

4. Clove oil.
This natural local anesthetic is very potent and should be used with great care. One drop thoroughly diluted in 1 tsp olive oil should last for at least 8 applications. How you apply it is to take the mixture of olive oil and clove oil and dip a cotton swab into it, then quickly and carefully rub the cotton swab over your baby's gums. The clove oil has a nasty taste to it, so a quick feeding right afterward could help clear your baby's palate. It is very important not to over-use this mixture. It should only be applied about 4-6 times a day, and the best time to use it is at bedtime. A quick application before naps and night time sleep numbs the pain just long enough for your baby to fall asleep more easily.

5. Wooden teething rings sealed with beeswax.
Natural wooden teething rings which have been finished without the use of any harsh chemicals are one of the best things for a baby to chew on. If you place a wooden ring in the refrigerator in a small dish of water, it will stay cool for longer as your baby mauls it. One added benefit of the wooden ring is that you can wear it as a bracelet, and hand it to your baby as needed so that you don't have to spend 10 minutes searching the depths of the diaper bag for it. I do think that after your baby has gotten some teeth this style of teething ring is slightly less safe. Once your baby has teeth she can scrape away at the smooth surface, dig into the wood and possibly get a splinter. If you notice any cracking or scraping, remove or replace the ring right away. The wood used in most wooden teething rings is high quality, and the potential risk is a very small one, but if there is a drawback to this method, that's the only one I could think of.

No matter how you choose to help your baby get through the most painful moments of teething, they are going to want to chew on something. Hopefully these natural options can give you some ideas for what will work best for you and your little drool-factory. If you have any questions or comments don't hesitate to leave them, I'd love to hear your thoughts. And for my special Tripi's Tip of the Day check me out on! Happy parenting!

Monday, May 25, 2009

5 tips for keeping your baby fit.

Most babies come fully equipped with instincts that they need to help them grow and develop into healthy active adults, but we give them the things they weren't born with like protection, nourishment, love and healthy habits. For example, a baby does have an instinct to nurse, but not for brushing her teeth. This is why I think it is a great idea for parents to start a morning exercise routine with their babies that consists of developmentally appropriate strength building movements. Just ten minutes in the morning is enough for a baby, they will tire quickly if you push them too much but just a little exercise is invigorating. These moves have the added benefit of also being able to help your baby expel gas. I would recommend either feeding your baby after the exercise, or at least an hour before to prevent causing any digestive discomfort.

1. Baby pull ups.
This move is good to start trying when your baby is one month old. Lay your baby on your lap with your knees together. Your baby's head should be by your knees, and the bottom should be on your thighs. Wrap your baby's fingers around your thumbs so he is holding on and begin to slowly lift your thumbs away from your baby, upward. Your baby should hold on tight and pull back on your thumbs, and even tense his neck or try to lift his head a little. Don't actually lift your baby off of your legs, or raise his head more than an inch or so in case his strength suddenly gives out. Simply pull up, then lower your baby gently back down 4 or 5 times with slow fluid motions. This move primarily tones your baby's arms, but the neck and stomach also benefit.

2. Baby squats.
To start this move, you can keep your baby laying on your lap as described in the first tip. Then, place the palms of your hands against your baby's cute little bare feet and press up toward her bottom. If your baby doesn't push against your hands, try tickling her feet for a couple of seconds before trying again. if your baby's legs tremble or shake when you are beginning to push, don't worry, this is fairly common in newborns, it comes from a lack of muscle tone. This exercise is actually one of those that physical therapists use for helping tone a baby's legs. Repeat 4 or 5 times, as you do these exercises with your baby every morning, your baby will quickly become stronger and able to do more.

3. Baby push-ups.
Although your baby will do a lot of this kind of exercise when placed on a blanket on the floor for tummy time, most of the work down there will be done by your baby's back, not the arms. This exercise is very similar to the first one, except that you will pull your baby's arms toward your chest to get ready, then push them back toward your baby's own chest. Think of your thumbs as the bench press weight bar, and your lap as the bench. If you don't meet any resistance try making the first little push of the motion two or three times very quickly, as soon as your baby begins resisting your pressure, keep pushing steadily toward your baby's chest.

4. Baby sit ups.
Now I know your baby won't be sitting up for a few more months, but that doesn't mean you can't start building the strength your baby will need right now. This exercise move is a lot easier if you prop your baby up with a pillow or rolled up blanket so he is in a reclined but sitting position. Now, lift his legs up about 4 or 5 inches off the ground and tickle his knees. The knee tickling isn't important, it's just fun. Now holding his knees, pull his legs quickly toward you just a little bit, and as soon as you have resistance press them down to the floor and hold them firmly, pulling just a little bit toward yourself. Your baby should let out a big grunt and try to lean forward. This is what a sit-up looks like at the age of 1 or 2 months. Only do 4 or 5, unless your baby insists that you keep going. He is the boss after all.

5. Baby side-lifts.
Now this move is really for the strengthening of your baby's neck. The muscles that keep your baby's head steady are not in the front or the back, they are on the sides of the neck. To start, roll your baby onto her side, and prop her up on a pillow, a rolled up blanket or your lap. Hold her with one hand on her chest and one hand on her back, and lift her up until she is almost perpendicular, then lower her back down. When she feels the motion of being lifted she will automatically stiffen the muscles in her neck to help lift her head. Don't support your baby's head on the side, her shoulder is there and provides plenty of support, but do be prepared to quickly lower your baby back down if her head starts to wobble or look uncomfortable. This move is a good one to practice all through the day. Whenever you pick up your baby, roll her onto her side and lift her up sideways before positioning her on your shoulder or lap. The more often you do this exercise, the sooner your baby's neck will be strong and stable.

I hope you and your baby have a great time doing these exercises together. Who knows, getting your little one into a healthy groove with working out every morning, may just inspire you to make it a part of your morning routine as well! If you like to work out at night, and want to do these exercises at bedtime with your baby, try to finish the excises part of the routine at least an hour before it is time to go to sleep. Exercise can get babies wound up and can make sleep difficult if the two are too close together. Please pass these tips on to any new or expecting parents you know, and if you have any questions or comments, I'd love to hear them! Happy parenting!

For safety tips and my "Tripi's Tip of the Day" visit

Toddler Tuesday: 5 developmentally stimulating games

Toddler Tuesday Tips!

So today I am introducing Toddler Tuesday! I may not be the first person to ever have this idea, but I still think it is a good one. Each Tuesday, my tips will be for the parents of toddlers! Today I thought I would share some of the fun and educational activities that are good for a toddler to do. Some of these will be easier and some will be harder, every child is different, so don't worry if one of these activities seems a little beyond your little finger-food fanatic.

1. Stacking blocks.
Just regular old run of the mill blocks will do for this activity. Padded blocks don't stack well, big card board box blocks are never really square and odd-sized blocks can be frustrating at first. Just a normal set of wooden alphabet blocks that are uniformly square are great for stacking. First let your baby look at the blocks and investigate them on their own for a little while, then begin to model for them the right way to stack the blocks. Count each new block with an excited voice as your tower gets taller, then say "time to knock it down!" and push over the tower. Your toddler will be most interested in knocking down the tower at first, but keep at it, and soon you'll see great stacking skills develop.

2. Throwing a ball.
For this I recommend that parents start with a soft ball. Your toddler might take a long time to figure out how to get the ball to fly through the air like you do, or the ball could come hurtling right at your head on the first try, so plan for the worst. This activity is a great one to do outside on summer days, or in the living room during the winter. Try sitting with your feet touching your child's feet so that your legs form a diamond shape, then tossing and rolling the ball back and forth.

3. Make-believe with stuffed animals.
You may have already had your baby pick up the remote control and hold it to their ear while saying "heh-woeh?", in which case CUTE!!! The next step is to get your child to use figure-type toys, like stuffed animals, dolls or action figures to model behavior that he sees around the house. Sit down together with some spoons and an empty cup and "feed" the stuffed bear, or use a brush to help the dolly comb her hair. The nice thing about this kind of activity is that it doesn't require you to always be around for it to be fun. The other day my son was making the penguin clap it's hands while reciting "patty cake". He was rolling on the floor laughing while I was tidying up the kitchen!

4. Sorting colors and shapes.
There are a million toys on the market that are made to help your child do this exact activity, so use whichever one you have handy, I don't have much of a preference here. If you want you can combine sorting with putting the shaped in the holes, or sorting colors by stacking the disks on the pegs. I really love when there are a couple of different ways to sort the same objects. Like first sorting them by color, then resorting them by shape. An advanced form of this game would include things like texture and sound, but move at whatever pace is comfortable for you and your child. Sit together at a small table and begin by modeling the type of sorting that you want your child to do first. If they try to participate, but are getting it wrong, simple kindly explain where that piece really goes and why, then move it there yourself.

5. Threading beads on a pipe-cleaner.
This is a great fine-motor coordination activity. The hardest part about this activity is the amount of concentration and attention span that it requires. I wouldn't push your child to do it with you, but perhaps if you sit and do it for a while near where they are playing, they will come and express some interest. Use large wooden or plastic beads, so there is less of a chance that they will break or be ingested, and attach one to the end of the pipe cleaners to start with so that the beads your baby puts on won't just fall off the other end. If you fill a couple of strands you can segue into a fun game of dress-up in which the beaded strands can be crowns, and necklaces! This is one of those activities that my son has to have mommy help him with and that requires some clean up afterward. No one wants to step on a bead in the middle of the night.

I hope you all like my new segment, Toddler Tuesdays!, the regularly scheduled 5 baby tips will be back tomorrow. Thanks for reading, and as always, if you have any questions or comments, I'd love to hear from you!

Friday, May 22, 2009

5 tips for effective use of cloth diapers.

Alright, yesterday I wrote about disposable diapers, so in the interest of being fair and P.C. Today I want to write about cloth diapers! Many of the positions I have worked in as a Nanny and as a child care professional have required that I be familiar with the cloth diaper and it's benefits. What my employers didn't always know was that in the 80's my mother practiced cloth diapering with my siblings, and as the oldest daughter of 10 siblings, I had my fair share of first hand exposure to the topic. I have quite a few tips and tricks to pass on to new mothers who choose cloth diapering. First of all, let me say, I admire you. I respect your choice, and I hope that my tips can help make it an easier one for you. Now for the tips...

1. Know the fold.
There is a certain fold that is the best for cloth diapering. Most cloth diapering sites will show you how it is done, but let me describe it loosely here. Lay the diaper flat with the thick part running from your left hand to your right hand horizontally. With your right hand fold in the thinner corners of the cloth diaper so that they overlap in the middle on the right side, making the diaper look like a blunted arrow with the wide end on your left and the blunt but pointier end on the right. Now take about 1 inch of the diapers edge on each of the 2 ends and fold them in towards one another. This is the diaper fold that will be best for preventing leaks for you and your baby. The large end goes across your babies behind, and the blunted point goes just under your babies belly button.

2. Change often.
One of the basic drawbacks of the cloth diaper is that they cannot hold very much liquid before they need to be changed. They do breath better than any other kind of diaper, but if you don't remove every wet diaper immediately, they will start to chafe your baby's bottom, and that chaffing is hard to get rid of. So do a load of diapers every night, or have the diaper service pick up the diapers as often as the y will, and be liberal with the changing of the nappy.

3. Baking soda satchel between diaper and cover.
This is a little trick that my grandmother used. she took a small cotton sack and filled it half way with baking soda, and slipped it in between the cover (in those days a cover was a heavy plastic thing with tight elastic at the legs) and the cloth diaper. It worked wonders for absorbing smells, and didn't run the risk of caking onto the baby's bottom or irritating the skin. If you have a sewing machine you can turn one of these out pretty quick.

4. Double up for over-nights.
Changing often is all fine and good until you try to get your baby to sleep through the night. Doubling the cloth diaper is the usual remedy for lasting 6 to 8 hours. However, I have a trick, (surprised?) Take some batting, used for padding quilts, and sew a strip of it to the underside of a regular cloth diaper's thicker inner strip, covered with a bit of breathable cotton. Next time you diaper your baby for the night still use two diapers, but have the batting sandwiched between the two. This will capture overflows just long enough to let them absorb into one of the diapers instead of running out the leg opening. If you still experience leaks you can flip the reinforced diaper over so the batting will start to slow the flow of fluid faster, but there is an increased risk of diaper rash.

5. Keep burp-cloths and diapers separate.
Never confuse the nappy's that you are using for your baby's behind, and those that you may use for your baby's face. Though there is very little chance that bacteria would survive washing and be able to cause your baby an eye infection or worse, there is still that small chance. Not to mention the chance that the sugars in your baby's spit up could VERY easily survive washing to give your baby a yeast infection. Simply devise a system (putting a small mark by a permanent marker in the corner of the diapers meant for the baby behind) that you can maintain simply and easily.

Over all, there is not that huge a difference between changing one diaper or another. The challenges you will face with cloth diapering will without question be worth the returns, and with a few tricky tips up your sleeve, those challenges might prove to be nothing more than a momentary distraction from the overall joy of being a mother. If you find these tips helpful, please pass them on to any new mothers or soon-to-be mothers that you might know. I relish questions and comments, so please don't hesitate to leave it if you have one. Happy parenting!

5 tips for dressing your new baby.

Newborn babies are so delicate and wiggly and STRONG. How is a parent supposed to get clothes on one of these little escape artists? I remember once when I was very young, struggling to get a t-shirt on my little brother. I would pull his arm through the sleeve, and reach for the other one, only to find that he'd immediately pulled the first arm back out! Gently my mom took over and miraculously slipped the shirt on in one fluid motion. I was in awe. Although I have never mastered the "one fluid motion" technique, I have figured out several easy tips for getting clothes on a little jelly-belly wiggle monster.

1. Push, don't pull.
Reverse psychology starts early in parenting. A baby is born with the instinct to resist when their arms or legs are pushed or pulled. It is an important instinct because it helps their muscles develop and stay toned. However it does make pulling a babies arm through a sleeve crazy-hard. The trick is to bunch up the sleeve a little, and push it onto the baby's arm hand first. The baby will naturally resist the pressure, and slip their arm right into the sleeve. This trick also works for putting pants on.

2. Bunch up the outfit before pulling it over the face.
Another hard part of dressing a baby is pulling an article of clothing over your baby's head. Babies have another instinct that is designed to help them survive, and that is to hold their breath when something covers their face. This alone isn't so troublesome, but they also get a shot of adrenaline to the system that can upset them and keep them from falling asleep afterwords for up to an hour. To avoid this pitfall try to bunch up your baby's shirt (or dress or night-shirt) until it is basically shaped like a doughnut. Then put your baby's head through the "doughnut" face first, so that no cloth actually covers their face. Then you can work on the sleeves (see tip #1).

3. Watch out for pinkie toes!
Baby pinkie toes have a terrible habit of sticking out from the side of a baby's foot at just the wrong moment. They can catch on everything! Socks, shoes and even pants can be a hazard for your sweet little butter ball's tiny tootsies. Scrunching up socks to fully enclose the toes before pushing them on is a good place to start. Shoes and sandals are easier to slip on if you put the toes in first by turning the shoe sideways so they all fit in easier and faster. And slipping your hand up the pant leg from the bottom so you can hold the toes together as they come down through the leg hole are a few things I do to help keep an eye on those sweet little toes.

4. Guard the inside of a zipper with one finger to keep it from catching on baby's skin.
Most of us as adults have experienced the horrible pain that comes from catching a little of our skin in a zipper, and we have learned how to avoid having it happen for the most part. But many times we don't think about how to prevent it from happening to a baby until it is too late. All you need to do to keep you a baby's skin safe from zippers is to grasp the actual zipper with a finger on the inside and the outside while pulling the zipper up. You can also use the zipper pull with one hand while the other hand holds the zipper away from the baby's skin from the outside, but this technique takes two hands and isn't as effective because it offers no protection for your baby's neck when the zipper gets to the top.

5. Roll baby on the side to move clothes under.
One of the first puzzles a parent is faced with when dressing their new baby is how to get their footy pajamas under the baby while the baby is already lying on the changing table. Many people hold the baby on their chest while they arrange the clothes with the other hand, but this can be precarious, and difficult. I recommend dressing one side of your baby, then roll them up onto their side that isn't dressed yet, tuck the remaining half of the pajamas as far under the back of your baby as you can, then roll them back over onto the side that you've already dressed. Then you should be able to pull the rest of the pajamas out from under your baby and dress their remaining side.

Many of these tips you may have already figured out for yourself, or you might have developed a technique that works better for you. I do hope that there are some parents out there who will find them helpful though. They are just a few things I've learned over the years, that I wish someone could have shown me earlier on. If you find my tips helpful, please pass them on to any new parents you might know who could use a few extra tips and techniques for caring for their new babies. An extra Tripi's Tip of the Day can be found at my blog at and as always all of your questions and comments are welcome! Happy parenting!

5 tips for effective use of disposable diapers.

Diapering is a messy business. No matter what you choose (disposable, flush-able or cloth), there is no getting around the fact that they all have their drawbacks. One of the most widely used forms of diapering is of course disposable, and while there are many reasons and arguments about why people should (convenience) or should not (environment) use them, a less often discussed topic is how they should be used to their best advantage if they are the diaper of choice for you. Obviously most folks can tell which end to put them on, and which side goes in the front, but there are a couple other considerations you might find helpful.

1. Fit
The weight restriction on diaper packages are a very broad generality, and should be used as a vague rule of thumb, not gospel. A disposable diaper should be able to cover from the middle of the back to just above the belly-button with ease, and the closure tabs should meet or even overlap in the middle. It may sound like I am describing a diaper that is too large, but actually many babies are wearing diapers that are too small. In infants the front of the diaper should be folded down toward the inside so the belly-button is not either irritated by the diaper rubbing it, or urine seeping up to it. I usually fasten the tabs overlapping in a "v" shape low on the front of an infants diaper, this increases the seal around the leg and cuts down on leaks.

2. Absorbency
Don't be fooled by all those "these diapers are for girls and those are for boys" marketing ploys. The placement of absorbent material in the diaper has little to no effect on efficiency. When a baby goes pee they are not going to aim for where the diaper is most absorbent, (especially not little boys!). If your baby's diaper is leaking, it could be because it is too small, improperly fastened or that your baby's "output" was too fast for the diapers "input". If you think you have the right size and fit then you need to try to improve the speed at which the diaper absorbs. I recommend putting an ultra thin super absorbency pantyliner inside your baby's diaper, especially at night. Make sure it is unscented, cotton and free of deodorants. If your baby regularly leaks on the tummy, place the pad horizontally across the front of the diaper on the inside, if the leaks are by the legs position it down the center of the diaper, and if the leaks are up the back, place it horizontally across the back of the diaper on the inside.

3. Smell
Don't be fooled and fall for a diapers claim that their product can neutralize the smell from a diaper. What makes a diaper stink is often not something that is completely absorbed by the diaper, if you get my drift. Poop is what makes diapers stink, and a good thing too! The reason it stinks so much is to prompt us to change it as quickly as possible. The faster you change your babies diaper the better! Though you shouldn't try to cover or neutralize diaper smell while it is on your baby, after you take the diaper off it is a good idea. Since there is no real ecologically friendly way to dispose of a disposable diaper, the least damaging while still controlling the smell is to individually seal disposable diapers in compostable plastic bags and store them in a stainless steel air-tight container until it is time to throw them out. You can also sprinkle baking soda inside the container to help control odor.

4. Rash
The single most important thing you can do to prevent diaper rash is to change your baby's diaper often. Part of the reason that cloth diaper proponents say that diaper rash happens more often in disposable diaper wearing babies is that disposable diapers are so effective at absorbing liquids, that you don't need to change the diaper after each one, and this infrequent changing pattern leads to the buildup of bacteria on our baby's bottom, and that bacteria cause diaper rash. However even the most vigilant parent will sometimes be unable to get to a dirty or wet diaper right away, and diaper rash will happen. The one best ingredient to look for in your diaper rash ointment is zinc oxide. Many creams and salves have it, but some do not, so read the labels before buying. Also, some brands like Boudreaux's Butt Paste, have citrus acid in them, and while this is has antibacterial properties, and therefor helps prevent diaper rash, it can actually sting pretty badly if applied to a bottom that already has a rash on it.

5. Growing
As your baby grows you will need to continually buy bigger and bigger diapers, until they start to pull up on furniture and "cruise". Once your baby is perpendicular to the floor for a good portion of the day each day, the way a diaper should fit changes. A walker's diaper should still start coverage at the small of the back, but in the front it should not reach the belly button. A good fit will have the fastenings nearly touching, and the front of the diaper reaching only up to the bottom of where the belly starts to stick out. Though night time diapers can still be larger to maximize coverage and protection, if your baby wears those diapers during the day, some serious sagging will most likely be on the agenda, and sagging equals leaking.

Keeping your babies bottom clean and comfortable is one of the constant battles that every mother faces. Hopefully, these little tips of mine will help you have a couple more tools in your arsenal of useful things to know about how to properly protect your baby's behind. If you have any questions or comments for me please don't hesitate to share them, I love feedback, and will try to respond to any questions you might have in a timely manner. If you find these tips useful, please pass them on to other new moms that you know. Also you can find a my Tripi's Tip of the Day here: Happy parenting!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

5 tips for keeping your baby smelling fresh.

Not too long after you bring your baby home, you will be confronted with one of the basic aspects of having a baby, the smell. I'm not talking about the sweet fresh skin smell, or the baby-lotion and scented wipe smell, I'm talking about the sour-milk in skin folds, waste particles that you can't figure out where they are hiding, pungent crib-cap build up and a combination of sweat and dead skin cells that leaves an unmistakeably "ripe" smell behind. Most babies are not able to be bathed for the first few weeks that they are home because of the healing belly-button and some babies have sensitive skin issues that effectively restrict how often they can be bathed, but that doesn't mean there is nothing you can do to help your little one stay fresh. The issue of baby hygiene is a sensitive one, since no one wants to think that they are the one with the stinky baby, but with a few easy tips you should be able to be sure that your little love blossom actually smells like one.

1. Use a squirt-bottle solution and a cloth to refresh your baby's neck after naps.

In a squirt bottle combine 2.5 cups of sterile water, 1 teaspoon of hydrogen peroxide, 2-3 drops of lavender oil (other oils can be substituted) and 1 tablespoon of chamomile tea. This solution is gentle and effective at neutralizing odor-causing bacteria, and soothing for your baby. If you'd like to go completely natural, you could just use water as well, but the odor-fighting properties are greatly reduced. A trick for getting your baby to let you wipe their ticklish neck is to drape the cloth around their neck from the back like a shawl, then hold onto the two corners in front and rotate the cloth around so that it is hanging in the front like a bib.

2. To reduce the unsightliness and smell of crib-cap, apply a couple drops of oil.
2-3 drops of mineral oil combined with a scented oil of your choice (like rose or lavender) applied with a gentle sponge to your baby's scalp will moisten the skin cell build up, and mask the unpleasant smell. An organic baby safe lotion can be substituted if you are unable to find an oil that you like (though it doesn't tend to last as long or be quite as effective). Be extremely gently around your baby's soft spot in the center of the top of the skull. Since the oil can make your baby's hair look wet and greasy, I recommend that you wash your baby's hair with a warm washcloth and a small amount of baby safe shampoo directly after application of the oil. Since the oil will have been absorbed into the skin-cell buildup, you will still be able to enjoy the pleasant scent without the greasy looking hair.

3. Keep your baby's clothes and linens fresh.
In the summer heat especially, your baby's clothes will accumulate dead skin cells, drool, spit-up and sweat very quickly. If you are able to keep up with the laundry I recommend changing your baby's clothing at least twice a day. If that much laundry is intimidating, or you practice water conservation, you could try leaving your baby in just a diaper or just an undershirt (if it is warm enough) for the first half of the day, or the second half, depending on when (and if) you are able to get out of the house that day. Then change into the cute outfit for when you go out. Also change your baby's bedding regularly, at least once or twice a week. Not only can old sheets be stinky, they can also attract biting insects.

4. Wipe out your baby's mouth after feedings.
The solution I used with my son was 1/4 teaspoon baking soda to 1 & 1/2 cup warm water. I would dip a clean cotton washcloth into the water and just gently wipe the inside of his cheeks off. Simply using water is fine as well, though the hint of baking soda seemed to help the freshness last much longer. Just introducing the practice of cleaning your baby's mouth after feedings is beneficial as well, since it helps to prevent thrush and when you transition to a tooth brush, the routine will already be familiar, and less likely to be a struggle.

5. Keep your baby's nails trimmed, and filed.
One of the scariest jobs a new parent has is to cut their baby's fingernails. When clipping baby's nails, hold the baby in your lap until it is asleep, then hold their hand in the position that you would hold your own hand to clip the nails. Make sure there is plenty of light and that you have sharp nail clippers or nail scissors, since dull ones can end up ripping your baby's nail into the nail bed. If you just can't bring yourself to risk cutting the tip of your baby's finger, another method that you could try is to nibble your baby's nails. Your teeth and tongue are very sensitive and gentle, and you can often do a much better more accurate job of nail-nibbling than you could have with the clippers or scissors. I do not recommend that parents use emery boards to trim baby nails, because the amount of friction required to effectively trim a baby's nails can be a lot more painful for your baby than a little nip-o'-the-tip by clippers (think of how it would feel to have rug burn on the tip of your fingers). You could use an emery board to do some light smoothing of rough edges or sharp corners though, since you need to use much less friction against your baby's skin to do this. I know baby nails don't particularly smell bad, but they can be havens for all kinds of bacteria that could prove harmful if not cleaned and trimmed regularly.

These tips don't necessarily need to be used every day, but it's good to know that you can do something if your punkin' gets a little ripe. If you find these tips and tricks helpful please pass them on to any new parents you know, and don't hesitate to leave questions or comments. If you have any tips that you are looking for, just let me know and I will pass on anything I know to help you out. Happy parenting!

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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

5 tips for reintroducing the breast to your baby.

Introducing your baby to the breast can be a deceptively difficult thing for many mothers. Whether you have been experiencing a low flow, your milk seems to disagree with you baby or due to prematurity your baby was introduced to the bottle before the breast, some mothers have a difficult time convincing their little one to give breastfeeding a try. There are a few little tips I have for moms to help babies overcome their mammary shyness. Of course there are times when nothing can convince a baby to take to the breast, (or the breast to produce milk) but thanks to all of the wonderful advances in formula, babies who are not breast fed are still able to grow and develop just fine. For those moms who want to, and are able to, breast feed but are hitting a rough spot at the very beginning, I wish you luck and I hope my tips can help.

1. Offer your baby breast milk in a bottle if they initially reject the breast.
If your newborn rejects the breast on your first try, don't automatically give up and substitute formula. Pump every 2 hours for 15 minutes at minimum, holding your baby skin-to-skin to stimulate flow, and add as much of your own milk to the feeds as possible. Having your baby on you while pumping helps associate the smell of milk with you, an association that is important to have in place if you want to avoid future rejections.

2. Moisten a small clean cloth with breast milk and wipe out your baby's mouth after feeds.
Even if your baby is being supplemented with formula, you want the lingering taste in their mouth to be your breast milk. Leaving the cloth near your baby between feeds will also familiarize your baby with the smell, and reinforce a positive association.

3. Experiment with different nursing positions.
For many babies, especially premature babies, the problem of reflux is very real, but undiagnosed. The most common nursing holds for babies are completely horizontal, this can cause a great deal of discomfort in a baby with reflux, the signs of which (arching of the back, tightly closing the mouth, crying out in short high pitched cries and gagging) can look very much like breast rejection to a new mother. Bottle feeding naturally lends itself to an incline, and when new mothers see that their baby willingly takes the bottle, they can easily come to the conclusion that their baby would rather have it than the breast. Sometimes this is in fact the case, but just to be sure, I recommend that moms do try an inclined nursing position before deciding on primarily using the bottle.

4. Use a nipple-shield to reintroduce the breast to your baby.
If your baby has had a few feedings by bottle because they just weren't taking to the breast right away, or because your milk supply took a little longer to kick in, don't just try to give them your breast without the plastic barrier. The nipple shield helps regulate your milk flow to more closely resemble a bottles, and the texture is consistent with a bottle nipple, these elements, along with the fact that a nipple shield makes extracting the milk from your breast a little bit easier, makes the nipple shield a great way to gradually reintroduce the breast. After your baby is consistently nursing with the nipple shield in place, you can start removing it toward the end of the nursing, and letting your baby try recreational bare skin nursing for a while. As soon as your baby takes the nipple bare with no resistance, you can begin trying the feedings without the nipple shield at all.

5. Use your pinkie as a pacifier until your baby is using the breast for feeds.
The warm real feel of skin is just not able to be completely duplicated by pacifier producers, and the comfort provided by pacifier use can cause resistance to the texture of your nipple. Using your finger both will trigger your own chemistry to produce more milk, and give your baby a realistic association of texture with comfort. Make sure your fingernails and any hang nails are trimmed off as far as they'll go, and use an emery board to round off any hard edges for safety. Keep your finger very clean, wash it between every use. Place the pad of your pinkie (or larger finger if your baby seems unsatisfied with the pinkie), on the roof of your baby's mouth, nail-side down, against the tongue. Every baby I've tried this with over the years has found it very soothing, and I recommend it often. Since you may want your baby to be soothed without your needing to stand there with your finger in their mouth eventually, as soon as your baby is taking all feeds from the breast feel free to substitute an actual pacifier for your finger.

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5 tips for reducing baby spit-up and soothing reflux.

When I was little, I remember thinking that it was natural for babies to spit up about half of their feeding every time they were burped. Now I know that was not true, and it is very likely that my younger brothers and sisters all had severe reflux. Gastroesophageal reflux (infant acid reflux) is basically the inability of a baby's throat to close all the way to keep food down.

For general questions about your baby's spit-up, check here.

It is theorized that many babies have this issue early on, but most grow out of it within the first couple of weeks. The symptoms don't all have to be as extreme as the example I've given, the medical rule of thumb is much broader: If a baby has thrown up 1/3 of a feeding 3 times a day for 3 weeks out of a month for the first 3 months they are considered to have reflux. Of course using that system of measure, you won't even receive the diagnosis until your baby is 3 months old. Since there are several simple easy things you can do to help your baby avoid the discomfort associated with reflux, I recommend that for those first 3 months, if you are in doubt, go ahead and treat it as if it is reflux, it can't hurt, and could very well help.

1. Feed your baby on a 45 degree angle and keep them like that for about 20 minutes after they finish.
Keep your baby's head up, that way the milk won't simply run back up your baby's throat, and has a better chance of being digested right away. A baby will begin to digest breast milk within seconds of the start of nursing, and formula is not far behind, that means that if this milk comes back up the esophagus the stomach acids in it will burn and cause discomfort. Keeping your baby's head elevated during a feed, and for 15-20 minutes afterward will help give them time to completely digest the remainder of the milk.

2. Do not rough-house with your baby for at least an hour after eating.This tip is hard for some proud daddies to remember. There is nothing so fun as twirling around with your baby in your arms, or lifting them up in the air and swinging them up and down to get giggles and grins. However this will almost certainly result in a thorough splattering with a warm white chunky substance. Though the spit-up itself is not really dangerous, your baby's milk is put to much better use in their tummy than on your face, or the furniture.

3. Add a couple of drops of fennel, chamomile and peppermint herbal tea to your baby's feeding.If you are breast feeding, you can drip a couple of drops in your baby's mouth just before you begin to nurse (a trick for doing this is to use a bottle nipple that is unattached to a bottle, and when it is in your baby's mouth, use a plunger to squirt a very small amount into it. Though your baby may not like the taste and will probably spit out the nipple right away, they only need to have ingested a very small bit to get the positive effects). If you are not breast feeding you can add a couple small drops directly to the formula. You can make the tea with a couple fresh sprigs of fennel, a few leaves of peppermint and a teabag of chamomile (unless you have some wild growing nearby, then fresh is best). Just soak them in some hot water until they are wilted, or the water changes color, there is no need to make it particularly strong. You can drink the rest of the tea, it boosts digestion and is calming to the nervous system (though you might want to save a little to give to your baby later). These drops should be given no more than 3 times a day, and as little as once can be beneficial.

4. Burp your baby at least three times during each feed, as well as afterward.The less gas in your baby's tummy, the better digestion will be and there will be less internal pressure as well. Do not feel that you need to make a bubble come up each time you pause for a burping, it is just a short break (4-5 minutes) to give gas an extra chance to come up if it is there, if you spend too long waiting for a bubble each time, the feeding could end up lasting hours.

5. Tuck a rolled up burp cloth or wash cloth under one of your baby's shoulders when you lay them down to sleep for the night.Raising one shoulder just a little will encourage your baby to sleep with their head turned to the side. Though all of the food in their tummy should be digested before you lay them down to sleep for the night sometimes they will have saved a little surprise for later. Though the chances that they might choke on their own spit-up are small, the process of coughing, gurgling and gulping that can happen when spiting up while laying completely flat can cause your baby quite a bit of discomfort and stress. Since discomfort and stress are not conducive to anyone having a good nights rest, it is better if your baby has to spit-up, that they do it to the side, and don't have to clear their airway after.

A bumper-sticker I saw the other day had some wise words to share on this topic: "spit happens". Nothing could be more true in the world of babies, except maybe the more crude saying that this one is making a play off of. However, despite all of the unpleasant things we have to deal with as parents, knowing we have done everything we could to help our baby be safe and happy makes it all better. I hope these tips are helpful to you and your baby. Please feel free to leave comments and questions and share this blog with any new mothers you might know.

Monday, May 18, 2009

5 tips for helping relieve baby's gas pains.

With every baby comes the problem of gas, and gas-related pains. For some babies these pains come only once in a great while, for others they are a regular part of their eating and sleeping routine. Gas pains can be identified by a few basic signs like squirming while asleep, sudden crying out (for no apparent reason when you know they shouldn't be hungry yet, and their diaper is clean), pushing the legs straight and stiff, and grunts which end in cries.

Some parents have had success using homeopathic gas remedies, but I have found that their effect is very small if detectable at all and much too expensive to be feasible for daily use. Also, one should be careful with gas drops because they work by consolidating all of the small bubbles in your babies tummy which encourage the gas to be expelled in one big burp rather than traveling through the digestive system. This doesn't always work as planned, if your baby does not burp after a feeding despite gas drops being used the resulting gas pains will be a lot worse than they would have been without them. Gripe water is often a better assistant, but many babies do not respond to it either. These tips and tricks are a few quick easy things you can do to help relieve your baby's discomfort from gas pains.

1. Prop your babies feet up an inch or two while they are sleeping.
This position reduces pressure on the abdomen, and as a result your baby will strain less when pushing to expel gas or gas-causing solids. Many women during pregnancy find this position comfortable for the same reason. I would recommend using something solid like part of a side-sleep support rather than a blanket because there is less of a risk that the baby could find a way to pull it over their face, or wiggle under it.

2. Gently massage around your baby's belly button in a clockwise circular motion.
This is one of the most basic forms of infant massage designed to help move gas and solids through the large intestine, which is the area it most often will get lodged in, causing pain. Other basic infant massage strokes include stroking from the base of your baby's rib cage downward to their hips and walking your fingers from left to right across your baby's tummy over and over again slowly moving from beneath the ribs to the diaper fastenings. If it is warm out, you can massage your baby while in nothing but their diaper using a light water based moisturizer like Avalon Organics Baby Lotion.

3. Place a warm towel low on the belly.
Sometimes a baby can get cramps from straining to move gas and solids through their bowels that are comparable to most menstrual cramps. Placing a warmed towel low on their tummy provides the same kind of relief that a heating pad provides for a grown woman. A warm bath can also be soothing in the same way.

4. Give your baby some tummy-time.
A little pressure on the tummy can be just the thing to help your baby push the irritation out. While your baby is laying on their tummy gentle stroking of the back from shoulder blades down to the hips can also sooth and relax your baby enough that the gas can be naturally expelled with less straining. Tummy time can be uncomfortable just after feeding, so do try to wait at least 15-20 minutes before you try this tip.

5. Play "Toes-On-Your-Nose" with your baby.
This is a home-remedy that has been passed down for generations. While your baby is laying on a comfortably padded and safe surface (like your lap), take their feet in your hands and gently stretch them up toward your baby's face. It is fun to sing or recite a little rhyme while you do this, and you might even elicit a little giggle from an older infant. When your baby is nice and relaxed, they should be able to touch their toes to their nose with very little pressure from you. Do not ever force your baby into a position that they are resisting. Also, be sensitive to their signals, and if they cry and arch away from you the game could be pinching a gas bubble or increasing their discomfort in another way. However if your baby is enjoying the game it can not only relieve gas, but be a sweet bonding-time for the two of you.

Gas pains are inevitable for babies, but for some they can make you both down-right miserable. I've recently added a few more tips for parents to try that can be read here. These tips have given me a helping time and again over the years. I hope you find them useful, please feel free to leave comments and questions or suggestions about these or any of my tips. If you find these tips helpful please do share them with your friends and family, especially those who are expecting a new baby. Thank you for reading!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

5 tips and a trick for helping a sick baby feel better.

Spring has sprung, and summer is sneaking in the back door, the days are warm and the flowers are blooming! Time for your baby to catch a cold, or show the sings of seasonal allergies. After you have gone to the Dr. and have been told that your baby is okay, and that in a few days everything will return to normal you are left returning home with a miserable baby. Fortunately there are a few things you can do to make things easier on your baby. Keep in mind that these tips are not intended to diagnose or treat the underlying cause of your babies discomfort. These tips are only designed to alleviate the symptoms of infant colds and seasonal allergy-type sensitivities. If at any time you notice a change in the symptoms your baby is exhibiting contact your Pediatrician to receive a professional diagnosis.

1. Place your baby in a bouncy-seat for naps, and even night-sleep.
The bouncy-seat should not be bounced, but the incline can be very beneficial to your baby. When a baby has a stuffy head, laying flat can be very uncomfortable. Runny noses can become a post-nasal drip and cause a sore throat as well when a baby is placed flat on their back. I would recommend placing the bouncy-seat in the nursery, or near where your infant sleeps regularly, in order to keep as much continuity in the sleep routine as possible.

2. Use saline drops and bulb to clear nasal passage ways before you lay your baby down to sleep, and before feeding times.
If your babies nose is running, just using the bulb will generally be effective in clearing your babies airway. However, if your baby is congested but their nose is not running, saline drops will help break up the mucus for easier removal with the bulb. I personally have used breast milk in the place of saline drops to great effect, but stop short or actually recommending that others do so because of a lack of widespread medical support of the practice (though many babies spit up through their noses on a fairly regular basis with no negative side effects). It is important to do this before feeding time to reduce the amount of mucus your baby swallows, as that can result in an upset stomach. Also, if your baby can breath easily while eating, they will be able to eat more, and it will be less of an effort for them. Sleeping is also much easier with cleared nasal passages, though you will probably need to re-clear them a couple of times a night.

3. To sooth itchy eyes use a couple of drops of breast milk.
Breast milk has been shown to be an effective remedy for conjunctivitis, and safe for application to your babies eyes. Use a sterile dropper, and just drop one or two drops in each eye a few times a day if your babies eyes seem red and swollen. This should be soothing and calming for your babies eye tissue, if the redness doesn't decrease or increases, discontinue this treatment.

4. Use a humidifier in your babies room or near where your baby sleeps.
Air with a little moisture in it can sooth the breathing passages for your baby and keep them from having dried out mucus irritate their sensitive noses and throats. Keeping the air moist is very good for your babies resistance to reinfection as well. Dry mucus membranes can develop small cracks that render your baby more susceptible to viruses. Adding a couple drops of tea tree oil, eucalyptus oil or lavender oil to the water in your humidifier will also be a bit more soothing for your baby.

5. Dab a small amount of Water based lubricant around your babies nose to reduce friction from nose-wiping.
Aquaphor and Aqueous Cream are a couple of my favorite types of baby safe water based lubricants, safe for babies nose, and easy on the environment. They seal in the moisture of your baby's skin and seal out the bacteria and germs in the mucus. If your baby is drooling a lot you can also rub some Aquaphor on their chin and neck to help prevent chafing and acne.

Trick: Some breastfeeding mothers swear by the practice of eating a lot of garlic while their baby is sick, to pass the beneficial properties through their milk. You can also try this with vitamin C, and zinc, though always check with your Pediatrician before making any major changes to your diet while breastfeeding.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

5 tips and 2 tricks for keeping your baby cool this summer.

When the temperature goes up moods can go down, especially with babies. Trying to keep your little one cool on a hot day is a little tricky. Even when you stay indoors if the temperature is high outside, your baby might be feeling the effects. Running your AC too high can dry the air, and give your sensitive little ones a chill (not to mention being hard on the environment). And since we sometimes have to get out of the house on a hot day, it is important to keep in mind that many Pediatricians do not recommend sunscreen for the first few months. This means you are faced with the task of keeping your baby both covered and cool. Besides the obvious, like an awning on your stroller, a fan in the babies room and a hat while outdoors, here are a few lesser-known tips for keeping your baby from over-heating.

1. Use a misting spray bottle to keep your babies cotton cap slightly damp.
While you don't want to soak your baby, a light misting over clothes and cap can provide just enough of a temperature reduction to keep you both happy. Cotton is the best material for this because it is less likely to shrink, and it breathes enough to allow for quicker evaporation. Keep an eye on the breeze, because if it picks up, the chill factor will as well. If your baby cools too quickly it can be just as uncomfortable as the heat, so keep the mist light and don't refresh it until the last misting is completely dry.

2. Refrigerate pacifiers which still have a little water left in them from being sanitized.
You know how after bringing your babies pacifiers to a boil on the stove-top they are filled with water? That water is sterile, and can do a great job of helping to keep your baby cool when it is left inside the pacifier and allowed to cool in the refrigerator. Don't worry if a little seeps out and runs down onto your babies clothes, that can also help with the heat.

3. Wrap a couple refrigerated cooling packs in wash cloths and tuck them into the lining of your babies car seat.
Refrigerated cooling packs that are insulated from direct contact with your babies skin can cool the quilted padding of car seats, strollers, play mats and even bassinets. Do not freeze the cooling packs, because you do not want to risk cooling your baby too much, or having your baby's skin come into contact with a frozen cooling pack. If you would like to try a more ecological choice, a refrigerated cotton sack filled with wheat or lentils works just as well (make certain that the sack is securely closed).

4. Let your baby nap in a swing, rather than in the crib.
Though I don't normally recommend napping-in-motion, during a real hot spell it can make your baby much more comfortable, especially if combined with my other tips. Napping-in-motion (when over-used) creates sleep associations that are hard to break, and that can lead to many sleep problems later on. However, on hot days the discomfort a baby can experience from laying in a warm crib with hot air circulating can out weigh the importance of keeping your babies sleep patterns consistent.

5. Take a tepid bath together.
Bathing with your baby is a great relaxing way to cool off on those hot summer days. Even giving your infant their own bath, either getting completely wet, or just a sponge bath can help relieve the heat. Try this tip just after arriving home from a hot afternoon out. Also, a baby safe water-based moisturizer (like Avalon Organics Baby Lotion) after the bath will help your baby stay cool longer.

Trick: Roll up and freeze several wet baby wash-cloths in a sterile freezer-safe container. Take a couple with you if you head out on a walk, and by the time you and your baby are hot, they will just be thawed enough to give your baby a nice cool face-wipe. You can also let your baby suck or chew on one, which can be quite soothing in the heat, especially if they are teething.

Bonus Trick: If you bottle feed your baby part, or full time, try offering them a room-temperature, or slightly cooler feeding. If they accept it, you can do this more often as days get hotter.

Friday, May 15, 2009

5 tips for air travel with infants.

Traveling on an airplane with an infant can seem like an impossibly difficult task. Though you would be right in assuming that it can be hard, there are some simple ways to make it easier on yourself and your baby. However, before committing to any travel with your baby (either domestic or international), I would highly recommend checking with your travel provider for their requirements and guidelines. Here are my personal top five tips for flying with an infant. These tips are only about making the actual flight easier on you and your baby, not the overall travel experience.

1. Wear your baby.
There is nothing so frustrating as trying to lug all of your things through an airport while trying not to disturb or startle your baby. If your baby is snuggled up next to you, warm and secure, it leaves your hands free to deal with the bags, the ticket and all of the regular juggling you would normally encounter in an airport. One of my favorite baby-wearing tools that is safe for infants is the Moby: . Be sure to check the age and weight restrictions on any baby-wearing devices, because some (like the Bjorn) are not very safe for babies under a certain weight.

2. Start the day by calming yourself.
Do your stressing about the trip the day before you go. Get your itinerary, bags, emergency formula (even if you are breastfeeding it is a good idea to have some prepared formula ready in case your little one gets hungry at just the wrong time for you to be able to deal with it), transportation to and from the airport and all other stressful details in line on the day before you leave. Start the day of the travel by having yourself a cup of chamomile tea, listening to some calming music, doing some calming yoga (if it's calming for you) and snuggling with your baby. The less stressed you are, the less stressed your baby will be.

3. Give your baby a pacifier, a bottle or the breast for take-off and landing.
Your babies ears will feel the pressure changes just like ours do, but infants are unable to "pop" their ears themselves, for an older child I would recommend chewing gum, or blowing their noses, but for infants, the easiest way to get them to stretch their jaw muscles enough to relieve the pressure is through a sucking motion.

4. Have hand-sanitizer easily accessible.
The last thing you or your baby needs is to get sick on the plane. Keeping your hands clean throughout your flight will drastically reduce the risk of coming down with a vacation-spoiling bug. Attach a key-chain sized spray or squirt-bottle to your belt or purse strap for easy access.

5. Bring soothing music/lullabies on an mp3 player.
Whether you use a pair of ear-buds, and simply lay them near your baby, or whether you use the in-flight earphones and try to position them on your babies ears (always test the volume on yourself first), this kind of low-level soothing sound can help your baby block out most of the over-stimulation that surrounds you on an airplane. Sounds from your own nursery noise maker can add a feeling of familiarity and homey comfort.

Airline travel can be hectic and trying even when you only have yourself to deal with. Hopefully these suggestions can give you a few more tools for minimizing the stress of the situation on your baby and yourself. If you have any questions or comments please leave them, I will try to respond to everyone who needs advice. Happy trails!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

5 tips for better sleep the first month.

While babies are developing in the womb Doctors and researchers have found that they are more active at night, and more passive during the day. Of course any 8.5 month pregnant mother could tell you that as well, but for some reason as soon as the Dr. says it, people take it seriously.

One of the hurdles that new parents face upon bringing their new bundle of joy home from the hospital is the issue of sleepless nights. While the baby seems to have no problem sleeping during the day, each night is a constant parade of crying, feeding and pooping. Over the years I have developed a few quick tips to help new parents minimize the readjustment period, and to speed the process of switching the infant's sleeping-time to night, and awake-time to day.

This is not sleep training, but it is a good foundation to start from when the time for sleep training comes (after 3 months, preferably after 4 months).

1. Keep a light on in the nursery.
There are a few reasons why this works to help your baby sleep better at night. First, a consistent environment is soothing to infants. The less they have to adjust to differing input the better, and since it's easier to keep the nursery lighted than to keep it dark I recommend that. Second, because infants eyes are under-developed, it is easier for them to open their eyes and look around and be stimulated by their environment in a darkened room. To encourage babies to reconfigure their sleep patterns from day to night start by keeping a light on at night for the firs week or two, then drawing the blinds during the day for about one more week. After the babies are consistently sleeping at night more regularly than during the day, at the end of the third week, suddenly switch the lighting to dark at night (around 8pm or so), and brighter during the day (around 6am or so).

2. Use some sort of noise-maker in the nursery at night.
Again, this mimics the environment that the baby was used to in the womb. Noise, most especially white noise provides enough stimulation that infants tend to "turn off" their listening part of the brain, which lends itself well to falling to sleep. Also, if someone in the house makes a noise, a floorboard squeaks, a dog barks or a television show has some loud special effects, the babies mind is already tuning out the low-level noises from the noise-maker, and easily tunes out the extraneous sounds as well. This results in fewer adrenaline fueled "startling" waking moments, and that is good for sleep. During the day I recommend that the house be kept pretty quiet for the first three weeks, as time goes on turn up the volume of music, play, and stimulation during the day, and if you want to, try to phase out the noise machine at night. Personally, I don't see any reason to completely ween a baby of a noise-maker. As a matter of fact I think that it is a useful tool to continue to use throughout the babies first couple of years.

3. Swaddle your baby tightly.I know that this is hardly ground-breaking news, but what many parents have difficulty with in practice is the proper execution of swaddling. The purpose of swaddling is to immobilize your babies arms and in some cases legs. While there are many different types of swaddling wraps, blankets and techniques, the problem parents have in implementing any of them is in tightness. It is much more frustrating for a baby to have an arm that can move just a little bit than it is to have arms completely immobilized. Loose swaddling also presents a danger in the form of suffocation. In loose swaddles a baby can wiggle and squirm down further into the blanket blocking their flow of air. Tight swaddling is much safer and effective in promoting long peaceful sleep habits for your baby.

4. Keep a warm temperature in the nursery.
If you think about the environment your baby was used to, it was a 98.6 degree (37º C) bath. Hats and blankets help to retain some of your babies warmth, but the harder they have to work to stay warm, the less energy they have left to devote to their most important job that they do while asleep: growing. My personal opinion of the right temperature for the nursery is 70-71 degrees Fahrenheit (21º C). This temperature ensures that babies do not have too big a shock when they are unwrapped for a diaper-change in the middle of the night, while not keeping the room so hot as to make swaddling uncomfortably hot.

5. Do not wait for your baby to wake up to eat.When your baby starts grunting and wiggling while still asleep at night, get ready and use gentle and even motions in offering your baby the breast or bottle. Try to feed and burp your baby while they are still completely asleep as much of the time as you can. When a baby cries for food adrenalin is released into their bodies, and this can really disrupt their attempts to fall back asleep, and stay asleep. The more seamless, and the longer you can extend the periods of night-sleep the easier the transition will be when it comes time to consider sleep training options.

I hope these tips and tricks work as well for you as they have for me. I will post more on this series soon. Don't forget to tell your friends if you like the advice you get here, and please let me know if you have any questions about things I've written about.