Thursday, July 30, 2009

5 tips for changing a baby's diaper.

Learning to change a baby's diaper is rather tricky. They seem to be determined to stick their feet right in the middle of the mess, and then they pee everywhere. Cleaning your little chickadee's undercarriage can be frustrating to say the least. Here are a few tricks that I have learned over the years that have made the dirty job a little cleaner.

1. Always use a changing pad, even on the changing table.
Even when your baby is only wet, having a changing pad is a great idea. A baby who is getting changed often feels inspired by all of the commotion down there to add a little more excitement to the party. This can mean a big mess, and a lot of laundry, unless you were prepared with a changing pad. Often when mid-diapering accidents happen an changing pad will catch all of the extra goop. This will save you from having to own three or four changing table covers, and needing to constantly launder them.

2. Hold both of your baby's feet in one hand to lift her bottom up.
This maneuver sounds more tricky than it is. if you can hold one ankle with your pointer finger and thumb, then wrap your other three fingers around the second ankle, you can do it. Then when both ankles are secure, bring your baby's feet up near her face. This should gently and naturally lift your baby's bottom an inch or two off of the diaper and make it easier to reach. Babies are very flexible, and though this position may look uncomfortable, it is not for most babies. One exception is, if you baby spits up every time you try to do this, she probably has reflux, and this position will not be ideal for her. If this is the case, try rolling your baby away from you onto her side to expose her booty for washing.

3. Use the clean front of the diaper for the first wipe of dirty diapers.
Sometimes our babies make quite large sticky messes in their fluffy little butt covers. These can use up a huge amount of wipes, which don't come cheap. To save a little elbow grease and a little extra change, when you first open your little food processor's diaper, take a hold of the front of the diaper and wipe from front to back. One big wipe is all that this move is good for. It doesn't clean the whole mess, it just takes off the top layer, so that what is left is easier to deal with. When you reach the back of your baby's rear end with the front of the diaper, just leave it there. This keeps your baby from re-dipping into the mess while you begin cleaning the rest of his hiney. You can also take the diaper away, if you have a handy place to stash it until you can deal with it by itself. The reason I leave the diaper there, is it is one more thing between my changing pad and changing table, so that even if I can't keep both completely clean, I can often reduce the mess.

4. Drape a baby washcloth over your boy's little fire hose.
This can apply to girls who spray when they are being changed too. For some reason, the cool air maybe, babies love to go wee-wee when they are naked. Since getting urine squirted all over the room is probably not one of the things you want to deal with, simply draping a bit of cloth, or a baby-wipe over the front section of your little fire-fighter during a diaper change can save you a major headache.

5. Have a squirt bottle with your cleanser in it handy.
If you have read my tips for natural remedies for diaper rash, you know that I prefer to have natural ingredients with which to wash my little ones buns. I got a great tip from JJ Keith (@jj_keith on twitter, a great person to follow) to keep my natural cleansers in a squirt bottle, and it is SO much easier! Make sure to always clean in the folds. It can be awkward, but it is very important to remove all of the waste. I also recommend keeping any powders (like cornstarch) in old spice bottles (It is much easier to sprinkle if the lid has holes than if it is just open), and oils (like olive oil) work great in old hand-soap pump style bottles. Always be sure to clean any recycled containers thoroughly before using them for your baby's rear-end care kit.

Changing diapers is not fun, not easy and not tidy, but it can be a little less work with a few handy techniques, and a little practice. If you have found these tips helpful, please forward them to any new or expecting parents you might know. Questions, Comments and suggestions are always welcome. Happy parenting!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Toddler Tuesday: 5 tips for your first steps in discipline.

Telling your baby "no"is kind of hard the first few times, but as time goes on and your little rebel begins finding more and more ways to get your heart rate up, it hardly seems sufficient. When the day comes that you tell your little mongoose "no" and he responds by looking right at you while he does it anyway, the time has come for discipline. The word discipline can conjure up some pretty nasty memories for some folks, so let me be clear, I do not in any way, ever, for any reason advocate physical violence against children, including spanking or any other form of corporal punishment. Discipline does not have to be mean or rough, it simply needs to be consistent, age (and developmentally) appropriate and clear. As your children get older your own unique forms of discipline will develop naturally from the discipline you established early on. The following are a few tips for creating a stable foundation for discipline.

1. Pick 3 or 4 easily enforceable rules to start.
To make sure your little sugar bun is able to grasp this new concept of "rules", don't overwhelm her. Pick a few very important or common things that you are having some behavior issues around. Then word your rules regarding those few things in easy to remember rhymes. Some examples might be: "The food stays on your tray, or I'll take it away.", "Share your toys, at least one, or these toys are all done." and "If you touch trash, we have to give your hands a wash". The reason to have the rules rhyme is to differentiate them from normal language, so your toddler can easily recognize them. This also keeps things that are rules clarified from normal "yes" and "no" directions or guidance. As time goes on and you need to add more official rules to the list, you don't need to use rhymes, but expressing the new rule clearly will help your child know what is expected of them.

2. Always identify the consequence with the rule.
If possible, try to include the consequence for breaking a rule as part of the original rhyme. This will assist your toddler in relating the cause and effect principle to their own actions. If the whole rhyming thing makes you feel silly, using a nice rhythm is nearly as effective. You might try something like: "If paper goes in your mouth it goes in the trash" and "Throwing your toys makes them go away".

3. Dangerous things are more serious.
For some things you need to really get your little pupil's attention. Things like touching the oven, or poking things into outlets, are dangerous behaviors, and need something more than words to help your toddler remember why she shouldn't do them. When your little chef reaches for the knobs on the front of the stove, in an authoritative and slightly loud voice say "No! Dangerous!". Then flip your finger against the fingertips of your little one just before you grab her hands to lead her away. The flipping of the fingertips creates a sharp sudden discomfort that goes away quickly. This discomfort will be associated both with the stove and with the words "no" and "dangerous", which will help curb the behavior more quickly next time. Eventually, you will be able to tell your child that something is dangerous, and they will avoid it on their own.

4. Tone of voice.
It is very important that you do not engage in games with your little clown while trying to enforce discipline. If you use a playful friendly voice when you tell your toddler to stop throwing cereal on the floor, chances are that the activity will be recognized as a game, and even more cereal will get thrown to the floor. Think of the tone of voice that a police officer has, no-nonsense, firm and serious, this is the perfect tone of voice to use when reminding your little bib decorator about the rules. No need to shout or raise your voice, a clear definitive recitation of the rule, followed by immediate enforcement, is all that it takes to get the message across. You don't need to act "mad" or "cross" with your toddler, as a matter of fact if the enforcement of the rule makes him cry, you can immediately comfort and snuggle him, just do not apologize for enforcing the rule. It is important that your toddler sees you as being just as subject to the rules as he is. If you apologize, you will be identifying yourself as the cause for the loss of the toy instead of reinforcing that it was the actions of your toddler that lead to the toy being gone. Take a moment while comforting your little snoopy to re-tell the story of how the consequence happened, and be sure to lay full blame on the actions that your toddler chose, not on you, and not on your toddler, squarely on the choice of actions.

5. Remove attention from bad behavior.
Since you will no doubt have many more rules than 3 or 4 that you would like to implement, a good tool to discourage undesirable behavior that you don't have a rule for yet is to express a kind of disappointed lack of interest when your little bug-catcher acts out. For example, if your toddler throws her cup on the floor during lunch, don't look surprised and make a game out of it. Look down slowly, then let your eyes wander away from your toddler while muttering something like "that's too bad, guess you're not thirsty." This lack of reaction will bore your toddler quickly, and they will move on to fun activities that get a big giggle out of mommy, like taking a big bite or holding their spoon just right. You can replace the dropped sippy cup when your little lunch-muncher is not paying attention.

Trick: Model discipline behaviors with toys.
While playing with your toddler on the floor, take some time to act out some social scenarios with a couple of the stuffed animals, including breaking rules and obeying them. Giving your toddler a physical visual reference for what will happen if a rule is broken will help them anticipate consequences and make choices that have a more desirable outcome.

Trick: Positive feedback.
This is probably the hardest skill to develop for effectively disciplining your toddlers. The fact is that when they are behaving, we just don't notice them as much. It is very important that you make a concerted effort to identify, point out and celebrate the times when your toddler is faced with the choice of obeying a rule or disobeying it, and he chooses obedience. Over time you will not have to be as aware and engaged in your child's choices all the time, but at the outset, it will make learning the concept of following rules, and making smart choices, easier to grasp.

Beginning the disciplining process with your little star is never going to be easy, but if you start early, at around 12 or 18 months, not only will the twos go a bit more smoothly, but you will have a solid foundation on which to base future rules. Toddlers are bright and will catch on pretty quick to the way things really work, so if you are having trouble maintaining discipline, take a hard look at how you are implementing the new rules, and especially your tone of voice. Chances are, with a few tweaks, you will be able to convince your little bunny that you mean business, and the behavior problems will melt away. If you have found these tips to be helpful, please forward them to any parents of toddlers you might know. Questions, comments and suggestions* are always welcome. Happy parenting.

*This topic was suggested by @katrinayellow, follow her on twitter. She is a great resource for breast feeding information!

Monday, July 27, 2009

5 tips for keeping up your breast milk supply.

Breastfeeding, though it is the natural way to feed your baby, and mothers have been doing it since the dawn of time, can prove difficult for many mothers. Even if you have no problem with painful nipples, the task of maintaining your breast milk supply can seem to be a full time job all by itself. Though one of the best remedies is simply to drink more water, you can only drink so much. Here are a few more things you can try.

1. Indian food and oatmeal.
Indian food is great, it contains many naturally healthy herbs and spices, such as garlic, ginger, fennel and cumin. The most effective one of these specifically for breast milk production is called "fenugreek". You can pick up fenugreek tea at your local health food store, but I have seen it be much more effective when combined with protein and carbohydrate rich meals which feature a range of beneficial ingredients. I would caution that you may want to ask for or prepare "mildly spicy" Indian food, because too much heat can make your breast milk taste funny to your baby. Oatmeal is a well-balanced meal to start your day. It is loaded with carbohydrates and protein, and is also relaxing and soothing. When you have a well stocked supply of protein, carbohydrates to burn while converting the protein to milk, and are relaxed enough that your body is not using the carbohydrates to fuel your activities, it is a perfect recipe for milk production.

2. Pumping the left overs.
After your baby is finished eating, use a pump, or a hand-expressing method, to drain all the excess milk from your milk ducts. Whenever your body has to reabsorb more than a few drops of breast milk, it tries to make less the next time. But when your breasts are continuously drained completely dry, your body tries to produce more for the next feeding. You can save the milk to use at night feedings, if your baby will take breast milk through a bottle, or freeze it to use for things like mixing with cereal when your baby is older. To hand express your milk, place your index or middle finger just outside one side of your areola, and your thumb in a similar position exactly across the nipple from your finger. Press your entire hand close to your body causing your breast to flatten against your rib cage slightly. Now gently bring your thumb and finger closer together, almost as if you were trying to pinch your areola. As you do this, you should see a stream of milk squirt out. Hold a bottle over your nipple to collect the milk, repeat compressions until there is no more milk.

3. Yoga and meditation.
I think it is very helpful for a new mother to take an hour or so for herself each day to drain stress from her body. You may be tempted to just sleep if your baby is giving you a break for a bit, and while there is nothing wrong with sleep, conscious relaxation can be even more beneficial in terms of milk production. While you sleep, you process stresses by replaying parts of them in dreams, and quite often this can be quite stressful in its own right. However, if you take some time to do some deep breathing exercises, and focus on being calm and relaxed, tension can drain away much more efficiently. The sleep you will have after a good yoga routine, or a soothing meditation session is much deeper, and restful than regular sleep. This relaxed, mellow mode is perfect for milk production. Your subconscious doesn't have anything to worry about processing, except for protein, nutrients and carbohydrates into milk.

4. Breast massage.
From just below your collar bones to the bottom of your breast, there are milk ducts. Some times some of these get "lazy" or "forgetful" and begin producing less milk. A quick little massage consisting of small circular rubbing motions by your fingers slowly covering each breast from top to bottom and from one side to the other side (as if you were doing your monthly self exam), is a great way to remind those ducts to get back to work. You can also use tapping motions and brisk full-hand rubbing. Basically, you just want to stimulate the nerves in the deeper tissue of your breast. You might also try draping a warm towel over your breasts between feedings to increase circulation and stimulate production.

5. Family bed.
Having your baby near you is always a great idea for stimulating milk production, but sleeping with your baby is especially effective. There is some conflicting data about the overall safety of sleeping in the same bed with your baby, but the majority of the reliable sources say it is safe, and there is no question that it is great for milk production. The reason is that your baby can eat easily and often throughout the night, but you do not have to rouse fully to feed him. So you get more rest, your baby gets plenty of food, your milk gets drained more efficiently, and you have more energy to produce more! It is a great tactic to give your milk production a real boost.

Do not give up hope if you have to constantly struggle with low milk levels, after a few weeks it usually picks up quite well. If you are still concerned though, talking to a lactation consultant can really help you pinpoint the best way for you personally to increase your milk production. It often may seem like your baby is not getting much to eat at all, when they are really eating plenty. Also, in worst case scenarios, your doctor can prescribe an injection to help stimulate your milk production. There are some nasty side effects to that injection, so I do not recommend that new moms rush out and ask for it, but if all else is not working, it can usually do the trick. If you have found these tips helpful, please forward them to any new or expecting parents you might know. As always 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.

Friday, July 24, 2009

5 tips on child care options for your new baby.

One of the biggest decisions you will have to make once you have decided to have a baby, is "if you are going to return to work, who will care for her in your absence?". Many families have a clear idea for what they would like, but some are finding that it is not so simple to find the right child care situation for their own personal needs. Also, financially many families are being faced with the necessity for cutting back on expenses just now, and that can mean finding an affordable alternative for your baby. Here are the five most basic options for child care, and the benefits and risks of each.

1. SAHM (Stay At Home Mom) care giver.
Nannies eventually marry and have babies of their own, and many of them have twin experience. If you can find an ex-nanny who is looking for some extra income, she would make a perfect candidate for child care provider to your little one. A common place to look for this type of child care situation is on "" but there are often ways to network with other parents to find contact info for a SAHM with nanny experience. Always be sure to conduct thorough background checks and get a driving and fingerprint report before leaving your baby with anyone. One reason this is a great option for working families is that the SAHM is often much more affordable than a personal daytime nanny.

2. Day nanny.
Of course this is the most popular option for those who can afford it. A nanny who comes to your home, takes one-on-one care of your baby, and tidys up during nap times is most parents ideal scenario. If you go through a nanny agency you will save yourself the trouble of having to conduct background checks yourself, but I still recommend that you talk personally with a couple previous employers. A good personality fit is essential for creating a really stable mutually beneficial situation for you and your nanny, and it is often easier to get a clear picture of a nanny's personality by talking to people who have personally employed her.

On a side note, live-in nanny positions are perhaps the most difficult type of child care to manage. You are put in the position of balancing several different types of relationship with one person. The nanny is your employee, your roommate, your tenant, your baby's protector and potentially your friend. Imagine if your employer could see what shows you like to watch when you are winding down from a stressful week, or what comfort foods you liked to eat, or knew how often you did your laundry. It is stressful for an employee to feel constantly observed, and unless your off-the-clock routines are compatible, there is bound to be some trouble down the line. Most live in nannies are also young, and might want to indulge in an active night life. All of these issues should be sorted out and addressed before you ever enter into a long term agreement with someone for this type of position.

3. Share care.
This is where two families have the same nanny, who either watches all of their children at the same time, or watches each families children in turn. This is an arrangement that is mutually beneficial to parents and nannies, because the nanny generally makes more money, and the families get a marvelous discount. The split can be 50/50, or one family can pay a slightly larger portion of the overall price if they will be using the nanny more often or if the nanny will be preforming more duties for them, such as housework. A share-care nanny can expect to make a minimum of $20 per hour for two children and two families. Share care does have its drawbacks though, sometimes the families will disagree with the parenting philosophy of the other family, or jealousy over a feeling that the nanny is giving one child preferential treatment is fairly common. I recommend to parents that they interview potential share-care families as thoroughly as they would the potential nanny, even if the second family are friends of yours. The more issues you address before you enter into an arrangement like share-care, the fewer problems you are likely to encounter later on.

4. Aupair.
There are a lot of benefits to considering hiring an aupair (a nanny from a European country) through an aupair agency. First, they are formally educated in child care techniques, they are very affordable, and they nearly always know a second language which they can speak exclusively to your baby. Some of the potential problems have to do with the fact that they will be live-in, they are generally young and somewhat inexperienced, they most likely will have cultural difference with you in regards to child care (some countries still do not encourage the "back sleep" position for SIDS reduction for example) and they might suffer from homesickness, or become overly involved in social activities to the point of interfering with the quality of care. Like any issue regarding child care, be sure to bring up all of your concerns while interviewing, and place a high value on finding the right personality fit.

5. Daycare.
Many parents balk at the idea of daycare for their little whipper-snapper, yet it has many benefits. Licenced day cares are held to certain standards of cleanliness and safety that some nannies are not even aware of. A daycare will socialize your child sooner, and promote flexibility of nap routines in babies. Some day cares offer language immersion, and preschool activities for older children, while others offer online video feeds so you can check on your baby at any time during the day with just a click of the mouse. Daycare workers are required to be certified in infant and child CPR and First Aid, and are given thorough background checks. All of this and they are one of the most affordable options available for infant and toddler care. Some potential hazards include the risk of an illegal daycare posing as licensed when it is not (always ask for the license number and check that they are legitimate), too many children for too few adults (always ask the ratio and get written confirmation) and a lack of flexibility or incompatible hours (you might need to get to work an hour late or leave early in order to accommodate the daycare's schedule, and if you need to cancel a day for a family emergency, you will still pay for it under most daycare agreements).

Most parents would love to be able to stay at home with their baby until he could start kindergarten, but for most of us, that is just not an economical possibility. Finding the right child care fit for you and your family is an important and stressful decision. Take your time, and be sure to discuss all of your concerns, hopes and fears with whoever you decide to trust with your precious baby. Nearly any issue can be worked out, including money concerns, as long as everyone's needs are respected and considered while negotiating your agreement. If you find these tips helpful, please forward them to any new or expecting parents you might know. Questions, comments and suggestions are always welcome. Happy parenting!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

5 tips for saving money when you have a new baby.

Saving money has become a popular trend lately, but how can you cut back on expenses now that you have a baby on the way? Parents overwhelmingly don't want to compromise their little one's comfort or safety, but they want to make smart economic decisions too. So I have identified a few areas of baby "fat" and have some pointers on how you can "trim" it.

1. Breastfeed.
Seriously, the amount that is charged for formula, (which is a severely inferior form of nutrition anyway) is out of control! Also, the bottles, nipples, warmers and all of the paraphernalia that goes with bottle feeding your baby don't come cheap either. So, if from day one you are focused and determined to make breastfeeding work, you can save a sizable chunk of change. It won't be easy, at least most of the mothers I have talked to say that the first few weeks, even the first month or two, of breastfeeding were terribly uncomfortable and stressful. However, there is lots of help out there to assist you with everything from finding the best latch, to treating sore nipples. You might even take a gander at my own "5 tips for pain-free breastfeeding". Just keep reminding yourself that the benefits your baby will get from it, and the financial savings as well, are more than enough reasons to keep trying when it gets tough.

2. Cloth Diapers.
Sure they are a bit more pricey up front, and a little more work down the line, but over all they are an amazing way to save not only the environment, but your wallet as well. There have been many advances in cloth diapering in the last 10 to 20 years, so it's not quite as hard a choice as it once was. If you are looking for real, lasting savings, invest in some of these fluffy little bottom covers for your baby, and smile to yourself every time you hear other mothers complain about how many diapers their little super-pooper is going through, and how expensive it is over the next two years.

3. Recycled Clothing.
I know that no one likes to be the "Second Hand Rose", but honestly, your baby doesn't know any different, and he will have grown out of the hand-me-downs before you know it. There are many ways to hook yourself up with a great source for recycled baby clothes. Basically any parent of a baby who is around 6 months older than yours will likely be looking to unload a box or two of gently used baby clothes. So, ask at church, synagogue or temple, at your knitting circle, online communities, even a neighborhood block party is a good place to find a source for new-to-me outfits. The money you save will really add up over the first couple of years, since every three months or so your little bundle of joy will need a whole new wardrobe.

4. Public Library.
Every couple of months there is a new must-have parent-to-be book on the market. Some of them are great, some of them are fairly redundant. However, they all are going to cost you, unless you take a trip to your local library every month or so to pick one up for free. Classics like the "What to Expect When You're Expecting" series and " The Attachment Parenting Book : A Commonsense Guide to Understanding and Nurturing Your Baby" may cost quite a bit at amazon, but they are all available at your local library for nothing. Another benefit of this approach is that you can check out several competing perspectives on parenting and compare them to find the best fit for your family without dropping a dime (unless you forget to return them on time).

5. Home Made Birth Announcements.
Birth announcements might seem like a bit of an extravagance at a time when you are trying to pinch your pennies, but one of the results of sending out these cute little cards is a sudden influx of gifts and cash from friends and family to help you out with the new baby. With a computer and a printer, you can put together a pretty nice baby announcement at home and print out however many copies you might need. Then, for pennies on the dollar, you can spread the word to all who might be interested that your new adorable little tax deduction has arrived.

One of the side effects of becoming a parent is often a sudden awareness of exactly how poor you really are. However, with a few extras trimmed away, and a few frugal substitutions made, you can make the transition into family life with less of a financial splash. If you have found these tips to be helpful, please forward them to any new or expecting parents you might know. Comments, questions and suggestions are always welcome. Happy parenting!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Toddler Tuesday: 5 tips for a stress-free visit to the park.

Going to the park is simple right? Right. Well, yes, as simple as anything is once you have a toddler to consider. Parks are a great place for kids to get exercise, socialize and get fresh air, but they can be a source for a lot of stress as well. With all of the benefits come stressful hazards like keeping your toddler hydrated, watching out for bullies and the inevitable small scale injury. Besides keeping some hand sanitizer and a bit of antiseptic spray in your diaper bag, there are a few more things a parent can do to make a trip to the park more enjoyable for everyone.

1. Bring back-up toys.
As the name implies, these special "back-up" toys are not the only ones. Give your little gazelle her choice of one toy to bring to the park, then slip a couple more into the bag. This way she is more focused on the one toy that she specifically got to choose to bring to the park instead of wanting to bring the whole nursery. Also, if there is a problem at the park later, say another kid has a sand shovel, and she really wants to take a turn, but the other kid is not sharing, then you can produce a shovel from your bag. Some basic back up toys are: a shovel, pail, truck, doll, ball and a box of sidewalk chalk. The sidewalk chalk makes a great distraction if there is a situation where your toddler is trying to take away another kids toy, or having trouble sharing her own toy. A nice big box of sidewalk chalk generally has enough pieces in it that everyone can have something to color with, and whatever the issue it was that caused the disruption is quickly forgotten in the light of an opportunity to deface public property with parental approval.

2. Bring a snack and 2 drinks.
Even if you are not going to be at the park that long, chances are that you will just get settled when another child at the park will start to have their snack. Nothing inspires hunger in a toddler like watching someone else eat. You don't need to bring much, a baggie of little crackers, a box of raisins and a banana are generally enough to satisfy any sudden cravings. The reason I recommend bringing two different kinds of drinks is that if your child is watching another kid drink juice, then water is hardly going to be what he wants, so one of the cups should have some diluted pure fruit juice. Then, by the time you are getting ready to go, it will not matter what other kids are drinking, he will probably just be thirsty, and nothing is better for pure thirst than fresh clean water, so your second cup should have water in it. I generally discourage parents from bringing milk to the park because it can spoil so quickly, but if you have a cooling pack and an insulated carrier to place the milk in it should be fine.

3. Bring the umbrella stroller.
You may not need it on the way to the park, there is no reason to keep your toddler in there because chances are she would much rather walk. But, after an hour or two in the sun it may be your best bet at getting your exhausted little munchkin home without having to carry her. I use my umbrella stroller to carry the diaper bag on the way to the park, which is extra helpful because the extra drinks and snacks make that bag pretty heavy. The back up toys can go in the stroller too, and if your little helper needs something to do, she can always help push. I particularly like the umbrella style for a quick jog to the park because it is light and easy to maneuver, and if I run into sand or mud, I can just pick it up.

4. Apply sunscreen before leaving the house.
Getting out the door to go to the park is tough, and many parents forgo the application of sunscreen in an effort to save time. However, once your little ping pong ball sees the park with all of the fun waiting to be had, holding still long enough to get a thorough coating of the protective lotion is going to prove to be a struggle at best and a total meltdown at worst. It is much better to have the smaller shorter struggle at the house before you leave than to risk the frustrating wrestling match I not-so-lovingly refer to as "greasing the piglet".

5. Wear appropriate shoes.
This goes for both you and your little Tarzan. If the park you are going to has grass, a shoe with a little bit of tread is good. For sandy or wood-chip covered parks, I recommend socks and sneakers. I know that you might think that sandals would be best, but with all the running and climbing your little spider monkey will be doing, the friction caused by a few grains of sand or a couple wood chips inside a sandal can get very uncomfortable. Also, unless you are very familiar with a park and are confident in its cleanliness, do not let your child go barefoot in the sand. I have found everything from rusty nails and broken glass to poisonous spiders and used drug needles in the sand at parks, just waiting to skewer an unsuspecting little foot. For parks with the rubbery stuff, sandals are fine, as long as they are snug and have good traction for playing on the climbing structure.

Trick: Use a timer when it is time to go.
Since leaving the park can cause quite a fuss, I have found it is much easier if it is not my "fault" that it is time to go. When you go to the park, set an alarm on your phone, or bring an egg timer with you. Explain to your toddler on the way to the park that when they hear the bell it is time to go home. Then when you are ready to go, set off the alarm. Your toddler still might not like the idea of going home, but he will be much less likely to fight it. Also, letting him push the stroller for a block or so before you put him in it will give him something to do to keep his mind off the fact that you are leaving the park.

Trick: Bring a blanket.
Now the sun may be shining down as hot as it has ever been, but bringing a blanket to the park is still a very good idea. On hot days sometimes the sand gets too hot to sit on, but you can spread a blanket to sit on quite comfortably. Also, swings can be too hot, slides, teeter-totters or just about any surface that your little fire-walker might want to play on. A blanket makes a great easily adjustable barrier for any of these. And if the weather takes a sudden turn, you can bundle your baby beluga against chilly breezes. Then, when it is time to head home, if you have an awning on your stroller, you can drape the blanket over it for a bit of added sun protection.

An outing to the park is a wonderful activity on a nice sunny day, especially if there is one fairly close to your house. Hopefully with these tips you will have a couple more ideas for how to take the stress out of an otherwise fun day in the sun with your little one. If you have found these tips and trick helpful, please forward them to any new or expecting parents, or parents of toddlers you might know. Questions, comments and suggestions are always welcome. Happy parenting!

Monday, July 20, 2009

5 tips for identifying baby's mystery conditions.

Why is my baby's spit up clear? What is causing the trembling in my infants legs? When my newborn suddenly sleeps for five hours straight, should I worry? So, you've read the books, taken the classes and watched the videos, your baby doesn't seem to care. There are mystery symptoms popping up all the time. Which ones are normal and which ones should you call your pediatrician for? While I believe that you should call your pediatrician any time that you feel in your gut that something is wrong, here are a few common conditions which are more sheep in wolves clothing than anything else.

1. Clear spit up.
Whether your baby is teething or not, sometimes your little drizzle swizzle will simply drool, this is completely normal. Babies salivate a lot, especially at night. When you lay your baby down on her back to sleep, the excess saliva is all running right down her throat and getting swallowed. When swallowed, this moisture tricks your baby's stomach into thinking she has begun to eat food, causing a higher level of stomach acids, which when they have nothing to digest can be somewhat irritating to your baby's delicate stomach lining. The result is clear, and completely harmless, spit up.

2. Trembling legs.
It can be pretty scary when you are snuggling your new baby, and you notice his legs tremble for a moment or two when he pushes his feet against something. Your first thought might jump to worst case scenarios involving intense physical therapy and crutches for years to come, but chances are that it is nothing to worry about. Your baby's muscles are faced with the doubly difficult task of growing at an enormous rate, and retaining her strength and tone while doing it. At times, her new muscle tissue has simply not had time to tone fully as it is integrated into muscle tissue that she already has. Think of your own legs the day after a rigorous workout, when you try to walk down stairs, those first couple of steps are pretty shaky. This is basically the same thing that is happening with your baby's legs. With just a little kicking and pushing her legs should be back to their normal steady state.

3. Hives.
Hives, those red bumps that appear suddenly on your baby's face and chest, are pretty frightening when you first encounter them. They are generally a reaction of an allergic nature. As soon as you notice them, take note of a few things, 1-if you are breastfeeding what did you eat over the last 24 hours and if you are not, have you changed your infant formula recently, 2-has your baby tried on any new clothing or played with any new toys recently and 3-have you changed laundry detergent or has anyone new held your baby who does not normally hold him? These three questions will help you pinpoint more quickly possible causes for your baby's reaction. Chances are that the hives will disappear within a few minute of when they began, as long as what is causing them has been separated from immediate contact. There is usually no need to worry too much about the reaction, just make a note of the cause, and bring it up with your pediatrician at your next visit. Most sensitivities, both of skin and food will disappear over your baby's first few years, so don't give up hope if your baby shows a reaction to something particularly troublesome, like wheat, or perfume. Do get your baby tested for suspected allergies though, sometimes your guess as to the cause of the reaction is wrong, and you may be needlessly restricting your baby's environment.

4. Large amounts of spit up.
I'm not talking exorcist levels here, but if your baby throws up a particularly large amount of milk there are a couple potential causes for it that are relatively harmless. The most common reason for a sudden extra large amount of spit up is an air bubble. Basically, if your baby has a burp that needs to come up, but he continues to eat, that milk will sit on top of the bubble unable to fully digest. Until eventually the bubble forces it's way out, pushing all of that trapped milk up ahead of it. The best way to prevent this from happening is to burp your baby in the middle of the feeding at least once. The other potential cause for a strangely large episode of spit up, is perhaps something about the last feeding disagreed with your baby's tummy. If you bottle feed, it could be that a bottle was left out for a bit too long, causing some bacterial growth. This can happen pretty quickly, so it is important to keep an eye on how long you allow mixed formula to sit out. If you breastfeed, it could be that something you ate was particularly difficult for your baby to digest. There are a few other things that can cause excessive spit up, so you should check with your pediatrician if it continues regularly.

5. Suddenly takes very long naps.
Babies eat so often that we get used to a regular schedule of eat, sleep and poop during the first couple of months. However, those naps are usually only about an hour or two long at maximum, so if your baby suddenly sleeps for 3 or 4 hours it can be concerning. There is probably no need to worry though, it is completely normal for babies to have periods of extended sleep. Babies basically bulk up by eating food that they store as fat, and then while they sleep they build bone, muscle, nerves and skin. I often tell parents to watch for the larger pattern of "plump and stretch" that babies cycle through. This cycle looks like this: For a few days your baby will be ravenous, wanting to eat all the time and hardly sleeps at all. Then for a few days your baby will hardly eat, sleeping long and well. Next, you'll notice that your baby's cheeks are getting plump, and her thighs are filling out. But as soon as you notice this, she will have some periods of long sleep, and after a few days of heavy sleep your baby will look slimmer. Then she will be eating like an elephant, and will have suddenly outgrown her cutest jammies. This is probably what is going on with your baby's long naps, but if you find that your baby is difficult to wake up, seems very sleepy in between naps, or has been having fewer wet diapers than normal, talk to your pediatrician right away, there could be a more serious underlying issue at work.

It can be hard to know when something that your baby is doing is normal or not, and if you ever have any doubts or concerns you should talk to your pediatrician right away. You have parental instincts that are far more reliable than any medical website or baby book when it comes to knowing when there is something wrong with your own baby. Most of the time your baby will be fine, and there is no need to worry, but if you know which things are not cause for concern it can help you pin point those that are far more quickly. If you have found these tips helpful please pass them on to any new or expecting parents you might know. Questions, comments and suggestions are always welcome. Happy parenting!

Friday, July 17, 2009

5 tips for better sleep during your baby's 4th month.

So your baby is finally past the third month mark, and yet night sleep is still a major challenge. Whether you are planning to sleep train your baby or not, you need to start getting a little more rest at night or risk you and your baby's safety. Being drowsy and irritable are bad enough, but prolonged periods of sleep deprivation can lead to lowered adrenalin levels, heart-stress, high blood pressure and major impairment of your short-term memory. If you could get your baby to go 5 hours between feeds at night it would be enough to give you some much needed rest. Here are some tips that should help you encourage your baby to adjust to longer periods of night sleep over the next month or so. Also, my tips for better night sleep for 2 and 3 month old babies are mostly still applicable after 3 months.

1. Place your hand on your baby's tummy.
When you hear your baby begin to fuss at night, place your hand on her stomach covering her belly button just below her ribcage. Let your hand get heavy, this will increase the amount of pressure on your delicate little Thumbelina's tummy just enough to relieve the cramping that a gassy or empty belly can cause. If the discomfort is relieved enough, your baby may not wake at all, but slip back into a relaxed and peaceful sleep. When you are sure she is sleeping soundly again, carefully remove your hand.

2. Wear fresh breast pads/don't bring the bottle.
If you share a bed with your baby, or if he sleeps in a separate nursery, whenever you are near him at night wear fresh nursing pads. The smell of milk is often a trigger for babies to wake up and demand to eat. You may have noticed that when you tiptoe in to check on your little snoozer, even though you are as quiet as a mouse, his eyes fly open at your approach. This is because if you are a nursing mother, your pretty much reek of breast milk to your baby's sensitive nose, and even if you are not breastfeeding, you may smell like the formula that you mixed for his next feeding. Try to leave bottles out side the room where your baby sleeps until they are needed, and wear a sleeping bra with fresh pads whenever you are near your baby at night.

3. Wear someone else's T-shirt.
Another great way to prevent the wake-up-I-smell-dinner impulse from disrupting your baby's sleep is to throw on one of your spouses t-shirts for the night. Wearing clothing that is saturated with the body-scent of a non-lactating adult will mask your own appetizing odor. Your baby will be much less likely to wake up when the person who is checking on her, or sleeping next to her doesn't smell like food.

4. Soothe for 15 minutes.
Our bodies have a hunger signal that lasts anywhere from 5 to about 15 minutes at a time. When your baby wakes for a feeding that you are trying to phase out, or delay, try soothing him with a pacifier, dancing, bouncing, light tummy pressure or anything that you can think of for at least 15 minutes. Often your baby will fall back asleep after about 10 minutes and sleep for another 30-45 minutes before waking again with hunger pains. If your baby wakes again after less than 10 minutes, or is not soothed after the 15 minutes, go ahead with the feed. This may seem like a recipe for more night disruptions instead of one to help you get more sleep, but after a few days of pushing your baby's feeding back, she will begin to adjust to the new schedule and sleep right through to the next feeding. If your baby is consistently sleeping for about 5 hours between feeds at night, you might also very slowly begin reducing the amount you offer him at he middle-of-the-night feeding. Within a week of successfully implementing this new schedule, your baby should increase the amount of food he eats during the day. For breastfeeding mothers this means that even if you were pumping at night to keep your production up, once your baby's daytime demand has increased, you can phase out your night pumping without an increased risk of losing your milk supply.

5. Keep the light as low as possible.
Any extra distractions or stimulation you can eliminate from your baby's environment at night will help to sustain long periods of night sleep. Do not flip on the light when you come in to check on your sweet little cloud-rider, and if you share a room with her at night, try to find your way to the restroom by the light of a night-light rather than turning on a lamp. By this age, your baby will have a clear understanding that daytime is when all of the fun happens, and any increase of illumination will trigger their internal clock to fast forward to morning time. Using a flashlight is a good idea, as long as it is not too bright, and you should not shine it directly on your sleeping baby.

Hopefully these tips will help, and before you know it your baby will be only waking up one time at night, for a very small amount of food. This last feeding will be very easy to eliminate, no matter what sleep training system you plan on using. Even if you do not plan to sleep train your baby, he may drop this last feeding on his own as he grows over the next month. The most important thing after your baby no longer physically needs the on-demand feedings is to get yourself back on a good resting schedule. A well rested parent is one of the best things anyone can give their baby. Happy parenting!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

5 tips for weaning your baby to the bottle.

There are many different perspectives and philosophies about breastfeeding, and how long a mother should continue it if she is able. These tips are not meant to encourage or pressure anyone to extend or shorten the time that they feel it is appropriate to breastfeed. That is a personal choice, one which I think should be made after educating yourself thoroughly about any benefits or potential risks that might result from weaning your baby at various ages. These tips are designed to help parents who, for any reason, need to encourage their baby to switch to the bottle for sustenance. I wholly support breast feeding and breast milk as the first choice for babies health, but I recognise that some parents also have very valid reasons for needing to wean their babies to a bottle, and I know it can be a very difficult task sometimes. These are a few things I know that can help you and your baby get through the transition from breast to bottle more smoothly.

1. Warm the milk & nipple.
Though warming baby bottles has fallen out of fashion, if your little honey-suckle is turning her nose up at the bottle it may well help to try warming it a bit. The milk in your baby's bottle is closest to the temperature of your own breast milk when you drip some on your wrist and you cannot feel a temperature change. If you drip some breast milk or formula on your wrist and it feels cool, you should warm it a bit longer, if the fluid feels warm or hot on your wrist, do not feed it to your baby until it has cooled down. Also, the rubber of the nipple may feel cool and unappetizing to your little one, so I recommend that you cover the tip of the bottle with a finger tip or cap, then turn the bottle upside-down. The warm breast milk or formula in the bottle will warm the nipple to a comfortable level after about a minute.

2. Introduce a nipple shield first.
If you have the luxury of time, try introducing a nipple shield during breast feeding about a week before trying the bottle. The soft, but smooth texture of the nipple shield will be easy to adjust to while everything else in your baby's feeding remains the same. Then, when you try the bottle, if you use a silicone nipple, the texture will be the same as that of the shield, so there will be less for your baby to adjust to all at once.

3. Serve breast milk to start.
Another way to reduce the number of things that your baby has to adjust to is to while weaning is to try to offer fresh (opposed to frozen or refrigerated) breast milk rather than formula in the bottle for as long as you can. If you are able to continue to offer breast milk in the bottle for a long period, this is of course the most healthful type of weaning you could do for your baby, but if you must supplement or transition fully to formula, try to introduce the bottle filled with breast milk before making the switch. Then, using a gradual approach, mix a little more formula with the milk at each feeding, until you run out of breast milk.

4. Try different nipple shapes and flows.
For some babies it is easier to maintain a good bottle-latch on a broad based nipple. For other babies the slender based nipples are easier to adjust to. There are many different shapes and styles of nipple and bottle on the market, if your baby consistently rejects one, try another. For babies that are particularly difficult to wean, you might want to try the Adiri bottle. It's design is unique in it's similarity to the breast. The only real drawback is that it can be a bit pricey. Sometimes the only thing that is keeping a baby from accepting a bottle is a design that she finds uncomfortable. To save money, try borrowing different bottle types from other mothers to try for a feeding or two. If your baby likes a certain design, you can invest in just that one kind of bottle, rather than having 5 or 6 different kinds of rejected bottles sitting around gathering dust.

5. Have a non-lactating support person provide feeds for a while.
When your baby smells you, he will associate your smell almost exclusively with food for the first 2 months. After that, though there will be many other things your little chick associates with you, food will always be a major one as long as you continue lactating. Part of the reason for this is that babies can smell breast milk, and have a very strong mental attachment to it, much stronger than with formula. So, trying to get your baby to take breast milk or formula from a bottle can be very difficult for a lactating mother, because your baby will expect to nurse when he smells your milk. That is why if you can get your spouse, or a good friend to take over a few feedings for you while your baby adjusts to the bottle it will go much more smoothly. By the time you return to feeding your baby, he will be less surprised by the bottle, and your chances of having success will be greatly increased.

Easing your baby through this transition is unquestionably going to be easier on everyone if you take your time and try to let each step along the way gently fall into place as your baby adjusts. However, whether you have all the time in the world or just a few days, I hope these tips will give you a few more ideas to try when you are looking for ways to transition your sweet little jelly belly to the bottle from the breast. If you have found these tips helpful, please forward them to any new or expecting parents you might know. Questions comments and suggestions are always welcome. Happy parenting!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Wordless Wednesday!

Rubber frogs are funny.
There is nothing more to say really.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Toddler Tuesday! 5 tips for bathing your big kid.

The bath might be bigger, but it doesn't necessarily make it easier. As your baby grows he will trade sour milk and sweaty cheese-neck for dirty nails, a grimy snot-nose and stinky feet. Your little dust-bucket might love taking a bath or act like you are attempting to dip him in boiling oil, but love it or hate it, the bath must both begin and end on a fairly regular basis. Some parents find bathing their kids as easy as pie, for those lucky few: "move along, there is nothing to see here." For the rest of us, here are 5 tips that hopefully will make bath time a little easier on you and your lovable little water spout.

1. Start with 2 inches.
The first couple minutes of your toddler's bath are the most important ones. Fill your tub to only about 2 inches of water, then lay your little mermaid in the tub on her back and give her a toy. This way you can conquer the hardest part of the bath at the very beginning: the hair washing. Take a cup and pour it over her hair, but away from her face, apply the shampoo, lather and rinse as fast as you can while still achieving cleanliness. The low water level makes the prospect of laying in the tub for a few minutes less of a stretch for your little squid, and can greatly simplify the process of hair washing. After the hair is washed, your little one can sit up in the tub, and you can take the washcloth to all of the parts (like behind the knees), that are traditionally immersed in water for the duration of the bath. After soaping your child up, turn the water back on. The rest of the bath, whether short or long is now safely designated as play time.

2. Splash-proof the bathroom.
It is a good idea to take toilet paper, magazines and anything else that you don't want to get wet out of the room for the duration of the bath. Try as we might to explain why mommy and daddy don't want water everywhere, we can't explain away the fact that splashing is fun. So, since splashing will probably happen no matter what we say, why not prepare for the worst? You can still try to encourage the bath time behavior you would prefer, without as much potential mess to clean up if your water etiquette rules are flouted.

3. Set a timer.
This is a good idea whether your little jellyfish loves the bath or despises it. If there is a set amount of time that the bath is to last, you will not be the one to blame for ending it. If your child has fair, or sensitive skin, this is also a good way to limit the length of your toddler's bath to help prevent a dry skin rash, or a flare up of psoriasis or eczema.

4. Have potty time first.
I think the reason for this is obvious, but it is hard to remember to do. If you include it as part of your bath time routine, it will be much easier. Also, if you can get your little marine biologist to sit still on the potty while you fill the tub, not only does that keep him out of your way, but the running water might help inspire some pee pee action at the same time.

5. Jump on in!
The most boring part of bath time is sitting there waiting while your little bubble blower splashes about having a grand old time. Every once in a while you should throw on your swim suit, or not, and jump in the tub with your toddler! You might be surprised what a fun and creative playtime you can have sloshing around the tub together. I love to play with my son at bath time, but bending over the tub, or kneeling on the hard bathroom floor makes it something I do less often than I would like. Jumping on in is the perfect solution, it really makes bath time more fun and less stressful for everyone.

Getting your sweet little tsunami clean can be such a chore, but it can be both easier and more fun with just a few small tweaks. Please forward these tips to any parents of toddlers you know if you find these tips helpful. As always, questions comments and suggestions are always welcome. Happy parenting!

By: Naomi Tripi

Monday, July 13, 2009

5 tips for figuring out why your baby is crying.

Babies cry. They cry and cry and cry. Sometimes you know why they are crying, like when they are hungry, tired, lonely and when they have gas, and sometimes there is no obvious reason for all the hollerin'. After you have been a parent for a few months, you will get much better at deciphering your little megaphone's yelps, but there will still be times when the underlying cause remains a mystery. Here are a few lesser-known reasons why your baby might be crying, and some tips on what might help.

1. Cramping.
Your little china doll's insides are delicate. Every time gas or solids move through her bowels during the first few months it is quite a workout. Gas stretches tissue, solids require her abdominal muscles to continually contract and release, to move things along. The discomfort that your baby experiences feels something like a cross between how you feel after doing 50 crunches, and how a woman feels while having her period each month. Some babies are more sensitive to this type of pain than others, but if your sweet little cherry blossom is crying and you are not sure why this could be the reason. Now don't go rushing off for the Ibuprofen just yet, medicating your baby is tricky, and should only be done under the direction of a pediatrician. Instead try some homeopathic remedies first, like a warm towel, gentle clockwise abdominal baby massage and lavender or rosemary aromatherapy oils (just a drop or two on a favorite blanket will be sufficient), though be sure these oils are aromatherapy grade and do not contain any chemicals such as turpentine.

2. Motion sickness.
Just as your little snugglicious huggy monster is getting used to the world as a solid object, something happens that turns everything on it's head. Whether that is a bumpy stroller ride, a weaving car ride, or even being tossed into the air by a fun-loving daddy, sudden motion can sometimes trigger a panicked screaming fit from your baby that you have never experienced before. This type of crying can be very hard to soothe, but the solution is really quite simple. Bouncing. Yes, motion sickness can be cured by more motion. I am not entirely sure of the reasons this works (a pediatrician once talked to me about small "pebbles" in your baby's ear canal, that are not secured yet because they are so young, which somehow become dislodged from time to time and which can be relocated to their position of origin by bouncing your baby up and down while holding him upright against your chest) but the fact remains that a baby who is screaming for no reason can sometimes be greatly soothed by being held close to you while you jump straight up and down, or sit on an exercise ball and bounce. The calming should be obvious within a minute or two of bouncing if this is the reason your baby is crying.

3. Over-stimulation.
People talk a lot about over-stimulation when it comes to babies, but what does it mean, and what can you do if this is causing your baby to cry? First of all it should be remembered that stimulation is great. It is how your baby learns about the world around her. Everything around your baby is stimulating in the beginning, from the feel of her blanket, to the sound of the clock ticking, to the subtle currents of air that circulate over her sensitive skin. Your baby files the information she gathers from stimulation away while she is sleeping, and as she processes different types of stimuli, she files them away in her mind for future reference. This makes the most common types of stimulation not as demanding of her attention as she gets older. Often large amounts of stimulation will lead to a very sleepy baby who dozes off in order to process it all. However, when so much stimulation is coming in that it disrupts your baby's ability to relax and go to sleep, there can be a build-up of stimulation that still needs to be processed. This build-up is basically what over-stimulation is. At this point if you try to bounce your baby, sing to your baby, or take your baby on a walk, chances are that it will only make her more unhappy. Strangely enough the counter intuitive solution for over stimulation is noise. Not just any noise, a loud and unvaried noise that can block out all others just long enough for your baby to relax and go to sleep. I recommend a hair-dryer, a vacuum cleaner or best of all, a loud fan. Combined with a dark room and familiar scents, this form of soothing can really save a baby (and her parents) a lot of grief.

4. Fear.
In the beginning everything in this world is unfamiliar to your little wide-eyed blankie bug. But as time goes by, there are certain sights, sounds and smells that your baby learns to associate with safety. For some babies some of these things are more important than others. If as soon as your baby's great aunt who prefers a very pungent type of perfume picks him up he starts to scream like someone is pulling his hair out, it is most likely a case of unfamiliarity. This type of fear can be triggered by many things. Sometimes it is a new sound (remember that your baby's hearing is much better than yours. Since he is sensitive enough to perceive very high frequencies even turning on and off of a light bulb is something he can hear.), unfamiliar facial features, an uncomfortable texture of a new blanket or the absence of a familiar smell which could happen simply from changing your bathroom hand soap. Don't worry though, as soon as your baby is surrounded by familiar smells, motions and imagery he will calm down. Try not to be discouraged, give your baby a second or third try at the cause of his distress after a nap or two. Chances are that after one or two exposures he will overcome his fears and go to his great aunt without a fuss.

5. Charley-horse.
A charley-horse or a small muscle spasm, can cause your baby a sudden rush of pain, which could last anywhere from a few seconds to 20 minutes. To figure out if your baby is crying because of a charley-horse, gently squeeze her legs feeling for tight balled-up muscle bunches. You should also check your baby's arms and neck, because some times charley-horses can happen there as well. If you find the tightly knotted muscle, place a warm towel over the muscle and massage the area around it softly with your finger tips. Then very gently try to stretch the muscle as if your baby was preparing for a run. Charley horses can be caused by several things, too much exercise (was your baby in the jumper too long today?), injury (sometimes your baby's body can interpret things like getting a shot at the pediatrician's as an injury), dehydration (was it too hot out today?) and a low supply of calcium or potassium (have you been taking your multi-vitamin if you are breastfeeding?). Most of the time charley-horses are isolated incidents, however, if you find that your baby is having these muscle spasms on a regular basis, or more than once every couple of months, be sure to bring it up with your pediatrician.

The sun shines, rain falls and babies cry. Try as we might, we parents will never be able to eliminate all of the reasons our babies cry, but it doesn't hurt to know a few more things to look for and a couple more ways to make it better. Add these possible causes for crying to your list, and you will be just that much better prepared the next time your baby cries and you don't know why. If you have found these tips helpful please pass them on to any new or expecting parents you might know. Questions, comments and suggestions are always welcome. Happy parenting!

By: Naomi Tripi

Friday, July 10, 2009

5 tips for infant acupressure points.

Acupressure is an ancient form of natural healing that uses pressure applied to certain spots on your body. Most acupressure for adults uses intense pressure over several minutes, but for babies this is way to rough and invasive. However, there are a few places that you can use gentle pressure to help remedy some everyday troubles. For babies under 3 months very gentle pressure should be used for a total of only about 10 to 20 minutes a day. Just a few seconds of softly pressing on each point every few hours should be sufficient. In addition to these five acupressure points, I have listed some more for reducing your baby's fever in another post. Acupressure treatments should only be used in addition to the medical advice of your pediatrician, not as a substitute.

1. Congestion relief points.
When your baby is stuffed up it is one of the most miserable things in the world. She can't eat, can't sleep and can't suck on her pacifier. While using a little saline water and a suction bulb is a great way to remove mucous from her nasal cavity, the swollen tissue that is constricting her ability to breath through her nose is the real issue. Just next to the largest part of each of her nostrils is a pressure point that helps reduce inflammation of the nasal passages. Simply place a finger on either side of he nose at the widest part, and gently massage in a circular motion while counting to 10. This should provide her with some relief immediately, and help to resolve the underlying cause of the inflammation more quickly. You can use these points up to 6 times in a day, spaced a couple hours apart.

2. Cough suppressant points.
Sometimes, even though your baby seems to be fully recovered from an illness, a nagging cough will keep bothering your little Snuffleupagus. This cough is usually a dry hacking one, but even if it is a bit croupy these pressure points can offer a little bit of relief. These pressure points are located on the top section of your baby's index fingers just above the knuckles. Do not pinch when you apply the pressure, just holding onto your baby's fingers will be sufficient. Try to hold on for about 5 seconds whenever your baby has a rough bout of coughing. The cough should be significantly calmed while you hold his fingers, and the duration of the cough over all should be reduced significantly.

3. Teething pain relief points.
These pressure points can be used for pain located anywhere on your baby's head, but they are especially helpful for teething pain. These points are located on the largest part of the palms of your baby's hands near his thumbs. You can press on one or both of them, with a gentle massaging motion for about 10 seconds at a time every two hours or so. This should not only help reduce the pain in your baby's gums, but also reduce the volume of extra saliva. Since extra saliva is often a cause of facial rashes, diarrhea and diaper rash, even if your baby is not in obvious pain you may want to use these pressure points to help reduce your little geyser's production of excess saliva.

4. Sleep inducing point.
This is by far my favorite pressure point for babies. It is one of the most effective acupressure points for infants that I have found. If you are trying to soothe your baby to sleep, and you have addressed all of the usual causes for wakefulness (hunger, diaper, warmth, gas and burping), try this pressure point. Between and slightly above your adorable insomniac's eyebrows on her forehead is what I like to call your baby's "sleep button". Just a soft stroking touch for anywhere between 10 and 20 seconds will prompt your baby to relax and close her eyes. Even if she does resist and fight the relaxation, in a few minutes after you stop she will most likely succumb to her exhaustion.

5. Fever reduction points.
To help reduce your baby's fever, you can try these pressure points located at the base of each of your little angels thumbnails. A gentle non-pinching, grasp of the thumbs for about 10 seconds every 2 to 3 hours throughout the day should help bring down your baby's fever faster and more effectively than simply waiting it out. Though I have several other tips for reducing a baby's fever that I personally prefer, when I need to try something extra, these pressure points are a good thing to try. There are also three more points for quickly lowering dangerous fevers in another post.

Though infant acupressure is lesser known, it is a great tool to have in your bag of parenting tricks. The wonderful thing about these pressure points is that they do not go away, they grow with your child, and you can use them as long as your sweet little panda will let you. I still use the sleep button, cough suppressant and the teething points on my son who is now 2. If you have found these tips helpful please forward them to any new or expecting parents you might know. Questions and comments are always welcome. Happy parenting!

By: Naomi Tripi

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

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

5 tips for treating 5 more kinds of diaper rash.

Since my last post on diaper rashes, I have had several questions about types of lesser-known diaper rashes. Though some of these rashes aren't exclusive to the diaper area, a rash that is in the diaper region often needs a slightly different method of treatment due to the extremes of the environment. Any time your baby has a rash that lasts more than a few days, and is peculiar in either the location or the appearance, you should consult your pediatrician.

1. For a diaper rash caused by heat, use cool water, cotton diapers and aloe vera.
Prickly heat is a common name for these itchy skin bumps caused by over-heating. The hive-like bumps normally appear in the most tender areas, like inner elbows, behind the knees or under arms. These red itchy bumps can also appear on your baby's undercarriage. The first thing to do is to get your baby cooled off, and make sure he is hydrated. Give him a clean wet cloth to suck on while you wipe down his body with another. Turn a fan on in the room if possible, or use whatever kind of make-shift fan you can fashion to blow air across your baby's behind. Treat the bumps with aloe vera, then if you have cloth diapers, put them on your baby. I would leave your baby in nothing but the cloth diapers for a bit while he cools off.

2. For a diaper rash from chafing, use bag balm, disposable diapers and a hair dryer.
Sometimes sagging wet diapers will rub between your baby's thighs and private parts causing some chafing. This bright red swollen and dry area, which is not generally located as if it were a result of contact with waste, can be quite painful for your baby, especially if any urine gets on it. Wash the area thoroughly, then use a hair dryer on the cool setting to make sure your baby's but and the chapped area are as dry as they can be. Then coat the entire area in a thick layer of bag balm. This should help the chafed area retain moisture, so that it can heal more quickly. Since these type of rashes happen more often with cloth diapers, I recommend that parents get a little pack of chlorine free diapers in one size smaller than your baby would wear normally (this is to encourage a snug and less-bulky fit), and use these until the rash is healed. If your baby needs to go down for the night, however, you can use the cloth diapers since chafing is caused by the friction between a wet diaper and your baby's legs while kicking and wiggling, which does not generally happen as much at night, especially if your baby is fully swaddled.

3. For fungal diaper rashes, use tea tree oil, lanolin and vitamin E.
The most common form of fungal diaper rash is caused by a fungus called "Candida Albicans", which is commonly referred to as yeast. There are other types of fungal rashes, however, but luckily they generally all respond to the same types of treatment. With any fungal rash it is very important not to use cornstarch, since fungus generally like to feed on the sugars in cornstarch, and it will only make the rash worse. In my first post about diaper rashes, I talk about some very effective treatments for yeast-based rashes, but there are a few more things you might try, for any fungal rash, even if it isn't specifically a yeast infection. First thoroughly clean your baby's bottom with water then spray a fine mist of tea tree oil (a powerful natural anti-fungal) and water (mixed in a ratio of 1 tablespoon oil to 2 cups water), over your baby's bottom and let it air-dry for as long as your baby is comfortable. Then apply a small amount of vitamin E to the red swollen areas. I do this by poking a pin into a vitamin E capsule and squeezing the oil out onto my son's bottom. After the vitamin E has had a moment or two to absorb, coat the entire area with lanolin. I used the small tubes of lanolin that I had purchased to help reduce nipple dryness while nursing. This should effectively seal the rash away from any contact with more waste or moisture, which should effectively starve the fungus, and allow your baby's bottom to heal more rapidly.

4. For a teething diaper rash, use Aquaphor, Johnson's medicated baby powder and sunshine.
One of the most difficult rashes to treat is the teething rash. The teething rash is caused both by increased acid in your baby's urine and diarrhea from your baby swallowing too much excess saliva. In my first post on diaper rashes I describe treatments for acidic rashes, but since the teething rash is sometimes resistant to the regular methods, these measures are a bit more drastic. First, wash your baby's caboose, then lay him bare booty side up on a safe surface with fresh air circulating, and if possible get some actual sunshine on his cute little rump (not more than 5 minutes or so, you don't want him to get a sunburn). When his hind end is nice and dry, slather on a thick layer of Aquaphor, cover everything with a dusting of Johnson's medicated baby powder, and replace your little peanut's diaper.

5. For a diaper rash that is the result of a fever, use chamomile tea, yogurt and baking soda.
Fevers can often cause a combination rash that is partly an acidic reaction rash, and partly a heat rash. For this kind of irritation, I find that calming the area with a gentle wash with a chilled chamomile tea helps sooth the pain while cooling the area off. Then a coating of cool plain non-sweetened yogurt helps neutralize acid and reduce the heat as well. Finishing off with a layer of baking soda keeps everything in place when you replace the diaper, and helps to neutralize the acids as well.

I think this will cover any possible diaper rash your little sugar lump is likely to encounter. If you try any of these tips and have either no improvement over the course of 3 days or your baby's rash gets worse, talk to your pediatrician. Most rashes are harmless and will go away pretty quickly once treated, however, there is the possibility that your baby could develop an infection if an open sore gets exposed to harmful bacteria. If your baby has open sores on her rear end, be sure to treat them with an antiseptic such as Neosporin before applying additional treatment. All babies get diaper rashes, and most parents will find their own favorite cures and treatments, hopefully having just a few more things to try if what you are doing isn't working will help wipe out your baby's diaper rash a bit faster. If you find these tips helpful, please do forward them to any other new or expecting parents. Questions and comments are welcome. Happy parenting!

By: Naomi Tripi

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Wordless Wednesday!

We had such a fun 4th!
Here are some pictures from my friends BBQ.
(That's her on the left.)The party begins!
Yummy corn on the cob!
Time for a little music.
Thanks for a wonderful day!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Toddler Tuesday: 5 fun kid games.

Now that your baby is entering the world of the big kids, it's time to have some fun! Not that there wasn't a great deal of fun to be had watching your baby suck on her own feet, but now that she's starting to walk, talk and interact more, you can play too! Many games will spring up naturally between you and your little pal, but sometimes it helps to get an idea or two for new games to try.

1. Chase me!
This is the "Monopoly" of toddler games. You can play one-on-one or with a lot of friends, it can go on for a very long time, and depending on who you're playing with the rules might be slightly different. Basically, you either let your toddler get a little ways ahead of you, and then make a big deal about how you're going to catch him, or you can run away very slowly, shrieking about how scared you are that your toddler is going to get you. Whenever anyone gets "caught" kisses, hugs and tickling are the result.

2. Funny face.
This is a great one for a quiet Saturday when you just want to sit with your little jitter bug on the couch. How it works is, you hold her on your lap facing you. Then you poke your cheek and make your eyes cross as if there were a button in your cheek that made you cross your eyes. Then when she pokes your cheek you do it again. You can also touch your nose and stick out your tongue, pinch your chin and wiggle your eyebrows, or any other variation you might think of. This gets really fun when you bring in a mirror and watch your sweet little clown-bottom try some funny faces of her own.

3. Where did you go?
This is a good toddler game to play if you have missed the gym and need a workout. What you do is sit on the floor, and wait for your toddler to walk behind you. Then you make a big show of looking for him while purposefully missing where he is over and over. As your toddler tries harder and harder to show you where he is, you can actually pick him up to look under him. Then toss him onto your shoulder and lumber around the room turning quickly from side to side when you hear him laugh, saying "I know your around here somewhere, I can hear you laughing!" When you are out of breath, you can find your toddler again and tumble to the floor expressing to him how much you missed him and showering him with kisses and tickles.

4. 5... 4... 3... 2... 1... BLAST OFF!
This is also a good exercise game. This one is excellent for little climbers. In this game, you sit slightly forward on a chair, with a good sized space between you and the back of the chair. Then you encourage your little jaguar to climb up. As soon as she gets right behind you, reach back and get a good hold of her then start the count down. 5... 4... 3... 2... 1... BLAST OFF!! At which point you jump up and run around the room, giving your little astronaut a good bumpy piggy-back space ship ride, complete with the best sound effects you can produce. Dump her in a pile of pillows and cushions, or carefully on the couch, then return to your chair. Try to act like you don't know why she is laughing and climbing up behind you again until she gets all the way up, then repeat the flight around the room.

5. Wrong words.
This is one of my son's favorites. When he brings me a book that I have read a hundred times and I need to spice it up a little for my own sanity, this game comes in real handy. It's pretty simple, You start reading the book, but when you come to certain pivotal moments in the storyline, you say the wrong word instead of the one on the page. Most likely your little smarty pants will correct you on your "mistake". If he doesn't, you can pretend to try to correct yourself, substituting sillier and sillier words for the one you got wrong until your toddler either corrects you or turns the page. Then you can continue to make mistakes on the next page. If my son isn't enjoying the game when I substitute funny words, I will often change my strategy to substituting funny sounds. Sounds which toddlers find particularly funny are squishy sounds, ding-dong's, woo-woo-woo's and "stinky" sounds.

It is amazing how quickly playing a game with your toddler can transform a dull or frustrating afternoon into a fun and special bonding time for you both. It can seem like it would be hard to shift gears from grouchy and grumpy into giggles and grins, but it happens very easily when I hear my little guy laugh. I hope you find these tips helpful. Please forward them to any parents of toddlers you know who might also like them, and as always, questions and comments are welcome. Happy parenting!

By: Naomi Tripi

5 tips for parent of premature babies.

Having a baby prematurely is a very difficult thing. There are so many scary outcomes that are possible, and there is very little you can do to help prevent any of them. Your sweet little tiny itty bitty baby is in the hands of people who you hardly know, if at all, and you have to go home from the hospital without her. Every day will bring new challenges, and most likely tears as well. I was at such a loss when my son was born at just short of 26 weeks, I felt very helpless. There were a few wise words that I was told by a dear friend, and a few things I learned along the way, that I will share with you in the hopes that if you find yourself in such a scary situation, you will have some ideas to try while you go through the rough parts.

1. Don't ride the emotional roller coaster.
Every day in the life of a preemie is a new challenge. There is often a new test, or a new medication, or a new supplement, and the medical jargon surrounding everything is confusing at best. I called my friend, who had premature twins, a few days after I got home from the hospital, and asked her how she had survived having her babies away from her for so long. She replied that the best thing anyone had said to her was to stay grounded, and not to let the highs and lows throw your emotions around so much. This was wonderful advice. I recommend that any parent of a premature baby allow themselves to cling tightly to their hope, and let any scary or negative news wash over you without washing away your foundation. After all, since the roller coaster and the foot path arrive at the same destination, take the easier route when you can.

2. Get a good primary nurse.
I wasn't sure what a "primary" nurse was when my husband and I were told we could choose one to help us oversee our son's medical care, but I began watching each of the nurses that interacted with my son each time I was in the hospital, and soon got a strong feeling of confidence in one kind lady in particular. I asked her to be my son's primary, and luckily for us she accepted. I came to find out that a primary nurse will work almost exclusively with your baby whenever they are on duty. He or she will communicate with the doctors, speaking their same language, and make recommendations that the doctors may not have thought of if they are less familiar with your baby's particular case. If you are lucky enough to get a truly amazing primary nurse, she or he may call on days off to check in with the nurses on duty to make sure they are doing everything just the way your baby likes it. He or she will sometimes be a sympathetic ear, a teacher and a friend, keeping an eye on your needs as well as those of your baby. I cannot say how much I will always be grateful to my son's primary nurse, and I highly recommend to every parent of a preemie that they ask for one as well.

3. Visualization.
Another thing that was a huge help to me was when the supervising physician over the nursery walked my husband and I through the NICU to the area where the oldest babies were. These were the ones who were just about ready to go home. He pointed out one little baby boy who he told us was born at the same gestational age as our son. This boy looked completely normal. He was fat and wiggly, and looked just like a regular newborn baby! That image inspired a vision in me of my boy. I imagined him with wild curly hair, running around a park as a young child. As I sat by my baby's isolette, watching him breath each day, this vision of the future warmed my heart and let me look past all of the wires and tubes, bandages and bruises. I think that my positive thoughts could only have done good for my little muscle man. I know that the calm you feel when looking on a bright future can give you strength, and I believe that our babies understand our strength as a positive energy that helps them keep working so hard to grow.

4. Celebrate the little things.
In my heart, I celebrated my son's first week of life like it was his first birthday. Obviously my husband and I didn't throw a party every time he had a good blood test, or went more than a couple of days without having a "Brady" (Bradycardia: an episode of extremely low heart rate accompanied at times by breathing difficulties.), but we would have a quiet little celebration together at home that night. I called my mother to update her on every little milestone that my son passed. Other parents, who were even better at this, had a big chart on the wall by their baby's isloette, that tracked each ounce of weight he gained with bright stars and was covered with cheery messages left by visitors. I even soaked up some of the positive energy that radiated from that beautiful poster. However you do it, find some way to enjoy and share your tiny one's achievements, no matter how small. I think you'll find that it will really give you a positive boost, and everyone needs those.

5. Focus on what you can do.
The worst part of being the parent of a premature baby for me was the complete lack of control. I'm not a complete control freak, but when it came to my baby, I always thought that my husband and I would be the ones to provide our son with the basics of his care. It was difficult to accept that I would not be the first person to change his diaper, or give him a bath. There seemed to be so little I could do for him, yet when my husband and I decided to simply look on the bright side, and to do our best at what we could do, we discovered quite a few little things that we did religiously. I was given a "scent doll" that I would take home and sleep with every week or two for a few days, then I would place the doll in the isolette so my son could smell me. My husband bought a small tape recorder and recorded himself and me reading stories and singing songs. We would have the nurse turn on the recording for a few hours every day at a low volume, so he could hear our voices (as he would have if he was still in my womb) while we weren't there. I went and visited with my baby every day that I was allowed (there were a couple days when I was sick and was not allowed to visit), and pumped my breast milk every 2 to 3 hours around the clock, carefully labeling and freezing each bottle to take to the hospital. My husband and I threw ourselves a baby shower, and organized his crib and changing table for when he would come home. We learned how to practice the "containment hold" and do the "kangaroo hold" as well as learning how his oxygen tanks worked, so we could bring him home even though he still needed oxygen. We took CPR classes, read the medical literature the hospital kept sending home with us, and basically did many of the things we would have done in anticipation of our baby's arrival had he still been in my tummy. I found that the more I was focused on the next small task that I could do for my baby, the smaller the obstacles we needed to overcome seemed.

Every baby will come with challenges and difficulties, but some will be harder than others. Preemies come with their own set of challenges and trials, but the good moments are so very very sweet and precious because they come along a bit more rarely. Don't let yourself get bogged down in all of the things that might go wrong, just keep doing what you can do and keep a positive outlook as much as you can. Don't be afraid to lean on friends, family, and even strangers for support, because at times we all need a little extra boost. I hope these tips prove useful to you, and if you know any parent of premature babies who might need these tips, please forward them. Questions and comments are always welcome. Happy parenting!