Monday, August 31, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, August 24, 2009

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

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

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wordless Wednesday!

At least he knows the rules about greeting strange dogs.

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

Monday, August 17, 2009

5 tips for caring for your toddlers teeth.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, August 14, 2009

5 tips for parents returning to work.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

5 tips for using a pacifier efficiently.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wordless Wednesday!

Looking spiffy! Dress up is so fun!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, August 10, 2009

5 tips for the best baby toys 0-3 months.

Deciding what kinds of toys to get for your baby is a very important job. An enormous amount of development and brain growth happen in the first three months. New neural pathways are being formed all the time, and play is a huge part of the appropriate stimulation of that development. While just about any toy that isn't a choking hazard will be good for your baby, my personal top picks are listed below.

1. Black and white mobile.
Shortly after your baby is born, she will be able to see in slightly fuzzy black and white. Since she can only see for about 8 to 10 inches, and will not have very good motor coordination yet, hanging images nearby so that she can look at them is a great idea. There are a few commercial black-and-white mobiles, or you can make your own. Just be sure that if you make one to keep it out of reach of your baby, since it may not be safe to be chewed on. Black and white images will be the most enjoyable for your baby through the first couple of months because the high contrast will make them easier to focus on. As your baby gets older and her eyesight improves, colors and more complex shapes will also become more interesting.

2. Baby gym.
This contraption is a great invention. My only argument with it is that it can encourage back time more than it encourages tummy time. However, if you make an effort to limit the amount of time your baby spends on his back in the gym, it is still a lot of fun. The cause-and-effect connection is easily made with baby gyms that have crinkly cloth flaps, little mirrors and peek-a-boo images for your little giggle bug to find. This toy will also last until your baby begins to scoot and crawl, so it has a pretty long life compared to many baby toys.

3. Rattle.
Any rattle will do. A small heavy-duty maraca, a plastic bead filled shaker or a wooden rain-stick are all great options. Rattles are the most basic of baby toys, they have been around almost as long as people have. Some of the earliest artifacts ever recovered were rudimentary forms of baby rattles. The rattle stimulates sound-orientation, cause and effect, and fine motor skills. All around, this toy is a great one for your baby. Also, rattles stay interesting to your baby for up to two years, and even longer as a part of music education, so it is a toy that will grow with your little hermit crab.

4. Bells.
Bells are really just a fancier form of the basic rattle. But there is unquestionably a very high amount of fun and interest that most babies have for the clear ringing tones of metal bells. The most important thing to consider when looking at bells is safety. Jingle bells can be choking hazards, and even the striker from regular bells can become this type of concern. The best type of bell for a baby is one that is encased within cloth or better yet, a metal rattle. This site is a great place to find my very favorite kind of baby bell-rattle. The major drawback is that they can be quite expensive. Though if you are not on a budget you could also look at their interlocked silver teething rings which double as bell-like toys.

5. Shatter-proof Mirror.
One of the first combinations of shapes that your baby will be able to recognize will be a human face. Most new parents could spend hours just gazing at their precious new bundle of baby rolls, and there is nothing wrong with that. However, if you want to mix it up, a great toy for your baby is herself! Babies love to look at other babies, and at this early age, their reflection will seem to be exactly that. Then, when your baby begins to develop more of a sense of self, a mirror will be great to give her a clear mental image of what her expressions look like, and what the difference is between her face and other peoples faces. This is a very fun and educational toy, just be absolutely certain that the mirror you get is shatter-proof. As a side note, bendable baby mirrors are not a very good choice, because the images on them are warped and indistinct. If you want a mirror for developmental stimulation be sure to get one that is flat and rigid.

Trick: Water bottle.
One of the funnest and most fascinating toys for your baby is an old water bottle. You can leave a little water in it, or dry it out and throw some beans and bells into it. It crinkles when your baby squeezes it, it rattles or sloshes when your baby shakes it and it is light and easy to grab. I recommend taking off the paper label, half-flattening it and then sealing the lid on with hot glue, this will keep the squish-able crinkling quality, and minimize the possibility of your baby getting it open. You can put glitter in the water, or dry it and put small pebbles or twigs in it, there are endless possibilities for this amazing baby toy that only costs a buck or two. Just be sure that if you have any items that could be choking hazards in the bottle that you do seal it securely, babies often figure out how to twist off a lid long before you would think that they would.

Babies tend to find and make toys out of anything around them that they can get their tiny hands on. But to be safe, you should always inspect and ensure the safety of any new toys before they go into your baby's mouth. Watching your little dimpled doll figure out new toys is almost as fun for you as it is for your baby. And similarly, when you are picking out a new toy for your baby, if it is a toy that looks fun to you, chances are that your baby will love it too. If you have found these tips helpful please forward them to any new or expecting parents you know. Questions, comments and suggestions are always welcome. Happy parenting!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

5 tips for breastfeeding in public.

After your first week home with your baby, you may begin to feel confident enough to try getting out of the house for more than a few hours. However, this means you may be faced with one of the personal struggles that every breastfeeding mother has to confront. Breastfeeding in public. Here are a few options for ways to address the awkward situation.

1. The invisi-boob.
This strategy is great once you master it. Basically, you lift just enough of one section of your shirt to let your baby latch on, Then you hold your little sweet potato over any bare skin on your midriff, and your shirt drapes right down to your baby's mouth, so no one can see a thing, but you don't have to wrestle with a big blanket either. The tricky part of this technique is getting your baby latched on without showing skin. I recommend practicing at home first, and wearing something with a little room in it.

2. Strategic scarf placement.
This is a play on the old "drape the baby blanket" method, but a bit more stylish. In this method, you just drape one end of a nice fashionable scarf you are wearing specifically for this purpose over the most exposed part of your breast to camouflage your baby's lunchtime activity. This strategy is best for moms who are not embarrassed to be breastfeeding in public, but also do not want to be ogled by ignorant folks who may not be able to keep their opinions to themselves.

3. Inside a baby-wrap carrier.
This is a great way to have both a touch of privacy, and a great amount of freedom. Your baby is well supported, and you are completely covered. The difficult part of this method is getting the latch. You will need to have your carrier tied a little more loosely than normal on top so that you can reach in from the sides to both hold your breast in an accessible position, and guide your baby's head to the nipple. Once you have a good latch, make sure your baby's face isn't pressed to tightly against your breast or he may not be able to breath comfortably. Once your little "joey" is suckling away, you will have at least one hand free, and be able to walk around while nursing. I like "Sugar Sweet Baby" baby wraps. They are fashionable, comfortable and made of bamboo cloth which is naturally antibacterial.

4. Under a decorative cover up.
There are many brands of hide-a-boob cover-ups out there. Most do a great job of shielding the outsider's view, and some actually still allow you to have a clear view. Being able to see what is going on with your baby while he is nursing is a very valuable feature, if you do choose to go with one of these, look for one that has good consumer reviews about being able to view the baby.

5. Bold brash and bare.
To try this option you need to be confident of your body, very proud of your roll as a breastfeeding mom and be able to separate your personal sense of modesty from your baby's meal times. Other people will give you looks, some will even make nasty comments, but the more normal people who are out there proudly nursing their babies in public, the less strange and out of place it will become. Besides being a breastfeeding activist, this option is great because you can clearly see your baby, your baby can see you and you don't have to wrestle with any cloth. Obviously, it would be great if all nursing mothers could just whip out a boob like they do at home, without any social backlash or personal embarrassment. But until that day, only the bravest and most secure breastfeeding mothers will probably feel comfortable being this brave. However you decide to go about breastfeeding, the most important part is that you ARE breastfeeding.

Hopefully, if you have been worried or intimidated at the prospect of venturing out into the world because of the difficulty of public nursing, you will now have a couple viable options for things to try. Happy "World Breastfeeding Week"! If you have found these tips to be helpful, please forward them to any new or expecting parents you know. Questions, comments and suggestions are always welcome. Happy parenting!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

5 tips for first time parents.

When all of the waiting is over and your little belly buddy is finally here, it can be overwhelming. Just trying to figure out what the new chores are and who should do them and when can be quite a task. A lot of strain can be put on parents during this difficult transition time. Here are a few tips to help you find your footing, so that you can have confidence as you move forward into this great new world called parenting!

1. Talk to a lactation consultant.
First thing's first. If you can overcome the difficulties of adjusting to breastfeeding and are confident of your abilities to nourish your new baby you will have a lot less stress. If despite your best efforts, you are unable to breastfeed, a lactation consultant can put you in contact with outside sources to supplement your baby's diet with donated breast milk. Knowing your baby is getting the best nutrition you can provide will free up your worry center to think about other things, like how you are ever going to be able to take a shower again!

2. Cut a deal with your partner.
Both you and your partner should sit down and write a list of the duties related to child care that you personally find the most difficult. Then, you can compare your lists. If there are things that your partner hates doing that you don't mind, you can take the bulk of those things, and if there are things you can't stand doing, your partner can take up the slack for you on those issues . By the same token, if there are things you both dislike, you can share those duties more equally. An example of this is, "No one likes changing dirty diapers, so we will both try to take an equal load of this duty. You don't like getting up in the night for feedings, but I don't mind, so I'll do that, and in exchange, I hate washing and folding the baby laundry but you don't mind it, so you will do the majority of the laundry while I do most of the night feedings." Try to steer away from ultimatums like "I will NEVER do the baby laundry", because there will always be times when you'll both need to pitch in on duties you despise. Also, do try to keep the bargaining even, if one person hates all the duties, and the other doesn't mind any of them too much, this could lead to major resentments. Although, if one parent is staying home while the other works it is fair to exchange going to work for three or four baby duties, just not all of them. Just like the person who goes to work needs a little break when they get home, the person taking care of the baby all day will need a break every day too.

3. Work out a routine.
You may be a very impulsive, "fly by the seat of your pants" kind of person, but when you are taking care of a baby, an ounce of planning can alleviate a pound of headache. During the first month or three, getting on a really reliable schedule is next to impossible, but having an order in which you do things will ensure that they all get done. For the first two months at least, your baby will tend to go to sleep after eating. These naps might not last very long, but they are fairly reliable. You can use these little naps to schedule the things you need to get done throughout the day like this: 1st nap=put the babies laundry in and/or eat, 2nd nap=wash the dishes and/or take a shower, 3rd nap=put the laundry in the dryer and/or take a nap yourself, 4th nap=tidy the house and/or fold the laundry and eat, 5th nap=Make food for yourself for the next day and/or do some exercise. You get the basic idea. It may sound crazy to schedule eating, but trust me, it isn't so simple once you have a baby.

4. Put the cute clothes on now.
I have heard, more times than I care to recall, parents expressing regret over having missed the chance for their baby to wear one cute outfit or another because they were saving it for a special occasion. Babies grow fast! If there is a specific special occasion, like a wedding or a family reunion, clothes can sometimes be saved for them. But on the whole, if you got cute duds, put em on!

5. Don't sweat the small stuff.
There will be a million things in your baby's first few months that will give you a heart attack. It's a miracle the parents survive at all with all the stress and worry. Little things like keeping track of every feeding and every bowel movement are helpful, but not usually necessary. The amount, consistency and smell of your baby's "spit up", is another constant source of concern for new parents. All babies spit up their food from time to time, sometimes it seems like they spit up their whole feeding, but if your baby is gaining weight and sleeping fine it is most likely normal. Also, spit up changes consistency, smell and sometimes color, so the vast majority of these concerns are unwarranted as well. Another natural source of stress is, of course, the crying. Firstly you should know, your baby cannot consciously control her crying. She is not crying because she is mad at you, or because she is trying to tell you something. Babies cry because they are uncomfortable, pure and simple. Some discomfort is worse than others, but they assign no blame, and hold no grudges. Figuring out exactly why your baby is uncomfortable, and trying to make her comfortable (as long as it is safe to do so), is parenting in a nutshell. Take a breath, put in some earplugs if it helps take the edge off but you can still hear, and try something different, or let someone else try when your patience runs thin. You will get better at figuring out the reasons behind the cry as time goes on, and your baby will get better at crying in certain ways for certain types of discomfort.

Trick: Pick two or three baby information sources you trust.
When you have a baby EVERYONE suddenly has an opinion on what you should do, how, and when. If you already have sources you trust that you can go to when you have questions it will help you to sort through all of the unsolicited advice you are likely to receive. I'm not saying that you shouldn't listen to all of the advice, but if you hear something you are curious about, you can run it by someone you trust before you let it stress you out. Also, if someone challenges the way you are doing something, you can be less bothered by it because you will have an authority to cite as the reason you choose the systems you are using.

Becoming a new parent is a truly transformative time in anyone's life. You may find yourself looking around feeling completely lost in an unfamiliar world filled with unfamiliar priorities. However, whenever that feeling of alienation pops up, just take one good long look into your baby's face and you will find that you do belong here after all. If you have found these tips to be helpful, please pass them on to any new or expecting parents you know. Questions, comments and suggestions are always welcome. Happy parenting!

Wordless Wednesday! "Caption Contest."

I have written and deleted 10 captions that were nowhere near witty enough for these pictures.
Why don't you give it a go? What do you think would be a great caption for this series?
I'll post the best response with a credit and a link in a couple of weekends. Be sure to leave an address for me to link to.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Toddler Tuesday! 5 tips for toddler road trips.

Now that you have a wiggly and wild toddler, hitting the road for a quick weekend getaway might sound like less of a vacation and more like "enhanced interrogation techniques". For some toddlers a ride in the car is no big deal, while for others, even ten minutes is a struggle. But any child who has to remain in their car seat for more than an hour or two will most likely be pretty unhappy about it. Hopefully these tips will give you a few ideas for things you can do to keep your little back seat screamer from losing his patience.

1. Pack a small toy box behind the driver's seat.
While the box needs to be small to fit behind the driver's seat, the toys in it can be pretty big. Interactive toys like a xylophone, a see-n-say, or any one of the Leap Frog brand toys are great for travelling with. Smaller toys are good too, but they should be softer. If your little fuzzy-bunny suddenly throws a fit, you don't want her to also throw a small hard object inside the car. Though she may not be able to cause any real damage to anything herself, the distraction to the driver is potentially serious. Some soft small toys that are good for travel are Beanie Babies, finger puppets and cloth books.

2. Bring some gum.
One of the first things I think of when I think of chewing gum is how my mother would always tell me that my teeth would rot if I had it too often. Turns out that though my mom was right back then, times have changed. Now it is actually recommended that you have your children chew sugar free gum with xylitol a few times a day to fight cavities! Also, as you drive up and down mountains your toddler's ears might need help to relieve the pressure from altitude changes and chewing gum is great for that. If your little caterpillar thinks that he is getting a special treat, all the better. Just be sure to cover your car's seat cushions with towels or blankets if your toddler is not used to chewing gum.

3. Bring music and headphones.
If you have any type of mp3 player be sure to download a few fun songs for your funky little chicken to groove to while you roll on down the road. Since you might have a different taste in music than your little one, bringing earphones can be a great relief. Your toddler will probably think they are way cool, and enjoy putting them on and taking them off several times before settling down to listen. This should buy you a good chunk of time to relax and enjoy the scenery.

4. Make a schedule of stops.
One of the worst hazards of road trips for toddlers is diaper rashes. If your toddler makes a mess in his pants and sits in it for even 10 to 15 minutes it can result in a much worse rash than normal. Taking a rest stop every 2 to 3 hours to change your little poopers poopies is a great idea. Since it can be easy to lose track of time when you are on the road, planning where you are going to stop before you leave will help keep you on a good schedule.

5. Have special labor-intensive snacks on hand.
My favorite versions of the labor intensive snacks are food necklaces. Froot loops, popcorn and Cheerios are easy to thread onto a length of string and hang around you little muncher's neck. I only recommend this type of snack for times when you will be able to closely supervise your toddler, because if left unsupervised, even a simple snack necklace could be a hazard for your child. If you are uncomfortable with placing the snack necklace around your toddlers neck, you can also tie it around one of your little piranha's car seat straps. Other fairly tricky snacks are a box of raisins, jello in a Ziploc bag with a small hole cut in the corner for your toddler to squeeze the treat out and sugar free lollipops.

Trick: Iphone toddler games.
One more little trick you can use if you have an Iphone, is to download a free toddler game like "memory" or a simple vocabulary "touch the picture" game. These games can captivate your little passenger's attention for quite a long time. The only problems are, you might want to be playing a game on there yourself, and your toddler could mess up your phone if you don't keep an eye on him.

Having a successful road trip with your little adventurer is not really all that hard for most families. Starting off with a plan, and lots of strategies for helping your little buddy stay occupied is key. Don't forget to bring several sippy cups with water in them for hydration, and a blanket for propping up your toddlers head if she falls asleep. If you have found these tips helpful, please forward them to other parents of toddlers that you know. Questions, comments and suggestions are always welcome. Happy parenting!

Monday, August 3, 2009

5 tips for hotel arrangements when traveling with your baby.

Whether you are going on a vacation or visiting friends and family, traveling with a newborn or any baby can be a daunting prospect. Though there are a lot of ways a trip with a baby can go wrong, there are also ways that you can prepare for many of the potential pitfalls. Because I know the uncertainty that many new parents face when when planning their first hotel stay with their new baby, here are some of my most useful tips to help you be more prepared.

1. Bring age-appropriate baby proofing.
For an infant, there is really not much you will need to do to increase the safety of your hotel. However, if your baby can roll over, crawl or pull up to a standing position there are a few things you could do to make your room more safe. If your baby can roll over, you will need to always place pillows or rolled up blankets next to her if she is placed on the bed. If you lay her on a blanket on the floor, you should block access under beds, and cover or blockade floor vents.
For a crawler, outlet covers, curtain pulls and electrical cords should be secured, as well as taping a bit of padding (I use baby wash clothes and artists tape, because the tape comes off without harming paint or finishes) over any low furniture corners. For a near-toddler, secure drawers and cabinets, tape padding on higher corners and secure lamps so that they cannot be pulled down on your baby's head by her tugging on the cord.

2. Bring a hint of home.
If there is a certain scent that you use in your home, like an air freshener or scented cleaner, bring it with you and give your hotel room a good once-over with it. Also items like a used crib sheet can be helpful because scents that your baby finds familiar are often natural body scents that are absorbed into cloth. Your baby has a strong association with smell, and having something familiar, like a scent, can really soothe him. The familiar scent will also assist with sleep and eating. When your chubby little cuddle bug is constantly trying to orient himself in a new environment it can be hard to relax or concentrate on eating for very long. The weakest of your baby's senses is eyesight, so bringing familiar visual stimuli will probably not be as helpful, unless it is something very familiar to your baby, like a mobile or a baby gym.

3. Find out where the local hospital and other emergency services are located.
Your hotel can often supply you with a list of local medical services, but you may want to do a little bit of checking on your own, so that if there is a hospital that is better for babies, you know where it is located and what it is called. Chances are that you will not need such a service, but knowing where they are, and how to get to them will lighten your stress load quite a bit, and in a worse-case-scenario, your baby will be able to receive medical attention much faster.

4. Ask about baby rental equipment like cribs, strollers and highchairs.
Often hotels supply guests with a complimentary crib for babies, but at certain times of the year, there may be a shortage of supply. When asking about the availability of this type of equipment, you can also request reservations if necessary and find out the rates if the hotel charges for the use of baby equipment. In the event that your hotel does not supply the types of baby equipment that you need, you can arrange to bring your own, look into other baby equipment rental shops, or purchase second-hand equipment for the duration of your trip, then re-donate it upon your departure.

5. Some toys that are old, some that are new.
While you will absolutely want to bring a few of your baby's favorite music, books and toys, having a stash of new items to introduce along the way is a great idea. Sometimes your little darling will be cranky and impatient, and old toys will most likely not be a good enough distraction. This is the perfect time to bring out a brand-new item for your baby's enjoyment. It might feel like bribery, but your little honey-suckle is too young yet to grasp the concept of behavior modification for reward, that skill usually kicks in after the age of one at the earliest.

Travelling with your baby will get easier with practice, so don't let the details stress you out to the point that you decide not to go. Over and over again I hear from parents about how easy their babies were to travel with. It is just getting over the initial stress and adjustment to the new environment that can sometimes be a little bumpy. If you have found these tips to be helpful, please forward them to any new or expecting parents you know. Questions, comments and suggestions are always welcome. Happy parenting!