Tuesday, September 29, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Wordless Wednesday!

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

Friday, September 4, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5 tips for staying organized after you have a baby.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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