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Starting a new family can be a wonderful yet stressful experience. Newborns, and even older babies, can seem mysterious and taking care of them may be a little scary. Fortunately, babies are born with the skills and desire to tell parents what they need. In this blog, experienced moms (who happen to be experts) will help parents understand why babies behave the way they do and share tips to help parents cope with the ups and downs of this new and exciting time of life.
Friday, February 26, 2010
February Baby Quiz!
We'd love to see your answers, send us a comment and tell us what you think!
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
Tips for Nap Time
Recently, a reader asked “Do you have any tips for nap time? My baby is a very good sleeper at night, but needs a little help falling asleep for naps.”
Babies (and mothers) need naps! As a sleep-deprived mother myself, I would recommend napping with your baby, but, as a busy, working mom, I also realize it’s not always that simple.
Babies sleep 13-14 hours per day, but not all at one time! Older babies (9-12 months) generally need two naps per day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. During the 2nd year of life, 1 of the 2 naps is usually dropped leaving 1 afternoon nap. However, this transition period may last several months and your baby may still have the need for 2 naps on occasion.
Now as you know, what babies need (a nap) and what babies want (to play all day and never rest) can be 2 very different things, and while you never want to force your baby to sleep, there are a few things you can do to help nudge him in the direction of dreamland.
1. Follow a daily routine. Babies and toddlers like routines so that they can anticipate what is going to happen next. A routine does not have to be detailed or by the clock; simply plan meals, activities, errands, outdoor play, story time, or any other activities you do on a regular basis, to be at about the same time each day so that your baby can start to predict when nap time will be. Also, taking naps at the same time each day will help stabilize his circadian rhythms (sleep/wake cycles), making it easier for his body to wind down naturally when it’s time to sleep.
2. If you don’t have a regular naptime now, watch your baby’s cues for signs that he is tired or needs a break during the day. This will help you determine when a nap or break is needed. This will depend on the time that your baby wakes in the morning, his age (as he gets older he will be able to play and be alert for longer periods of time), and his bedtime as well.
3. Warn older babies that naptime is coming. If naptime is in 30 minutes, give your baby a reminder. For example: “After we read these 2 books and have a snack, then it will be naptime.” I do that with my daughter to this day, (she is now 2 ½) and it really helps her to transition smoothly from one activity to another. Depending on the age of your baby, you can use a timer as well. Set the timer for 10 minutes and say: “We’ve got 10 more minutes to play until the timer goes off; then it will be time for your nap.”
4. Respect your baby’s developmental stages. With each new motor drive, your baby may wake more often to practice his new skill. So keep in mind that your baby may have a hard time settling down as he works hard to master crawling, standing, walking, and so forth.
5. Be consistent with naptime. Your baby likely needs a nap, although he may not WANT a nap. If your baby won’t fall asleep, you can still give him some quiet time in his crib to rest during his regular “naptime.”
6. Set a relaxing sleep atmosphere. Make sure your baby’s sleep area is relatively dark and quiet. For awhile, you can even sit near him and rub his back, or play quiet music. Younger babies may need to be rocked to sleep. If you have a newborn, remember to wait until he is in quiet sleep before you try to put him down. As your baby grows, he will learn to fall asleep on his own, and will not need as much assistance from you.
Next time: Another Reader Question about Sleep
Friday, February 19, 2010
Reader Question: Introducing your dog to your new baby
I love dogs! My family got our first dog when I was 8. So, when my husband and I bought our first house, he promised that we could get a dog right away. One week after we moved in, I found out I was pregnant, but I still insisted on getting a puppy. Ichabod (Icky, for short), an American Bulldog, joined our family on Christmas Eve, just 5 months before we brought our daughter home for the first time. Even though Icky was a sweet, well-behaved, and loyal puppy, I was nervous about introducing him to our tiny baby. It appears that I wasn’t the only new mom with this concern, because a few weeks ago, we received this question:I am about to have a baby and have a dog. I'm worried about how to introduce the baby into the house so the dog won't think it's either an enemy or a toy. How do I make this happen?
Based on our experience, I think preparing before your baby is born is the most important thing you can do to encourage a smooth transition for both you and your dog. Here are 3 things I recommend doing as soon as possible:
1. Address your dog’s behavioral issues that could escalate once the baby arrives.
Bad behaviors, like jumping or chewing, probably won’t magically disappear and could get worse or even emerge once the baby arrives. Other, more serious behavioral issues, like food aggression and being territorial or possessive, could be very dangerous if not handled properly. There are a lot of resources available to help you improve your dog’s behavior. Our family uses the Dog Whisperer approach, which is based on understanding dog psychology and establishing pack leadership. Regardless of which method you choose, eliminating problem behaviors early will make your life much easier.
2. Evaluate your dog’s routines and consider what revisions will be needed to accommodate your new baby
I was 2 ½ months pregnant when we got Icky and I have to admit that I treated him more like a baby than a puppy (I blame the hormones!). He was pretty small when we got him and it took no time at all for him to get used to sitting on my lap. As we both got bigger, it got harder and harder for him to fit on my lap, so I started letting him sit on the couch with me. Luckily, my husband recognized that this behavior (my behavior) would have to change before our daughter came home. Instead of allowing Icky on the couch or on my lap, we got him a dog bed that fit right next to the couch and taught him that he could only sit next to me when I invited him. This small change proved very useful, he never once jumped on me when I was holding the baby.
3. Introduce your dog to other children and babies.
This can serve 2 purposes. First, it lets you observe how your dog interacts with children so that you can identify and correct any unwanted behaviors (like jumping or barking). Second, it allows your dog to experience the sounds and smells of childhood and infancy. Infant crying can be very shocking to dogs when they aren’t used to it, so it may be beneficial to expose your dog to a baby’s cry when you are more equipped to help him respond appropriately.
As you get closer to your due date, I suggest making a plan for how your dog will be cared for while you are in the hospital. Drastic changes to a dog’s routine, like leaving a dog who is usually inside outside for several days, can lead to unwanted behavior, so keeping things as normal as possible while you are gone could be very useful. If your dog usually gets a long walk in the evening, ask a family member or friend to continue that routine while you are gone. Our dog’s behavior is noticeably better when he gets enough exercise.
When you are finally ready to bring your new baby home, it is important to consider what your dog may be experiencing. Not only have you been gone for a few days (which always gets my dog a little worked up), but you will look and even smell different. Our experience was a little unusual because I came home without my daughter, who had to stay in the hospital after I was released (see When Motherhood Doesn’t Go According to Plan: Part 1). I was in the hospital for 9 days and although Icky was extremely excited to see me when I came home, he was also hesitant to get too close. It wasn’t until I sat down and reached out to him that he came up to me. When we brought Olivia home a few months later (see Part 2) my husband, who is a much better pack leader than I am, carried my daughter in. This is something that many of my friends, who were able to bring their babies home right away, have done too. They came into the house, allowing the dog to greet them and calm down before having the baby brought in by someone else (spouse, family member, etc). How close you let the dog get to the baby is a personal decision that should be made based on your comfort level and your dog’s temperament.
Our experience introducing our dog to our new baby went very well. Icky was immediately respectful and protective (although not too protective) of our daughter and now, 2 years later, they are best buddies! Here are a few more tips that you may find helpful as your family adjusts to your new addition:
- Exercise is key to having a happy, healthy dog
- If you are worried about your dog chewing on the baby’s toys, it may help to avoid buying your dog toys that resemble baby toys
- Remember that babies get over stimulated very easily. If your baby is watching the dog play or if the dog is barking, your baby could get over stimulated and need a break.
- As your baby grows and becomes mobile, there will be a whole new set of issues you’ll need to address, but we’ll save those for another post!
Finally, we want to stress that you should NEVER leave your dog with your baby unattended. Even the most kind, gentle dogs, are animals and may harm the baby (intentionally or unintentionally).
Next Time: We’ll answer a reader question about naps!
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
We're 8 months old today!
Thursday, February 11, 2010
Reader Question: Dealing with “Brave” Babies
I certainly know what it is like to have a fearless child. One afternoon when my son was 2 years old, I was at a backyard party. When I put him down for a moment, he darted off and jumped into the pool which was just a few feet away. Since he couldn’t swim, I immediately jumped in with all my clothes on and pulled him out. As I put him up on the edge of the pool and reached up to pull myself out, he jumped in again! He was just so sure that he could do anything if he tried! Needless to say, I held him with one hand on the edge as I finally got out of the pool. Yes, my son was fearless, frighteningly so. Unfortunately, your baby is not likely to change anytime soon. A better strategy is to accept your baby’s personality and be prepared.
As we’ve mentioned in a previous post, infants are born with a set of personality traits that form their temperament. While many of these traits may change over time, others remain. With fearless babies and toddlers, it is essential that parents are constantly on the lookout for danger. Since your baby is just starting to take steps, you should baby-proof your home now as if your baby was already walking. Any time you leave your home, make sure that you look around every environment to see what your baby might get into. The moment your baby reaches, steps, or jumps towards danger, you’ll need to be there to scoop her up. Make sure that you tell anyone who cares for your baby about her boldness, even if you are nearby. Many people expect that babies’ would be naturally afraid of dogs, ovens, or heights, but many are not. Infants are not capable of responding to reasoning or discipline and their curiosity and drive to explore will win every time. It is far safer to rely on removal of potential dangers and redirection when your baby is headed for trouble.
As your child gets older, you will be able to teach her what she can and cannot do but even toddlers can’t respond quickly enough to your words to be safe if there is immediate danger. Toddlers don’t have a lot of control over their bodies and impulses so your daughter will still need you to help her stay out of harm’s way. As she learns more about the world, your daughter will become more cautious but maybe never as cautious as you would like her to be. Your daughter is likely to be an adventurer for many years to come. In the meantime, finding safe ways to encourage her explorations might be easier on both of you. Lots of activity in secure baby-proofed places will help her (and you) get some well deserved peace.
Next time: More answers to readers’ questions!
Monday, February 8, 2010
Reader Question: Decreased Milk Supply
Friday, February 5, 2010
Reader Question: Visiting Friends with our Baby
When my daughter was about 9 mos old we visited a good friend of mine that didn't have any kids at the time. The visit was SO stressful because I spent the whole time chasing my very active baby around their house trying to keep her out of their "breakables." My friend has invited us back several times since, but it was so hard the first time that I don't want to go back! How can I tell her that (or make the visit less stressful for me) without offending her?
When we read this question, we immediately identified with this mother’s situation. As mothers of young children ourselves, we each had a story to share of our own challenging visits to friends or family members’ houses that were not exactly “baby friendly.” Personally, I flashed back to a recent vacation we took to visit my best friend in Southern California (hopefully she’s not reading this!). I love my friend, but she and her husband don’t have kids and thus, their beautiful home is decorated with fragile (i.e. tempting) objects. My daughter has never been the type to sit still, and somehow she has it in her mind that “no” actually means “yes.” So, I spent the entire 4 day visit keeping my child from breaking something, making a mess or falling down their very steep staircase. Does this sound like a relaxing vacation to you?
At first I was afraid to say anything to my friend, so I tried reasoning with my daughter instead, saying “those aren’t okay to touch. Let’s play over here.” Then I would show her a safer area to play in. Redirecting her worked for awhile, but after 2 days, I needed a break! Finally, at my wits end, I asked if we could put some of the more delicate items up and out of reach. My friend said “no problem” and I relaxed a bit.
Since you can’t expect your mobile baby or toddler to sit still for long periods of time or not touch anything when they are driven to explore their environment, nor tell a friend or relative that you do not want to visit them because of the way their house is arranged or decorated, we’ve come up with a few things you can do to make the visit easier on everyone.
1. Ask your friend or family member if breakable items can be put up higher and out of the reach of your baby. Some people without children may not realize that babies as young as 9-months-old can pull themselves up on furniture and reach for items near them.
2. Bring a play pen with toys and books so your baby has safe activities to do. Keep the play pen near you and pack it with your child’s favorite toys to keep his interest.
3. Put a blanket on the floor with books and toys. That way you can sit and engage your baby and socialize with your visitors at the same time.
4. If you are really worried about going to someone else’s house, ask if your friends could come over to your house. Your child will feel more comfortable in his own home and you will be able to relax knowing he can move around freely.
5. If you are visiting around your child’s bedtime remember to bring pajamas and a blanket. Try to stay with your child’s normal bedtime schedule and routine even if you are away from home and be sure there is a safe sleeping space available for your child.
6. Bring a safety gate with you to block off dangerous staircases or rooms that have many breakables. While you’re at it, pack a few power outlet covers.
Remember, babyhood and toddlerhood fly by. Soon, you will be able to take your child on visits just about anywhere without worrying about her destroying your host’s home. Instead, you’ll just have to worry about reminding your newly potty trained child to use the big girl potty so that she doesn’t have an accident on your Aunt’s new white carpet. I guess this job called parenthood never really ends!
Tuesday, February 2, 2010
Going to the Doctor
Last week, a mom with a new baby sent us this question:
I have a question. My older daughter (nearly 4) is terrified of the doctor. Is there any way that I can prevent the same thing from happening to my baby? She gets fussy at the doctor's office too but she's too young to be scared ahead of time.
The timing of this question couldn’t be better because I took my daughter to the doctor twice last week. Going to the doctor can be a challenge for us for a few reasons. First, my daughter is a very active, very social, very independent little girl, so she doesn’t like to sit quietly in the waiting room. Second, because she was born 15 weeks early, she has been to the doctor many more times than the average 2-year-old. For the first year, she went to the doctor every month and was given shots at almost every visit. Even though she’s older now and only goes in every 3 months, she associates the doctor's office with the pain of getting a shot. As soon as her name is called, she goes from laughing and playing to screaming and leg-hugging.
Here are a few tips that the moms at the UC Davis Human Lactation Center have found useful during our many trips to the doctor with our children.
1. When scheduling your baby’s appointments, try to avoid times when your baby is likely to be tired or fussy. If the doctor visit delays or interrupts nap time, you can almost guarantee that your baby will be cranky. When you don’t have any other option, there are some things you can do to make the change in routine easier on you and your baby, like keeping stimulation low prior to the appointment. If you usually go to a play group or the park in the morning, it may be best to spend a quiet morning at home instead if you have an appointment in the afternoon.
2. Knowing what to expect before you arrive can help the appointment go more smoothly. For example, you may need to remove your baby’s clothes, so dressing her in something that is easy to get on and off can reduce some frustration. When possible, it may also be useful to bring someone else along to help you out. When we know that the appointment will be more challenging, I ask my husband to come too.
3. Once the appointment is over, you don’t need to rush out the door. If your baby is upset, take your time and help her to calm down before you begin getting her dressed and packing up the diaper bag. It will be easier for you and your baby if you comfort her immediately and worry about everything else when she feels better.
4. Your baby will feel safer with you nearby, so it may be helpful to hold your baby during the examination. When you aren’t able to hold your baby, or when the doctor asks you to help the baby stay still on the exam table, use your voice to soothe her. I used to sing the ABCs to keep my daughter calm.
5. For older infants and toddlers, performing the examination on you or on a favorite doll or stuffed animal is one way to show her that the doctor isn’t scary. We bring a stuffed monkey with us to our appointments and the when the doctor forgets to check monkey’s ears first, my daughter is quick to remind her!
6. Getting a toddler to sit still while someone looks in their nose/ears/mouth is like getting a pig to fly, it’s not impossible, but it does require a few tricks. One way to help your child stay still is to make it a game. For example, if your child likes to count you can say “let’s count to 5 and then the doctor will be done looking in your ear!” or if your child likes to make animal sounds you can ask her what a cow says, then a sheep, etc until the doctor is finished. When your child is older, you can ask her to see how long they can sit still while you time her.
7. Taking a baby to get shots feels awful, but it is something we have to do to make sure they are as healthy as possible. There isn’t much you can do to reduce the pain of the injection, but you can help when it is over. Of course, picking her up and using repetitive sounds or movements to soothe her will help. You can also nurse her or give her a pacifier (if you use one) because sucking is soothing to young babies.
8. Preschoolers and older children love rewards! When the appointment is over, reward your child with a little treat, like a sticker.
I hope these tips help make your trips to the pediatrician a little easier. If you have any other tips or tricks you’d like to share, please send us a comment.
Next time: More answers to your questions!