Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Happy Independence Day!!!

We wish all of our U.S. readers a Happy July 4th! Our Secrets of Baby Behavior Team will be making the most of the long holiday weekend (and a few more days too), so we'll be back with new posts on Friday, July 9th. Take care of yourselves! We'll see you next week.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Update - A Little About Ourselves

It’s been over a year since we started this blog and we are getting more readers every day! We took time to introduce our contributors in one of our early posts, but a lot has changed in the last year. In this post, I’ve added an update for each of our Secrets of Baby Behavior contributors.

Jennifer Banuelos, MAS
I attended the University of California, Davis, earning a Bachelor's degree in Clinical Nutrition in 2005 and a Master's degree in Maternal and Child Nutrition in 2008. I started working at the Human Lactation Center in 2005, right after graduation. Now that I think about it, 2005 was a pretty big year for me - I graduated from college, got a fantastic job, and I got married! 2008 was a big year too - in addition to graduating again, my daughter was born! Olivia was born in the spring of 2008, 15 weeks earlier than expected. She weighed less than 2lbs and was only 13 inches long. Despite her scary start, she is now a healthy, happy, energetic toddler!

Update: The busier the Human Lactation Center gets, the more planning I get to do! When I am not at work, I am busy chasing around a very active, very clever 2 ½ year old. I’m also pregnant with my second little one. So far this pregnancy has been much easier and everyone is keeping their fingers crossed that it stays that way!

Jennifer Goldbronn, RD
Jennifer Goldbronn (known around here as Jen G) attended California State University, Sacramento, earning a Bachelor's degree in Dietetics (Nutrition). After college, she completed her Dietetic Internship (the required training to become a Registered Dietitian) at Napa State Hospital and she will be returning to school this Fall to earn a Master's degree in Maternal and Child Nutrition. She joined the UC Davis Human Lactation Center in the Fall of 2007 after the birth of her daughter, Lily. Jen G loves her work and her family, and like many of you out there (and all of us here), she's still trying to figure out how to balance the two! She feels lucky that her roles at home and at work go hand in hand - working in the field of infant nutrition and behavior (sleep, crying, cues, etc) has proven very useful to her as a mother and her real life experience as a mom has proven invaluable at work!

Update: Jen G just finished the first year of the Master’s program and has been very busy traveling everywhere from Maryland to San Diego talking about Baby Behavior! Her daughter Lily is growing by leaps and bounds and asks daily for a little brother or sister (stay tuned for our next update to see if she gets her wish)!

Kerri Moore
Kerri Moore has been on the administrative team of the Human Lactation Center since Fall of 2007. She studied Child Development at Santa Rosa Junior College and worked as a preschool teacher for 10 years. Kerri is the proud mother of Elisabeth, an adorable 3-year-old self-described princess. (Have you noticed that we all have girls? Maybe it is something in the water around here?) Unlike Jen G and me, Elisabeth was born before Kerri started working in the field of infant nutrition and behavior. Kerri's perspective as a mother and preschool teacher has been very helpful in our office.

Update: In the office, Kerri has been busy scheduling trainings for all 82 WIC agencies in California. Her daughter, Elisabeth, just started preschool and this time next year she’ll be getting ready for kindergarten!

Jane Heinig, PhD, IBCLC
Professionally, Jane is the Executive Director of the Human Lactation Center, Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Human Lactation, and Graduate Adviser for the Master of Advanced Study in Maternal and Child Nutrition. She has published widely in the scientific literature and is a member of several academic societies. Personally, Jane is a mother of 2 children, a daughter and a son. To be completely honest, they aren't really children anymore, they are both in their 20's, but she still considers them her babies! I guess that just shows that parenting doesn't stop once your kids turn 18, it just takes on a different form.I like to think of Jane as the "mother of all mothers" - the person everyone admires and goes to for advice. Not only does she provide guidance and support to her family and employees, she has several adult 'adopted children' she has acquired over the years. With a true motherly nature, combined with open- mindedness and a vast knowledge of everything from nutrition to marketing, Jane makes a strong impression wherever she goes.

Update: Jane has been traveling almost constantly, to places as far away as Washington DC, to spread the word about Baby Behavior. When she isn’t traveling for work, she’s traveling to see her son, who just graduated from college, play baseball.

We hope this post helps you get to know a little more about each of us!

Next Time: Controversial infant sleep aids

Friday, June 25, 2010

Update – Graduation from Developmental Follow-up

Last year, I wrote a blog post about my family’s experience at developmental follow-up appointments for our daughter who was born 15 weeks early. For those of you who are new to this site, our daughter, Olivia, was born at 25 weeks gestation and weighed only 1 lb 15 oz. Even though she came so early and was so tiny, she is a remarkably healthy and happy child. If you would like to know more about our experience, you can read all about it in a 3 part series posted last year titled “When Motherhood Doesn’t Go According to Plan.” Part 1 covers what it was like to deliver our baby early, part 2 describes our life while Olivia was in the hospital, and part 3 provides tips for coping with a premature baby’s hospitalization.

Just as a reminder, when babies are born prematurely, they are at risk for delays in their physical, cognitive and emotional development. In an effort to detect and address any delays as early as possible, infants who were born prematurely often require special appointments with a team of developmental specialists. During these appointments, the specialists use a variety of tests and measurements to evaluate how the baby is maturing.

Olivia, now 27 months old, has visited the developmental clinic 3 times, at 10, 18 and 26 months. Like I explained in the original post, our family really looked forward to these appointments. We enjoyed watching Olivia complete the evaluations and were anxious to learn about ways we could help her development progress. At the first appointment, we were pleasantly surprised to learn that she was already ‘catching up’ and we used every tool the developmental team gave us to help her along. At the second appointment, we were even more surprised when they told us how far she’d come.

The 3rd appointment progressed much like the first 2. The appointment started with the Bayley Scales of Infant Development testing, which is used to evaluate cognitive, language, and motor development. For Olivia this test was more like a game where she got to put puzzles together, stack blocks, and look at picture books. Next a nurse practitioner measured Olivia’s growth and reflexes. The growth measurements are a little more extensive than those performed during normal pediatrician visits, but still only took about 10 minutes to complete. Finally, we met with a social worker to discuss any concerns we had and to get information about additional resources available to our family.

During our visit with the social worker, we were surprised once again! Originally, we were told to expect to attend at least 2 appointments per year for 3 years, but that the schedule could change based on our daughter’s needs. Because Olivia had tested so well, she was graduating from the program and wouldn’t have to attend any more follow-up appointments! She even received a graduation certificate with 3 pictures of her, 1 from each appointment.

Even though she has graduated from the program, Olivia is still at risk for some learning difficulties, so we will continue to watch her closely. The social worker gave us some information about services in our area in case any concerns arise. For example, once she turns 3 years old, Olivia will be eligible for any services offered by our local school district.

Overall, our experience with the developmental follow-up clinic was very positive. Even though we were nervous before our first appointment, we learned a lot at each appointment that we used to help our daughter reach her full potential. If you have a story to share about your experience with developmental follow-up of a premature infant, we’d love to hear from you.

Monday, June 21, 2010

The worst advice we've ever received...

Last week we posted the best advice we ever received. While each of us has benefited from other parents' pearls of wisdom, there have been other times when we have been given some very bad or strange advice. In this post, we describe the worst advice we have ever received.

Give your baby beef jerky when she’s teething – Jen B

One day, my family was out shopping and our daughter started getting fussy. The checkout clerk asked me if my baby was ok and I told him that she was getting a tooth. His face lit up. “I have the best advice for teething,” he said. He went on to explain that when his kids were young, he would give them beef jerky to chew on when their mouths were sore. “It’s tough, so they can’t bite off any chunks and it tastes so good. The best part is that you’ll know she needs another piece when she throws it down because she’s gotten all of the flavor out.” I wanted to burst out laughing, but I just said "thank you" and rushed out of the store. As desperate as I was for a way to help fight the pain and end the fussiness, loading our baby up with salt and “beefy flavor” wasn’t going to be something I would ever try! For information about teething, see our posts on The Truth about Teething (Part 1 and Part 2).

Leave your baby to cry herself to sleep – Kerri

The worst parenting advice I received was from a friend of mine who told me always to let my baby, Elisabeth, cry herself to sleep in her crib. I remember sitting outside her bedroom door crying myself. It broke my heart to listen to her cry. I was told that she would eventually tire herself out and go to sleep without me having to rock or pat her. I tried this a couple of times and after about 20 minutes of her screaming, and her eventually making herself vomit from crying so hard, I decided that this method was not the right choice for our family. Every family may be different, but I learned very quickly that the best way for my family to get my baby to sleep was to rock her then put her down in her crib once she was asleep.

A dozen bad ideas to deal with persistent crying – Jane

As mentioned in an earlier post, when my daughter was a newborn, she was a "persistent crier" who would cry inconsolably for several hours per day. Of course, it was stressful to care for her and my husband and I were desperate for some useful advice. Well, we certainly got some advice, nearly everywhere we went, but very little was useful. It seemed that everyone was certain that they had "the cure" for my two-week-old daughter's fussiness. Some of the "cures" included giving her things to drink (teas, soda, brandy), feeding solid foods (cereal diluted and put into a bottle, syrup, oatmeal, or other baby foods), doing things to soothe her (vacuuming next to her, driving her around the neighborhood), using "special holds," leaving her for hours in a baby swing, and just telling her to be quiet. In those days, I didn't know anything about cues, persistent crying, or how different babies deal with stimulation. If I only knew then....

A little rum can go a long way – Jen G

The worst (well-meaning) advice I received was from a family member who told me to give my baby a spoonful of rum before bedtime to help her sleep. She said: “That will knock her out!” Luckily, I was too horrified to follow that advice in any way, shape or form. At the time I remember not having the words to respond to this elder family member. Now, looking back, I realize that many people will very lovingly give you outdated (or just completely inappropriate) advice about how to raise your child. A friend of mine once said “take what works for you and leave the rest.” So, that’s what I do. Most people are just trying to help you out because they know (usually from experience) that parenting is a tough job. To them I say “thank you for sharing!” and either incorporate their advice, if I think it is a good idea, or politely disregard their comments.

Next time: An update on one of our personal stories

Friday, June 18, 2010

The best advice we ever received...

When I found out I was pregnant with my daughter, I couldn’t wait to tell everyone I knew. While I expected my friends and family members to be excited too, I didn’t expect to be immediately showered with parenting advice. The farther along I got, the more advice I got, even from people I didn’t know. I assumed that this outpouring of advice was because I was having my first child, but now that I am pregnant with my second child, it is clear that people just love to give advice. Sometimes the advice is helpful and other times it’s not. In this post, each of us at the Human Lactation Center have provided the best advice we ever received.

Go with the flow – Jen B

The best advice I ever got was to “go with the flow.” As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I like to make plans. I would be perfectly happy if I could plan out every detail of my daily life months in advance. Unfortunately, when dealing with babies, things don’t always go according to plan. For example, I wanted to make all of my daughter’s baby food from scratch, but after just a few weeks I realized that, with all of the other things going on in my life, it was just easier to buy the jarred food. I still made some of her food, when I had time, but I didn’t panic when my plans changed. I’m not saying that new parents shouldn’t ever make plans, but it is important to be flexible, to “go with the flow.”

Sleep while your baby sleeps - Jen G

When I first heard these words of advice from a sweet little old lady in the produce department of my supermarket I said “OK” with a big question mark in my furrowed brow. As friends and family members shared the same advice, I wondered why everyone was so concerned about my sleep. As my sleep deprivation continued, I realized that maybe I should listen and not try to do a dozen different chores or catch up on phone conversations while my daughter was napping. I felt like nap times were the only time during the day when I could get things done or do what I wanted to do. When my daughter was young, I would inevitably be woken up multiple times during the night and wake up just a tad less than refreshed the next morning. But if I took a nap with her, not only was it easier to get her to take a nap, but I actually got some rest as well! Then I was ready to conquer the afternoon. Our nap time together became a beloved ritual that my daughter, now a very energetic 3-year-old, and I still indulge in...once in awhile.

Accept help - Jane

Actually, the total gist of the advice was “accept all help that is offered and when you are ready, offer help to others.” As I explained in an earlier post, I did not have my own mother around to help me when I had my children. My independence and my ability to accomplish things on my own were very important to me and I believed that my husband and I did not need any outside help in caring for our children. Fortunately, I realized quickly that I was just being naive. Taking care of a newborn is more than a 200% time job. When you add household chores, paying bills, work tasks, and other outside responsibilities to child care duties, it is no wonder that new parents feel crushed by it all. I learned to accept the help that was offered to me and to “pay it forward” to other new parents whenever I got the opportunity. Believe me, it is worth it for yourself, your partner, and your baby. Accept help.

Accept advice but make informed decisions - Kerri

As a new parent, getting advice is almost unavoidable. Even when you don’t ask for it, people seem to need to tell you what they did and why you should do it too. I recommend accepting advice you are given, then picking and choosing which advice to follow. As you’ll see next week, people can give some pretty strange advice to new parents. If someone gives you advice that seems a little strange, do some research and see if it is something you want to try. I think it is most important to make an informed decision and to never do anything you aren’t comfortable with. There are wonderful resources for new parents (this blog included, although I may be a little biased) and you can always discuss any questions you have with your pediatrician.

Now that we’ve shared the best advice we’ve ever gotten, we’d love to hear from you, so send us a comment. We will even feature the best of the best in an upcoming post.

Next Time: The worst advice we ever received

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

It's our 1st Birthday!

It is hard to believe it has been a whole year since we posted our first entry.

Looking back, it's amazing how much we've covered in the last year! We started out with the Baby Behavior Basics, then explored sleep, temperament, and crying in more detail. We've discussed infant development in two series; the first covered newborns to 12 months and the second series covered babies up to 24 months of age. We've also shared series of posts on parent-infant relationships, language development, and teething. We've answered your questions about several topics including dealing with dogs, going to the grocery store, and making doctor visits easier. We've shared our own stories with you and heard from you about your own lives and experiences with baby behavior. We appreciate all of you who have taken the time to post a comment or two.

In the last year, our readers have expanded from just a handful of family and friends to several thousands of parents, grandparents, students, and professionals in 18 countries all over the world. For those of you who are new to our blog, we encourage you to get started by reading our first few entries (that cover the baby behavior basics), then explore the keywords on the left hand side of the page to find topics that interest you. Several topics are covered by more than one post.

We've had so much fun over this last year and look forward to seeing what the next year will bring! If you have a question or a topic you would like to see covered, please send us a comment. This year wouldn't have been so worthwhile without our wonderful readers and we are truly grateful to you. Our best wishes to all of you!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Babies Development in the Second Year: 19-24 Months

Most parents have heard about the “terrible twos” reportedly filled with wild mood swings, tantrums, and defiance. For those of you with children closing in on their second birthdays, you may wonder when, and if, your sweet toddlers will turn to the “dark side.” In our last 2 posts, we described development that typically happens in infants between 12 and 18 months. Today, we’ll wrap up the series by focusing on changes that occur in most children between 19 to 24 months. A better understanding of development during these important months may help parents cope with the highs and lows of toddler parenting.

Cognitive Development – Planning, Perseverance, and Pretending

Between 18 months and 2 years, children’s ability to anticipate and solve problems expands. You can see this happening in your own child when she suddenly hesitates before she starts an action, like trying to put on her own socks. She'll look thoughtfully at those socks as she concentrates on each step in her plan. With each attempt, she may pause again, puzzling through solutions to each barrier along the way. Play becomes more creative and complex. Many toddlers are able to play noticeably longer by themselves. They love to pretend and will invite you to join them. With improved memory and the ability to anticipate, perseverance begins to emerge. No more “out of sight, out of mind” for loud toys or dangerous objects because 2-year-olds can remember what they wanted minutes, hours, days, even weeks after you've said no. Meanwhile, toddlers' use of language blossoms. Words turn into short sentences structured loosely on their parents’ language.

Toddlers imitate everyone and everything that interests them (especially older siblings) as if they were walking video recorders. Most will believe that they can doing anything they see others do, including climbing, jumping, and swimming. Be extra vigilant around pools! I speak from experience. Unfortunately, toddlers' abilities often do not match their ambitions and many end up in tears when they aren't able to accomplish their goals. Routines can be a source of comfort for busy 2-year-olds and many love the closeness and relaxation that comes with cuddling with you to read a favorite book. Just be prepared to read that favorite book over and over again.

Social Development – A Sense of Self

As children approach their second birthdays, they become increasingly self-aware. They passionately embrace their independence from their a point. They simultaneously wish to be independent and completely protected and cared for. Emotions like pride and embarrassment become evident as toddlers celebrate their successes and struggle to cope with the inevitable accidents and mistakes. With all the distractions in their world, most toddlers find it difficult to concentrate on any one thing for very long. Listening to your instructions becomes a real challenge. When you need your child to listen carefully to what you have to say, it may help to get down to her level using your face and body to block out distractions as you talk. With her new found problem solving abilities, your child will try to discover how to get her way through experimentation and perseverance. Many parents believe that 2-year-olds are manipulative but toddlers are a still a long way off from a sense of right and wrong. Toddlers who point and cry in the store to get their favorite candy are experimenting to learn how best to get what they want. Keep in mind that toddlers will remember and repeat actions that work. Toddlers feel all of their emotions with passionate intensity and, without the developmental changes that come along in the next couple of years to help them control those emotions, they lose control fairly easily.

Physical Development – A Whirlwind of Activity

At 2, many children are more active than they will be at any other time in their lives. Between 2 and 3 years of age, they learn to walk steadily in all directions, to climb stairs, to run faster, and to kick a ball. Most 2-year-olds still fall a great deal, especially when chasing older siblings. Two year olds are whirlwinds of activity because they are interested in nearly everything and have limited control over their emotions and actions. All of your stamina will be needed to keep your own little whirlwind safe!

We hope that you’ve found this short series helpful even if 2 years of age is a long way off for your baby. Coming up soon, we’ll have a post specifically about tantrums.

Next time: We celebrate our 1st birthday!!!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Babies’ Development in the Second Year: 16-18 Months

In our last post, we talked about how babies change and grow from 12 to 15 months. Today, we continue our series on babies' development in the second year by focusing on 16 to 18 months. As we mentioned last time, most parents are thrilled (and challenged) by the speed with which their younger toddlers change and develop new skills but, as the old saying goes, “you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.”

Cognitive Development – Problem Solving in an Expanding World

One of the most remarkable things about toddlers is their ability to set their own pace, no matter how busy their parents are, as they focus on investigating their expanding world. As they approach 18 months, babies' insatiable curiosity drives them to experiment and observe according to their own schedule. As their brains grow, toddlers are better able to remember past experiences and events. They begin to mimic what they've seen others do several hours or even days earlier. For the first time, they are able generalize past "experiments," realizing that toys at grandma’s house will work the same way as toys at home. Babies’ vocabularies also expand rapidly (they add about 3 new words per day) and babies start to put words together into basic sentences.

Social Development – Emotion Explosion

As babies’ thinking becomes more complex, so do their emotions. Their need to be near family and friends remains strong, as does babies' fear of separation. While toddlers want to show their independence and do everything themselves, they are easily frustrated by their limited physical skills. Playing with older children, who are better able to run and climb, can be a source of both great pleasure and consternation for toddlers. Emotions become more intense but also more focused and it becomes easier for parents to identify the source of their children's sudden outbursts. Naps, snacks, and routines can go a long way in limiting toddler meltdowns. It is common for babies of this age to seem to prefer the company of one parent versus the other for several hours or days at a time. Mom or dad may feel left out but no need to worry, babies will happily reach for both parents as their needs and interests change.

Physical Development – Picking Up Speed

For many children, the days between 15 and 18 months are spent perfecting their ability to walk upright. Standing, walking, balancing, crouching, and climbing become obsessions to be practiced all day (and sometimes all night!). As they become steadier on their feet, babies will walk less on their toes and use a narrower stance. After that, running is only a heartbeat away, often before parents are prepared. If you thought your toddler was busy before, watch out! The pace is really going to pick up. Babies' fine motor and problem solving skills continue to improve and they become highly skilled at getting into closed containers and cupboards. Baby proofing needs to be ramped up yet again.

By 18 months, babies are showing off their individuality even as they struggle (sometimes dramatically) to understand and fit into their parents’ world. The tiny baby once so easily held in his parents’ arms has grown into a child who will twist and squirm away as he learns to stand on his own two feet.

Next time: Babies Development in the Second Year: 19-24 Months

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Babies' Development in the Second Year: 12 to 15 Months

Time flies! Our baby behavior blog is almost a year old! From our recent poll, we learned that many of our readers were interested in hearing more information about older babies.

Today we begin a new series on babies' development from 12 to 24 months. If your baby is still young or you are waiting for your baby, we encourage you to read our earlier posts on infant development starting with the information on newborns. You'll be able to read all of the parts of that series by following the links at the end of each post.

Cognitive Development - Devoted to Discovery

For many parents, the rapid changes in their babies' thinking and ability to communicate in the second year become a source of both pride and frustration. Babies' experiments to discover how the world works expand and become more creative and complex. While a few months earlier, babies may have been content to shake objects put into their hands, young toddlers want to twist, turn, open, and bounce things over and over again. Toddler's "devotion to discovery" is key to their growth and development but it also requires careful supervision as some of their experimentation (like tasting whatever they find under the sink) can put them in harm's way. At the same time, babies' memories improve, allowing them to recall and repeat groups of related behaviors. It is not uncommon to find young toddlers trying to imitate their parents' or their siblings activities. Babies will expand their early efforts at words and start to point at objects so that their parents can name them.

Social Development - Strangers and Security

As babies become more mobile and able to move quickly away from their parents', their fear of separation and strangers grows. Allowing a little more time for introductions to new people (or people they don't see often) will go a long way in helping your baby stay calm. Many babies between 12 and 15 months will want to do more things for themselves which can be very stressful for parents who don't have time to wait 20 minutes for their babies to pull on their socks. Babies' desires for activity, movement, and independence get out of sync with their abilities, leading to frustration, anger, and the occasional meltdown. Babies this age also develop persistence in their desires making it harder to distract them away from the things they want.

Physical Development - Moving On Up

Most babies learn to walk between 12 and 15 months of age. They will also experiment with getting up and down from different positions (like from their hands and knees or squatting). Many babies also find they like to climb. Be ready! As their bigger muscles get stronger and more coordinated, fine motor skills also improve. Babies get better at grasping very small objects with their fingers and learn they can use both hands to hold onto to larger things. These new skills allow babies to explore objects in new ways. Now, they can pinch, pull, squeeze, and throw toys (or valuables) rather than just touch them. Unfortunately, babies' increasing dexterity can be a source of danger as they develop the ability to pull caps off bottles and open cabinets. Baby proofing becomes increasingly more complicated and necessary. Remember, once babies start an action (like reaching for a hot pan), it can be very hard for them to stop. It isn't a matter of discipline, their bodies just take awhile to respond to their brains.

It is no wonder that parents of toddlers can become overwhelmed with the amount of energy and vigilance necessary to keep their babies happy and safe. At the same time, parents are astonished by the number of new skills their babies acquire with each passing day.

Next time: Babies Development in the Second Year: 16-18 Months