Monday, November 28, 2011

Tips for Taking Your Baby to a Restaurant

Recently, I was in a restaurant seated next to a large extended family that included a baby who was about 7 months old. The room was not crowded and the baby had a clear view of our table. Being a big fan of babies, I caught the baby's eye and for a few minutes, we played little follow-the-leader games across the room. As the family was leaving, mom and baby waved good-bye and the mom thanked me for entertaining the baby during the meal. Smiling, I thanked the mom for bringing the baby. By her surprised look, I could tell that it was not a typical experience for her. It made me sad to think that taking a baby to a restaurant has become such a stressful event. In this post, we'll share some ideas to help make this experience easier on you and your baby. Next time, we'll talk about what you can do to make things easier for another family if you find yourself in the position I was in, as a fellow diner near a family with a baby.

Choose Wisely
When you have a choice about where you're going out for a meal, choose the place that will be the least stressful to you. The type of restaurant can make a big difference. Consider your baby's capacity for stimulation. How busy will it be? What is the noise level? How many other children or babies are likely to be there? If you are new to taking your baby out, you might want to stick to casual places where there are likely to be other children. You might also consider finding out if there is a covered area outside where you (or someone else) can take your baby for a walk as needed.

Be Prepared
I'm sure that anytime you go out with your baby, you pack the diaper bag with everything that you might possibly need. Before going to a restaurant, you also should take the time to create a "game plan" with your partner or family members to deal with any challenges that may arise. Before you go, decide who will do what if something loud, embarrassing, or smelly happens!

If your baby is less than 2 months old, there is no way of knowing when your baby will be awake, sleeping peacefully, or hungry. You'll need to be prepared for all 3. Older babies are more likely to be more predictable and it may be wise to time your outing to increase your chances of having a contented baby.

What to Watch For
Your baby is very likely to be interested in all the sights and sounds that you encounter in the restaurant. Healthy babies want to explore their surroundings. But that means you need to be vigilant to make sure that anything potentially breakable, messy, or dangerous is moved out of your baby's reach. Relatives and friends will want to play and entertain your baby and that's great too. Take advantage of their willingness to entertain your baby to get something to eat! But, you'll also want to keep an eye on your baby to make sure that he doesn't become overwhelmed or overtired. It is common for friends and relatives to ignore the early disengagement cues until your baby becomes fussy. Trying to help, they might continue to stimulate the baby with keys, toys, or games. While these distractions may work in the short term, you'll start to see stronger and more frequent disengagement cues and your baby may become very upset. It is better to respond to the early disengagement cues with reduced stimulation (as simply as holding your baby closer to you and turned toward your body) and/or some repetitive sounds and movements until your baby seems ready to play again or falls asleep.

Take Things in Stride
The most important thing to remember when you go out in public with your baby is that you cannot control or predict what your baby will do anymore than you can control who else will be in the restaurant when you arrive. Your baby may suddenly have a fussy period or you may be greeted with exasperated looks from your fellow patrons before you even sit down. Your baby may have a huge diaper blow out just as your meal arrives. These things happen and are part of parenting. Someday, you'll look back on these experiences and laugh. Should anything unexpected happen, stick to the plan that you made before you left (i.e. whoever has eaten more leaves the table to change the diaper or settle your crying baby) and keep your sense of humor. While it is important to be considerate of your fellow diners, you shouldn't berate yourself about things that you can't control. Being prepared, vigilant, and accepting will help your restaurant adventures be much more relaxing and fun for you and your baby.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving Week!

We're taking this week off to spend time with our families and friends. We'll be back with new posts on November 29th. Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Travel Tips Revisited!

Given that we are entering the busy holiday travel season, we wanted to share some of our most popular posts about traveling with babies.

For the basics, read "10 Tips for Traveling with Your Baby"

If you'll be traveling on your own with your baby, read "10 Tips for Traveling (on your own) with Your Baby"

Our readers know that we spend a lot of time traveling and sitting in airports. We know how negative people can be when they see families with babies boarding their planes. Just take a deep breath, use your skills to help your baby be as comfortable as possible, and let go of the rest. Maybe, if we're lucky, one of us will be sitting nearby and you can introduce us to your baby. In the meantime, we wish you pleasant and safe travels!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Baby Behavior in the News: AAP Releases A New Policy Statement on Media Use and Babies

By Jennifer Goldbronn, MAS, RD

In today's world, screens are everywhere. Entertainment and games, once restricted to television sets, are carried with us in our pockets, backpacks, and handbags. It is easy to turn to TV, games, and mobile devices when we want to be distracted or entertained. What about our babies? Is media exposure a good idea for babies?

In a previous post, we talked about media targeted to babies and how the Disney Corporation pulled Baby Einstein videos off the shelves because the advertising claims that the videos would enhance development were not supported by research. Almost 2 years later, a new statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) shows that media viewing by kids under 2 years of age, even educational media, not only has no benefits but can be harmful.

The new policy statement, released just last month, replaces the 1999 statement on media use in which the AAP first strongly discouraged screen time for children under age 2. However, recent data show most children under 2 watch 1-2 hours of media per day.

While your little one may stare at the TV in wonder at the colorful characters and catchy songs, a key finding of this report is that usually only children over 2 have the understanding needed to gain any benefits from “educational” programs. New information also shows adverse effects of media use. TV viewing near bedtime can negatively affect your child’s sleep and heavy media use delays language development.

The AAP also reported that parental media use in the same room where a child is playing has adverse effects on the child. While your child may not be watching your program, the TV distracts you from interacting with your child. The background noise also interferes with his own learning from whatever activity he is engaging in.

Wow, with televisions, games, and media everywhere - what are parents supposed to do?

What your child’s developing brain does need

In order to learn and grow, your child needs healthy interactions with three dimensional humans, not two dimensional TV or computer screens. Interacting with others, especially with you, allows your child to learn communication skills, develop healthy emotional connections and figure out how the world works. As parents, we use our facial expressions to communicate our own emotions to our babies. We also connect with our babies by reflecting their emotions of excitement, sadness, etc. as they show them to us. That’s how babies learn about the important connection between facial expressions and emotions. If we then talk to our babies about what they saw or felt, we help them connect feelings and words together. These vital connections must be learned from other human beings, not from watching people on TV. For more about how babies learn about their world by watching their caregivers, click here and here.

It’s also essential to provide your child with unstructured playtime with limited distractions so that he can learn creativity, problem solving, and reasoning. Bonus: he will also learn how to entertain himself!

Limiting Media in the Real World
While the AAP recommends no media use for kids under 2, this group also understands that real life interferes with the best intentions at times. In those cases, they gave the following tips to keep in mind:

  • If you choose to have your children view media, set limits as to how much and stick to them. (Remember, screen time includes computer, TV, Iphone, gaming devices, laptops, etc.)
  • If you are going to have TV on during the day for yourself or other children, try not to keep it on in the background all day. Set limits for viewing certain programs and then turn the TV off.
  • If you need time to take care of a household chore child-free, set up a safe, independent activity for your child where you can see him that will engage him for a short time. You can still interact with your child and talk about how you’re measuring ingredients or engage him in talk about what toy he is playing with as you unload the dishwasher, for example.
While limiting media in your home may be challenging, look for creative ways to make it happen. Most importantly, remember that your baby's brain is hardwired to learn best from his interactions with you in full color, 3D! There's no greater teacher for your baby than the real-world you!

For more information:

Need more ideas for entertaining your baby? Read a past post here.
For a video of the AAP press release of the policy statement, Media Use by Children Younger than Two Years, click here.


American Academy of Pediatrics Policy Statement: Media Use by Children Younger Than 2 Years. AAP Council on Communications and Media. Pediatrics 2011;128;1040.

Friday, November 11, 2011

November Quiz Answers!

Here are the answers to our quiz:

1. How much larger do babies' brains grow between birth and adulthood?

The answer is c) Four times larger than at birth

The weight of a newborn's brain is about 25% of its adult weight even though the baby's body is only 5% of its adult weight. By the time the child is 2 years old, the weight of his brain will have reached 75% of its adult weight. Wow!

2. Approximately, how many neurons (nerve cells) are babies born with?

The answer is b) 100 billion neurons (nerve cells).

Babies are born with more neurons than they can possibly use. As their brains develop, many neurons are "pruned" away because they are unused. This is a normal process which helps babies adapt best to their new world. The strongest neural connections remain as babies grow.

3. When do the areas of the brain that are most active in language development grow fastest?

The answer is b) Between 6 months and 24 months.

As we've mentioned in past posts, language development is happening before your baby says her first words. In fact, speech that babies hear when they are approaching their first birthday will help them learn to recognize the sounds characteristic of the local language that they will eventually speak.

4. True or False? The part of the brain that is used for planning and self-control is well developed by the time a baby is 12 months old.

This is false. The very last part of the brain to develop is the part that is used for planning and self-control. It does not function during infancy and develops slowly throughout childhood and adolescence. Babies don't have the ability to control themselves by thinking or reasoning. That comes much later.

5. What is the function of “mirror neurons?”

This is a little bit of a trick question because the function of these neurons is controversial. Mirror neurons were first identified in monkeys. It was found that certain parts of monkeys' brains became active when they watched other monkeys reach for some fruit. The parts of the brain that became active in the observing monkeys were the same as those in the monkeys who were reaching for the fruit. Therefore, the observing monkeys had neurons that would "mirror" those in the active monkeys. The theory is that monkeys and babies form connections in the brain while watching others to help them learn and understand what others are doing. The presence of "mirror neurons" may be behind babies' abilities to learn so much so quickly. Not all scientists believe there are functional mirror neurons in babies. Just remember, no matter how his brain makes it happen, your baby will be watching and learning from you all the time.


1. Saffran JR et al. (2006) The infants' auditory world: Hearing, speech, and the beginnings of language. In: Handbook of Child Psychology: Volume 2. Cognition, Perception, and Language. Hokoken, NJ: Wiley.
2. de Haan M and Johnson MH. (2003) Mechanisms and theories of brain development. In: The Cognitive Neuroscience of Development, New York. Psychology Press.
3. Luciana M. (2003) The neural and functional development of the human prefrontal cortex. In: The Cognitive Neuroscience of Development, New York. Psychology Press.
4. Cattaneo L., Rizzolatti D. (2009) The Mirror Neuron System. Arch Neurol 66: 557-560.
5. Hickok G. (2009) Eight problems for the mirror neuron theory of action understanding in monkeys and humans. J Cogn Neurosci 21:1229-1243.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

November Baby Quiz

We are living in exciting times for those interested in knowing more about how babies' brains work. Scientists are using the latest brain imaging technologies to help us understand the reasons why babies behave the way they do. In today's quiz, we're focusing on findings from brain-specific research. We invite you to share your guesses by posting a comment!

1. How much larger do babies' brains grow between birth and adulthood?

         a) Two times larger than at birth

         b) Three times larger than at birth

        c) Four times larger than at birth

2. Approximately, how many neurons (nerve cells) are babies born with?

       a) 100 million neurons (nerve cells)

      b) 100 billion neurons (nerve cells)

     c) 100 trillion neurons (nerve cells)

3. When do the areas of the brain that are most active in language development grow fastest?

     a) Between birth and 18 months

    b) Between 6 months and 24 months

   c) Between 12 months and 36 months

4. True or False?  The part of the brain that is used for planning and self-control is well developed by the time a baby is 12 months old.

5. What is the function of “mirror neurons?”

Friday, November 4, 2011

Infant Sleep Update: Why Young Babies “Mix Up” their Days and Nights

by Jennifer Goldbronn, MAS, RD

Today, we will talk about how light/dark cycles affect how babies sleep at various ages. Understanding how these cycles affect babies' sleep patterns will help you understand yet another reason why newborns wake up so often during the night. (Peirano 2003)

In adults, sleep and wake time is regulated by 2 internal “clocks,” one that responds to the light/dark cycle and one that is based on a need for sleep that builds up during the waking hours. The clock that responds to the light/dark cycle is located in the brain and uses hormones to regulate activity and sleep over each 24 hour period. This system is called the “circadian rhythm.” Circadian rhythms are not functioning in newborns and that is a good thing because newborns need to wake both day and night for care and to be fed enough to grow well and stay healthy. (Peirano 2003)

When Circadian Rhythms Develop: “My baby has his days and nights mixed up!”

You may have heard about (or experienced!) erratic newborn sleep patterns. It seems that newborns have their days and nights “mixed up.” It’s true! A young baby’s sleep patterns do not follow the light/dark cycle (awake during the day, sleeping at night) like adults’ do. Babies’ sleep patterns don’t start to follow light/dark cycles until about 6 weeks of age, and circadian rhythms are not fully developed until 12 to 16 weeks. This does not mean that you should expect your baby to sleep through the night at 16 weeks. It means that you’ll start to see a clear pattern of wakefulness during daytime hours and a longer stretch of sleep during the night by the time your baby is 12 to 16 weeks old. (Peirano 2003, Heraghty 2008)

While you can’t do anything hurry this process, there are a few things that may influence how quickly your baby develops circadian rhythms after the first 6 weeks. Type of feeding (formula-fed vs. breastfed), environmental lighting (lights on in house in the evening hours), and infant age all can affect the development of your baby’s circadian rhythms. One study found that breastfed infants, 1st born infants, and girls developed circadian rhythms earlier than other infants (but there was still a broad range of 8-16 weeks). (Mirmiran 2003)

How to Work with Your Babies’ Natural Rhythms

Here are a few things you can do to work with (instead of against) your baby’s natural rhythms.

1. Keep the room where your baby sleeps dark at night. When your baby wakes during the night, keep the lights low when taking care of his needs, such as feeding or diaper changes.

2. Expose your baby to natural light during the day.

3. Follow a consistent bedtime routine that includes slowing things down in the evening, including lowering the lights and noise level.

The first 6-weeks of your baby’s life are especially challenging; learning about your baby’s sleeping and waking patterns can help you understand why your young baby may seem like he doesn’t follow a consistent “schedule.” You are going to need help during those weeks when you are most sleep deprived yet need to take care of your other responsibilities. Your baby eventually will learn that nighttime is for sleeping. Until then, here are some past posts to help you deal with the inevitable sleep deprivation you will experience while your baby needs so much nighttime care.

Can Little Changes Lead to a Little More Sleep? 
Thoughts from a Sleep Deprived Mom
Tips from the Trenches: Surviving Sleep Deprivation
Weighing the Pros and Cons of Napping


Peirano P, Algarín C, Uauy R. Sleep-wake states and their regulatory mechanisms throughout early human development. J Pediatr. 2003;143:S70-9.

Mirmiran M, Maas YGH, Ariagno RL. Development of fetal and neonatal sleep and circadian rhythms. Sleep Medicine Reviews. 2003; 7 (4): 321-334.

Heraghty JL, Hilliard TN, Henderson AJ, Fleming PJ. The physiology of sleep in infants. Arch Dis Child. 2008;93(11):982-5.