Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween!

Have a fun and safe Halloween! We'll be back next week with all new posts. Keep in mind, overstimulation is common at parties and during trick-or-treating! So, keep an eye out for disengagement cues. Here are a few posts to jog your memory about the specifics of preventing overstimulation.

Secrets of Baby Behavior: Overstimulation

Baby Behavior Basics Part 3 – Learning and Creating Your Baby’s Special Language (includes disengagement cues)

Reader Question: Visiting Friends with our Baby

Too Much Fun: Preventing Overstimulation in Infants and Toddlers

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Baby's (and Toddlers) Day at the Zoo - Part 2

Last week (after my adult daughter and I had spent a day at the San Diego zoo), we shared some tips to help you plan your own trip to the zoo with your baby or toddler. In this post, we'll share more of our experience and offer some Baby Behavior-related suggestions to help you have more fun and less stress during your day at the zoo.

On the day of your trip...
1. Be ready to play games in the lines. My daughter and I saw many parents waiting with their children in the long lines at the gate. The happiest groups were prepared with plenty of age-appropriate distractions for the kids. Their older kids were playing "eye spy" and the babies and toddlers were playing peek-a-boo or looking nearby for shapes and colors. Games played in lines don't have to be elaborate. Repetitive games that encourage your baby or toddler to use her senses and mind work best.

2. Support safe exploration. Zoos and large parks are wonderful but potentially dangerous places. Many parents worry about their children getting lost in public places. We know that you'll take care to keep your toddler close to you but you'll need to keep a close watch on everything your toddler is doing. Healthy toddlers will actively explore the world around them. That's how they learn. In zoos, there are non-stop opportunities for your child to pick things up off the ground, fall on uneven surfaces, slip on wet pavement, or get knocked over by a crowd straining to see an animal exhibit. We saw a couple of little ones get pressed up against the window by a crowd at the lion enclosure after their parents pushed them forward to get a better look.We don't want you to be paranoid about it, we just you to recognize that someone's eyes are going to need to be on your toddler nearly all of the time. In a big zoo, it is best to bring other adults so you can take turns watching the kids.

3. If you use a backpack, remember that your baby needs "face time." We saw many parents carrying babies and toddlers in backpacks. Obviously, carrying your baby on your back can make your trip much easier, but your baby needs you to be part of her learning. We saw excited happy babies in backpacks pointing around the park while another adult (often mom or grandma) talked to them about what they were seeing. Unfornately, we also saw a few parents carrying their unhappy and frustrated babies without ever talking to the children or looking back at them. It didn't take long for their babies to lose interest and glaze over. Remember, even the most exciting zoo sites won't be fun if you aren't involved in your baby's experience.

4. Watch for your baby's cues. Your baby will let you know when he's had enough of the sounds, sights, and smells at the park. Watch for cues that your baby is getting overwhelmed or tired. Just taking a break in some quiet shady spot or letting your baby nap in your arms can make a huge difference. You can stop the meltdowns before they get started.

5. Tell park staff right away if your baby drops or throws anything into an enclosure. When we were looking at the giant tortoise, an excited preschooler threw a cap from a soda bottle into the enclosure just as his group moved away. He didn't really know what he was doing and his parents (busy with other children) didn't notice what he had done. We stopped a park volunteer and let her know what happened and they took care of it right away. These things can be embarrassing but the park staff understand that young children will be impulsive. Even small pieces of plastic can be dangerous for animals, so let someone know.

6. Some exhibits require children to be quiet, so be realistic and think twice about standing in long lines. The San Diego zoo has a world famous giant panda exhibit that is well worth seeing. The animals are so popular that the wait time in line to see them can be 45 minutes or more. Because Pandas have such sensitive hearing, the staff must ask visitors to be quiet when they are close enough to see the animals. If your child is too young to keep from squealing, screaming, or shouting, you might want pass on exhibits that require quiet visitors. It is not a matter of discipline or parenting; babies and toddlers have very limited ability to control themselves. Just be realistic; you know your child best.

7. Give your child time to get emotionally ready to leave the park. We saw many toddlers who were very upset when they had to leave the park. While it is hard for any child to give up having fun, most do much better when they have some warning. Some children are fine with a moment or two, others need 10 or 20 minutes to get used to ending a fun activity. The difference isn't a matter of discipline, its temperament. You are likely to know how long your baby needs to adjust to change. Don't forget the simple step of letting your child know ahead of time when you are ready to leave the zoo.

8. Get your baby/toddler ready for the gift shop, before you go in. Zoo gift shops are chaotic places. Even if your baby or toddler is able to understand what she can and cannot have, she may be overwhelmed by all the noise and excitement. Let your child know what is ok and not ok before you go inside and be sure to watch for cues. If your child does have a meltdown, having another adult who can stand in line for purchases while you step outside can be a big help.

Zoos are wonderful places to take children no matter what their age. We hope you use your knowledge of your baby's behavior to make the day more enjoyable for both of you.

(Photo Credit: Adrienne Heinig)

Friday, October 25, 2013

Baby's Day at the Zoo - Part I

Recently, my adult daughter and I had an opportunity to visit the San Diego Zoo. It is an amazing place and we had a wonderful day. As you might expect, we were surrounded by families from all over the world, many with babies and toddlers. Zoos and large parks are great places to take children, especially when you've done your homework and made a plan well ahead of time. In today's post, we'll share some tips to help you plan your zoo-day. Next time, we'll share some of what we learned on the day of our trip that might help make your experience as safe and as fun as possible.

Before you go....
1. Consider the cost (including admission, shows, food, water, and souvenirs) given that your baby or toddler may not be able to stay through the entire day or enjoy all of the activities. Even a stroller can get hot and uncomfortable, so don't count on one to get you through to the next exhibit after the meltdowns begin.

2. Create a realistic schedule/plan for your day that allows for meals, breaks, and rest time (for you and your baby). Go during the part of the day when your baby is most likely to be happy and alert. Large zoos take a long time to get through. If your baby is very young, you might want to concentrate in one area or choose a smaller zoo.

3. Prioritize the animals/sites you want to see. Even if your toddler can stay awake through most of the day, he might get overwhelmed by all the new sites and sounds. By mid-afternoon, we saw more than a few miserable parents with fussy babies and cranky toddlers. Most zoos have maps you can see online. If your toddler is old enough to help, make a list of your favorite animals together!

4. Speaking of maps, make sure you know the layout including distances, hills, and bathrooms! Find the routes that work best for your situation and fitness level. We saw a lot of tired parents pushing double strollers up steep hills!

5. Bring a crowd, or at least a couple of helpful adults to help. Excited children can wiggle away in an instant. It's always best to have more than 2 eyes or arms in such an exciting and potentially dangerous place. We were happy to see a lot of extended family members, especially with toddlers. Just make sure that every one knows who is watching your child at all times.

Next time, we'll share what we observed and learned during our time in San Diego to help your day at the zoo be more fun for you and your child.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

In the News: Full Term Pregnancy is Now Defined as at least 39 Weeks

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has changed the definition of “Full Term” pregnancy to delivery between 39 weeks and 40 weeks, 6 days.  Research shows better health and developmental outcomes for babies born within this time frame.  Babies born at 37 weeks have a higher risk of complications compared to those born at 39 weeks.  Thus “Early Term” is defined as a baby born between 37 weeks and 38 weeks 6 days.  Babies born in the 41st week are “Late Term” and babies born after 42 weeks are “Post Term.”
In California, we are experiencing beautiful weather. So, on Friday, we'll be back to Baby Behavior with a series on how to have a successful outing with your infant at the zoo!

Friday, October 18, 2013

What You Wish You Had Known After Your Baby was Born

Last time, we asked a question about things you wish you had known right after your baby was born. Thank you for your responses! Today we will share a few of the responses and some helpful posts to go with each. Please share these tips with families you know that have new babies!

I Wish I Had a Plan for Breastfeeding Help

Many parents wished they had been more prepared for what breastfeeding would be like and had a plan in place to get help if needed.

Breastfeeding comes naturally, right? One story of a not-so-perfect start to breastfeeding


I Wish I Knew How Babies Really Sleep

Other parents felt like they needed more information about normal infant sleep and what to expect about sleep patterns in the first few months.


I Wish I Asked for More Help

From my own personal experience, I wish I had asked for more help, especially during the newborn period. I thought I should be able to do it all myself and I ended up sleep-deprived to the point of being not functional! Here are a few posts to help you ask for help!

Getting the Help You Need Part 3. Dealing with Help that You are Better Off Without

Friday, October 11, 2013

A Question for Our Readers!

Today we are doing things a little bit differently. We want to ask you, our loyal readers, a question. Then next time we'll share your answers as well as our own personal experiences.

What is one thing you wish you would have known after your baby was born?

Please leave a comment below with your answer! Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Learning to Talk Takes a Team Effort

It is amazing how quickly babies change. They grow so fast, learn so much, and gain some control over their bodies so quickly during those first few months. Before you know it, your baby is using words!  Learning to talk becomes one of your baby’s most important jobs as he becomes a toddler.  We’ve shared how babies develop their ability to communicate starting with basic cues and words during the first year that lead to a vocabulary explosion in the second year.
But did you know that you play an important role in your baby’s progress in learning how to talk? Babies don’t learn language on their own, they rely on the people who care for them to help them know what words mean and how and when to use them. Here are some language experts' “lessons learned” from the research on how babies learn to understand and use language.
  1. Repetition, repetition, repetition.
Developmental scientists have found that the most important factor influencing a child’s vocabulary is the “language environment.” Babies learn the words that they hear around them (keep that in mind when you stub your toe). Babies first learn the words they hear most often – such as their own names, and words used for clothing items and household objects.  When your baby is able to point to objects, you’ll find that your baby seems to want to play the “name game “all day long. This is a very important process. Not only will your baby point at things for you to name but your baby will look at your face to see how you “feel” about the object.  Your baby is learning a lot more than words; your baby is learning about safety and context and where things and people fit in the world.
  1. Babies understand language before they can use it.
For a long time, researchers thought that understanding language occurred much later than it actually does for most babies. That’s because scientists had to rely on tests that required that babies demonstrate some use of language (like naming objects or following directions). But, many babies didn’t do well on the tests because they were still learning to make consistent sounds with their mouths and to control their bodies. Newer tests show that babies can understand many words and even the structure of language far before they can use words to communicate. That means that for a while, you’ll have to play “translator” for your baby, figuring out what she needs and communicating those needs back to her and to others.
  1. Learning and using language relies on multiple skills and different parts of babies’ brains.
The use of language (not just words) takes a lot of brain power. Babies need to use their sensory, memory, analytical, motor, and social skills all at once to communicate with the world. That means that many parts of their brains are used when they are learning and using words.  You play a very special role in this process.  Your baby needs you to be on “his team” to make it all happen.  Let your baby explore, hear you talk, see your face, and watch your emotional responses to objects and experiences. Make sure that your baby has plenty of chances to see how you interact with other people in positive ways. Support your baby’s efforts as he tries to communicate with you and others. Take the time to see how your baby uses his whole body and brain to interact with his world. It’s an exciting and fast paced process as your baby will double his usable vocabulary between 18 and 21 months and again from 21 to 24 months.   Go team!
Hollich G. Early Language. In: Infant Development. 2nd Edition. Volume 1. Basic Research. JG Bremner and TD Wachs (Eds.). Wiley-Blackwell, 2010.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Back to School!

Classes at UC Davis have started up again so we're taking the week off! We'll see you next week with new posts.