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Family Matters: Budget-Friendly Christmas Traditions


Budget-Friendly Christmas TraditionsI remember my third Christmas.

There was a tree with large, multi-colored bulbs (this was the ‘70s, remember!) and big, plastic light-up lawn ornaments. I’ll never forget my gift that year: a set of “The Wizard of Oz” dolls.

My point is that I can remember my third Christmas, so chances are that your 2 or 3-year-old toddler might start retaining memories, too. Of course, you’ll want to make those memories magical.

Some of my favorite traditions from the holidays include decorating sugar cookies every year with my brothers and sisters. You don’t have to be a baker to make this tradition magical. Simply buy a roll of Brookshire’s brand sugar cookie mix in the store along with assorted sprinkles and frosting, and go to town. The more sugar, the better.

I also remember riding around bundled up in the back of the car, wearing my pajamas and a winter coat, with a mug of hot chocolate (with marshmallows on top) looking at Christmas lights. Christmas music played in the car, and it was a fabulous family experience (for free!)

Another cherished tradition was that my family was involved in “Advent Angels.” It’s the Secret Santa concept, but we drew names on December 1. Throughout the holiday season, we did nice things for the person whose name we drew, like leaving a nice note on their pillow or doing their after-dinner chore for them. Then, we handmade a gift to present to them on Christmas Eve.

There are so many wonderful Christmas traditions that don’t cost a dime but that you can enjoy with your children from an early age.



Family Matters: Babyproofing at Christmas


Babyproofing at ChristmasMerry Christmas to you and your little one!

If your baby is rolling, scooting, sitting up or even toddling, you might want to take precautions this Christmas. A mobile baby around lights, a Christmas tree, ornaments and breakables is an accident waiting to happen.

Luckily, it’s easy to protect your baby and your décor from a close encounter.

First of all, teach your baby “no.” If they are touching or pulling on the tree, firmly tell them “no” and move them away from it. You don’t want your tree toppling onto your baby.

Secondly, secure your tree. That might involve a few extra steps this year, but it will be worth it in the long run. Anchor your tree to the wall, so baby can’t pull it over on top of them.

Don’t put ornaments on low-hanging branches. You don’t want baby putting anything small or sharp in his mouth.

Make sure lights are not where baby can reach or pull them either. Use outlet covers when lights are not in use.

Remember Christmas plants like mistletoe and poinsettias are poisonous. Keep them out of reach of baby.



Family Matters: Baby’s First Christmas


Baby’s First ChristmasIn just a few weeks, you’ll celebrate your first Christmas with your newborn, and it will be a magical time.

Clearly, babies don’t need a lot for Christmas, but you’ll certainly want to get your little one something snuggly to wear, an age-appropriate toy and maybe a book.

A lot of families adopt a minimalist approach to Christmas, and I almost wish I’d started it right from baby’s first Christmas.

They buy four gifts: something to wear, something to read, something you want and something you need. I love this idea of keeping it simple and keeping the holiday focused on its true meaning.

Another wonderful tradition is to buy your baby an ornament, maybe with his name on it, every year for Christmas. Then, when he’s ready to be out on his own, you can gift him with all his ornaments, and he’ll be ready for his very own tree. My godmother bought me an angel ornament with my name on it each year until I was 18. Then, I took them with me when I moved out of the house.

Handprint traditions are fun as well. I have some kind of handprints from my sons each year of their lives. Sometimes the handprints make Christmas trees and sometimes they are reindeer, wreaths or other fun Christmas pictures, but it’s always THEIR own hands.

One thing we started doing in recent years is the “reverse” Advent calendar. Every day in December, we add a non-perishable food product to a large box and deliver it to the food bank right before Christmas.

Enjoy making memories and traditions with your baby this holiday season!



Family Matters: Transitioning from the Crib


Transitioning from the CribTransitioning your toddler from his crib or co-sleeping situation to his own bed can be a little daunting, but it might be an effortless move.

When it’s appropriate for your toddler, start by putting the new bed into his room. Talk about the new bed. Let him sit on it, climb up and down from it, and start to let him lie on it with his familiar blanket or stuffed toys.

His first bed might be a toddler-sized bed, depending on his age. You may or may not put a safety railing on one side, and put the other side against the wall. Your child might not need the safety rails, depending on his comfort level and yours, and whether he’s likely to wander.

You might start the transition with his nap times, and build up to spending the entire night in his Big Boy Bed.

Make his new bed exciting! Find bedding, pillows or stuffed toys in a theme he loves, and use those on his bed.

Some children need a quick transition, and it’s best to take the crib away when you introduce the new bed. Other children need the security of having their crib around, just in case.

My older son moved out of his crib at a pretty early age because his baby brother was taking it over. We moved him to an entirely new room, and he never missed the crib when he had his new toddler bed.

Whenever and however you choose to transition, you probably don’t need to fight your child over it. When he is ready, he will move. He probably won’t still be sleeping in a crib when he goes to kindergarten. At some point, he’ll want the “big boy” status the new bed imparts.



Family Matters: Baby’s Feet


Baby's FeetMy friend’s daughter is just about 10 months and has just taken her first steps. But she’s decided she hates all kinds of shoes and socks.

That’s OK!

In fact, many pediatricians actually recommend letting your little one learn to walk in bare feet. They can get a good feeling for how their foot grips the floor, they can develop a natural gait and they’ll probably be more confident and comfortable as they venture forth into the world. The bones of the foot don’t fully develop until about 5 years of age, so baby’s foot is naturally flexible and wiggles into the best position for them to feel comfortable walking as they take their first steps.

When you do buy baby shoes, let it be a flexible, soft shoe, not the hard ones with ankle supports that we probably wore as toddlers.



Family Matters: Kangaroo Care


Kangaroo CareSkin-to-skin contact is great for your new baby!

Sometimes called “kangaroo care” because a mama kangaroo carries her baby snuggly in her pouch, skin-to-skin contact has been shown to calm your infant, stabilize her temperature and heartbeat, and make her happier.

Start immediately. When baby is born, place her directly on mom’s bare chest. If mom is recovering from the birth, dad’s bare chest works exactly the same way.

As much skin-to-skin contact a baby can get in the first weeks of life is best. It has been shown to reduce allergies, help with feeding and, of course, help with bonding. If baby is breast-feeding, this can happen naturally and frequently, but don’t forget about dad. It’s important for him to spend the same kind of time with baby.

Kangaroo care is also important for preemies and babies born with a few complications, like unstable blood sugar.

Don’t worry if the delivery was rough, and you can’t initiate kangaroo care immediately. Do it when it’s safe for all involved.



Family Matters: Healthy Snacks


Healthy SnacksYour toddler is probably all about snacks! I know mine were at that age.

It’s not a bad thing for baby to have a few small snacks a day in between meals, as long as they are healthy. Goodness knows a well-timed snack has saved a harried mom from complete toddler mayhem and meltdown.

Use snacks to try to balance your toddler’s diet. If he had a whole-grain waffle for breakfast, some string cheese and fruit would be a good snack. If lunch was cheese toast and grapes, try some slices of apple and peanut butter for a snack, or slices of bell pepper and cottage cheese.

Don’t give your toddler a snack if he’s bored or cranky (unless you’re in the middle of a shopping mall and he’s about to lose it; then by all means, let him have some goldfish crackers).

Get creative with your snacks! Try carrot chips with hummus dip. Spread some tuna on whole-grain crackers. Let him dip celery in peanut butter. A small baked potato with cheese is a good snack, as are sweet potato fries baked in the oven. Slices of cucumber and bell pepper can be dipped in hummus or a small amount of ranch dressing. Top Greek yogurt with granola and fruit. Give him shelled edamame or chickpeas. Top cottage cheese with chunks of fresh fruit. Make him a smoothie with yogurt, milk and fresh fruit.

The options are endless.



Family Matters: Your Social Baby


Your Social BabyAt this age, babies can take a strong liking – or dislike – to other people. Until now, they honestly haven’t noticed much about who is around them. They know their parents and their siblings, but unless there is another caregiver in their lives day to day, they probably don’t know many other people.

Around this age, they will.

Your baby may be easy-going and completely unfazed if they are handed to a stranger, or your baby might scream like a wild man if he isn’t being held by Mom or Dad.

Introduce your baby to new people slowly. If it’s a social situation for you, don’t just hand your baby off. Let him get accustomed to the well-meaning friend who wants to hold your precious bundle before passing him off. Then, stay close by, so he sees you and knows this is a person who can be trusted. If he screams, take him back. There’s no point in forcing him into someone else’s arms if it’s not necessary.

If you’re introducing a new caregiver or occasional babysitter, introduce him before the first time that you need him cared for.

If the babysitter is coming to your home, have her come several times to meet baby, play with him and start to be included in his routine while you are still there. This will give baby a sense of security.

If you are bringing him somewhere else, bring him several times while you stay before having to leave him for the first time. You might see how he does if you leave for five minutes the first time then 10 minutes, and build up from there.

Different babies have different temperaments. Don’t be ruffled if your baby doesn’t like to be around others too much. Just introduce him slowly, like going to a playground and letting him sit on your lap. Or take him to a story hour or music class where he’s around others but doesn’t necessarily have to interact with them. Remember, your baby has his own little personality already, and it might be different from yours or from that of your other children!



Family Matters: Cough, Cold and Flu Season


Cough, Cold and Flu SeasonIt’s cold and flu season, which can be worrisome if you have an infant in the house.

The best way to treat your infant’s cold, cough or flu is to try to prevent it in the first place. That doesn’t mean you have to hibernate for the next six months, but there are a few things you can do to cut back on the spread of germs. First, wash YOUR hands frequently, since you are the one touching baby the most. Make sure other members of the household do, as well. Teach other children, and anyone who comes in contact with baby, to only touch him on the feet. Keep hands off of baby’s hands and face, where germs can be easily transferred. Keep baby away from anyone who is sick, and don’t feel badly about saying “no” if someone wants to hold him or touch him who has the sniffles or a cough themselves.

If your infant does get sick, make sure you have a bulb syringe on hand for easy nasal aspiration. It’s hard to breathe when your nose is clogged, and baby is the same way. Suck extra mucus from his nose, if necessary. A small dose of saline nasal spray can help loosen mucus as well.

Baby might need to sleep upright to help with the congestion of a cough or cold. You can purchase a firm foam wedge, which fits under their crib sheet, to help keep your baby elevated. It’s also fine to let them sleep in an infant chair (bouncy seat) a few nights, as long as they are safely strapped in. Do not let baby sleep in a nursing pillow or car seat.

If baby is extremely congested or coughing a lot, bring him into the bathroom while you run a hot shower. Let him breathe in the steam to loosen congestion and ease his lungs. Of course, don’t stay in too long or let baby get overheated. You can also use a cool mist humidifier in baby’s room, far away from where he sleeps.

If you think your baby needs medication, consult your physician.



Family Matters: Pacifiers


PacifiersAs the mom of a child who spent many, many years in speech therapy, I feel qualified to offer this tip: If your child can walk, limit pacifier use to bed only.

I see LOTS of toddlers walking around with pacifiers.

A pacifier is a great object for self-soothing, and many babies need to suck to relax themselves and soothe that instinct. However, a toddler should be replacing the pacifier with other self-soothing habits.

Walking around with a pacifier can inhibit speech, either because there is something in their mouth preventing them from speaking or because extended use of a pacifier can lock a child’s mouth into an unnatural position, making it more difficult for his tongue and mouth muscles to develop normally.

Pacifiers can also push against teeth, making them come in at an unnatural angle.

Some pediatricians recommend ridding baby of the pacifier all together by 18 months. I’ll readily admit that both of my boys used them until they were after 2, but only in bed, for naptimes and bedtimes after about 9 months. Also, our speech issues were not pacifier-related. Although, I talked to lots of moms in the speech language pathologists’ waiting room who did admit a pacifier contributed to their toddler’s speech issues.



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