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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.

Family Matters: Teething

TeethingAround the time your baby hits the second half of their first year, you might see teeth sprouting, if you haven’t already.

The age for a first tooth varies widely. Some babies are born with them, and some don’t sprout until closer to a year. It’s all normal, so don’t fret.

Between 4 and 7 months old is average for a first tooth.

When baby starts drooling a lot, gets a little fussy and you can see raised ridges on her gums, she’s probably teething. She might refuse food or chew on anything she can get her hands on. Again, all normal.

Some children experience diarrhea as a result of teething, but doctors can’t agree on whether this is actually a symptom. Some say that the increase in saliva production (the drool) also causes some upset tummy issues. Same with fevers. There’s no physiological reason for a child to spike a fever when they are teething, but enough babies do it that a lot of moms consider it normal.

When your baby shows signs of teething, you can give her a little infant Motrin or Tylenol for the pain. Let her chew on something cool, even a soft rag that you’ve put in the freezer. Teething toys or rings are also great for baby as she gets her first teeth. Carry some with you at all times and keep them handy!

Family Matters: Baby Smiles

Baby SmilesI have a new nephew, a cute little guy with a head full of hair, born about two weeks ago.

He’s precious.

My sister-in-law recently texted a picture of him smiling at us.

Totes adorbs, but did you know that he’s not REALLY smiling?

Babies don’t reward all your hard work, sleepless nights and constant care with a genuine grin or coo until about six weeks of age. Despite how hard your mother-in-law might protest, yes, it’s just gas or an involuntary reflex.

That doesn’t mean baby can’t be happy or content or even grace you with what looks like a smile, especially if he’s sleeping. In reality, the purposeful expression of happiness will come in a few weeks. Hang in there, Mom and Dad. He’ll be smiling at you for years to come.

Family Matters: Leaving Your Toddler with a Caregiver

Leaving Your Toddler with a CaregiverHow do you know if your toddler is ready for a Mother’s Day Out or preschool program?

Well, kids show readiness in different ways. Does your toddler socialize and thrive in play groups? If so, they might be ready for a Mother’s Day Out program one or two days a week.

Is your toddler shy and quiet? He might also benefit from some socialization with other kids one or two days a week to start.

Start by visiting the facility you’re considering for his first away-from-home experience. Make sure it’s clean, friendly and that the teachers gel with your desired attributes. Find out how they discipline and what kind of snacks they offer. Also, ask about the daily schedule and routine, and make sure the facility is licensed.

Let your child interact in the room. It’s fine if he doesn’t seem thrilled at first; chances are great that he’ll warm up to it.

You might have to visit more than once before you leave him for the first time.

The first time my son stayed with another caregiver, it was in a childcare center at our local gym. I wanted to work out. It turns out that my workout for that day was going up the stairs to the gym before I was called back to childcare to pick up my crying toddler. We tried again the next day and the next. It took him about 3 weeks to be able to stay there for an hour. Then, he became the kid who didn’t want to leave when I arrived to pick him up. Point being, it might take a little work on your part, but your child will likely learn to love his playtime with friends.

Family Matters: Traveling with Baby

Traveling with BabyTraveling with a more alert baby can be a challenge at times. They love new scenery and adventures, but they don’t have quite the tolerance for it that adults have.

If you’re driving, make sure baby can see out the window. He’ll like to watch the trees go by. Pack a bag full of his favorite toys; he’ll need them for distraction on a road trip. If baby is eating solids, pack some of his favorite snacks. Who doesn’t love a car snack? Make sure you have his favorite blanket or stuffed toy for the car, as well. You might find that baby loves to hear his favorite music on the car stereo system or to see a familiar video on your car entertainment center. Mom and Dad might grow weary of Baby Einstein playing, but it sure beats a squalling baby. Make sure you have plenty of water, milk or juice so that he stays hydrated. Stop frequently if you need to. Bring a picnic blanket for the lawn at a safe rest stop or other area, so baby can move around a little when you stop.

If you’re flying, don’t forget that bag of toys! Baby wants to move around and wiggle, but there’s not much room for him to do so on an airplane. For his sanity and yours, you might want to consider getting him his own seat. That gives him a little more room to spread out (or to lay down if he has to nap). Baby books and toys like beads, rings or anything else that is attached and can’t be easily lost are great options. Bring his favorite snacks and plenty of fluids to keep him hydrated.

Family Matters: Traveling with a Newborn

Traveling with a NewbornSummer means vacation, even when you have a new little one!

Traveling with baby doesn’t have to be hard, but it does take some planning.

If you’re driving with your infant, consider a pull-down shade for the window closest to baby’s seat (that should be right behind the driver). Baby’s sensitive skin can get sunburned through the glass of the window. Make sure you’re diaper bag is well-stocked with all the essentials you’ll need in the car, including extra diapers and wipes, a bag for disposing of dirties, a burp cloth, formula and bottles if your baby uses them, a pacifier if needed, infant Tylenol and any other medications your baby takes, a teething toy, and a familiar blanket or lovey.

Baby might be comforted by having a parent ride in the back seat with him, at least during portions of the trip. Don’t be tempted to take your baby out and hold him if the vehicle is in motion. If your baby is fussy and upset, stop at a restaurant or safe rest stop where you can get out, stretch your legs and get baby some fresh air.

If you are flying, pack all of the above in a diaper bag. Consider feeding your baby during takeoff and landing, as pressure changes can hurt their ear drums. Keep a pacifier on hand to give them something to suck on as well, for the same reason. Try to schedule flights during your baby’s naptime; he might sleep the entire flight. If you are carrying a car seat with you for your destination, make sure it is properly installed in your vehicle after you arrive.

Family Matters: Right or Left Handed

Right or Left HandedIs your baby right-handed or left-handed?

I could have told you from a few months old that my older son was destined to be a lefty. Now, through no intervention on my part, he’s quite ambidextrous, but definitely left-dominant.

Some experts will tell you that lateralization doesn’t happen until 4 or 5 years old, but I think (and I’m not an expert) that kids show signs much earlier.

What hand does he use to feed himself? Which hand does he use to throw a ball, stack blocks or turn the page of a book?

Around 9 months, babies can cross the midline, meaning that they can reach across their bodies with their right hand to pick up something on the left side, or vice versa. They won’t be able to distinguish right and left for a long time, but you might get an early hint from how they approach a staircase (dominant leg will lead), pick up their Cheerios or grab a Crayon.

You really don’t want to encourage one or the other. There’s not a benefit or detriment to a dominant side; it’s just nature. Let baby work with both to discover what he prefers.

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