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Family Matters: Express Baby’s Creativity

Express Baby's CreativityDid you know that as young as a year old, your baby may be on her way to becoming a baby Picasso?

Right about this time, your baby can scribble on paper, and you should encourage her to do so! She’s imitating what she sees you and her older sister do.

You should encourage her to scribble on paper, giving her different colors, and to mark on the sidewalk or an exterior wall with chalk.

Provide thick, sturdy crayons or chalk with a huge piece of paper (ask for an end roll from your local newspaper office; they’re often free) to let her express her creativity.

You won’t see intentional shape or objects, but baby will love making her mark.

Family Matters: Prepping for a new baby

Prepping For a New BabyBringing your baby home from the hospital is a huge deal and a life changing event, but there are lots of things you can do to make the transition smooth.

First of all, have your car seat installed in your vehicle before baby is even born. The hospital will not let you leave without it. Find a certified seat installer, possibly at your local police station, who can help you get it in correctly for baby’s first ride home.

Secondly, prepare older children and pets. Older children can visit you in the hospital when baby is born, but pets cannot. Talk to your older children about the baby, let them help prepare his room, set safe boundaries on items like a baby swing or bouncy seat, and maybe have a special gift to the older child “from” the new baby.

Get your pets ready by setting boundaries for any of baby’s equipment and getting him used to the smell of baby blankets or baby’s clothes after they’ve been washed.

Next, have all of your baby clothes and linens washed and ready to go weeks before baby is expected to arrive. The LAST thing you want to do when you come home from the hospital is baby laundry, and baby might need four outfits/sleepers that first day. This is also a great project for older children to help with.

Be realistic. You might not be able to go back to your pre-baby routine immediately. The house likely doesn’t need a deep-cleaning right away. The dishes can wait, or you can ask a partner or children to help. Sleep when the baby sleeps. Everyone says this, and every new mom tries to get things accomplished during naptime. Give in. Sleep.

Adjust relationship expectations, too. Communicate with your partner about being tired, irritable, depressed, overwhelmed or anything else you are feeling so that person can help you through it. If you’re noticing that you cry more easily or feel blue, some of that is normal. Feelings of great sadness that extend beyond about 6 weeks should be discussed with your doctor, though.

Give yourself grace. If I had to go back and do it all again, I’d do nothing those first weeks but enjoy my baby. That’s not always realistic, but I’d try harder to accomplish that goal!

Family Matters: Books for Baby

Books for BabyI can’t stress enough how good books are for baby.

Board books. Pop-up books. Books with big, bright pictures. Even books that play music (although I resisted them forever).

Cuddling your toddler on your lap and reading to him is one of the best things you can do for your little one. First of all, they get cuddle time with you and that’s priceless. Secondly, they begin to appreciate reading while listening to the sound of your voice. Thirdly, they are developing their imagination and learning things each time a page turns.

Provide your little one with all kinds of books. My sons liked board books with the windows that opened and revealed another picture. They also loved ones that stimulated more senses with different textures they could feel, reflective surfaces and other sensory gems nestled among the pages. By the time they got to preschool, sight words were as commonplace as lunch and naptimes because they’d seen them so frequently on the pages of a book.

What will your little one’s favorite story be?

Family Matters: Dental Care

Dental CareEven before your baby sprouts a pearly white, you want to start taking care of her gums in preparation for teeth.

Babies get their first teeth at all different ages, but it’s probably safe to say they’ll have several by the time they’re in their second half of their first year.

From infancy, wipe baby’s gums with a soft, warm cloth to clean them after eating.

After the first tooth arrives, clean it with either a soft cloth or a soft finger brush. If you want to use a toothbrush, use one made for babies with soft bristles. Also, use a toothpaste formulated for babies. Adult toothpaste has too much fluoride for your tiny tot.

If you start early, baby will be accustomed to having her tooth and gums brushed, and the sensation shouldn’t bother her too much.

As your baby gets more teeth, make sure to brush every morning and every evening, and don’t let your child go to bed with a bottle of milk or juice, even if it’s diluted. The sugars pool in the mouth overnight, and they are not good for baby’s teeth.

My older son was never a fan of having his teeth brushed, even though we started from day one. Soon, we discovered that letting him hold his own toothbrush and providing him with ample brushing time after mom was finished solved the problem.

Family Matters: Baby Box

Baby BoxHave you seen that some hospitals are giving new parents a baby box? Yep, a cardboard box. It’s not full of supplies; it’s for the baby.

The baby box is supposed to help reduce the incidence of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) by providing baby with a safe place to sleep.

A mattress that is too soft, blankets or even the parents’ bed can be an unsafe place for your newborn.

While a cardboard box might not be the adorable Moses basket or plush bassinet you’d dreamed of snuggling your baby into, the firm surface is safer for baby to sleep on. (I read there is a firm padding on the bottom, so your baby isn’t really just sleeping on cardboard.) Newborn babies can’t turn their heads well, so if they are pressed up against a spongy mattress, a blanket or even a stuffed toy, it’s almost impossible for them to move their head to get a better breath of air.

No matter where your baby sleeps, putting them to sleep on their back is best. You can swaddle your baby for the fresh-from-the-womb feel, but avoid using too many blankets. If it’s cold, dress your baby in a blanket sleeper, and if you do swaddle, use a lightweight, gauzy cotton blanket.

Family Matters: Introducing Your Cat to Your Baby

Introducing Your Cat to Your BabyWhich came first, the baby or the pet?

In a lot of cases, the pet came first and the baby joins the family later. However, that doesn’t mean it has to be an either/or proposition.

Plan ahead as you prepare to welcome baby into your family.

Set boundaries with your cat and the baby’s room immediately. Keep the door closed, or firmly remove the cat whenever he enters. Make sure the nursery is deep-cleaned to remove pet hair or dander, especially if it was a room your cat used to frequent. Do not let your cat sleep on the baby’s bouncy chair, crib, rocking chair or anything else that will be exclusively the baby’s.

Take your cat to the vet to make sure he is up-to-date on all of his shots before the baby arrives.

Keep the cat’s nails trimmed.

If the cat is accustomed to being held, get him used to sitting next to you instead of on your lap.

Do not tolerate any aggression toward the baby, and monitor them closely until you know how your cat will react to his new family member.

Family Matters: Introducing Your Dog to Your Baby

Introducing Your Dog to Your BabyFido was your first baby, but now there’s going to be another one. One who will probably take more kindly to being dressed up in adorable outfits and Halloween costumes.

The first thing you have to do is set clear boundaries for the baby’s space. Even if your pup is super gentle, he’s also probably a lot bigger than your new bundle of joy. Make the baby’s room off-limits to your pooch, just for safety. Go ahead and set up the baby’s swing, bouncy seat and portable play mat, and teach your dog not to touch them.

After baby is born, have your partner bring a burp cloth or blanket home from the hospital before baby arrives. Then, have him hold it at a distance from your dog, teaching your pup some restraint with the little one.

When your baby is ready to come home from the hospital, it’s best that your dog is calm and ready. Maybe take him for a long walk first, so he’s a little tired out. Your dog can sniff near the baby, but most dogs will get the idea pretty quickly.

As your baby grows, also teach him how to touch the dog gently and with respect.

Family Matters: Group Activities

Group ActivitiesYour toddler probably loves group activities.

They’re important for parents, too, as you can make new friends and socialize with someone who speaks in complete sentences and gets you out of the house for a while.

Lots of toddlers like a story time at the local library or bookstore. These are usually free and often involve a story read to the toddlers, with lots of exciting voices and maybe puppets or actors, some songs and games, and maybe a craft project.

You don’t have to take a class to get involved in a music group. You probably have a parent friend with a rudimentary knowledge of music and some spare instruments. Get your toddlers together and let them make some noise, I mean, music.

Tumbling or movement classes provide great sensory input and great fun for your little one. A local gym might have a toddler class, or just go to the playground and swing, run and jump.

Older toddlers might like some kind of art or craft group, with projects fitting for gross and fine motor skills. They can paint large murals, do handprint or footprint crafts, or paint splatter projects. They might also like craft dough and finger paints.

A just play group is great, too. Let the toddlers decide what they’re doing and enjoy watching them interact.

Family Matters: Playtime

PlaytimeI just asked my sons, now 12 and 14 years old, what their favorite toys were when they were about 9 months old.

They each rattled off a list so quickly it made me laugh.

First, they probably don’t have a lot of memories from that time period.

Secondly, I guarantee they were not playing with little Legos at that age.

It was still funny to hear and brought back memories of what were their actual favorite toys in the second half of their first year.

  • Board books, especially the ones with the peek-a-boo windows, were a huge favorite of both my kids. We’d spend hours opening the windows and seeing what was revealed in each story. At 7 months, I was still opening the windows for them. At 12 months, they were trying to do it themselves.
  • Anything that played music. If they could whack it with a chubby hand and make it play music, it was a favorite. We had a plastic toy radio that they could turn on by pressing a button, and it was great to see how they developed to be able to do it themselves.
  • Wooden stacking blocks. Again, at 7 months, they had only rudimentary command of stacking, maybe two at a time, but they could manage a whole lot more by 12 months.
  • Mirrors! Anything reflective is super fun.
  • Baths. Bathtime was often the very best part of the day. The warm water, plus a lot of splashing, was a great combination.
  • Boxes. Empty pots and pans, anything they could just explore completely, with sounds, textures and experiences.
  • The shape sorter! I can’t count the number of hours we played with this. Lots. Lots and lots. It evolved from banging it around to actually sorting the shapes and naming them.

Whatever your baby likes, let him have a lot of playtime. It’s really learning time!

Family Matters: Never Leave Baby in a Car

Never Leave Baby in a CarAs the weather heats up, this blog post is for all parents, not just those with babies.

Do. Not. Leave. Your. Child. In. The. Car.

Each year, approximately 38 children die from overheating because they were left in a car during warm months.

That’s 38 too many.

So far this year, and it’s only April, two children have died from heat-related deaths in cars.

Parents and caregivers, this is 100 percent preventable.

Do not leave your child in the car, period.

It doesn’t matter if you crack the windows; the car will still get too hot. On an 80-degree day, the interior temperature of the car will reach 123 degrees in only one hour.

Heatstroke is defined as when a person’s temperature exceeds 104° F, and their thermoregulatory mechanism is overwhelmed and cannot continue to function properly.

Symptoms of heatstroke include dizziness, disorientation, agitation, confusion, sluggishness, seizures, hot dry skin that is flushed but not sweaty, loss of consciousness, rapid heartbeat and hallucinations.

When the core body temperature reaches 107 degrees, cells are damaged, and internal organs begin to fail and will rapidly lead to death. This happens three to five times faster in children, who cannot regulate their body temperatures as effectively as an adult.

In 54 percent of cases where a child died of heatstroke, their caregiver “forgot” them in the car.

In an additional 24 percent of cases, a child was playing in the car and could not get out.

Teach your children to never, ever play in the car. If they are in the car, you must be in the car with them.

Develop a system of double-checking the car before you leave and lock it. Some adults place their shoe or purse in the backseat, so they have to look in the back before exiting the vehicle.

If you see a child of any age in a hot vehicle, call 911 immediately and take measures to get them out of the car.

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