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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.



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.



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