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Family Matters: Development in Babies


Development in BabiesWhen my younger son was about 9 months old, he suddenly stopped bearing weight. He stopped sitting up, scooting or pulling up.

I panicked. My older son had just been diagnosed with autism, and to see his little brother, who’d been progressing so well, suddenly stop was frightening, however misguided it was.

It turned out that my younger son was just a little hypotonic, meaning he had low muscle tone. His “abrupt” decline probably wasn’t as pronounced as I thought it was (I was probably hyper-vigilant because of the older son’s diagnosis), but it was still something to be addressed.

We had him evaluated by what, in Texas, is called Early Childhood Intervention (most states have a similar program for children from birth to 3 years old). He was assigned a wonderful occupational therapist who appeared to come twice a week to play games and cuddle with him, but the therapist was really performing targeted exercises to help make him stronger.

Within a few weeks, he was back to proper sitting, scooting and pulling up to standing.

There is a huge range of normal development in babies, but if you ever have any question, consult a medical professional. It’s always better to 1.) have peace of mind and 2.) be proactive. If there is something to address, the earlier you get on it, the better for your baby. If there isn’t, at least you can SLEEP like a baby!



Family Matters: A New Sibling


A New SiblingIt seems that the time between 24 and 36 months is a prime time to introduce your toddler to a new sibling.

I know I agonized over this when my older son was 19 months old. I cried. I cried a lot. How would he feel? Would I love my younger son as much as my firstborn? (resoundingly yes!) How would the older son react?

Introducing a toddler, especially an older one, to a new baby isn’t always easy. At 19 months, my older son hardly noticed the new guy in town, but I watched some of my friends struggle with this.

Introduce the concept while Mommy is pregnant, not when you bring the baby home from the hospital. Talk to your toddler about pregnancy in terms he can understand. You don’t necessarily have to assign a time value to the experience; he likely won’t understand what “four more months” means. If you know the gender of your baby and have a name picked out, start using that with your toddler. Let him help pick out toys or clothes for the new baby.

Make a big deal about getting your toddler a new bed or a new room if he’s moving out of his nursery. Start this process well before the baby is born, so your toddler has time to settle in.

Have your toddler buy your little one a present for when he’s born. You might want to get your toddler something special that the baby can “give” him at the hospital.

Finally, when it’s time for delivery, make sure your toddler has someone loved and trusted to spend time with when you’re delivering his sibling. Bring him up to the hospital or birthing center as soon as possible after the baby is born to meet his new sibling.

After you bring the baby home, remember your older child might want extra cuddles and reassurance and might act out a little. Don’t scold him too harshly. You know what an adjustment this is for you; imagine what he feels like, too!



Family Matters: Baby Loves Buttons


Baby Loves ButtonsButtons, buttons and more buttons! Not the kind on your clothing (although your baby will probably love those, too) but the kind you push on toys, elevators or electronics. Your child ages 7 to 12 months will love buttons.

As baby’s fine motor skills develop, they become more adept at skills like pushing buttons, and they will want to push every button they see.

Choose toys for your baby that have buttons that will show them cause and effect. Push the yellow button, and a cute animal pops out of a window! Push the blue button, and a honking noise sounds from the toy. Baby will learn his actions have a result, and it’s a hugely rewarding feeling for your little one.

It also helps his fine motor skills as he learns to use one finger to produce a result.

Let your baby push buttons in an elevator, and watch the button as it lights up. As they get older, this helps with number recognition, too.



Family Matters: Never Shake a Baby


Never Shake a BabyPaul and I have a standing joke. “Don’t drop the baby,” he says, claiming this is the extent of his knowledge of newborns.

It’s pretty good advice.

Don’t shake the baby, either.

Shaken Baby Syndrome is another name for abusive head trauma, shaken impact syndrome, inflicted head injury or whiplash shake syndrome. It’s a serious brain injury caused by forcefully shaking an infant or toddler. It can result in death or serious developmental injuries.

Basically, the injury deprives a baby’s brain of vital oxygen. The injury doesn’t usually happen by accident; an adult inflicts it upon a child. If a child survives the injury, it will cause serious brain damage.

Shaken Baby Syndrome is 100 percent preventable. If you find yourself losing patience with 3am feedings, colicky crying or the day-to-day rigors of taking care of an infant, please seek help. Your doctor, therapist or other health professional can get you help. Just don’t shake the baby.



Family Matters: Patient Potty Training


Potty TrainingFirst things first: Your toddler might not be ready for potty-training when they are 3 years old and that’s perfectly fine.

One of my sons, who has a September birthday, potty-trained the summer before he turned 3. The other son wasn’t potty-trained until WELL AFTER he turned 3, and that was fine, too.

I can promise you one thing: no matter how old they are, if they are not ready, it’s going to result in a lot of frustration for all of you!

So to get started, wait until your toddler shows signs of being interested in the potty. Is he telling you when he’s wet or dirtied his diaper? That’s another good sign of potty-readiness. If he’s asking questions or wants to see what happens when you use the restroom, that’s another good indicator.

Find a potty he likes. Some tots don’t mind using a seat adaptor on the big potty. My kids wouldn’t hear of it. A smaller potty chair worked best for them. Decorate it. Does your daughter want a pink princess potty? Make it happen! Stickers, paint, whatever it takes to make little one feel comfortable on the potty. Stock the bathroom with books and toys; you might be there a while some days.

Pick out new BIG KID underpants with your child. My younger son only had to be told once not to tee-tee on Thomas (the train), and he didn’t wet those pants again!

Decide your approach. Are you going to transition to underpants slowly using pull-up diapers, or are you going to go cold-turkey?

Set aside time. You might need to stay home for a week straight to properly teach your child how to use the potty.

Figure out their currency. That’s what Dr. Phil says, at least. Find out what motivates them to want to use the potty effectively and offer that incentive.

Bring them to the potty regularly. Bring them FAR more often than they’ll need to go, so they will start to learn how it feels when they have to go and don’t miss the opportunity.

Don’t get discouraged; they will have accidents.

Finally, if the first round doesn’t take, put the potty away for a while and try again in a few weeks.



Family Matters: Keeping Up With Baby


Keeping Up With BabyThose months from 7 to 12 are explosive!

Baby gets moving!

During the age from 7 to 12, baby is likely to start scooting, crawling, cruising and even walking. It’s hard to keep up!

During this time frame, it’s especially important to make sure your house is baby-proofed! Your little one is going to tug on, pull on, hold onto, bump into and grab at anything she can get her hands on as she explores her environment from new vantage points.

Did you think the boxes you had stored under the bed were safely tucked away? Think again! They’re right about baby’s eye level as she crawls.

What about the cabinets with the cleaning supplies? Baby is going to use that handle to pull up and inadvertently open the cabinet. Lamps and decorative objects on tables? Goners. Cords and plugs? So much fun to touch.

It might sound silly, but crawl around your house at baby’s level and see what she sees that might be tempting to little hands.

Install childproof locks on any cabinets containing things you don’t want baby to touch.

Move décor and unsteady objects to higher ground for a few years so they don’t topple on baby. Consider installing safety straps on the back of any furniture, like bookshelves, that baby could pull down on top of her.

Good luck keeping up!



Family Matters: Preventing Diaper Rash


Preventing Diaper RashGrandmas always say that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and never has the saying been truer than when it comes to diaper rash!

Diaper rash is an irritation on a baby’s bottom, usually because of irritation from a wet or dirty diaper.

Baby’s bum is a particularly sensitive area, especially on some babies. My older son had buns of steel; he probably had one or two diaper rashes that I can remember. My younger son had diaper rashes so constantly that I would apply diaper rash cream every single time I changed his diaper.

In fact, that’s not a bad strategy for a baby prone to diaper rashes because when it comes down to it, they are easier to prevent than they are to treat.

The first defense against diaper rash is to change the baby’s diaper frequently. The drier baby stays, the more his skin is protected. At first, I felt like I was changing my son’s diaper too frequently; it wasn’t even wet when I’d go to give him a clean one, but it went a long way in keeping his diaper rashes under control.

The second tactic is to keep a barrier between baby’s skin and the diaper. A diaper rash cream or a layer of simple petroleum jelly applied thickly to baby’s bum works wonders. Our moms used baby powder, which helps absorb moisture. Now, we know that it’s not good for baby’s lungs to inhale powder, but if you keep it neatly contained and controlled in your hand when you apply it, that could also help.

Next, be proactive if your child is on antibiotics. They can change the PH of your baby’s stools or urine, making them more susceptible to irritation. The same goes for new foods. You never know how a baby will react to a new food, and the irritation might manifest in their diaper!

As always, make sure that when you change their diaper, they are very clean and completely dry when you put a new one on. It’s also not a bad idea to let them “air out” a bit after a bath so their bottom can dry completely.



Family Matters: Car Seats


Car SeatsWhen my boys were little, the recommendation for car seats was to have children ride facing the rear until 12 months. After that, you were fine to turn them around. (Of course, it’s worth noting that when I was a baby, we only rode in car seats until the next child needed it. Perhaps, I exaggerate). Truth be told, the MINIMUM recommendation was 1 year old and 20 pounds, and that’s what I (and most of my peers) focused on.

However, times have changed. The American Academy of Pediatrics now talks more about 2 years old, suggesting children ride rear-facing until age two, or until they exceed the height or weight limit for the car seat. To quote verbatim, “A 2007 study in the journal Injury Prevention found that children under age two are 75 percent less likely to die or to be severely injured in a crash if they are rear-facing.”

What about their poor little legs, parents might ask? Experts argue that children who are accustomed to riding rear-facing really won’t know any differently, and their growth isn’t rapid enough to notice a dramatic increase in discomfort as they grow in length.

If you do decide to turn your child’s car seat around before they reach age 2, just make sure to follow all the safety guidelines on the seat.



Family Matters: Make Bath Time Fun


Make Bath Time FunWhen both of my boys were about this age, bath time was their favorite time of the day.

After dinner, we’d go run the water in the tub, and as it got warm, they’d start the pre-bath ritual of getting undressed and taking off their diaper. They loved to help “test” the water by me holding them above the bath and dipping their toes into the running water (make sure you test it first to ensure it really isn’t too hot!). They’d giggle!

Sometimes I’d slowly lower them into the water; sometimes we’d do a splash landing in the warm suds.

I liked adding a bit of baby wash to the water, but then my younger son started to try to drink the bath water so that habit ended abruptly.

Bath time can be a lot of fun for you and your baby.

Roll up a towel or buy a spongy mat to keep on the floor for you to kneel on next to the tub. I always had a generous supply of washcloths and towels handy for emergencies, too.

Bath toys can be great fun and a great way to learn, too. We’d pour water from one container to another. One son loved water poured on this head. The other did not, and I’d have to hold a washcloth over his forehead to make sure no water dripped while I was washing his hair.

My older son loved the running water. I’d pull the drain plug so it didn’t get too deep to let him run his hands under the faucet. The other son loved to lay down in the water, so I’d only put an inch or two in the tub.

After bath is a great time for baby massage and to rub lotion all over baby! They’ll love it and so will you.



Family Matters: Diaper Bag Essentials


Diaper Bag EssentialsIs your diaper bag the size of a suitcase? I seem to remember mine was or felt that way, at least!

My diaper bag was actually a backpack, very handy when you need hands-free for an infant or an infant and a toddler. It was waterproof, also handy for spills, not that I ever spilled a sippy cup of watered-down apple juice into the bag, soaking spare diapers, wipes and making tubes of diaper cream as sticky as a half-eaten candy cane at Christmas. Okay, yes I did.

Diaper bags are a must-have when you have an infant because there’s no telling what they’ll need, even when you leave the house for 20 minutes.

Start with a sturdy bag. You might want a unisex one so your husband can still feel manly when he carries it, or you might want a Kate Spade model that will let you look stylish while sporting a burb cloth over one shoulder. Pick one that is water-resistant or get a water-resistant pouch to put inside. A backpack was handy for me, but you might like a tote style.

Always pack diapers. Always, always pack diapers. You might need four for a 20-minute outing. Yes, I’m serious. I know this from experience. A travel-size case of wipes is also essential. Brookshire’s has both of these items in bulk!

Pack a few empty zipper-lock plastic bags, just in case. You never know when you might have to improvise dirty diaper disposal. They’re also handy for sealing away soiled clothes until you can get them home to the laundry.

Speaking of soiled clothes: pack an extra set for baby, along with a few extra onesies and socks, because socks always get lost.

If your baby uses a pacifier, pack an extra 19 in the diaper bag, just in case the first 18 get thrown onto the car floor, onto the parking lot at the grocery store or borrowed by the toddler for fun.

If your baby uses a bottle, pack a few extras with nursery water and powdered formula packed in travel pouches so it’s easy to dispense for baby.

Pack a lightweight blanket to help with climate control or private nursing. A tube of diaper rash cream can be handy for a chapped bum.



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