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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.



Family Matters: Terrifying Threes


Terrifying ThreesThe Terrible Twos had nothing on the Terrifying Threes in my house.

Both of my sons sailed through the second year with ease, but it was the older toddler years that were, ahem, challenging to say the least, with us.

I don’t think I’m alone in that, either.

Between tantrums and talking back, that was a tough time period.

Toddlers are testing their boundaries, whether they’re two or three years old.

They WANT to know what their limits are. Knowing their limits helps them feel safe to explore within the boundaries, so to speak. Don’t be afraid to set firm limits.

Knowing what to expect helps them cope, so a schedule, a bedtime, manners, behaviors and familiar activities can have a beginning, an end and a firm structure in place.

Sure, kids need free play; that’s not what I’m saying. Don’t let them set their own bedtime or wait until they’re too strung out because they’re ravenous to feed them.

Don’t let them continue with a bad behavior because it’s “cute” or it’s easier for you. It won’t be easier in the long run, I assure you.



Family Matters: Immunizations


ImmunizationsTo keep your baby healthy, it’s important to immunize them against childhood diseases. Even if he doesn’t appear to have anything wrong with him, immunizing him will keep him and others around him well.

Pediatricians recommend immunizations at 1 month, 2 months, 4 months and 6 months.

You don’t necessarily have to do them all at these times (some parents choose to delay or spread them out more), but it’s important for your baby’s health to have them done at some point early on.

When you bring baby to the doctor for shots, bring a lovey, pacifier or other soothing object. You might want to feed him or nurse while he’s getting his shots to give him something to help soothe. Hold the baby on your lap or closely to you when they get their shot, instead of laying them out on the exam table.

Some babies have no problem with shots. Others scream and scream and scream.

After your baby is over three months old, you can give them a weight-appropriate (ask your pediatrician) dose of Tylenol right before the appointment to help quickly ease the pain of the shots. Sometimes a cold or warm compress is soothing.

If a hard, red knot appears at the site of the injection, notify your doctor immediately.

Otherwise, baby may be fussy, and that’s totally normal.

Bring your shot records with you to each appointment or have your physician’s office print you a copy of the day’s immunizations at each visit to keep in your records.



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.



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