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Family Matters: Thumb Sucking


When my best friend’s baby was born a few months ago, she swore two things: that she would never speak to Baby in nauseating, high-pitched ‘baby talk’ nor would she ever let her suck her thumb.

HA!

Both of those promises went out the window within minutes of that sweet girl’s birth. She was practically born sucking her thumb, and I think Mama told her “Your little thumby-wumby needs to come out of your mouthy now…”

Best laid plans, right?

Thumb sucking is not the end of the world. I didn’t have to deal with it, because both of my boys used pacifiers, but my sister sucked her thumb. And guess what? She’s a fully functioning adult who graduated with her master’s degree without a thumb in her mouth. There’s hope, I promise.

Babies suck to soothe. If your baby sucks his thumb, you’ve got the built-in convenience of not having to get up 19,002 times a night (not that I counted) to find their pacifier for them.

Now, too much thumb sucking can cause alignment problems with teeth, but experts say MOST kids stop by around age 4. And if they haven’t, rest assured a preschool or kindergarten classmate will help things along by point out that sucking your thumb is for babies.

TIP- 0 to 6 Months: Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Babies thrive off of repetition. “Mixing things up” isn’t what your infant wants. Instead, it’s perfectly ok if you read “Goodnight, Moon” to them every evening for the first years of life. They love it. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. 



Family Matters: Speech


There’s a wide range of speech development in children that is considered typical, but there are also milestones a child should hit.

When my older son was 18 months old, I realized he didn’t babble. He made sounds, but his language development wasn’t organized. Turns out, this was an early sign of my son’s autism. But not all language delays are the sign of something serious. If your child isn’t hitting his milestones, just ask your pediatrician – he should be able to steer you in the right direction.

12 to 15 Months

Your toddler should have a wide range of speech sounds in their babbling (like p, b, m, d or n). They begin to imitate and approximate sounds and words modeled by family members, and typically say one or more words (not including “mama” and “dada”) spontaneously. Your toddler also should be able to understand and follow simple one-step directions.

18 to 24 Months

The average toddler vocabulary is about 20 words by 18 months and 50 words at 24 months. By age 2, they should start combining words into two-word simple sentences. They should also be able to identify common objects, common pictured objects and body parts.

2 to 3 Years

Your toddler’s speech should explode during this year. Their vocabulary will increase exponentially and their sentences should be multi-worded and show the beginnings of complexity. They should also understand more; for example, commands with multiple steps like, “Please put the book on the table and come here.” They should begin to identify colors and comprehend descriptive concepts (big versus little, for example).

 

TIP: Kids this age LOVE music. Turn it on loudly and boogie with your baby. 



Family Matters: Separation Anxiety


My older son Curt was a toddler when his baby brother was born. Curt was a highly portable child, going with the flow and running around with me with very little fuss or muss. He could run errands with me or easily be dropped off at the gym or church nurseries.

When Luke was old enough to go to the gym nursery so I could try to workout, around the time he was 7 months old, I was in for a shock.

He screamed. And screamed. And screamed. I couldn’t leave him. We finally got to the point where I’d drop him off and catapult up the gym steps to try to get any kind of workout in before the nursery paged me to come get my inconsolable child. After a few times, I realized that sprinting up the stairs was going to be the extent of my workout for a while.

Separation anxiety is quite common between 7 and 12 months of age, and can be even longer if baby has never been away from you.

To help ease separation anxiety, visit the place you’re going to leave your child the day before you need to drop him off. Stay and play with your baby. Leave together. When you come back, make sure the caregiver knows your expectations on how long it is acceptable to let your baby cry. Then, hand your baby over to the caregiver, give him a kiss and leave. Immediately. If he cries, the caregiver should page you/call you/come get you at the predetermined time interval, whether two minutes or 10 minutes feels right to you. After the routine is established, it should get easier. I used to work in a church nursery, and the worst thing I saw parents do was come back to “check.” If the caregiver hasn’t contacted you, chances are baby is fine. Peeking in and risking baby glimpsing you could set him off all over again – back to square one. And, if the experience is too traumatic for the both of you; don’t do it. Try again in a few weeks or months.

 

TIP: Babies love to play in boxes. Get an old shoebox, with lid, and fill it with a variety of small items; toys, little stuffed animals, plastic shapes, etc.  Be sure to vary the sizes, colors and textures. Give baby the box and show him out to take the lid off. Let him play with the box before dumping out the objects inside.



Family Matters: Growth and Development


Two months ago baby S was born to one of my best friends. I’m not a blood relative, but I love that little girl like I love her mama.

I was babysitting last week and marveled at how a baby changes so much in the first eight weeks. She’s gone from sleeping 22 hours a day to regularly being alert. Her sleep has organized into ‘naps’ during the day and long stretches of sleep at night. She holds her head up all by herself. She throws her chunky little leg over in what looks like an attempt to roll. Her infant reflexes have nearly faded away, and, my favorite, she coos and vocalizes with her baby bird voice.

Growth and development during the first six months is a miracle to behold. Treasure every minute.

 

TIP: Cradle cap, the slight scaling or flaking of the skin on baby’s scalp, shouldn’t require medical treatment. It’ll clear up on its own in a few weeks to months. Meanwhile, you can wash baby’s hair once a day with mild baby shampoo and brush the scalp lightly with a soft brush to loosen the scales.



Family Matters: Reading


My children are 11 and 9, and I can still recite “Good Night Moon” and “Guess How Much I Love You.” Very handy when you’re travelling and forget your toddler’s favorite books, or hopefully you’ve worn out that board book by turning the pages so often.

Reading to your child is such an invaluable experience. Besides the sweet cuddle time, this is the time when a child’s vocabulary blossoms. They might understand more than they can say, but rest assured your little sponge is soaking it all up.

Experts tell us that reading to a toddler sets the foundation for mastering their ABCs, developing phonemic awareness (meaning she’s starting to understand that words are made up of groups of sounds), and learning that those marks on a page represent letters and words (and things and concepts). It never hurts to point to an object or word as you’re reading it (pre-sight words, anyone?).

Your toddler is also learning voice inflections when you read out loud to them. They’re practicing fine motor skills when they get to turn a page. And hopefully, they’ll develop a love that will last a lifetime.

TIP:  It’s never too early to protect your child’s skin. Starting at about 6 months, you can use a child-friendly sunscreen on your little one. If their skin isn’t covered with light clothing, make sure it’s covered with a layer of sunscreen!



Family Matters: Stroller


By the time your baby is about 6 months old, he’ll be ready to hit the road with you in a jogging stroller.

Because of the way a jogging stroller is designed, a baby should have really good neck and back strength before you use one with your little one (unless it is specifically designed for a baby under six months).

A jogging stroller is a great way for mom and dad to get in some exercise and get baby some fresh air. You don’t have to jog with one; you can walk, too.

A jogging stroller is generally more aerodynamic and much lighter than a traditional stroller. They usually have one wheel in the front and two wheels in back, making it easier to turn and maneuver. They also come equipped with a safety strap for the parent’s wrist so baby doesn’t accidentally get away. Most jogging strollers also have hand brakes for the parents, too.

To buy a jogging stroller, look for:

  • A fixed front tire that doesn’t swivel but can still maneuver around bends so the stroller stays on a straight path as you move.
  • A deep child seat and five-point harness safety belt so there’s no chance of your child sliding out of the seat while you’re on the run.
  • A safety wrist strap for you so the stroller doesn’t take off on its own if you accidentally loosen your grip.
  • A hand brake to keep the stroller from traveling faster than you can manage down a hill (or anywhere else, for that matter).
  • Be certain your jogging stroller has the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA) seal, which indicates the product has passed rigorous safety standards.

Happy exercising!

TIP: While baby might be starting on solid foods during this time, there are still a few to avoid. Don’t give baby honey, strawberries or peanut products until after they turn 1 year old.



Family Matters: Fever


Uh oh! Baby feels warm. Seems to have a fever. She can’t tell you she doesn’t feel good, but she’s fussy, lethargic and doesn’t want to feed.

It’s not easy to know when your baby has a temperature, and it’s really not easy taking your infant’s temperature. Back in the day, you had to use a glass mercury thermometer, rectally, and hold baby really, really, really still to get a good reading.

Those days are over!  Luckily you now have several options for temperature-taking devices.

The Mayo Clinic recommends these:

  • Digital thermometers. These thermometers use electronic heat sensors to record body temperature. They can be used in the rectum (rectal), mouth (oral) or armpit (axillary). Armpit temperatures, however, are typically the least accurate of the three.
  • Digital ear thermometers (tympanic membrane). These thermometers use an infrared ray to measure the temperature inside the ear canal. Keep in mind that earwax or a small, curved ear canal can interfere with the accuracy of an ear thermometer temperature.
  • Digital pacifier thermometer. Your child simply sucks on the pacifier until the peak temperature is recorded.
  • Temporal artery thermometers. These thermometers use an infrared scanner to measure the temperature of the temporal artery in the forehead.

Of course, no matter what type of thermometer you use, read the instructions (everything but the baby comes with them). Clean with rubbing alcohol or soap and warm water before and after each use.

If you plan to use a digital thermometer to take a rectal temperature, get another digital thermometer for oral use. Label each thermometer, and don’t use the same thermometer in both places.

Finally, never leave your child unattended while you’re taking his or her temperature.

TIP: To effectively burp your baby, place them on your shoulder so their tummy balances closer to your shoulder than your chest. You can also place them face down on your thigh. Pat their back FIRMLY  (a lot of new parents make the mistake of not patting hard enough). Alternately rub their lower back, also firmly (make sure their head isn’t bumping into your shoulder or knee). That should do the trick!



Family Matters: Potty Training


Sometime between birth and age 5, your child should be ready to potty train.

I say this tongue-in-cheek, as there’s such a huge variation in what age a child is ready to use the potty and how long it takes them to master the skill.

Even between my two boys, who are quite close in age, there was such a huge discrepancy in the age, manner and methodology of potty training.

First things first: your child has to be able to tell when they need to go. Don’t even bother trying to teach them this. If they can’t feel it, they won’t learn it.

When they’ve got that down, get them their own potty or get a potty insert for your larger toilet (and probably a stool). Pick out some fun underpants.

I was a cold-turkey mama myself. Once they were GOOD AND READY to use the potty, diapers just went away.  For our family, training diapers were not a practicality – but because they didn’t work for us doesn’t mean they won’t work for you. We just went straight into underwear and committed to staying home for three days (in Luke’s case) or as long as it took.

I’ve had friends who have had videos or books about using the potty. I’ve had friends float Cheerios in the toilet to help their boys learn aim. I’ve had friends put blue food coloring in the potty water so their little tinkler could turn the water green. Whatever it takes! Stickers, M&M’s, or a progress chart are also helpful incentives.

But, I’ve seen too many people try before their child is ready and everyone ends up frustrated. I know you want to get rid of those diapers, but waiting until your child is truly ready saves everyone a massive headache.



Family Matters: Solid Foods


The time period from 7 to 12 months was (almost) all about food in my boys’ lives.

I didn’t start either on solid foods until they were about 6 months old, so after they graduated from baby cereals (Curt loved oatmeal; Luke liked rice), it was a non-stop adventure into different flavors and textures.

I think both of my boys had puréed sweet potatoes first, then carrots, then squash. I think I’d read somewhere to start with vegetables: orange first, then yellow, etc…working your way up to green veggies. I looked online to see if that was still the predominant recommendation (this was 10 years ago, after all). The advice now seems just as varied as it was then, but I was too tired to look it up in those days.

Either way, both boys ate well as babies, and I loved making my own baby foods.

At about 13 months old, my older son Curt went on a hunger strike, and it was all I could do to get him to eat cheese toast and bananas. I could tell you about the broccoli and carrot purée pancakes, but I think I’ll save that for another blog. He eats anything and everything now.

Luke, my younger son, ate everything as a baby and as a toddler. That came to a screeching halt about two years ago. He’s now 9 and picks everything out of his soup and just drinks the broth.

That just goes to show you what happens when they get a mind of their own.



Family Matters: Sleepless Nights


The first six months of my boys’ lives are largely defined by how tired I was. I had NO IDEA of the impact of waking up umpteen times a night. Mildly put, it wreaked havoc on my emotions, my energy, my moods and pretty much everything in between.

With my first son, I was so certain, as most first-time parents are, of how things would be done. He would not use a pacifier. He would sleep in his own crib. He’d be sleeping through the night by 8 weeks old.

Ahem.

After his first week of life spent sucking a blister onto my pinkie finger when he wasn’t actively eating, I made a middle-of-the-night dash for the stash of pacifiers – still in packages – that I’d received for my baby shower. Ripping open the first pack I found, I hurriedly boiled water on the stove, sterilized the paci, then popped it into the freezer to cool it off.  When the temperature was moderate and my left arm was cramped from the bouncing baby in it during that process, I popped that pacifier into his puckered lips. He went right to sleep. Ahhhhhhhh…..

Now, my older one did sleep in his own crib from the first night he came home. He had a cute little sleep positioner that kept him on his side (his preferred position), and I kept him swaddled like a baby burrito (easy to do with a January baby). After about the first three weeks, he was like clockwork. He woke up at 1 a.m. and 4 a.m. and went right back to sleep. I fed him in the rocking chair in his room in the dark and quiet. Soon, he weaned himself off of the 1 a.m. feeding and by 16 weeks was sleeping through the night. A little longer than I’d hoped, but still, not unreasonable.

So, with baby No. 2, I figured it would work pretty much the same way.

What was I thinking?

Second son didn’t stop eating his first month of life. I mean, I’m pretty sure he didn’t stop at all. At least that’s how I remember it in my sleep-deprived state. Forget the crib. I was too sore after a second c-section to get up and down every 30 seconds all night to feed him. I borrowed a bassinet from a friend and popped him down next to me.

I kept telling myself, “You can make it 16 weeks; you can make it 16 weeks.”

Soon he became too congested to sleep in the bassinet. He slept, partially upright, in his bouncy seat. After we got his cold cleared up, he just decided not to sleep at all. Now at this point, not only did I have Mr. Eats Nonstop, I also had Mr. Terrifying Toddler, his older brother. I had to sleep.

Going against everything I’d done the first time, I stripped all the blankets off the bed and popped that baby right beside me at night. He ate, we slept. All got better in our world.

He did make it to his crib eventually. He wasn’t sleeping through the night at 16 weeks – or 20 weeks – or 24 weeks… I’ll just stop there as not to be forced to reveal how long it did take. But he did sleep through eventually. Now he’s my kid who is impossible to wake up. Go figure.

Point being: every kid is different. There is not a one-size-fits-all approach to sleep. Your child won’t be scarred sleeping only in his crib OR only in your bed. And if he has to sleep in the bouncy seat for three weeks, so be it. They sleep. You sleep.

All gets right with the world.



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