Amy's Corner. our lactation consultant answers your questions about nursing.

7 Pumpkin Sensory Activities to do with your Baby

It’s pumpkin season and a great time to do fun pumpkin activities with your little pumpkin.  Halloween may be a bit over your baby’s head this year and exposing babies to some of the frightful scenes and sounds of the holiday may be too scary for her, but there pumpkins-clusterare still plenty of fun ways to celebrate the holiday with the gourd of the season: pumpkins!

Babies learn by using their senses and having the opportunity to explore the world around them.  This Halloween season, incorporate pumpkins into playtime for a festive and exciting time.  Here are 7 ideas of sensory activities that can engage your pumpkin with pumpkins:

 

 

Play with Pumpkins:  You may see a decorative gourd, but to your baby, pumpkins can be fun toys and musical instruments.  Collect a few small pumpkins and use them as a sort of ball.  Roll them around on the floor and let your baby try to chase after them.  If she’s not crawling yet, put them in front of her during tummy time and try to get her to reach for them.  The bright orange color will be an enticing way for her to stretch towards a goal. You can also set up several larger pumpkins like a drum set and let baby tap them with her hands or rhythm sticks.  Rock on, little pumpkin!

Hunt for Pumpkins:  If your baby is mobile, hide miniature pumpkins (or even plastic, cardboard or cut-out pumpkins) around your playroom or back yard and let baby try to find them.  Collect them in a basket and when she’s done finding them all, count them together.  Counting objects that your baby proudly found is a good introduction to numbers and counting.

Decorate a Pumpkin:  Carving with sharp knives around babies – probably not a great idea.  But letting a baby decorate her own pumpkin – brilliant!  If your little one enjoys your help while coloring, use markers to decorate a pumpkin together.  You can also decorate pumpkins with stickers.  Peeling stickers is a great fine motor skill exercise for babies to practice.  If she’s not quite able to peel them herself, hand her the stickers and help her place them on the pumpkin.  The stickiness will feel interesting on her fingers and she can make decisions about where to place each one.

pumpkin-baby1Dress Up Like Pumpkins:  What’s cuter than a pumpkin as a pumpkin?  Not much!  This time of year, pumpkin onesies or costumes are easy to come by.  Or you can make your own using an orange shirt, black felt and a green hat for a stem.  Better yet, hollow out a pumpkin and set your baby inside for an adorable holiday photo.  You can also cut out leg holes for larger babies.   Your baby may get a kick out of seeing mom and dad in their pumpkin costumes too!

Dig into a Pumpkin:  You have surely experienced by now your baby’s longing to touch everything in site.  The slimy, stringy inside of a pumpkin is a pretty cool sensation.  Cut off the top and let your baby dig right in with her hands.  We bet she’ll love making a mess and you’ll get some hysterical pictures along the way.

Taste a Pumpkin:  What better way for baby to learn about pumpkins than tasting them?  If you have introduced solids, let your baby feast on scrumptious pumpkin foods throughout the month.  They can be as simple as pumpkin purée or pumpkin and apple purée, if you’ve just begun with blended solids.  If your baby is older and has a more adventurous pallet, try roasted pumpkin chunks, pumpkin bread, pumpkin pie filling or pumpkin pudding.  Not only is pumpkin delicious, it also has great nutrients and fiber for your baby.

Visit a Pumpkin Patch:  Use pumpkin season as an excuse for a fun family outing to a pumpkin patch.  You can stroll your baby through vineyards to see how pumpkins grow and pick out your own pumpkin to take home for all the fun activities you have planned.  Many pumpkin patches designed for families also have hay rides, games, petting zoos and other exciting new things for your baby to see and do.

We hope you enjoy all of these pumpkin activities.  Have a wonderful Halloween with your little pumpkin!

 

 

 

The Dos and Don’ts of Baby Sleep Training

Baby sleep training is a hot topic among new parents.  Everyone is ready to get back to a full night’s sleep, however not everyone agrees on how to get there with baby.  Experts themselves have a wide range of opinions on the subject.  Some feel it’s important to create boundaries from the beginning and support the “cry it out” method of letting baby cry in the crib for increasingly longer periods of time until he learns to soothe himself to sleep.  Others take a “no tears” approach by comforting a baby to sleep and continuously picking up the baby if he cries.  Still others take a middle of the road stance in which parents comfort their babies without picking them up from the crib.  And there are also disagreements on whether to always put babies in their cribs awake, or to nurse or rock them to sleep before putting them down.  The debate goes on and on.

Selecting a sleep training method is a personal choice based o a family’s own comfort level and parenting philosophy.  None have proven to better or worse off for babies in the long run.  Regardless of which program you chose, there are some standard dos and don’ts that are helpful to keep in mind while sleep training your baby.

Do develop a nighttime sleep schedule that works for you, your family and your baby.  This may require being hyper-attune to natural cues and logging sleep and feeding routines until you can find a schedule that jives with you and your baby’s rhythm.

infant-sleep2Don’t keep your baby up later at night to make him more tired.  This usually has the opposite effect.  Babies that are over-tired sleep less and tend to be crankier during waking hours.  Earlier bedtimes often result in longer overnight sleeps.

Do ensure your baby is well-fed and takes necessary naps during the day.  Again, if your baby is getting regular sleep, he will fall into a nighttime sleep pattern more easily than if he’s exhausted by bedtime.  Also, once your baby is getting plenty of breast milk during the day, he won’t wake up and want to nurse as much at night.

Don’t start sleep training until your baby is two or three months old.  Trying to force sleep training on a young newborn can be disastrous for everyone.  Chances are, you will know when the time is right because sleep patterns will emerge and your baby will sleep for longer and longer at night on his own.

Do develop a nighttime routine that is soothing and invokes sleepiness.  This may include a warm bath, a baby massage, a lullaby and breastfeeding.  Associate these sounds, smells, tastes and sensations with restfulness so your baby understands the day is winding down and he should prepare for sleep.

baby sleepingDon’t let your baby’s sleep environment work against all of your efforts.  Get to know the way your baby wants to sleep.  Some babies like complete silence while others enjoy soft music or sounds machines.  Some babies like a hint of light and others need complete darkness.  Some babies can ignore the stimulating and adorable décor of his nursery while others are overwhelmed by these exciting objects.  Adjust your baby’s room to ensure he can sleep. Also, learn how your baby likes to be dressed at night.  Swaddling works well for many infants who enjoy a snug and cozy sleep zone.

Do pick a smart time to sleep train.  If your baby is sick, you’re about to go away on a trip or it’s almost daylight savings time, wait for a better opportunity.

Don’t go it alone.  Seek guidance from online resources, friends and experts.  If you’re not sure how to create a schedule for your baby, there are plenty of samples online that you can use as a starting point and adjust to suit your needs.  Additionally, read up on the different methods and challenges of sleep training so you have a game plan and are mentally prepared when the time comes.

Do be flexible.  Babies are human beings, the most fickle of sorts too. During growth spurts or on an off day, you may need to change the schedule to allow for an earlier bedtime and extra sleep.  Be vigilant for signs of sleepiness and act on them before your little one gets too tired.

Don’t give up.  Sleeping is a learned behavior.  Many adults still haven’t got it all figured out so cut your baby, and yourself, some slack if it doesn’t happen “overnight.”  Your baby will learn to sleep if you are dedicated to whatever method you think is best.  While it may be challenging now, getting back to a good night’s rest should be a pretty good incentive to keep persevering.

5 Ways to Raise Smart Babies

Most of us enter parenthood with the highest aspirations for our children.  Will he read by age 3?  Will he be deemed “gifted” in elementary school?  Will he become a doctor, engineer, or great world leader?  It’s fun to “dream big” for our offspring, but at the core of these hopes is our desire to have intelligent children.  While some intellectual prowess is genetic, raising smart kids has much to do with opportunities we give our children to grow and develop.  And it all begins when they are babies.

Today we’re sharing 5 ways to raise smart babies.  None of them involve pricey tutors.  None of them require brainiac parents.  With a little effort and a lot of love, anyone can set their baby on a bright and promising path.

1)       Prenatal Brain Power:  What mom eats, does and thinks during pregnancy is connected to how a baby’s brain will develop.  A baby’s brain grows more in the womb than at any other time in his life.  Therefore, all of the nutrients, activity and even thoughts transferring from mom to baby really does matter.  Beyond the obvious recommendations – taking prenatal vitamins with DHA, not drinking or smoking, avoiding toxins – moms should eat a well-balanced healthy diet full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, omega-3s, good fats, fiber, calcium and whole grains.  Additionally, moms should use their brains productively during pregnancy.  When moms read, play music, and have stimulating intellectual interactions, growing fetuses benefit.  Conversely, when mom is stressed and anxious, it creates a hormone surge that baby receives and can affect the hard wiring of his molding brain.  For many new moms, worrying is unavoidable, but managing these emotions through exercise, meditation or sharing with a partner can calm the body for mom and baby’s sake.

2)      Breast Milk = Brain Food:  Breast milk is the best possible nutrition for your baby.  It’s formulated by nature with the perfect nutrients for your baby’s body and brain to grow and develop in every way.  Specifically, breast milk contains 400 nutrients that Breastfeeding with Leading Ladycannot be replicated in other foods.  Countless studies indicate that baby’s who are breast fed show greater cognitive abilities throughout life than those who are not; and the longer the baby is breast fed, the more benefit he reaps.  Breastfeeding also involves touch, nurture, warmth and responsiveness – all of which contributes to smarter, more well-adjusted human beings.  Babies do not need much in their early months of life, but love and tenderness are essential.  Skin-to-skin contact helps babies develop physically and intellectually (babies who are held more actually have larger brains!), and as mothers and babies sync, a mother’s milk can respond to her baby’s needs to effectively provide what baby needs to grow and thrive.

3)      Loving, Expressive, Learning Friendly Caregivers & Environments:  For thousands of years, babies have blossomed without high tech gadgets.  How?  Through human interaction and loving environments.  Babies are drawn to faces where they can begin forming emotional connections and having meaningful experiences.  Active, engaged play is one of the best ways for your baby to learn.  This evolves as your baby grows. For newborns, it can be as simple as smiling, singing and trying to elicit those first smiles and giggles.  As your infant gets older, games of peek-a-boo, sensory books or shaking instruments can be engaging.  Be sure to make lots of eye contact, be animated and remain attentive to your tot during playtime.  Find ways to peak your baby’s curiosity and foster his interests from an early age.  A passion for learning starts now.  In fact, our brains map out the way in which it will learn within the first five years of life.  This is when we’re producing and connecting brain cells that will dictate our thought processes for a lifetime. Also, be responsive to your baby’ cries.  A child develops a sense of security from knowing someone is there to tend to his needs.

4)      Brain Boosting Toys:  Studies show that videos and high tech gadgets are not the best toys for babies, contrary to what manufacturers may want you to believe.  What is important is that you have simple toys that are appropriate for your baby’s developmental bouncy-ballsstages.  For the first four months or so, you are probably the best toy your baby can have.  Make funny faces, sing songs, talk – he really can’t focus on many tangible things but people are tops to a newborn.  After the first few months, introduce brightly colored and highly textured toys and books, especially things baby can bat at with his hands or kick with his feet.  As he progresses in infancy, play together with mirrors, balls, stacking toys (cups, bowls, blocks, whatever!) and anything that makes noise.  Water play is fun for babies, even if it merely consists of a small dish of water that he can splash around.  Concepts like numbers and letters are for older one-year olds and beyond, so focus on fun, interactive toys that capture your baby’s attention and require imagination.

5)      Reading & Talking – The Brain’s “Other” Food:  It is never too early to start reading and talking to children.  Constant chatter and reading books aloud, even adult books, can bolster a baby’s vocabulary from the start.  The more exposure a baby has to a variety of words, the more efficiently and productively he will grasp language.  When talking to your baby, narrate your day using lively messages with short, digestible phrasing.  Address your baby by name as if you’re having a conversation.  In fact, often engage your baby in babble conversation and respond as if it means something to you.  It certainly does to him!  Ask questions and wait for him to respond.  Look at him just as you would anyone else you may converse with.  When reading, be as dynamic as possible.  Use hand gestures and find rhymes with repetition and swinging cadence that will delight your baby’s ears.  Make reading a habit early in life.  Even if your little one cannot concentrate for long, read a short bedtime “story” with rhymes or lift-able flaps to keep your baby’s attention.

You don’t have to be born a genius to raise a smart baby.  Smart babies come from parents who give them smart opportunities to grow, develop and expand their minds through nutrition, love and learning through play.

The Benefits of Music for Babies

Music is designed to invoke emotions.  Upbeat tunes make us happy.  Lullabies make us sleepy.  Thoughtful lyrics make us ponder.  Patriotic scores make us proud.  The same is true for babies.  Music can change a baby’s mood in quite the same way it can change yours.  And beyond a mood enhancer, benefits of music for babies include being more communicative and joyful and having a better trained musical ear.

Next time your little one is having a crank attack, try putting on some jazz or pop music and see what she does.  The upbeat tune may be just want she needs to snap out of her bad mood.  A harmonious blend of uplifting music that your baby can hear, feel and – should you feel inclined to dance – see, is pleasing to babies and parents alike.  Even before your baby can shake a musical instrument, sing a note or dance about herself, having singing and dancing parties with baby in your arms can be a fun, invigorating and rejuvenating activity for all.

And most parents know that soft lullabies are a great way to soothe a baby to sleep.  Hearing the sweet sound of your voice, or a recording if you prefer, can take babies from extreme wakefulness to dreamland in just a short time.  Playing or signing lullabies around bedtime can train your baby to associate these sounds with sleep, making an easier transition when you leave the room.  An advantage of you singing to your baby is that she can feel the vibration of your voice during breastfeeding or skin-to-skin contact.  This peaceful moment can sync your bodies and transfer calming feelings between the two of you.  Singing makes a terrific bonding experience between babies and partners as well.

Babies can hear voices and music while in the womb.  Researchers believe that babies can even distinguish their native language from this early exposure to sound.  Almost any type of music is great for your baby and it’s good to expose babies to a variety of styles.  Kids music, nursery rhymes and lullabies work well, and so does classical, jazz, pop, classic rock, religious and big band music.  Experiment with sounds your baby likes to hear.  Just like reading and learning, a love of music starts at a young age from repeated interaction and exposure.

Children playing with musical toys. Isolated on white backgroundWhile most children are not ready for formal music lessons until their early elementary school years, there may be more benefits of music for babies in an interactive learning through play setting.  In an infant musical study, babies who took a music class in an interactive setting – doing hand motions to songs and playing simple instruments with the help of their parents – showed more early communication skills, greater emotional stability and were more social with their peers than babies who only passively listened to music.  The interactive group also had a better understanding of the structure and pitch of music, which was determined by their preference to listen to songs in key than with stray notes.

The jury is still out on whether or not music can make babies smarter, but research shows music improves cognitive skills and test-taking in older children.  In a study done with children ages 5-7, music instruction improved neurological communication between the right-brain and left-brain.  Music also improves early math skills in young children due to repetition of counting beats, creating patterns and memorizing numerical finger placements.

The key to early music exposure is keeping it fun and consistent.  Make music a part of your lives by incorporating songs into your daily routines, and having designated times for interactive musical play.  As your baby develops and is able to grasp objects, encourage her to shake rattles, bang on drums and even play a few notes on a piano if you happen across one.  Embrace opportunities to see live music at festivals, parades and other events in your community.

Music is a universal language that can bring much happiness into your home.  Whether it’s soulful and sweet or a rockin’ good time, keep playing that beat and watch your little one blossom into a music lover.

Co-Sleeping: The Pros, The Cons and Safety Recommendations

Many parents wonder if the family bed is a good choice for themselves and their babies.  While it offers some convenience, especially during the breastfeeding stage, there are also some safety concerns that all parents should consider.  Ultimately sharing a bed with your tot is a personal decision, but knowing the pros, cons and safety guidelines should be part of your decision-making process.

The Pros

Some parents find the family bed to be comforting and results in more sleep for both baby and parents.  Co-sleeping is more convenient for nighttime breastfeeding; Moms and babies need not move much for feedings.  Less movement and disturbances makes it iStock_000008954862Smalleasier for both to get back to sleep quickly.  Additionally, if mom is sleeping next to baby, their sleep patterns will sync, which may increase sleeping time for both as well.  Studies show babies sleep more soundly next to their parents, who can soothe them back to sleep if they wake in the night.  Additionally, parents find cuddling during co-sleeping to be a bonding experience and offers their baby emotional security and stability.  During this fleeting stage of infancy, co-sleeping can keep the family close and strengthen the family unit.

The Cons

On the flip side, co-sleeping may cause problems for parents and babies immediately and in the future.  The American Academy for Pediatrics reports more instances of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) occur when babies are sleeping in adult beds alongside their parents.  In an adult bed, the risk of suffocation from bedcovers, pillows and parents is increased.  Therefore, the AAP recommends against co-sleeping for the safety of babies.  Instead, the AAP recommends a dedicated safe sleeping environment for babies.

In addition to an increased of SIDS cited by the AAP, parents tend to sleep less in the family bed because they are woken by the noises and movements of their babies.  In some cases babies also sleep less because parents are over-attentive and cause more wakefulness from soothing and calming babies who may have otherwise gone back to sleep quickly on their own.  Some experts believe co-sleeping discourages independence in the sleeping environment.  Babies don’t learn to put themselves to sleep or fall back asleep, which carries over into toddlerhood and beyond.  Parents also have less privacy when babies sleep in their beds.

Recommendations

Many people find the best compromise to the co-sleeping conundrum is to allow their babies, especially newborns, to sleep in their own cribs or bassinets in the parents bedroom.  Parents can be close enough to comfort baby and breastfeed easily, while still maintaining a safe environment in baby’s own sleeping space.  For infants that means no pillows, blankets, toys, bumpers or even overhead mobiles in or around a crib.  Nothing should be within arms reach for baby to pull down into the crib either.  If the comfy cozy time is what parents are seeking from co-sleeping, they can have a pre-bedtime routine of snuggling with their baby to ensure a solid bond and lots of love is shared between them.  Also, breastfeeding throughout the day offers that same comforting intimacy between moms and babies.

If you do choose to co-sleep with your baby, take the necessary precautions to keep her safe:  Never leave the baby unattended in an adult bed.  Make sure there are no spaces that your baby could fall through, such as next to a wall or between the mattress and headboard or footboard.  Keep extra blankets, pillows and sheets away from your baby to avoid suffocation.  Do not wear clothing or jewelry or bring anything into the bed with long strings that could be a strangling hazard.  Keep older children and pets away from the bed while your baby is sleeping.  Never smoke in bed with your baby and make other sleeping arrangements for your baby if you’ve been drinking or are under the influence of any type of drug that will make you less aware of your baby’s presence.

Co-sleeping should be a joint decision between parents.  Both parents should read and understand the benefits and risks and make a decision that fits their family.  If both parents agree, whether it’s co-sleeping or independent sleeping or something in-between, the entire family is likely to sleep more peacefully.  And a rested family is a happy family.

Sweet dreams!

New Nursing Positions

Since the dawn of time, mothers have been perfecting the art of breastfeeding.  And beautiful art it is!  At its core, breastfeeding is about a relationship between mother and baby, and each relationship is unique.  That includes your nursing positions.

Happy mother breast feeding her sonFinding the best way to breastfeed will be very specific to you and your baby.  Hopefully you’re taking advantage of breastfeeding classes, books and online resources that explain the ins-and-outs of breastfeeding.  You can also seek help from a lactation consultant or many breastfeeding support organizations in your area.  Logistically, breastfeeding may take a bit of work as you and your baby discover the best ways to position yourselves for great latch, good suck and swallow reflexes and to avoid reflux and spitting up as much as possible.

There are many standard nursing positions that most lactation consultants and books recommend, such as the cradle, cross-cradle, football hold and side-laying.  These are a great place to start but they don’t work for every mother and baby pair.  Today we’re recommending a few new nursing positions that may be the perfect fit for you and your baby:

 

Laid Back:  Rather than lying completely on your sides facing one another, in the Laid Back position, mother is reclining with baby lying across her torso.  The Laid Back position works well in a reclining chair, cushioned couch or a rocking chair when mom can keep her foot pressed against a stool.  This is also a great position to try if you are nursing in your car and can recline the drivers or passengers seat. Laid Back allows baby straight-on access to the breast and keeps her at a propped position for easy flow and digestion.

Side Sling:  Moms are on-the-go more than ever so wearing your baby in a sling is convenient for the mobile mom.  Baby wearing is often comforting to baby because she can enjoy being close to mom and the rocking rhythm of your motions.  Breastfeeding in a sling is a great way to multi-task and offers some discretion in public.  The Side Sling position is similar to the cradle, except your sling is holding baby in place rather than your arms.  This is perfect for over an over-the-shoulder style sling.

Carrier Forward:  This is another convenient position for baby wearing moms. Carrier Forward works best for front pack style carriers (think back pack, but worn on the front) where baby is facing mom.  You are probably used to wearing your carrier high enough for your baby’s head to prop against your chest, just under your chin.  When it’s time to nurse, try lowering the straps so your baby’s face meets your breasts.  You may have to adjust baby’s position slightly from one side to the other.  Many carriers come with an inner shell that offers head support for newborns and smaller infants, which can be helpful for Carrier Forward nursing.

Saddle:  This nursing position entails mama sitting upright in a chair with baby facing forward straddling your legs.  Again, baby is able to sit up to prevent reflux, spit-ups and excess gas.  This is often a better position for older babies who are able to hold up their own heads.  You may need to tilt your baby’s head sideways to ensure good latch.

Upside-down Mama:  Unusual as this position may sound, it can be very effective.  Lie baby down on the ground and hover over her on your elbows and knees.  Then lower your breast to baby’s mouth.  Your baby may enjoy this new perspective and even get a chuckle out of it.  And she may feed better too.  By leaning down, your milk can drain more efficiently and is easier for your baby to suckle out.  If you’re feeling like your baby is having trouble getting enough milk or you are not fully expelling the milk from each breast, give this position a go.

Switch up your nursing positions to see which ones your baby responds to best.  You never know, one of these new nursing positions may become your favorite one!

Is it Time to Baby Proof? Baby Proofing 101

As your little tot becomes more mobile, its time to consider baby proofing your home.  Baby proofing will keep your baby safe from potential dangerous situations – getting into cleaning supplies, falling down stairs or getting cut with broken glass – and also protects your belongings.  While it may not be the most convenient for you, baby proofing is necessary for a safe and healthy home.

Many parents dread baby proofing because it can be time consuming and make life a little frustrating when you want to get into cabinets, drawers and down the stairs.  But the inconvenience is well-worth the safety of your baby.  One of the best ways to ensure baby proofing is not overwhelming is to do it gradually as your baby becomes more mobile and curious.  Each baby requires different levels of security.  Some are more cautious and are not all that interested in exploring new spaces.  Others are dare devils and will climb and jump on anything in sight.  Progressively baby proof to your child’s level step-by-step, but be observant to predict what your little one may start getting into next.  For example, if he’s working on opening kitchen drawers but can’t quite grasp the knobs yet, you know it will soon be time to lock them.

Start baby proofing from the ground up.  If you have flower pots, decorative items and low shelves and drawers, secure those items first.  You may need to remove them or raise them higher temporarily until your baby is mature enough to listen and follow directions.  It’s a good idea to cover all outlets with secure covers that your baby cannot remove.  If your baby tends to pull out plugs, get plug protectors, which are like small boxes that you fit over the entire outlet plate.

Baby-Proofing-Checklist-8-size-3Regardless of your baby’s level of adventure, you will want to lock cabinets that contain cleaning supplies, chemicals, medications or any other harmful substances.  There is no reason to risk your baby getting into these items, even if he has never tried before.  Close off any stairs or spaces that are absolutely off limits to babies with baby proof gates.  Keep in mind that anything with small parts can be a choking hazard and anything with a long cord or string (electronics, blinds, curtains, etc…) puts your baby at risk of strangulation.  Sharp corners on furniture can be dangerous so add cushioned tape or plastic corner covers.  Also, keep matches and lighters out of reach and never leave your baby around standing water.

As your baby learns to pull up on furniture and grows taller, you’ll need to do another round of baby proofing for his new line of view and reach.  Consider the fact that your baby or toddler may eventually be able to climb up to new heights too.  This means you should not leave dangerous items on countertops, such as knives, hot irons or heavy objects that can be pulled down.  Be particularly careful with stoves and ovens.  For minimal cost, you can get an oven lock and stove knob covers.  For very curious children, you may need a plastic guard to protect hot pots and pans on your stovetop.  Also be aware of which burners you use when your tot is home.  Try only using back burners to avoid burns or spills from inquisitive little hands.

c26-Safety-1st-proofing-4-lBeyond the obvious areas like ovens and stairs, some parents are not sure what exactly needs baby proofing in their home.  Browse the child proofing aisles of a baby superstore or go online to see what products are offered.  That will give you a sense of what many children tend to get into.  But keep in mind, many baby proofing solutions do not require expensive gear.  You can often create homemade versions with supplies you have on hand.

A natural part of infancy and toddlerhood is exploring so keep some spaces open to your child, even outside of his room or playroom.  If you spend family time together in your living room, keep a basket of toys there for your baby.  If your baby is usually at your feet while you are cooking in the kitchen, create a baby safe bottom drawer for him.  Fill it with plastic items, old pots and pans and a few wooden or metal spoons.  He’ll be delighted with “mommy’s toys” while you’ll get a few extra minutes to get dinner ready.

Baby proofing does not give you permission to let your baby go unsupervised, especially around doors, stairs and appliances.  The idea is to minimize risk but you still need to keep a watchful eye on your little one.  As you see he’s interested in getting into things he should not, use these times as teaching moments.  The more you reinforce safety, the more your child will learn to avoid hazards on his own in the future.  And keep your gadgets and nicer items out of baby’s reach too.  You both may learn the hard way, but it will sink in pretty quickly.

Remember, baby proofing is only a temporary situation.  Your house may not look like a picture in Better Homes and Gardens for a few years but you’ll be happy that you protected your baby and created a safe and healthy home environment.  Good luck!

Breastfeeding and Medications: How Do I Know what is Safe to Take?

As you focus on the health of your new baby, it’s important to stay healthy yourself.  Sometimes ensuring your own health – from managing minor aches and pains to maintaining emotional balance – requires medication.  Breastfeeding adds a layer of scrutiny to the pills you pop because a small dose of your medications will transfer into your breast milk.  It is essential to know where to find information about medication safety while breastfeeding.

The first source you should consult regarding medications that may affect your baby is your pediatrician.  She will be most knowledgeable about what is acceptable for your baby to consume based on the age and health condition of your child.  Premature babies, newborns or any infant with an existing condition may be at greater risk of adverse Happy mother breast feeding her sonreactions to adult medication.  Also, if your baby is older and breastfeeding less because you have introduced solids, your pediatrician may be less concerned about potential issues.

Once you select a pediatrician during pregnancy, make her aware of any medications you are taking.  Consult her again before introducing new medications as well, and remind her of all drugs you are taking.  Sometimes a drug interaction that does not affect adults can cause problems for babies.  Additionally, some medications may be given to infants and therefore the small dose a baby receives through breast milk is acceptable.  If you want to do some research on your own, there are reference books about breastfeeding and medications as well as dedicated hotlines for this topic.

When you are prescribed a new drug, you may want to let your physician know that you are breastfeeding.  Your doctor might know off-hand if the medication could be dangerous to your baby and may be able to suggest an alternative.  However, many doctors use the Physicians Desk Reference to look up potential risks and almost every drug shows a warning for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers.  This does not necessarily mean it is unsafe so still consult your pediatrician.  Also note that the same rules for medication safety do not apply during pregnancy as with breastfeeding so do not use pregnancy warnings as a guide.

If you cannot find a safe alternative to a drug you are prescribed, ask yourself if it is absolutely necessary to treat your condition immediately.  You may be able to postpone the medication until you wean your baby.  However that is not always possible.  You may need to temporarily discontinue breastfeeding while you undergo your course of medicine.  During this time, pump as much as possible to keep your milk supply available and set a goal to return to breastfeeding as soon as the medication is out of your body.

Be sure to consider how a medication will affect your milk supply and nursing schedule too.  Drugs that are dehydrating or cause drowsiness can be particularly disruptive to breastfeeding.  If you know these side effects in advance, you can work to counteract them by drinking more throughout the day or planning for your partner to give a bottle of breast milk while you catch a nap.

If you do proceed with a course of medicine, be sure to watch your baby closely for any signs of reactions.  The most common negative responses to adult medications in babies are fussiness, gassiness, refusal to eat, lethargy and rashes.  Keep a watchful eye for these symptoms and contact your pediatrician immediately if any emerge.

Most over-the-counter medications are generally safe while breastfeeding.  But don’t take any chances with your baby’s health.  Pediatricians and help lines are happy to answer your questions and address concerns so don’t be afraid to use them as a resource.

My Mom-Mobile is a Mess! How Can I Keep My Car Clean with a Baby?

You’re a mom now and moms are constantly on-the-go.  You may have had to ditch the convertible or two-door sports coup for a more practical mom-mobile.  What was once a joy ride to your office has become your mobile office of sorts.  And in your office you carry all the things that you and your kids may need for your daily excursions.   But between mashed-up goldfish, a pile of “keep the baby occupied” toys, and all of the emergency supplies you just might need when you’re out-and-about, a mom’s car gets messy, fast.

We’ve discovered that the key to keeping your mom-mobile tidy is having an organizational plan and a cleaning routine.  The first step is to create a baseline.  Clean your car to the core to get a fresh start.  Take everything out – including car seats – and vacuum, scrub and throw away all the trash that your car has collected.  Then you can re-construct your car in an organized fashion.

clean carWe recommend investing in some supplies:  all-weather mats to protect your car’s carpeting; a car trash bag in a central location; and several large bins or an over-the-seat car organizer for each person who regularly rides in your car.  Also, lay some ground rules such as all food and drinks must be in lidded containers.  Or all trash must be thrown away before you exit the car.  Make a habit of dumping out the trash bag each time you fill up the car with gas.

Keep the bins or car organizer in a position that is reachable to each child.  Allow them to select toys, books and games that they want to keep in the car, but discourage things with small pieces that can scatter everywhere.  Don’t allow them to keep food items that spoil or melt in their bins.

Make sure mom has a bin too.  You can keep yours in the passenger seat floor or in the trunk.  In fact, you may need several – one for cleaning supplies like wipes, hand sanitizer, paper towels, tissues, etc…, another for emergency supplies such as sunscreen, bug spray, pool towels and bottles of water.  If you are breastfeeding, have a separate bag or bin for these supplies including your pump, extra bottles, cooler, nursing cover and a snack.  The last thing you want to be doing when your baby is hungry or it’s time to pump is digging through your diaper bag for this stuff.

Have a routine of bringing everything in from the car that you no longer need each time you return home.  Otherwise, items will pile-up quickly.  Also have a regular cleaning schedule.  Maybe it’s once or twice a month you spend 20 minutes vacuuming out the crumbs, sand and dirt.  Try to get to stainable spills quickly to avoid permanent damage.   While you’re at it, use a natural fresh scent fabric spray to eliminate nasty odors and allow everyone to enjoy a more pleasant ride.

If your kids are old enough, hold them responsible for keeping the car clean and set a good example.  Explain to them that this is a new era and you need their help.  Kids are naturally helpful and will most likely want to please you.  And they probably spend as much time in the car as you do so they have a vested interest in making it an organized and fun space too.

Good luck keeping that mom-mobile clean and tidy!

The Importance of Mom Friends

Being a new mom is a lot of things: wonderful, daunting, exhilarating and exhausting. Often mom’s partner goes back to work after the first few weeks, so it can also be isolating. While husbands, parents and friends can be a great support system, no one understands what a new mom is going through like another new mom.  Enter, the new mom friends.

It’s important to find other moms that you can talk to. It’s both fun and cathartic to swap stories about the joy of first smiles, the challenges and triumphs of breastfeeding, trade diaper change war stories and of course, talk about sleep.

mom friendsWhether you and your BFF planned your pregnancies together or you don’t know a single other mama on the block, as a new mom you may be in search of more likeminded friends after your little one arrives. New mom seeking can be almost as awkward as dating, but it doesn’t have to be.

Do you take your babe on frequent walks? Strike up a conversation with the stroller next to you. See another bump in your Facebook newsfeed? Send her a message and grab coffee.  Not sure where else to find other new mamas? Here are a few places to look:

Breastfeeding Support Groups: Check out your local La Leche League or join the “We’ve Got Your Back Babe Fitness Challenge” (benefitting Best for Babes Foundation, Breastfeeding USA and United States Lactation Consultants Association) to find likeminded nursing mamas.  They may have great tips on new nursing positions and the hottest nursing wear from Leading Lady of course, but more importantly they can relate to your fantastic choice to breastfeed.

Meet Up: Mamas looking for coffee dates and playgroups may want to check out MeetUp, an online hub for activities divided by areas and interests. Especially if none of your other friends have babes the same age as yours, this is a great place to seek out local mommies.

Facebook: Can’t always make it to a weekly group, but still want to find mamas who can tell you which restaurants have the best changing stations and stroller parking? Search on Facebook for local moms groups by city or even neighborhood. Engage in a discussion online, post a question and get instantaneous feedback. The best part is that you can do it during those 3 a.m. nursing sessions.

Mommy networking: Everyone has a friend of a friend (or a friend of a friend of a friend) who is also new mom. Introduce yourself or ask your friends to set you up on mom dates. While it may be uncomfortable at first, you’ll soon be keeping an eye on each other’s babies so one of you can go to the bathroom with the door closed.

No matter where you find the other ladies with new babies, you’ll soon find yourself laughing and venting with someone who understands almost exactly what you’re going through.  And your babies may be making friends for life too!

 

 

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