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

Swimming with Baby

We’re smack dab in the middle of swim season so we thought a little discussion about swimming with baby would be appropriate.  Young infants usually love water because it is familiar to them from their time in the womb where they were floating and bobbing for 9+ months.  But easing baby into the pool may be wise to make her feel comfortable with water on this side of mom’s belly.

One of the best ways to start swimming with baby is in the bathtub.  In addition to making solo baths a fun, soothing and relaxing time, make it a grander family experience by hopping in the tub with your baby from time to time.  You can hold your baby the way you would in a pool to let her know you’ll be there to comfort and protect her throughout her early stages of swimming.  Make joint baths an exciting sensory experience by helping baby splash water with her hands and feet, pouring water into containers and watching it fall out, and playing with bath and pool toys.  If your baby is particularly attached to a toy in the bath, be sure to bring it along when you head out to the pool.

imagesWhen you’re ready for your first pool adventure, keep a few health and safety tips in mind before taking a dip.  Select a saline pool that doesn’t have too many chemicals that may be harsh on your baby’s eyes and skin.  While it’s not recommended that babies drink pool water, she may swallow some so you don’t want it to be laced with tons of harmful chemicals.

Also, the water temperature should be slightly warm.  If you don’t have access to a heated pool, wait until later in the day to swim so the sun has a chance to warm the pool.  Your baby is not yet able to regulate her own body temperature and can get cold very easily.  And don’t forget the sunscreen and protective clothing.  You certainly don’t want to associate sunburns with swimming, and baby’s sensitive skin is more at risk for burns than older children and adults.

When it’s time for the plunge, hold your baby while sitting on a step to simulate the bathtub swimming experience.  Then slowly ease her into the water, holding her tightly so she feels secure.  She may be more comfortable completely submerged in water as wet skin exposed to cool air can be chilling.  Plus, the feeling of being underwater is pretty neat for a baby when she can sense her weightlessness and move her body through the water gracefully.  Be sure to make pool time lots of fun by singing, splashing and playing with toys.  Many classics like “Ring Around the Rosie” and “Humpty Dumpty Sat on a Wall” work nicely as pool games too.

You can also use an upright baby float so your baby can sit in the water while you glide her around.  Never take your hand off the float though as these may not be completely secure.  Many baby floats have a cover to shade your baby from the sun, a nice added bonus.  But experts agree that strap on floatation devices are not a good way to introduce babies to the water as it will give them a false sense of safety around water.  They may grow to learn that they can always float in water and test their theory when not wearing floaties.

If your child seems to enjoy the water, you may want to begin swim lessons as early as six months old.  Usually introductory classes are group lessons with parents participating to continue feelings of trust and security in the water.  Certified instructors can help you teach your baby pre-swimming skills such as blowing bubbles and kicking.  As your baby grows into a toddler, you can take more advanced and individual swim lessons to sharpen swim and water survival skills such as floating and being able to get to the side of the pool.  This is especially important if you live near water or have your own pool.

Remember, make swimming with baby a fun, bonding experience so she will love this summertime activity for a lifetime.

Juggling a Newborn and a Toddler

iStock_000003032321SmallBringing home a newborn is tough enough, but having a toddler at home as well may be one of the most challenging experiences of your life.  Juggling a newborn and a toddler can be particularly hard when schedules collide and meltdowns occur.  But never fear, it can be done!

Today we’re discussing some tips of juggling a newborn and a toddler to avoid some of the hardships that this exciting and challenging time may bring.

Prepare your Toddler for the Arrival of your Baby

Your toddler may be very excited about the prospect of a new baby, but does she really know what that will mean for her life?  Prepare your toddler by talking about how newborns act and the attention your baby will need, including lots of sleeping, some crying, being held often and breastfeeding.  Read books about babies so your child has some idea of what to expect during these early months with a new sibling.  Discuss ways she can help out with the baby, such as rocking and singing to the baby or being mommy’s special helper.  Talk about how sweet, adorable and fun your older child was when she was a baby and how the new baby will be equally as charming.

Foster Independence and Some Degree of Separation Before Baby Arrives

The more independent your older child is, the easier it will be for you to tend to your baby’s needs.  You certainly don’t want to abandon your toddler or give her the impression that the baby always comes first.  However, when a baby needs to be fed or changed, it’s nice to know that your toddler will be safe and occupied for some period of time.

First, be sure your house is child-proofed for the safety of your toddler.  Knowing she won’t get hurt when you look away for a few minutes will be a big relief to you.  Teach your toddler to do some things on her own, like walk up and down stairs (or crawl up and scoot down), feed herself and independent play.  If dad or another caregiver will be stepping in to help, strengthen this relationship before the baby arrives so your toddler won’t be clinging to you when you’re trying to focus on your newborn.  This also invites a wonderful bonding opportunity for other family members.

Keep your Routine as Normal as Possible

When the baby arrives, try to keep your toddler’s schedule very routine.  If school and playgroups are part of her normal life, continue that schedule.  If possible, have someone stay at your house with your child while you are at the hospital so as not to disrupt her daily life.  Some times of the day will be more challenging than others, such as meal times, nap times, bath times and bedtimes.  Discuss the challenge with your partner and decide if having an extra pair of hands around at some of those times might be helpful.  Baby-wearing is a terrific way to keep your baby close and happy while tending to the needs of your toddler and other familial responsibilities.

Breastfeeding your Baby while Managing a Toddler

If your toddler has not been exposed to breastfeeding, she may be particularly curious about this most nourishing practice.  Never feel ashamed to breastfeed in front of your children.  It’s a wonderful experience you can share as a family.  While you may be less mobile while breastfeeding, you can still spend quality time with your toddler during feedings.

After a few weeks, you’ll probably get the hang of one-handed feedings, which will free up a hand to play with your older child.  Sitting on the floor building with blocks or doing a puzzle are great sedentary activities you can do together.  Reading is a great way to spend your breastfeeding sessions with your baby and toddler.  Your older child can enjoy her favorite books and turn the pages for you, and your baby will benefit from hearing constant words and chatter.  Also allow your toddler to do some independent play while you are breastfeeding, such as coloring, stickering, play-doh, putting on a concert or play for you and the baby or playing with toys in the same room.  Don’t feel it is necessary to separate yourself while breastfeeding, but rather embrace this time for togetherness.

Spend Time with your Toddler Individually

As exciting as a new baby may be, your toddler may feel sad or frustrated by this attention-grabbing addition to your family.  Ensure you spend one-on-one time with your toddler and don’t completely abandon some special activities you did together before the baby was born.  Also, make your toddler feel important as an older sibling and special helper in your family.  Encourage her to embrace this crucial role so she feels integrated in your family’s wonderful new joy.

When things get tough, remember that the next phase will relieve some of your current issues and bring on new joys and challenges.  And even when things are easy, remember that the next stage is not far behind.  Count your blessings and enjoy the moment.

The Science behind the Terrible Twos and How to Navigate the Terrible Twos

toddler_temper_twosWhether you’re there already or looking ahead at your future, there are big changes that occur around the time your baby turns two.  This transitional period is marked by greater physical capabilities, a broader understanding of language and ability to communicate, and the emotional evolution that comes with asserting independence while still craving nurture.  With these huge psychological shifts, tantrums, dangerous curiosity and other forms of misbehavior may arise, hence the name “Terrible Twos.”

The good news about the Terrible Twos is that it’s only a stage and, with understanding, proactive and compassionate parenting, you can navigate the terrible twos with minimal struggle.   Although every child is different and reacts individually to his particular environment and feelings, today we’re explaining the science behind the Terrible Twos to help ameliorate some of the negative effects on you, your toddler and your family.

Much like puberty, the transitional period around two-years-old is about physical, emotional, neurological and psychological changes.  It’s a period of self discovery and independence when your child’s true personality is likely to emerge.  As your toddler becomes more mobile, she’ll be able to make choices about where she wants to go and what she wants to do, much to the chagrin of parents.  This gives her the opportunity to get into things she shouldn’t and wreak havoc anywhere you go.  That can be a frustrating situation for both of you, since she will surely need to be deterred and your anxiety will elevate.

Additionally, your little one will be able to understand much more of what you’re saying and even communicate back to you.  With more words, comes more freedom to express personal thoughts and desires, many of which may conflict with your own.  While having words should make things easier to communicate with your child, they sometimes cause you to butt heads.  And your child is now all-too-aware that she is her own being and she can make choices in the world, aside from you.  Although she may appear pleased as can be that she’s marching to the beat of her own drum and testing her limits, her independence and freedom often causes an internal struggle as she still longs for a parents’ nurture, affection and direction.

When all of these transitions come to a head at the same time, major frustration can occur for both children and their parents.  The most important thing to remember is to stay calm.  Your child will feed off of your reaction and your behavior, and ultimately this is the response she will learn when faced with an adverse situation.  If your child is not in a position to be reasonable, comfort her without addressing the issue first and also ensure she is safe.  Once she has calmed down, use positive discipline methods to help you discuss what happened.  Try to boil down the feelings involved in the situation since that is ultimately what tantrums are about.  And once you understand the feelings and triggers, you can better navigate away from them in the future.  This is truly a learning opportunity for both of you.

Redirection, humor and compassion are all terrific ways to navigate the terrible twos.  Sometimes all it takes is distraction and a goofy attitude to snap your little pal out of that bad mood.  Most of the time, tantrums are short-lived and forgotten when the stressor passes.

The science behind terrible twos tells us that they are very normal and an important part of developing a healthy psyche.  It’s the way we as parents handle them that can make all the difference.

The Healing Powers of Breast Milk

If you thought breast milk is only for babies, you’ve got a lot to learn about the healing powers of breast milk.

Breast milk may be the most powerful natural substance on the planet.  The incredible benefits of breast milk for babies and mothers begin at birth and extend throughout a lifetime.  Breast milk is, of course, the most nourishing and beneficial nutrients for babies.  The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infants are given breast milk for at least one year of life and recognizes the benefits of prolonged breastfeeding too.

fridge-breast-milkBreast milk is so phenomenal because it offers a range of hundreds of nutrients including amazing antibodies that help protect babies from illness and disease immediately and for their whole lives.  These antibodies have powerful healing properties that prevent and treat infection and inflammation.  That’s why breast milk is quickly becoming popular beyond its initial use of nourishing babies.  The healing powers of breast milk make it an extraordinary remedy for many minor health problems for children and adults.

Today we’re sharing some of the exceptional uses of breast milk other than feeding your baby.  Fresh or frozen breast milk will work beautifully.  Try rubbing breast milk on affected areas several times daily for great results.

Baby Rashes and Skin Conditions:  Babies sensitive skin is more susceptible to rashes and outbreaks but breast milk can help heal these skin issues.  Diaper rash caused by yeast, baby acne and eczema, dry skin on a baby’s head called cradle cap, circumcision wounds and heat rash can all be remedied with breast milk.

Cuts and Bites:  Scrapes, scratches and cuts can benefit from the antibacterial properties of breast milk.  Breast milk helps these skin lacerations heal faster and with less risk of infection.  Additionally, breast milk is terrific for easing soreness and redness from mosquito and other insect bites as well as bee and wasp stings.

Eye Infections and other Eye Issues:  Breast milk can be combined with liquid eye drops to help clear up conjunctivitis or pink eye.  The antibodies help fight these and other viral eye infections.  Babies tend to get clogged tear ducts as their eyes are still very immature during infancy.  Breast milk can help open ducts.  Here’s another interesting use for eyes:  add breast milk to your contact solution to moisturize and cleanse your lenses.

Dry and Cracked Skin:  Skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis and general dry skin can improve with the ultimate natural nourishing moisturizer, breast milk.   In winter months when skin and lips are dry, cracked and flakey, apply breast milk for faster repair.  Also, breast milk is excellent (and very convenient) for healing cracked, sore nipples after feedings.

Ear Infections:  Ear infections are all too common in infants and toddlers.  Breastfeeding is a proven way to reduce risk of ear infections, yet they are still very common in infants and toddlers. Applying 3 to 5 drops of breast milk to the entrance of the ear canal can help resolve ear infections in children and adults.

Burns and Itchiness:  As an anti-inflammatory, breast milk can relieve pain and swelling from burns, sunburns and other skin irritations.  Cold breast milk is the best way to soothe both red and inflamed skin so use chilled or frozen milk for burns.  Also keep breast milk in mind for reducing irritation from chicken pox.

Congestion:  In children and adults, breast milk can help clear nasal passages.  Squirt a few drops in each nostril to reduce sinus congestion.  This is a much better alternative than many medications that have a range of side effects.

Glowing Skin:  Under-eye bags, acne, fine lines and age spots don’t necessarily require expensive creams and serums.  Try all-natural breast milk as Mother Nature’s best formula for beautiful, youthful skin.  Also, use it as a daily cleanser by applying it all over the face and then washing it off just like soap.

Sore Throats:  Breastfeeding can help soothe a sore throat in a baby or toddler.  In adults, gargling breast milk and allowing it to coat the throat can assisting in relieving a tender, raw sore throat.

Next time you are in need of a natural remedy, think about the incredible healing powers of breast milk!

Healthy Snack Tricks for Kids

Your mom may have told you not to play with your food but we believe in the exact opposite.  Getting your kids to eat a healthy diet may be a challenge, in part due to the abundant availability of many unhealthy snack foods.  We’re here to help you overcome this snack-time problem with healthy snack tricks that will make your kids want to eat their fruits and veggies.

Shape it Up:  Some fruits and veggies lend themselves to certain shapes:    Strawberries make lovely hearts; Cantaloupe slices are natural smiles; Star fruit look like stars, of course.  You can also cut out shapes using small cookie cutters.  Squash and zucchini slices are much more edible in fun shapes.  Apples make a wonderful pallet for carving shapes as well.

Funny-food-Art-FaceMake Funny Faces:  Who can resist an edible funny face?  The possibilities are endless.  Grapes for eyes, a carrot nose, a banana mouth, green beans hair.  Let your little one help you create a super silly face and watch her devour her healthy snack afterwards.

Do the Dipty Dip:  Dipping foods always make them more fun to eat.  Hummus, tomato sauces or a low-fat ranch dressing are all wonderful dipping choices for celery, carrots, zucchini, tomatoes, bell peppers and broccoli.  The added flavor may also make raw veggies more appetizing.

Smoothie it Out:  Smoothies are a great way to pack in some healthy ingredients for kids (and adults).  Use a yogurt or milk base to make it smooth and creamy.  Let your children help you make smoothies and pick their colors by selecting the fruits and veggies to add.  Try a “gross green” with green grapes, spinach and kiwi fruit.  How about “outrageous orange” using oranges, carrots and orange tomatoes.  Or go for “perfect pink” with strawberries, raspberries and watermelon.

rainbow skewersTaste the Rainbow:  Make snacks that include every color of the rainbow.  When you’re feeling especially crafty, put them in rainbow color order and shape them into a rainbow arch.  Or, select a color of the day and focus on fresh foods of that color.  This will teach your kids an appreciation for a variety of fruits and vegetables while also learning their colors.

Stick ‘em Up:  There is something about putting food on a stick that makes it so much more appealing.  Using toothpicks, make small fruit or veggie skewers.  You can add cheese for protein as well.

Spell it Out:  Spell your child’s name with fruits and veggies.  This works especially well with smaller foods such as peas, blueberries, edemame and beans.  Your little one will love seeing her name and it’s more likely she’ll want to snack on it too.

So go on, play with your food and encourage your kids to do the same!

Thumb Sucking: Why Kids do it and How to Gradually Wean Thumb Sucking

Thumb sucking is quite an adorable habit for babies and young toddlers.  And beyond looking cute, sucking is one of the first and most basic instincts of human babies.  That’s how babies know to suckle from their mother’s breast during breastfeeding.  It’s a natural reflex that cannot be stopped.  But some babies have a more intense desire to suck than others, which is where thumb sucking comes into play.

Some babies begin sucking their thumbs as early as in the womb.  Parents are often surprised to see ultrasound images of their babies sucking away before birth.  Not surprisingly, those babies are more likely to be thumb suckers a few months later when they are on the other side of the womb.


The Upside to Thumb Sucking

Contrary to what many parents believe, thumb sucking is not a psychological problem.  Rather, it’s a way for children to comfort themselves by using their innate suck reflex.  Thumb sucking is actually a wonderful method of self soothing that many parents value.  It’s a sign of maturity that a baby can pacify himself with a thumb that will always be available.  As children grow older, they may use thumb sucking as a form of comfort when they feel uneasy about a situation, are tired or feel ill.  The familiarity and reassurance of his own thumb can help him get through tough situations without crying or displaying other undesirable behavior.

The Downside of Thumb Sucking

Dentists are not a fan of thumb sucking because vigorous sucking can push teeth out creating misalignment.  However, thumb sucking up to age 2 will probably not cause that problem and thumb sucking before permanent teeth appear (around age 6) will usually not create lasting issues.  Kids who suck their thumbs often can suck their thumbs raw and form sores sometimes resulting in infections.  Also, it can be problematic if thumb sucking prevents a child from participating in activities or speaking.  Older thumb suckers sometimes run into issues when peers make fun of their thumb habit.

How to Handle Thumb Sucking

Most kids grow out of thumb sucking between the ages of 2 and 4.  Experts agree that the very best method is to let your child gradually wean himself from thumb sucking.  Nagging your child to stop or putting a deterrent on his thumb will usually backfire and is an unfair punishment to a very natural, comforting habit.  Because there are not severe repercussions in early childhood, try not to worry and wait until your child is ready to give up the thumb.  He will likely reach the conclusion on his own.

If thumb sucking is causing dental or behavioral issues and you need to intervene, try these tactics:

  • Keep your child’s hands busy so he doesn’t have the opportunity to suck.
  • Offer comfort in other ways, such as singing to him, rocking or giving him a massage.
  • Suggest an alternative habit, such as sitting on hands or pinching fingers together.
  • Create a relaxing environment that won’t prompt the need for self-comforting.
  • Show your child how thumb sucking is affecting his teeth.
  • Help your child identify when he’s sucking by using a silly catch-phrase that will make him laugh and release the thumb.
  • Set a reward for the eventual end to thumb sucking.

It’s highly unlikely that your child will leave for college still sucking his thumb.  Be patient, understand the reasons behind thumb sucking and employ techniques to wean when the timing is right.

Father’s Day Gift Ideas that Remind You of Mother’s Day

Dads deserve a special day designated to celebrate them as fathers and dudes.  Father’s Day is the perfect opportunity to shower dad with love and gratitude, while giving him some much-needed relaxation too.  In fact, much of what dads could use on Father’s Day reminds us a lot of what moms often get on Mother’s Day.

Today we’re sharing Father’s Day gift ideas that remind you of Mother’s Day…but with a manly twist.  Check these out for inspiration when selecting the perfect gift for the dads in your life:

bambooFlowers:  Real men can appreciate a beautiful bouquet of flowers.  While you may not select pinks roses for your guy, you can certainly create a vibrant and masculine bouquet using bold colors and the right flower choices.  Use a base of thick green leaves of twigs rather than baby’s breath or other more delicate stems.  Alternatively, potted cactus plants, bamboo or bonsai trees are a masculine take on the traditional floral bouquet.

Spa Pampering:  Guys can use some pampering too.  Book a deep tissue massage, luxurious facial and shave experience, or a foot massage for dad for some much needed relaxation on his special day.  He’ll surely appreciate the time to himself and feel refreshed and ready for the rest of his celebratory day.

Homemade Gifts:  Just like moms, dads love getting homemade cards and gifts from their kids.  Work with your children to make Father’s Day cards, paint pottery or make a special craft that dad can display.  This interactive experience for your kids will be fun and give them a sense of pride in giving dad something beautiful they have created from the heart.

courtesy of takepart.comBreakfast in Bed:  Usually designated for moms, breakfast in bed is a terrific treat for dad on Father’s Day.  Let dad sleep in while you and the kids whip up his favorite breakfast.  Make it fun for everyone by decorating the meal for dad.  If you’re making pancakes, cut out a big “D” for dad or make a silly face on his waffle using fruit for the facial features.  When it’s ready, everyone can hop in bed with dad to watch him enjoy the feast.

Framed Photos:  Proud dads love showing off their adorable kids and beautiful family.  Frame a few of your family’s best photos for him to display in his office or on his bedside table.  This will bring smiles to his face time and time again.

Grooming Products:  Sweet-smelling lotions, perfumes and glam products are usually associated with gifts for mom, but masculine grooming products make a great gift for dad too.  Look for a kit of products that you think the dad in your life will enjoy that may include body lotion, shave gel, cologne and hair gel.

Date Night with Mom:  Wine and dine your guy just like you’d like to be treated.  Plan a special date night as a gift from mom to dad.  He’ll certainly enjoy the adult time and it will give you time to reconnect as a couple.  After all, isn’t that how he become a father in the first place?

We hope these Father’s Day gift ideas will satisfy all the dads on your list.  Remember, dads want many of the same things as moms so when in doubt, think about what you would want.  Just add a manly spin and he’ll be thrilled on his big day.

6 Positive Discipline Tactics that Really Work

positive discipline_courtesy of thrivetofive.orgWhile there are many parenting styles that work for different families, most parents agree that some discipline is necessary to teach children right from wrong.  Starting in infancy, parents can engage in positive discipline to set their kids on the right path to good behavior.

Today we have six positive discipline tactics that really work.  Next time you’re in a behavioral pickle, try one of these to turn the situation around and get everyone back on track.

Solicit Their Help:  Kids do love to be helpful; it’s part of their tiny human nature.  Appeal to this natural instinct to help by putting some responsibility on them.  If you present the disciplinary issue as a problem they can help resolve, they may be more inclined to do the right thing.  They will feel proud and accomplished by helping you out and you’ll get your kids to actually listen.  Also, make helping fun by crafting a game out of it as a diversion.  If your kids never want to pick up toys, set a timer and see if they can complete the clean-up before the buzzer goes off.  If you need 10 minutes of quiet time for an important phone call or to relieve a pounding headache, set up a quiet activity and play the whisper game. You’ll be amazed at how much fun your kids will have helping you while correcting their behavior all at the same time.

Praise During “Time-Ins”:  Positive discipline starts by praising good behavior.  So if you employ “Time Out” in your house (or even if you don’t), you also need to praise during “Time In.”  This begins during infancy and it’s pretty innate.  It’s natural to encourage your baby to do good things and praise when he does, such as rolling over, crawling or saying a first word.  Practice this same positive discipline tactic to encourage your child when he does something right.  Sharing, cleaning-up, listening to directions and using manners are all wonderful times to offer praise.  This helps children learn which behaviors you value and develops a sense of pride in himself.  He’ll be more likely to want to continue being good because he’ll want your praise.

Fill a Bucket:  The Bucket Fillers program is a terrific way to teach babies, toddler and preschoolers positive discipline.  The philosophy is that everyone carries an invisible bucket that can be filled when someone does something nice for us or we do something nice for others.  But when someone does something mean or we act inappropriately, our bucket is dipped.  Bucket fillers have good behavior and bucket dippers do not.  It’s that simple.  You can talk about this concept in a way that your child can visualize and there is a series of books that can also help further explain it.  Introduce the concept early so even your baby will grow up learning to be a bucket filler.

Every Problem Has a Solution:  This is a great life-lesson that helps develop problem-solving skills.  Everyone will face challenges on a daily basis but the key in life is learning how to solve them quickly and effectively on your own.  In infancy your baby may want to get into things that he shouldn’t. Rather than being exasperated and saying “NO” all the time, be more solution oriented by explaining that your things aren’t toys but there are plenty of things around you that are.  Exchange your belonging with a fun toy to show him how it’s done.  For toddlers who are throwing a tantrum because something has not gone their way, wait for a moment of calmness and discuss a solution.  When you teach your kids that every problem has a solution, gradually they will not resort to tears when life throws them lemons and eventually work with you and independently to make lemonade.

Let Kids Set Consequences:  It’s pretty hard for kids to argue with punishments when they select the consequence themselves.  Of course they’ll need a little guidance from you to make sure getting an ice cream party isn’t their idea of a consequence.  Once you set the framework, hold your kids responsible for their actions and enforce the consequence they selected if they don’t behave.  It’s important to learn that there are repercussions to bad behavior.  But this engaging form of discipline gives your child more power and elicits better results.

Energy Drain Theory:  In happy homes, kids really do want to be around their parents for the most part.  And they also cherish your ability to do fun things with them.  Reframe bad behavior as a “you issue” and explain that you only have so much energy and it can be eaten up by their misbehavior.  For example, if your kids are fighting or being too loud in the house, tell them that it’s draining your energy and you won’t be able to take them to do something fun later if you don’t have any energy left.  What you’re really saying is if you don’t behave you don’t get what you want.  But changing the terms often helps kids wrap their heads around the concept better.

Positive discipline proves to be an effective way to healthy, cooperative, well-behaved children.  Use these tactics to elicit effective results throughout your child’s early years.

Siblings and New Baby: Fostering Good Sibling Relationships with a Baby

Bringing home a baby can be a shock to your entire family and older siblings may not welcome this new addition.  When attention is diverted away from older children, they may blame the new baby for taking mommy and daddy away.  Even the most patient, nurturing and sharing children may revert to misbehavior with a new baby in the mix.  But siblings are forever and teaching your older kids that you’re all growing together is an essential part of developing a sibling bond.

Fostering good sibling relationships is important and should begin even before the baby is born.  During pregnancy involve your older children and talk at length about what to expect with a new baby in the house.  Let older children help you prepare the nursery, listen to the baby’s heartbeat and feel the baby kicking inside you.  Explain how the baby is growing inside you and how it will be born in appropriate terms for your child’s age.  There are many books that can help with these explanations and encourage excitement and anticipation for the new, proud big brother or sister.  Also, talk about when your older kids were babies and show them pictures of themselves.

Once the new baby arrives, allow older siblings to visit the hospital as soon as it is safe for everyone.  Being part of this major family experience from the beginning will help establish as sense of pride and ownership in the new baby.  Many older siblings want to help care for the baby.  While it may take more time and make a bit of a mess, do allow older children to participate in diaper changes, tummy time, rocking the baby and other nurturing and infant care activities.  These moments are when bonding can truly begin.  Give your older children responsibilities that make them feel useful and involved.  When it is not possible to allow siblings to help, such as during breastfeeding, make sure you have fun activities for them to do so they don’t dread the lack of attention.

boyandbaby-300x199Additionally, try to maintain as normal of a routine for your older kids as possible.  For the first few days this may be difficult but once you settle in at home with your baby, send your older kids back to school or daycare if that is what they typically do.  Maintain regular meal times and bedtimes and be consistent with schedules and routines.  This will help siblings feel secure and comforted that their lives haven’t been destroyed by their new baby, and mommy and daddy still very much care about their happiness and wellbeing.

Try to set aside one-on-one time with older siblings with each parent to ensure they feel your love and attention.  Accept help from friends and family to spend time with siblings as well and make sure they talk about other things than just the baby.

Some older siblings are uninterested in the new baby in their home.  That’s OK too and nothing you should worry about.  They will get used to the new addition in time and show more interest when the baby is more responsive.

It’s also completely normal for older children to act out when they are struggling to express their feelings during this adjustment period.  Tantrums, accidents and baby talk are all ways older siblings may show they are feeling sad or neglected.  Encourage them to talk about their feelings and address them directly.  Never be dismissive.  Don’t let up on the rules of your home but do understand why misbehavior may occur.  Use this opportunity to talk to your older kids and spend more time with them if that is what they are craving.

As your baby becomes more alert, older children will have more opportunities to interact.  Reading to a new baby brother or sister, making silly faces to make the baby smile or cuddling with her before bedtime are great bonding activities when your kids are old enough.  Fostering sibling relationships with baby will be a process and not one without challenges.  But the joys of your family’s relationships will far outweigh these struggles and will last for a lifetime.

What is Dry Drowning and How to Avoid It

Water safety is an especially important topic during spring and summer months when everyone enjoys swimming.  Drowning is usually a parent’s primary concern when their children are around water, however dry drowning can occur up to 24 hours after your child has been swimming.  It’s a scary thought and unfortunately one that catches many parents by surprise.

Dry drowning occurs when water is inhaled into the lungs and causes the vocal chords to spasm.  This doesn’t happen during a swim session, but rather hours after a child has been in the pool, ocean, lake or bathtub.  Dry drowning has nothing to do with heat, asthma or other outdoor conditions.  It is referred to as “dry” because it happens outside of the water.  Secondary drowning is similar but the child breathes in fluid and the vocal chords close air passages before water can reach the lungs.

babyswimMany parents are less vigilant of their children after a swim session because the immediate concern of drowning in a body of water is alleviated.  However, parents should keep an eye on their children well after swim time is over to ensure they aren’t presenting symptoms of dry drowning.  These symptoms include trouble breathing, coughing, vomiting, exhaustion or other unusual behavior for your child.  Dry drowning often occurs while a child is asleep because water in the lungs causes children to vomit and then choke in a lying position.

If you suspect your child has swallowed a lot of water while at the pool or beach, ask a lifeguard for help as they can perform preliminary measures to reduce fluid build-up in the lungs.  Next you should go to the emergency room where they can x-ray your child’s lungs to see how much fluid is present and monitor your tot for signs of dry drowning.

However, most of the time parents are unaware that their kids have swallowed enough water to cause dry drowning.  It can happen accidentally to even the best swimmers.  And kids who are not very strong in the water may unintentionally swallow water as they are gasping for air or coming up for a breath.  Watching your child during and after swimming is essential and taking breaks during swim time helps avoid inhaling water from over-exertion.

As with other drowning concerns, parents should practice water safety guidelines.  Kids should always be supervised by an adult while swimming.  Pools should be fenced and gated to avoid children straying into the area without supervision.  Kids age four and older should have swim lessons and parents should be skilled in CPR in case of an emergency.  Everyone in your family should wear a life jacket while boating.

Dry drowning and secondary drowning can occur to adults too but these conditions are more likely in children whose air passages are much smaller.  Also, babies, toddlers and young children are usually not strong swimmers and are more likely to inhale water.  Don’t let your daredevil, water-fearless child fool you.  Even children who act like fish can dry drown.

Play it safe this spring and summer while swimming and afterwards.  Know the signs of dry drowning and act quickly if you have concerns.

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