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

Rules of Babysitters: How to Keep Your Babysitter Happy

babysitter-hidesy-istockReliable and nurturing caregivers can be hard to come by.  Finding the right babysitter for your kids and your family may take some effort and there will probably be trial and error involved the process.  So once you do find that perfect babysitter, you’re going to want her to stick around.  Today we’re going over rules of babysitters so you’ll know how to keep your babysitter happy.

Treat Your Babysitter Like Family.  You trust this person with the most precious thing in your life so you should treat them with the upmost respect.  You’ve most likely vetted your sitter already and have determined her a fit caregiver.  Although she is working for you, this type of childcare should not feel like a sterile corporation, but rather a loving mutual experience.  Just as you would any family member watching your child, show kindness, compassion and interest in her.  Periodically ask if she needs any advice or supplies to make her job easier.  Also, be sure you have plenty of food for her, especially if she is feeding your kids.

Be Clear about Expectations.  Make sure your babysitter knows the rules of your home, including what your child can eat, when your child should go to bed and which areas of your house are off-limits.  Write down basic important information such as your pediatrician’s phone number and an emergency contact besides yourself.  Outline a schedule and routines without giving too many overwhelming details. While children are creatures of habit, they can also go-with-the-flow under new circumstances.  It is good for your kids to learn that it’s OK for people do things differently than you.

Teach Your Babysitter about Breast Milk.  If you are leaving a bottle of expressed breast milk for your babysitter to feed your baby, giver her a tutorial on breast milk.  You may need to explain how to thaw frozen milk and that you should never keep leftover milk if your baby has not finished her bottle.  If you are concerned about wasting breast milk, have your babysitter only pour in a few ounces at a time into a bottle.

Have Your Babysitters Back.
  If your children have misbehaved or you get conflicting stories from your sitter vs. your kids, trust the adult or at last do not undermine her in front of your children.  Sometimes kids test img-guide-babysitterboundaries with new caregivers and may try to get away with some inappropriate behavior.  Your children should respect your babysitter’s authority from the get go or the relationship could be doomed from the start.  Arm your sitter with acceptable ways to discipline your children.

Be On Time.  Let your babysitter know when you expect to be home.  If you find that you’re going to be late, call her to let her know and make sure she’s able to stay.  You should also pay extra for the time.  Additionally, if you have to cancel on short notice, pay her some of her fee since she may have been counting on the income or turned down another babysitting opportunity.  Respecting her time is an important part of keeping your sitter happy.

Pay Your Babysitter a Fair Price.  Whether you have an occasional nighttime sitter or a long-term nanny, if you pay a fair price you ensure she’ll want to continue working with your family.  Babysitting poaching is completely possible when you pay less than the going rate and your sitter can find a more lucrative gig.  Think of it this way, you are paying for your child’s care and well-being, which you should consider quite valuable.  Also, if you are asking your babysitter to do extra work – watch multiple children, take your kids on an intricate outing or do chores around your house – you should consider paying more.  Tips are also a great way to show your sitter that you think she’s doing a great job.

Give Your Babysitter a Good Recommendation.  If you no longer need your nanny or are not filling enough of your babysitter’s time, she may need to find other work.  Give her a good recommendation so she can get another job.  Many families fear they will not be able to use their sitter if her time is committed elsewhere so they don’t give glowing reviews.  But that could backfire if your sitter feels slighted.

When you keep your sitter happy with respect, fair pay and clear expectations, you and your entire family will benefit from the relationship.

Raising Happy Kids

Happy and healthy are the two most desired traits parents wish for in their children.  It’s pretty obvious that the role of health care falls on parents starting as early as in the womb.  But happiness is also a parenting responsibility.  Scientific research offers some eye-opening tips on raising happy kids that we can all employ.

The first step is being a true role model for happiness.  Children are keenly aware of the emotions and mental state their parents exude.  Negativity in the home, especially within a marriage, can result in children who have tantrums, misbehave and are aggressive towards others.  Aggression is usually solidified by the age of 5 and leads to hostile behavior later in life.  We’ve all heard that laughter is the best medicine and when it comes to happiness, a happy childrendose of laughter is exactly what children need.  Laughter is truly contagious and can change a child’s mood almost instantly.  Lighten up and act silly with your kids to let the laughter and joy flow.  Also use this time for creativity and make believe to expand your child’s imagination.

Play is an important part of a child’s development from infancy to teenage years.  Make sure your child has plenty of time to play everyday. While you don’t need rooms filled with expensive toys, do make sure you provide a colorful and warm environment with different types of sensory, manipulative and thought-provoking toys.  Often items you find in your kitchen, in nature or around your house make the best toys.  Happiness should be a habit, not a chore.  Find activities that make everyone in your household happy together.  Also, ditch the technology.  More screen time is associated with less happiness.

Emotional intelligence is another large part of happiness.  Being able to identify, express and redirect feelings is a learned skill that parents should work on starting in the toddler years and continue to discuss throughout your child’s life.  In the early years it starts with sharing, using manners, curbing frustrations and acting kindly towards others.  As children develop more verbal skills you can talk through anger issues and role play the proper response to intense situations.  This requires active listening and labeling feelings – sad, scared, mad – on the part of parents.  Learning to apologize is another piece to emotional intelligence.  Also, teaching optimism in the face of adversity will help encourage and control emotions.  Explain the bright side of negative situations and assure your child that nothing is ever as bad as it may initially appear.  This develops self-compassion and problem-solving too.

Strong relationships also help in raising happy kids.  This starts within the family as parents, grandparents and extended family spend time together, respect one another and support each other.  Eating dinner together is one of the best things you can do to strengthen familial relationships and be an active part of your child’s life.  From there, you can teach your child how to make friends by setting a good example as a caring friend to adults and other children.  Encourage your children to play with other kids and to work out minor tussles during playdates themselves.  Teach empathy and love through acts of kindness, such as creating a card for a sick friend or letting others take their turn first.

Lastly, do not expect your kids to be perfect.  No one is!  Sometimes you have to let things go, which is a good lesson for you kids to learn too.  Not everything in life will go your way and dwelling on the negative will only bring you down.  Not sweating the small stuff will help eliminate stress.  This includes minor indiscretions on the part of your kids.  Testing boundaries is a normal part of childhood development.

Raising happy kids is a lifelong process.  When you set the right tone, spend quality time together and teach some important life lessons, you’ll be on the right path to a happy family.

Eating Fish During Pregnancy and While Breastfeeding

Nutrition is a huge consideration when it comes to the health during pregnancy and while breastfeeding.  Good nutrition sustains mothers and helps the growth and development of fetuses and babies.

There has been much debate about whether, how much and what type of fish pregnant and breastfeeding women eat.  The U.S. Food & Drug Administration and Environmental Protection Agency advise pregnant and breastfeeding moms to consume 8 to 12 ounces of low-mercury fish, or two to three servings, per week.  The new recommendations set forth in 2014 indicate that the benefits of fish outweigh the risks from methyl mercury.

pregnant-women-fish-intakeFish and shellfish offer incredible nutrients for mothers and babies.  In fact, neither should go without these rich, diverse nutrients including lots of protein and essential fatty acids.  Fish is an excellent source of lean protein, along with chicken and turkey, and good fats, especially omega-3 fatty acids.  Omega-3s give cells a terrific boost and help brain development.  While omega-3 supplements are available, the best sources are those from nature, such as fish.

However, while moms are increasing fish intake, they should be very picky about which fish to eat.  Moms should choose fish low in mercury content.  Methyl mercury is the neurotoxin byproduct of mercury and can cause damage to a developing baby’s nervous system and autoimmune disorders in mothers. Fish high in mercury include mackerel, swordfish, tilefish, albacore tuna and shark, all of which should be avoided during pregnancy.  Low mercury fish include salmon, trout, pollock, shrimp, cod, flounder, herring, sardines, light tuna and tilapia.

Also, where fish come from may alter mercury and other chemical contamination levels as some local and foreign waters are more prone to pollution.  The Gulf of Mexico is one such area of concern.  Moms should be picky and ask questions about where their fresh fish has swam from to get to her plate.  Ask butchers at your local market or chefs at restaurants if you are unsure about the origin of your fish.  There are several apps that can calculate mercury content based on the type and location of fish and also keep track of your weekly dietary mercury intake.

Diversifying your fish diet is important too.  Different types of fish offer a variety of nutrients and will also balance your mercury consumption.  Don’t eat the same type of fish more than two or three times a month.  Never eat raw or undercooked fish.  That means no sushi or sashimi, moms!  If you do happen to eat fish high in mercury one time, there is no need to panic.  Chances are it will not affect your health or your baby’s.

Many new moms are confused about fish recommendations during pregnancy.  The new guidelines are clear: fish should be an essential part of every pregnant and breastfeeding mother’s diet.  With two or three servings of low mercury fish per week, moms can provide crucial protein and essential fatty acids for themselves and their growing babies.

Perinatal Mental Health: Prenatal & Post-Partum Mental Health

Most new moms are aware of two things:  first, being pregnant brings on a new set of worries and stressors.  Secondly, post-partum depression is a serious issue that many new moms face.  What many women don’t know is that these two mental health issues are interconnected as part of a perinatal mental health continuum.

Women usually experience a variety of symptoms during pregnancy.  Some are less-than-pleasant physical side-effects like swollen feet, an aching back and nausea.  Others are emotional responses that affect mental health.  You may know these as “what ifs;” essentially these are worries that consume your mind.  Sometimes they are rational and grounded, other times they are highly unlikely and unfounded.  But either way, they are very real in the eyes of a pregnant woman and should not be overlooked.  In fact, this prenatal anxiety may be the beginning of post-partum depression, according to The Lancet Psychiatry.

iStock_000008954862SmallPrenatal and post-partum anxiety and depression can be caused by a variety of factors including a mother’s pre-existing mental health condition, genetic mental health risk and health concerns that arise during pregnancy.  Often a health concern during pregnancy, such as little to no movement from the baby, gestational diabetes, or preeclampsia, becomes a major stressor and can lead to excessive worrying and anxiety.  After the baby is born and hormone levels take a nose dive, up to 20% of new moms experience some level of depression.  Plus, the stress of learning to take care of a newborn and fatigue can further exacerbate any new moms’ mental state.

It’s important for new moms to realize that prenatal and post-partum depression is not their fault.  These mental health conditions are a natural response and should not be dismissed by mothers, partners or care-givers.  Sharing negative feelings and extreme emotional responses is crucial to the health of moms and their babies.  During pregnancy, stress hormones can greatly affect the development of babies in utero.  Post-partum depression can lead to unhealthy habits for mothers including poor diet, drinking, smoking or other risky behaviors, and can affect how mothers care for their babies.  Babies need lots of love and attention immediately after birth, which is why breastfeeding, skin-to-skin contact and responding to cries is so important for the wellbeing of a newborn.  Depression can severely impede maternal instinct to protect and nurture her baby.

The good news is that most perinatal mental health issues can be addressed and resolved fairly easily and quickly.  Through support groups, individual therapy, a change of environment or leaning on a strong social network can greatly improve a mother’s tendency to worry and fall into anxious habits or depression.  Also, remaining physically active, finding ways to relax and engaging in activities the mother enjoys all support mental health.  If these solutions don’t help, some anti-anxiety and anti-depression medications are safe during pregnancy and while breastfeeding.  Mothers should discuss and weigh their mental health concerns with the side-effects of medication with their medical team – including the mother’s OBGYN and the baby’s pediatrician – to make the best choice for both mother and child.

Studies of perinatal mental health show the connection between prenatal and post-partum conditions.  Therefore, stress, anxiety and depression should be managed early during pregnancy to avoid potential long-term risks for the mother and baby.  In most cases, perinatal mental health conditions are easily manageable when recognized early and treated properly.

Spring Nursing Wear: Nursing Tank Tops

Happy Spring, Leading Ladies!  If you’re like us, you’re excited to put away your winter clothes and bust out your spring wardrobe.  When you’re a nursing mama, simple access for easy breastfeeding is one of the most important aspects of every outfit.  Layering is a great way to effortlessly dress for spring weather while breastfeeding.  And the must-have items to layer your spring nursing wear are nursing tank tops. Leading Lady has four trendy and comfortable styles that make breastfeeding a snap and keep you looking like the fashionable mom that you are.

720greyClassic Nursing Cami

This basic nursing cami is as essential as your nursing bras themselves.  With the comfort of cotton and the subtle stretch of a spandex blend, this tank top is extremely versatile.  As the winter temperatures are replaced with a spring breeze, our nursing top is ideal under light sweaters or cardigans.  It sits smoothly under wrap dresses or thin tops as a cami, or can be worn alone as the spring sun strengthens throughout the season.  Our nursing cami is also a fantastic night shirt when paired with pajama pants or shorts and makes midnight feedings a cinch.  Leading Lady offers this tank in five colors including classic white, grey and black, and seasonally festive berry pink and turquoise.  We suggest one in every color as a staple of your spring wardrobe.

Nursing CamiSquare Neck Nursing Cami

The unique design of our modern square neck nursing cami is both sassy and functional.  The empire waist is flattering for new moms; the top offers a fitted inner sling to support and accommodate breasts as milk fluctuates, while the bottom portion drapes breezily beneath the bustline.  The whimsical striped pattern comes in either denim blue and heather grey stripes with a denim inner sling, or black and heather grey stripes with an inner sling that brings a fun pop of red to your outfit and will stimulate your baby’s budding optical nerves.  The square neck and racer back design make this a stand-out addition to your nursing wardrobe.  When paired with jeans and a cardigan, you’ll be dressed to impress this spring.

4049_black_withbackinsetNursing Top

Sleek and sliming, cute and comfortable, and versatile to boot.  This black nursing top is a fabulous addition to your spring nursing wardrobe.  Everyone needs a black cami to layer under light sweaters, blouses or dresses.  Our nursing top features a posh racer back cut with a sheer lace design in back.  The one-handed nursing clasps and drop-down inner sling make breastfeeding super simple, and the adjustable straps ensure a perfect fit every day, even as milk fluctuates.  This nursing top is a great length to cover a shrinking post-partum belly and breathable cotton spandex blend could not be more comfy for warm spring days.  When you’re looking for a twist on the classic black nursing tank, look no further than this nursing top.

4031_BlackDotShirred Front Comfort Nursing Cami

Nothing says spring like polka dots!  Our playful shirred front nursing cami meets all of your needs for style, function and comfort this spring.  The adorable print, shirred top and sweetheart neckline keep you looking as fashionable as ever.  The empire waist cut is flattering on all body types.  Plus the lightweight fabric will keep you cool as the weather warms.  The nursing clasps and inner sling are easy-to-use for breastfeeding and keep you supported day and night.

This spring, new moms can and should wear their nursing tank tops with pride.  Our fun, fashionable, function designs make breastfeeding a pleasure and keep your spring wardrobe as cute and sassy as ever.  Happy breastfeeding this spring!

Outdoor Safety: Precautions for Babies While Playing Outside

7221273-babies-playing-with-ball-in-the-outdoorAs the weather warms up, we’re all excited to head outdoors for some fun in the sun.  Fresh air, the sights and sounds of nature and new activities are all great for babies.  But outdoor safety must be an important part of your plans this spring and summer.  Along with all of the enjoyment of the season comes a few dangers that every parent should keep in mind.  Today we’re discussing outdoor safety and precautions for babies while playing outside.

The Sun

Babies should avoid sun exposure until at least 6 months old.  That doesn’t mean your baby can never go outside, but he should remain in the shade as much as possible.  Be sure to find covered areas at the park and playground and bring an umbrella or tent to the beach.  Always dress your baby in sun-protective clothing and a broad-brimmed hat to cover his face and neck.  Babies over two months old should wear a baby-specific sunscreen of SPF 30 to 50.  These formulas are gentler for a baby’s skin.  Remember to reapply every 90 minutes to 2 hours.

Beyond sunburn, heat stroke and rashes can occur in hot weather as babies and toddlers are not able to regulate their own body temperature like adults. This makes it even more important to avoid the prime hours of direct sun (10 a.m. to 2 p.m.) and to remain in the shade as much as possible.  Ensure your baby is well-hydrated by breastfeeding before, during and after periods of time outdoors.  If your baby does show signs of over-heating, remove him from the sun immediately, remove his clothes and sponge him down with cool water.  Rashes occur when sweat glands are blocked causing bumps to pop up in moist folds of skin.  A cold bath with cornstarch powder usually relieves rashes quickly.  Call your doctor if heat stroke or rashes do not clear up rapidly or if your child’s fever is extremely high.

Water Safety

Babies and toddlers are highly attracted to water.  Many of them have not developed a sense of caution around water yet and their fearlessness can be a big problem.  Parents should be extremely vigilant of their babies around water.  If you have a particularly rambunctious child, require him to wear a floating safety vest that buckles at the chest and around the legs.  If you own a pool, make sure it is gated and locked at all times.

Playground Safety

courtesy of kafamilessentials.comYou know your child best but usually children up to three years old should be shadowed by an adult on the playground.  Check the safety of playground equipment before your child starts to use it to ensure it is not too hot, it is stable and it is age-appropriate for your child.  Playgrounds are a great place to challenge your baby’s physical abilities, but within reason.  Abide by the age guidelines marked on the equipment.  Also look out for older children who may play too rough around your little one.  Never take your eyes off your baby on the playground as accidents can happen in an instant.  It’s a good idea to find playgrounds with soft turfs for these early years of playing outdoors.

Bites and Stings

Not only are bites annoying to babies and toddlers, they can be dangerous too as many mosquitoes, flies and other insects carry disease.  Babies over 2 months can wear a low DEET insect repellent to avoid bites.  Treat bites topically to reduce painfulness and further irritation from itching.  If bites look unusual, see the pediatrician immediately.  Remove bee stingers by scraping the area with a credit card until you are able to push it out in the direction it came.

With these precautions and awareness for outdoor safety, you and your little ones can enjoy a season full of fun outside.  Happy Spring!

Prenatal Dental Care

Many moms-to-be are not aware that prenatal dental care is an important part of your holistic prenatal health.  Beyond wanting to maintain your pearly whites, good dental practices are especially essential during pregnancy to prevent long term oral issues for you and to ensure harmful bacteria that may build up in your mouth does not transfer to your baby.

Oral care in pregnancyDuring pregnancy hormones are surging.  These additional hormones increase plaque and bacteria in the mouth and can lead to pregnancy gingivitis or periodontal gum disease.  Gingivitis is the build-up of plaque that inflames the gums.  It is sometimes a precursor for gum disease, but not always.  Periodontal gum disease or periodontitis is a more serious condition in which bacteria from plaque infects the inner gum and bone, causing them to form pockets that collect and spread more bacteria and debris.  Eventually, the bacteria itself and enzymes produced by the immune system to help break down bacterial toxins move deeper into gum tissue and bone and disrupt tooth stabilization.  Tooth decay and loss can occur in severe cases of gum disease.

Women with gingivitis and periodontal gum disease have a higher risk of premature births and having a baby with a low birth weight.  Due to this heightened risk, sensitivity and potential for extra bacteria-filled plaque, pregnant women should be very attentive to prenatal dental care.  If you already practice good oral hygiene, you probably don’t have to do much more than you are already doing.  Here are the best tips for keeping you and your baby safe from oral bacteria during pregnancy:

  • Brush twice daily with toothpaste, preferably after meals.
  • Floss your teeth once a day to avoid bacteria build-up between teeth.
  • Use a sugar-free and alcohol-free mouth rinse daily.
  • Ensure your teeth get fluoride from toothpaste, mouth wash and water.  You may also need to apply fluoride gel occasionally.
  • Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet with plenty of protein, vitamins and minerals, especially calcium.
  • While you may be eating a bit more and have some unusual cravings, do not consume excess sugar that can linger on your teeth and cause decay.
  • Chewing gum with xylitol after meals helps eliminate plaque and strengthen teeth.
  • If you experience pregnancy nausea that causes you to vomit, brush, rinse or coat your teeth with baking soda to neutralize acids afterwards.

It is important to maintain regular dental visits during pregnancy.  Ideally you would have seen your dentist prior to getting pregnant and then again between your fourth and sixth month of pregnancy.  Because the first trimester is the most critical stage of child development, exposure to x-rays, antibiotics and other potential dental procedures is not ideal early in pregnancy.  Later in the third trimester, your bump will make it uncomfortable and unsafe to lie back in a dental chair for long periods of time.  Therefore, the second trimester is the best time to see your dentist, if possible.  However, never leave a dental issue unseen.  While you may opt not to proceed with the recommended treatment until after your baby is born, you should always see a dentist to discuss your symptoms if you experience oral pain.

Be sure to let you dentist and dental hygienist know that you are pregnant prior to beginning any work during your visit.  If you are having any sensitivity, irritation, bleeding or other issues, discuss them with your dentist.  Prevention of gingivitis and gum disease is best, but early detection is second best.  If you do have either of these problems, your dentist may want you to come in every three months for cleanings during pregnancy.

Make prenatal dental care part of your regular health routine during pregnancy.  With just a few preventative measures, you can keep dangerous bacteria at bay and show off a gleaming smile to your bundle of joy when she arrives.

20 Ways to Praise Your Child

baby-mom-readingThere’s no doubt you love your child and are proud of him in many ways.  But do you say it often enough and with variety?  Children need praise to build their self-esteem and self-confidence.  Constantly saying “good job” can get monotonous and lose meaning to your child after awhile.  There are many ways to express a similar sentiment without using the same phrase over and over again.  Remember, while you’re laying a foundation of confidence, you also don’t want to over-inflate your child’s ego.  There’s a delicate balance to praise.

Even if you have an infant now, you’ll want to get into the practice of diversifying your praise.  Form the habit now and carry it through to when your baby will eventually understand and internalize your praise.  We’ve compiled 20 productive ways to praise your child:

You are special – Letting your child know that he is special ensures he feels unique and different, as indeed he is.  Special is a magical word to children and is definitely a separate positive designation than just a plain on “good job.”

  • I like the way you ___ – This specifically lets your child know what he did right.  All too often we scold our children and tell them what they are doing wrong.  “No, we don’t hit.”  “No, that’s not for you.”  Turn the tables and let your little one know how and when he is exhibiting good behavior.
  • I’m so lucky to be your mom – This tells your child that although you didn’t exactly pick one other, you are happy that you get to be together as mother and child.
  • I’m proud of you – If disappointment is worse than anger, pride is better than happiness to your child.  Toddlers, especially, are people-pleasers so they want you to be proud of them.  When your child can respond to you, ask him if he’s proud of himself.  Self-pride is another great way to boost self-esteem.
  • I believe in you – Kids are often quick to say “I can’t.”  Letting your tot know you have faith in him may just give him the lift he needs to keep trying or to do a better job next time.
  • Good thinking – Many times when you say “good job” it’s really because your child thought through something and made good choices.  By identifying that your child had good thoughts, you’re pinpointing and encouraging his thought processes.
  • You brighten my day – You may not realize it all the time but kids want to be helpful.  Knowing that something they did made you feel good goes into the category of helping you.
  • I knew you could do it – Much like “I believe in you,” this shows your child you have the upmost trust in him and his ability to perform a task.
  • Great discovery – Being an explorer of the world is not only fun, it’s actually your child’s job right now.  So making a “discovery” is the ultimate reward for your young explorer.
  • I appreciate it when you ___ – Treating your child with respect is essential to raising a courteous and grateful human being.  Using words like “thank you” and “appreciate” helps your child make these good manners connections at his level.
  • Good work, squirt – Sometimes being silly is a great way to help boost your child’s confidence, and make him laugh too.  Any fun term of endearment will do – we just find this one whimsical and easy to say.
  • You’re so smart – Being smart is one of the most important qualities you’ll want for your child.  To bolster your child’s idea that being smart is “cool,” tell him specifically when he’s being smart.
  • Better than I could do – Kids certainly love a little friendly competition.  As they enter toddlerhood, they’ll want to show you how they can run faster, jump further or draw better than you.  Healthy competition breeds ambition so use this phrase to let your tot know he’s really on top of it.
  • You’re a superstar – Who wouldn’t want to be a superstar?  And if not a superstar, a rock-star, a princess-star, or a pirate-star.  Use whatever kind of “star” floats your baby’s boat.
  • What an imagination – Imaginary play is a great sign of creativity and intelligence. Teach your little one what “imagination” is by identifying it for him when he’s using it.  Promoting imaginary play can lead you to all sorts of amazing discoveries and learning paths for your child.
  • You’re a joy – Make sure your baby knows he’s a pleasure to be around and not an obligation.  Joy is another way to say happy, thrilled or delighted – all things you should be feeling around your child.
  • You are one in a million – Much like being “special,” this catch phrase helps your child feel uniquely exceptional and extraordinary.  And isn’t he?
  • How clever – Being clever is like being smart and witty all in one.  That’s hard to beat!  Plus, clever is a common trait of characters in many children’s stories so you can find many examples to point out to your child in literature.
  • Good following directions – Listening is great, but following directions is the most basic skill your tot needs to learn, especially at school.  Definitely find moments to praise your child for this vital ability.
  • You worked it out on your own – As your child asserts independence, he’ll want to feel good about doing things on his own.  Make a big deal about doing activities that once required your help but now can be done “all by myself.”

It’s really not difficult to find ways to praise your child with enthusiasm and variety. Take advantage of this opportunity from a young age to build self-confidence and make your child feel loved and special.






Car Seats for Every Age

A car seat is one of the biggest safety measures you can take to protect your baby from infancy through early childhood.  Just like you should never drive or ride in a car without a seat belt on, your baby should never ride in a car without being properly buckled into a car seat.  In the event of an accident, small bodies that are not secured in an age appropriate car seat are highly susceptible to being flung from their seat, which severely increases the likelihood of injury upon impact.

You will need several car seats for different stages in your child’s life.  It’s important to follow the manufacturers’ instructions for installing your car seat and always ensure your child is belted snugly with the harness and the chest clip positioned correctly.  Also, be sure to follow the age, height and weight requirements for your specific brand of car seat.  Although your child may not prefer being in a car seat, the longer you can keep him in one, the safer he will be.

Curious about what’s in store for your future when it comes to car seats?  Here’s a basic guide to car seats for every age:

infant-car-seatNewborn to Age 2:  Rear-Facing Infant Seat or Harness Seat

For the first two years of life, babies should be turned around to face the back of the car.  While this makes it difficult to see your baby, it is the absolute safest way for him to travel because it protects the head, neck and spine.  Most parents begin with a detachable carrier car seat that can be removed from the car with the baby still in it.  This makes for an easy portable seat wherever your baby may be and also helps babies remain asleep when they’ve reached their destination.  (Trust us, you’ll be thankful for that!)  These carrier car seats usually come with separate bases that remain latched and buckled to your car for easy ins and outs while you’re on the go or for transporting your baby in multiple cars.

As your baby gets bigger, usually between 8 and 12 months, you will need to move to a larger rear-facing car seat.  These bucket seats sit upright and many of them can convert into a forward-facing car seat when the time is right.  They still have a tall, hard back to stabilize your toddler.  This seat should fit snuggly over the shoulders and lock at the top of the chest, and wrap around each leg for a between-the-leg latch.  As with your infant seat, this seat should be latched into your car and belted with your car’s on board seat belt.  Most have an over-the-seat latch for a third security measure ensuring the seat is firmly in place.  Keep your baby rear-facing for as long as you can based on height and weight.  Many parents prematurely turn their kids around because their feet are hitting the back of the seat.  However, rarely would legs or feet be injured in a crash.  Protecting the head and upper body is more important at this early age.

Graco-My-Ride-65-LX-Convertible-Car-Seat-in-Coda-P14153964Age 2 until Outgrown:  Forward-Facing Harness Seat

The next phase of car seats is exciting for everyone because your baby gets to turn around!  For the first time he can see exactly what you see, and you can look at each other too.  And the shift happens just as you and your little toddler are better able to have conversations.  Most people simply turn around their rear-facing harness seat, however this may be a good time to buy a new seat specifically for facing forward and that allows for maximum growth.  Keep your tot in a harness seat as long as the height and weight limitations allow as this is a much safer way to travel.  Make riding in a new “big kid” car seat fun by providing a cup holder and a pocket for some small toys and books.  As your child grows older, he’ll be able to get in his seat himself, which will make life easier for you too.  Always double check the buckling to ensure it is tight enough for safety.  Usually kids outgrow the forward-facing harness seat by around age 4 or 5.

boosterSchool Age:  Booster Seat

Once your child has outgrown the harness seat, which is determined by shoulders exceeding the harness allowance or ears peeking over the top of the seat, it’s time to move to a booster seat.  This usually happens between age 4 and 6.  A booster seat allows your child to sit higher so your car’s seat belt will fit properly.  The seat belt should cross your child’s shoulders and chest, not neck or face.  If your seat belt hits too high even with a booster seat, you may not be ready to leave the harness seat.  Kids usually ride in a booster seat until age 8 to 12.

Older Children:  Seat Belt

As your child becomes taller, he can use a regular seat belt without needing a booster.  Instill a sense of car safety in your child including always wearing a seat belt no matter where you are or how far you’re going.  Keep your child in the back seat until he reaches at least age 13.

9 Ways to Update your Play Space without Buying New Toys

You have endless toys and baby gadgets for your little bundle of joy to play with…so why are both of you already sick of your playroom?  When you play with the same toys day-in and day-out, they may be getting stale.  Even without buying new toys, there are ways to refresh and update your play space for a more exciting, meaningful and engaging play experience.

Move Things Around:  It seems so simple but it really works.  Move a toy from one room to another and watch your baby delight in something that was once highly ignored.  This works particularly well when you move something out of a crowded playroom into a room where there are few toys.  She’ll be able to focus on all that one toy has to offer instead of being distracted.  Next time you need to take a shower, try this trick by bringing an old toy into your bathroom.  We bet you’re baby will be occupied for at least enough time for you to get squeaky clean.

toy_sprawl1Rotate Toys:  Keep toys fresh by rotating them in and out of your place space.  Find somewhere safe to hide toys that aren’t currently in use.  Every two weeks to a month, rotate toys so your baby will have an entirely “new” set of things to do.  She’ll probably feel like they are brand new toys.  And you’ll notice some changes in the way she plays with the toys as your baby matures.  You can also do this with friends by borrowing and trading toys for a short period of time to liven things up in your playroom.

Re-Introduce “Baby” Toys:  As your baby grows older into a toddler, you’ll probably graduate some toys.  If you have space, save some of them to re-introduce later.  Your baby’s imagination will eventually blossom and baby toys are terrific for playing make believe.  Your little one will re-discover new ways to play with baby toys.  Plus, some of the lessons of the toy – such as the alphabet, numbers, shapes and colors – that were once lost on your baby will be more digestible for your toddler.

makedo-cardboard-box-kits-cool-mom-picksAdd Cardboard:  Speaking of imagination, cardboard boxes are a breeding ground for imaginary play.  Show your little one how to pretend your box is a rocket ship, row boat or racecar.  At first she may just want to climb in-and-out or otherwise manipulate the box.  But eventually she’ll catch on as her imagination grows.  Also, use the box to place fun items you want your baby to focus on that day, such as puzzles, blocks or a special book you want to read.

Use Non-Toys: Have you ever noticed that your little one is much more fascinated by simple household objects than her own toys?  As long as they aren’t dangerous, if that’s what floats her boat, let her play with them in her own place space from time-to-time.   Try to figure out what it is that your baby likes about the object: Is it shiny?  Does it make noise?  Can she see her reflection in it?  If you know what she likes about the item, you may be able to find other similar things she would enjoy.

Decorate:  Perhaps it’s not the toys themselves that are getting old, but the space feels rather dull.  Of course you can buy lots of decorative wall hangings for your playroom, or you can make them yourself.  One of the easiest ways to decorate a playroom is with your child’s own artwork.  Hang cork boards and tack up various art projects your kiddo completes.  It will be fun for her to watch the evolution of her artwork and perhaps even recall the seasons, holidays or events where she did them.  You can also supplement with some easy art projects of your own, such as an alphabet canvas, framed photos or high shelves featuring some of your baby’s toys and stuffed animals.

Create Stations:  One great way to refresh your play space is to create stations and encourage your children to rotate every once in awhile.  You can have an area with musical instruments, an art table, a puzzle corner or a trucks and train station.  This will stimulate creative juices and also help your child learn how to transition from activity-to-activity, which will be important as she enters preschool.  Make sure your stations reflect your child’s interests.

slideBring Outside, Inside:  Especially during colder months, bringing some of the outdoors inside may be just what you need to revive your play space.  If you have a small portable slide, clean it off and bring it indoors.  Perhaps your baby loves digging in the dirt or sandbox.  Create a small sensory box where she can get her hands dirty.  To keep things tidy, spread out a large picnic blanket or put your baby and the sensory box inside a much larger cardboard box to avoid spillage.  Small balls can be a great indoor activity if your space allows.

Art Wall:  What is more fun for kids than drawing on the walls?  Not much!  If your home and your nerves can accommodate it, create a wall where your little one can get creative.  Plaster poster board or put up a dry erase board or chalk board along an entire wall.  Provide washable crayons, markers and paints and let your tot go wild writing on the walls.  Just be sure to put away the art supplies when you’re done so there is no confusion about which walls are for art and which are not.

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