Why Modern Moms Are Going Back to the Basics – The Evolution of the Cloth Diaper

by Tiffany Washko

Having a baby is one of the most exciting times of your life. It is also one of the most stressful. So many decisions have to be made about nearly every aspect of your baby’s comfort, safety, and happiness. You spend hours pouring over pregnancy and child rearing books, picking out the perfect crib, finding the most adorable and comfortable clothing, and envisioning the safest and most peaceful birth for your baby as possible. No doubt somewhere in your planning you have thought about how many diapers you will need for your new little one and perhaps you have even purchased some in advance. If you are like the majority of parents out there, then you have automatically decided upon disposable diapers without ever giving it a second thought.

Stop right there! There is an alternative; consider using cloth diapers.

Cloth diapering today is not what it used to be. When many parents think of cloth diapers they think of flat diapers that need to be folded in several, origami-like folds and fastened with diaper pins before they are covered with plastic pull on pants. Generally they also think that the clean-up involved with using cloth diapers would be tedious and messy. Cloth diapers have been stereotyped and it seems as though many parents have missed the total evolution of the cloth diaper that has occurred over the past decade or so. I know, because I was one of them.
My own personal decision to use cloth actually came with my second child. With my first child I used disposable diapers, as most do, and thought nothing of it. When I became pregnant a second time I joined a pregnancy discussion group online and in one particular discussion I saw a signature line that contained a link to a work at home mother that sold handcrafted cloth diapers. It was an “Ahaaa” moment for me. I had no idea how far cloth diapers had come. I had dismissed all previous thoughts about using cloth diapers with an exaggerated “Ewwww!” I didn’t want to clean messy diapers and I didn’t want to stick my baby with safety pins. But these diapers were fitted, they had Velcro-like closures, and they were CUTE. I search far and wide for adorable clothing for my babies so how could I resist adorable diapers?

New choices in materials and high tech fabrics are causing an increasing number of parents to reconsider whether disposable diapers are the best choice. We have options now that provide us with cloth diapers that are elasticized so that they are fitted and snug, waterproof many instances, and manageable with Velcro-like closures or snaps, making them just as easy and convenient to use as disposables. It is not just their functionality and convenience that has been affected by this evolution either. Cloth diapers available today are infinitely more attractive. They are available in a variety of different colors, prints, and textures. Cloth diapers made from silk and cashmere are not uncommon. This is a big selling point for many parents because there is nothing cute about a disposable diaper. Quite simply, cloth diapers are convenient, cost effective, healthier for our children, and better for the environment. I feel as though the real question parents should be asking themselves is why use disposables?

As a general rule, it is almost always cheaper to reuse than to buy new every time. This is no different with cloth diapers. Most parents go through 6 to 8 thousand diapers per child, from birth to about age three. If we take an average of what those diapers cost, that equates to between 2000 and 3000 dollars per baby. Once those children are potty trained those diapers are gone. They can’t be re-used. So a significant chunk of our hard earned money has gone to buying, what is essentially, garbage. In comparison, enough cloth diapers to last for three years will usually cost between 3 to 8 hundred dollars. At minimum that is about a 1200 dollar savings. But wait, consider too, that those cloth diapers may last for one or more successive children and your savings doubles and even triples.

What should also be of serious concern to all parents are the toxic chemicals present in disposable diapers. Dioxin, which in various forms has been shown to cause cancer, birth defects, liver damage, skin diseases, and genetic damage, is a by-product of the paper-bleaching process used in manufacturing disposable diapers, and trace quantities may exist in the diapers themselves. Dioxin is listed by the EPA as the most toxic of cancer related chemicals. Disposable diapers also contain sodium polyacrylate. If you have ever seen the gel-like, super absorbent crystals in a disposable diaper then you have seen this substance first hand. Sodium polyacrylate is the same substance that was removed from tampons because of its link to toxic shock syndrome. No studies have been done on the long-term effects of this chemical being in contact with a baby’s reproductive organs 24 hours a day for upwards of two years. Cloth diapers, on the other hand, are free of the many chemicals contained in disposable diapers.

Then there are the environmental reasons for using cloth. According to the Sustainability Institute eighty percent of the diaperings in this nation are done with disposables. That comes to 18 BILLION diapers a year, just in the US. They require thousands of tons of plastic and hundreds of thousands of trees to manufacture. After a few hours of active service these materials are trucked away, primarily to landfills, where they sit, entombed or mummified, undegraded for several hundred years. The idea of a “disposable” diaper is a myth. The ramifications of that myth will stay with us for centuries to come. They are the 3rd largest single product in the waste stream behind newspapers and beverage containers. The urine and faeces in disposable diapers enter landfills untreated, possibly contaminating the ground water supply. When you consider the unnecessary depletion of our valuable forests, the huge volume of garbage created, the toxic air and water pollution and the potential health risks to children, it is very difficult to comprehend how washing and reusing cloth diapers could ever be considered an inconvenience. No, they are a rewarding investment all around; a financial investment, an investment in our children’s health, and an investment in our planet.
Tiffany Washko is president of Jelly Bean Diapers, http://www.jellybeandiapers.com. After working several years in corporate healthcare marketing and public relations, she took time away to be a mother. This new pursuit lead her to a new passion, helping new moms make the decision to return to the basics and use cloth diapers.

 

Should We Have Another Baby?

Deciding whether to expand your family by one more — whether this would be your second child or your sixth — is one of the most significant decisions you will make in your lifetime. There is no crystal ball to show the consequences of your decision in the future. A great number of variables come into play here, and the answer to the question, “How many children?” is vastly different for every family.

The questions to ask yourself
The key to making this decision is to ask the right questions, and to take the time to search your soul and figure out the answers. There are no “right” answers here, because we are all very different human beings.

Why do I want another child?
Reasons may run the gamut from wanting a sibling for your child, to simply loving to raise children. Consider what you know of yourself, your view of family life, your own upbringing & the countless reasons of the heart. If it’s the amazing experiences of pregnancy and childbirth you miss, remember that your commitment only begins with these and continues long after the baby’s arrival. If you’re considering another child due to pressure from your parents, in-laws, other relations or friends, tune their voices out for a bit and listen only to those of yourself and your mate. This decision must come from the two people who know your situation best, and who will have to live the day-to-day realities of another child.

How will another baby change our economic position? Are we willing to make that change? You’ll note that the question is not, “Can we afford another baby?” The issue runs deeper than that, because many families are more than willing to make the necessary financial compromises. You need to be realistic: Adding a child does add expenses. But “economics” addresses resources beyond the strictly financial. You also need to consider your time, your patience, and your attention & all essentials that will have to be divvied up among more than one child. Most people find that there’s plenty to go around because of one related, easily renewable resource: love.

How will life change, and are we ready for that change?
Since you already have a baby, you know how much time a new baby demands in his first few years. A second (or third or ninth) is no different and will tug at your hours along with his siblings. While you shouldn’t base a major life decision on the next 24 months, you do need to remember that one year follows another: each year builds on the one previous. So make a realistic assessment of how this will change your lives both now and in the future that follows.

How will a new baby affect the lives of your other children?
Babies have an effect on the whole house, not just mom and dad. How a new sibling will affect the child you do have isn’t a reason to have (or not have) more children, but the unique characteristics of the child you already have should factor in to your decision.

Are you and your partner on the same page?
The two of you must discuss your thoughts about another baby and come to an agreement, one way or the other, that both can be happy with.

Is this a question of when? Perhaps you know that you want another child, but you’re not certain if now is the right time. Here are some points to consider:

  • The impact of pregnancy. Studies demonstrate that waiting at least 18 months between pregnancies gives you the best odds for a healthy pregnancy, delivery and baby. This isn’t a guarantee, of course, and many women who have babies 10 months apart have normal pregnancies and healthy babies. Generally speaking, however, ample time between pregnancies gives your body a chance to recover fully.
  • §The waiting time for adoption. Depending on the situation under which you adopt, a long period may elapse between when you first make your decision and when your new baby actually joins your family.
  • The age gap issue. How far apart in age should your children be? No perfect answer there either… I’ve experienced both sides of the issue: My first three children are all two years apart, and then there was an eight-year gap before my fourth child arrived. I can clearly see that both situations have advantages. The bottom line is that the personalities of your children and your family patterns will have more to do with their short- and long-term relationships than anything as simple as the number of months or years that separate their birthdays.
  • The biological clock and fertility issues. In today’s world, many couples are starting their families later in life. If pregnancy is your route to your next baby, you’ll certainly want to investigate the factors involved in conception. While women can have babies in their forties (my son Coleton arrived when I was 41), fertility rates drop dramatically after the age of 35. Achieving pregnancy (and finally meeting that new family addition) may take longer than you expect.

What’s in your heart?
If you’ve thoroughly examined all the issues involved in adding another baby to your family, and your heart and soul continue to have an empty spot that craves another child (or conversely, the doubt and fear are overwhelming), then perhaps you already have your answer.

 

This article is a copyrighted excerpt from Gentle Toddler Care by Elizabeth Pantley. (McGraw-Hill, 2006)

Is Playtime a Lost Art?

Today’s world is filled with violence – from wars – to crimes committed – every day – in every country. There are bombings, explosions, and murders. Our television programs bring up subjects that are “not suitable” for children and certainly “not suitable” as entertainment for adults.

But the world today has taken this violence one step further – they have incorporated it in a child’s playthings. The “shoot ’em up, blow ’em up” mentality has permeated even the toy aisles in every city. While being vigilant or “street smart” is, of course, a major concern for parents of children, the old adage of “What came first – the chicken or the egg” seems to emerge. Was the idea of these recent violent crimes always out there – in the reality world – or was it nurtured and fed by violent TV, movies and now toys?

When a child is placed in a situation of making a choice when angry with another child, does he/she make the decision based on knowing that he/she can’t make them disappear into cyberspace by using a laser gun, jumping over tall buildings and dis- appearing, or eradicating them by all sorts of other means? It seems to be getting harder and harder as toys portray violence from cars turning into robots or bugs, viscious looking creatures that permeate a person’s worse nightmares, and now are sold for $29.99, packed in cellopane and ready for a child to create their own “nightmare.”

As parents, the responsibility of helping a child grow into maturity with a “right” sense of preservation and protection for person and property seems to be swaying to the side with help from “ad” agencies and toy manufacturers. Toys – meant to be an extension of a child’s imaginative world – one of finding out what things are made of, and how they can be used – should not be filled with violence that solves all problems and leaves the “hero” surrounded by smoldering buildings and disintegrated opponents. Yes, the world is a violent place at times – but that should be the adults’ responsibility to cope and deal with the circumstances.

Our children can be made aware of certain dangers as their age allows them the maturity to understand, but why heap on violence and destruction during their recreational times as well. Will problem solving, peaceful negotiation, or finding solutions that benefit both sides without any violent act be lost forever? Will today’s child grow up with “beating” the other guy at any expense, and showing no mercy? Are parents ready to cope with the problems that anger and violence can nurture as a child is confounded by news, television, movies, and even playthings that prove that the most cunning, and violent victor is really the victor? Will a child learn reasoning, negotiation, and partnership when toys in bright packages are grotesque and chilling?

We certainly want all our children safe, but in our endeavors towards this safety, have we robbed our children of having playtime that shows love, respect, friendship, and just plain fun? Are we, as parents, giving them a choice, or directing their feelings and emotions to victory at all cost? Childhood, holidays, and playtime were times to “get away” for a while and enjoy being a child. We can’t rightfully rob our children of this under the guise that they have the right to know what is really “out there.” Yes, in time and with each appropriate age, they will find out and they will deal with the situations because they have had a solid background of knowing right from wrong, peaceful means from violent, and doing the right thing – at all costs. Isn’t this the legacy worth aiming for – and letting toys be toys – and not the elements of bad dreams and viscious plots? Cars do not turn into laser yielding mean robots, and bugs are not taking over the world – to a child – or to an adult. There is a time and place for instructing our children to be vigilant and protect themselves, but there is also time for play and imagination. They need both.

©Arleen M. Kaptur 2003 October Arleen Kaptur has written numerous books and articles. For a free newsletter – recipes, gardening, lifestyle – please visit – http://www.arleenssite.com

Bullying – The View from a Five-Year-Old

I was working at the school where I went to kindergarten today. It is funny how so much has changed, and so much is the same! As I was walking around outside, I saw that the same treed lot is still across the street from the school. When I was 5 years old, it seemed like an entire forest! Now, I see it is just a small city lot.

But, this treed lot was so much more to me back then. It was a place to hide from the older kids who bullied me every day on the way home from school.

Why Me?
I don’t know why they chose me to pick on me – looking back and talking to others, I think that they picked on a lot of kids, but of course I didn’t know this at the time. I guess I was a handy target as I walked home the same way that they did. At first, they seemed nice and I thought maybe they were my friends. I was very confused when they would tease me, push me down, and pull me up by my bag strap only to push me down again. I didn’t understand this at all! I wondered what was wrong with me and it took me a long time before I told my parents about any of it. My mom started walking to the school to meet me every day to walk home with me. I don’t think anything was ever done to the bullies and I bet they continued bullying other kids. While I don’t think bullying was accepted back then, I think it was seen as a part of life and not something you could do a whole lot about.

Is Bullying Different Today?
Things are so different today. People speak up about bullying more and we are teaching our kids that it is not ok and to talk to a trusted adult if they are being bullied. We have bullying awareness campaigns and the schools play an active role in bullying prevention.
However, bullying still happens. At least when I was home, I knew I was safe from the bullies; this is not always the case for kids today. With the Internet and social media, our kids are exposed to bullying in different forms. If they are being bullied, they often cannot get away from it. It follows them into their homes through their computers, phones, or other electronics.

Get Involved and Stop Bullying
People have asked me why I am so involved in our anti-bullying campaign here. I guess it is my hope that no child will feel they have to hide from the bullies and that they will see that they are not alone. And if we can help the kids with bullying, maybe those bullies won’t grow up to be bullies, because bullying is not just a problem in our schools, but in our workplaces as well. We encourage you all to wear pink on Pink T-Shirt Day to help bring awareness to the issue of bullying and give support to those who have found themselves the victim of bullying — now, or at any time in their lives. Remember the message all year, and if you see someone being bullied, speak up.
I, and my 5-year-old self, thank you.

Why Babies Cry

Babies cry — it’s just a fact of life with a baby! And while it can be frustrating for parents, it’s the only real way that your baby can communicate with you for the first few months of life. So, just why do babies cry?

Dirty or Wet Diaper?
While not all babies mind a wet or dirty diaper, most do, and a clean diaper will stop the crying.

Hunger?
Possibly the most common reason for crying. Is your baby hungry? Even if it seems like they just ate, bebies sometimes feed more frequently than others.

Looking for a Cuddle?
Most babies like to be cuddled. Sometimes all that they need is someone to hold them. I am a firm believer that you can not spoil a baby by holding them too much.

Temperature?
Your baby may be to hot — or too cold. A good rule of thumb is to dress your baby much as you are dressed, and maybe one layer more (ie: a little undershirt).

Stress?
Sometimes adults feel “I can’t take it anymore” and need a break. Well, babies are no different. Sometimes a change of scene into a quiet place will calm your baby.

Just Fussy?
Many babies just have times where they will fuss and are not easily soothed. This can range from a few minutes of hard-to-console crying to full-blown colic. Colic is usually defined as inconsolable crying for at least three hours per day, three days per week or more.

Sick?
Other than the crying, is your baby acting differently? Is the cry different than usual (weak or sickly sounding?) Does he or she feel like they have a fever? If you are unsure, call your doctor or the hospital. My philosophy is it’s better to check with them and have nothing be wrong than it is to have your baby get very sick because you were worried about needlessly calling the doctor and wait to call.

Ok, you’ve done all these things and your baby is still crying! Now what?

Swaddling
Wrap and hold your baby close. If you have trouble swaddling a baby as I did, a swaddle blanket is a great thing to have. Mind you, some babies find swaddling or cuddling too constrictive and will respond better to other forms of comfort.

Rhythm and Sound
Babies are used to the sound of your heartbeat and all the other swooshing and swishing sounds that were heard while in your womb. There are things available that will mimic these sounds but I found the vacuum cleaner also worked well! Many times my son would fall asleep in his Baby Bjorn while I was vaccuming! If you had a bola ball during your pregnancy, wear it now too! It may help soothe your baby wonderfully.

Movement
Sometimes just carrying your baby around the house will be enough to calm the crying. Rocking chairs, car rides, or baby swings are also good things to try. A great way to carry your baby for extended periods of time is with a carrier or sling. Sometimes a bit of a gentle bounce in your set can help too.

Sucking
Babies also like to suck. Nurse your baby or offer a pacifier or one of your fingers to suck on. There were times I felt like a human pacifier, but if nursing was what would calm my son, then that’s what I did.

Rubbing
Rubbing your baby’s back or tummy can be very soothing. Try this while sitting, lying down, or walking around with your baby.

Remember, crying in itself will not hurt your baby. If you have tried everything and are feeling very frustrated, sometimes it is a good idea to call someone to come and help you out. If there isn’t anyone to take over for you for a time and you are at the end of your rope, calmly place the baby in a safe place such as their crib or on a mat on the floor and leave the room for a few minutes. Take some time out for yourself. Whatever you do, never ever shake your baby.

Using Music To Calm Your Baby

Music is a wonderful way for you to calm and soothe your baby, especially during the first year. How many times have your heard parents say that there was nothing that they could do with their crying, fussing baby until they tried music. This is because music does indeed soothe the savage beast, or in this case, the baby.

There are certain distinct sounds that have been proven to calm even fussy babies: the sounds of nature, white noise, and music. Even if your baby isn’t fussing or crying you may want to use music as often as you can to encourage that feeling of calm and peacefulness. All it takes is a few minutes every day and before you know it your baby will be looking forward to hearing that certain song emanating from the CD player.

There is nothing complicated or mysterious about introducing your baby to music from day one. You don?t need to search for the perfect song or a certain type of music. All you have to do is start by having your baby listen to your favorite songs and music. If jazz is on the top of your list, let your baby listen to the sounds of John Coltrane as he sits in his baby seat watching you in the kitchen. It doesn’t matter if you play the schmaltzy songs of the eighties or some wicked African beat, your baby is going to listen and his mood is going to be altered by any musical sound that he hears.

Besides the music that you yourself can introduce your baby to, there are hundreds of CDs on the market today that are filled with baby songs and lullabies. At the end of the day you may want to play a CD of quiet baby songs that have a slower beat. There are so many CDs for you to choose from that you will have a hard time making up your mind. Choose something that interests you. Many baby CDs will have lullabies and faster beat songs on the same CD.

Playing music has other benefits besides soothing your fussy, crying baby.
These benefits include:

– Babies are introduced to musical sounds.
– Music enhances your baby’s behavior and cognitive skills.
– Relieves stress for the entire family.
– Will stimulate curiosity and an interest in music.

Take time to find a variety of music CDs for your baby to listen to. You’ll soon notice which music your baby is most drawn to and can use that music when he is particularly fussy or is crying.

Emanuele Accenti is the author of the best-selling Ebook “Babies First Year – What Every Parents Need To Know” – and offers a free newsletter for new parents at http://www.babies1styear.com

 

The Importance of Routines

At 8:30 p.m. at the Osborne family house in Burlington, Vermont, an exemplary bedtime process is underway. The three children are upstairs changing into their pajamas, brushing their teeth, and settling into their beds to read. There is remarkably little protest or variation. “Bedtime is the one area where our routine has not wavered,” says mom Eleanor. “Since the boys were toddlers, we’ve been doing the same thing, and now it’s automatic. This is usually the calmest period our day.”

Regular schedules provide the day with a framework that orders a young child’s world. Although predictability can be tedious for adults, children thrive on sameness and repetition. “Knowing what to expect from relationships and activities helps children become more confident,” says Dr. Peter Gorski, assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School in Cambridge, Massachussetts.

Routines begin from the first days of life, says Susan Newman, a social psychologist in New Jersey, affecting the relationship between parent and child, setting the stage for rocky or smooth sailing as your child gets older. Babies, especially, need regular sleep and meal schedules and even routines leading up to those activities (a story every day before nap- or bedtime, for example).

As she gets older, when a child knows what is going to happen and who is going to be there, it allows her to think and feel more boldly and freely, Gorski adds. When a child does not know what to expect, his internal alarms go off. Ultimately, parents benefit as well: “Knowing what is expected cuts down on parenting struggles,” says Jodi Mindell, child psychologist and author of Sleeping through the Night (HarperCollins).

Tips for Implementing Routines
Plan regular mealtimes: “It is so valuable to the developing spirit of children to have one meal together each day as a family,” Gorski says. Sitting together at the dinner table gives children the opportunity to share their day’s experience and get support for whatever they’re feeling. The emphasis is on togetherness, so if your children need to eat earlier, at least give them dessert while you eat your meal. This is also an ideal time to introduce routines that give children responsibility, such as setting or clearing the table. Older children can be pre-dinner helpers and washer-uppers.

Wind down before bed: Consistent nightly rituals are soothing and take the battle out of bedtime. But after an exhausting day, it’s tempting to skip the preliminaries when bedtime finally approaches. Don’t, stresses Mindell: “About 20 to 30 minutes of calm, soothing, and consistent activities get children ready.” Find what works best for your child—some children are revved up by a bath or fidgety when listening to a story. Yours may prefer doing a puzzle together or listening to music. For older children, bedtime is an ideal time for conversation. My 12-year-old son likes me to sit on his bed and talk for a few minutes before he goes to sleep.

In general, make the room conducive for sleep. Set aside a time each week for room cleanup (another important routine!), when your child puts away toys and books and you change the linens.

Be consistent but flexible: Routines are essential, but allow some room for flexibility. Although the Osborne family thought their bedtime routine was a blessing, there have been some problems recently. “I was completely rigid about my oldest son’s bedtime, and he is now incapable of veering from that routine. If we are out later than his bedtime, he becomes upset,” Eleanor says.

Unexpected events, like surprise guests or errands that cannot be postponed, may result in a nap in the car seat or a skipped meal. But if we react with frustration when this happens, our kids will, too. Try to prepare your child ahead of time for the change and reassure them that things will return to normal tomorrow.

Liza Asher is a mother of four and writes on parenting issues for national magazines. She lives in Montclair, New Jersey. Copyright © 1999-2004 ClubMom, Inc. All rights reserved.

Taking a Road Trip with Your Baby

To Grandmother’s house we go! And you’ll be in the car for five whole hours – how can you make the trip enjoyable with a baby along?

Learn about it
There’s no question: Marathon car trips with a baby on board take a good amount of planning and organization. But it can be done – and yes, it can even be fun!

Planning the trip
In the hustle that precedes a trip, it can be easy to let things happen, instead of make things happen. Be proactive in making your trip decisions. Contemplating these questions, and coming up with the right answers, can help make your trip more successful:

  • Does your baby sleep well in the car? If yes, plan your travel time to coincide with a nap or bedtime so your baby can sleep through part of the journey. If not, plan to leave immediately after a nap or upon waking in the morning. Don’t fool yourself into thinking your baby will behave differently than usual in the car just because it’s a special occasion.
  • Is it necessary to make the trip all at once, or can you break it up with stops along the way? The longer your baby is strapped in the carseat, the more likely he’ll become fussy. Planning a few breaks can keep everyone in a better frame of mind.
  • When estimating an arrival time, have you factored in plenty of extra time for unplanned surprises? A diaper explosion that requires a complete change of clothes or a baby whose inconsolable crying requires an unexpected 20-minute stop are just two of the things that can easily happen.
  • Do you have everything you need to make the trip pleasant?
    Items like:
    -Window shades to protect your baby from the sun and create a darker, nap-inducing atmosphere.
    -A cooler for cold drinks; a bottle warmer if needed.
    -Plenty of toys that are new or forgotten favorites saved just for the trip.
    -Baby-friendly music on tape or CD.
    -A rear-view baby mirror to keep on eye on baby (unless a second person will be sitting with your little one)
    -Books to read to your baby.

Preparing the car
Take plenty of time to get the car ready for your trip. If two adults are traveling, consider yourself lucky and arrange for one person to sit in the backseat next to the baby. If you are traveling alone with your little one, you’ll need to be more creative in setting up the car, and you’ll need to plan for more frequent stops along the way.

Here are a few tips for making the car a traveling entertainment center for your baby:

  • Use ribbon or yarn and safety pins or tape to hang an array of lightweight toys from the ceiling of the car to hang over your baby. An alternative is to string a line from one side of the car to the other with an array of toys attached by ribbons. Bring along an assortment of new toys that can be exchanged when you stop the car for a rest. Just be sure to use small toys and keep them out of the driver’s line of view.
  • Tape brightly colored pictures of toys on the back of the seat that your baby will be facing.
  • If no one will be sitting next to your baby and your child is old enough to reach for toys, set up an upside-down box next to the car seat with a shallow box or a tray with ledges on top of it. Fill this with toys that your baby can reach for by himself. You might also shop around for a baby activity center that attaches directly to the carseat.
  • If you plan to have someone sitting next to baby, then provide that person with a gigantic box of toys with which to entertain the little one – distraction works wonders to keep a baby happy in the car. One of the best activities for long car rides is book reading. Check your library’s early reading section; it typically features a large collection of baby-pleasing titles in paperback that are easier to tote along than board books.
  • Bring along an assortment of snacks and drinks for your older baby who’s regularly eating solids, and remember to bring food for yourself, too. Even if you plan to stop for meals, you may decide to drive on through if your baby is sleeping or content – saving the stops for fussy times.
  • Bring books on tape or quiet music for the adults for times when your baby is sleeping. The voice on tape may help keep your baby relaxed, and it will be something you can enjoy.
  • If you’ll be traveling in the dark, bring along a battery-operated nightlight or flashlight.
  • Car travel checklist
    Well-stocked diaper bag
    Baby’s blanket
    Carseat pillow or head support
    Window shades (sun screens)
    Change of clothes for your baby
    Enormous box of toys and books
    Music or books on tape or CDs
    Baby food, snacks, and drinks for your baby
    Sipper cups
    Snacks and drinks for the adults
    Cooler
    Wet washcloths in bags, or moist towelettes
    Empty plastic bags for leftovers and trash
    Bottle warmer
    Cell phone
    Baby’s regular sleep music or white noise (if needed, bring extra batteries)
    First aid kit/prescriptions/medications
    Jumper cables
    Money/wallet/purse/ID
    Medical and insurance information/emergency phone numbers
    Maps/driving directions
    Baby carrier/sling/stroller
    Camera and film
    Suitcases

During the journey
If you’ve carefully planned your trip and prepared your vehicle, you’ve already started out on the right foot. Now keep these things in mind as you make your way down the road:

  • Be flexible. When traveling with a baby, even the best-laid plans can be disrupted. Try to stay relaxed, accept changes, and go with the flow.
  • Stop when you need to. Trying to push “just a little farther” with a crying baby in the car can be dangerous, as you’re distracted and nervous. Take the time to stop and calm your baby.
  • Put safety first. Make sure that you keep your baby in his carseat. Many nursing mothers breastfeed their babies during trips. This can be dangerous in a moving car, even if you are both securely belted: You can’t foresee an accident, and your body could slam forcefully into your baby. Instead, pull over and nurse your baby while he’s still in his carseat. That way, when he falls asleep, you won’t wake him up moving him back into his seat.
  • Remember: Never, ever leave your baby alone in the car – not even for a minute.

On the way home
You may be so relieved that you lived through your trip that you sort of forget the other trip ahead of you: the trip home. You’ll need to organize the trip home as well as you did the trip out. A few days in advance, make certain that all your supplies are refilled and ready to go. Think about the best time to leave, and plan accordingly. In addition, think about what you learned on the trip to your destination that might make the trip home even easier. Is there something you wish you would have had but didn’t? Something you felt you could have done differently? Did you find yourself saying, “I wish we would have…”? Now’s the time to make any adjustments to your original travel plan so that your trip back home is pleasant and relaxed.

This article is an excerpt from Gentle Baby Care by Elizabeth Pantley. (McGraw-Hill, 2003)

Winter Time Fun with Kids!

Winter is the time of year when many of us, due to inclement weather, are forced to stay inside. If you have kids underfoot during this time of year, you are all likely to suffer a bout of cabin fever. If the winter season has left you feeling a bit down, here are a few activities to brighten your mood, and lift your spirits!

Let’s go skating!

Your little ones may be too young to ice skate, but they can enjoy an afternoon of skating right in your own home. Just slip some socks onto your child’s feet and find a non-carpeted floor. Turn on some holiday music and “skate” around the floor together. (Someone has also suggested tying coloring books to the child’s feet and “skate” on the carpeting, but I would stick to the non-carpeted method! Also, this could be a unique way to clean the floor, too!)

Match the pictures!

Find some holiday stickers. Place two identical stickers on the left and right sides of an index card and then cut the card in half, in a jig-jag form. Use a highlighter to highlight the edges. Do this with a variety of stickers. Have your child match the stickers and line up the two halves of the index cards.

Play in the snow!

If you live in an area where you get snow and you are feeling adventurous, bundle up your child and head outdoors for some snow building! You don’t have to build the traditional snowman — be creative! Try to build an animal or a house! Let your child decide what to build and then jump right in and get to work! Be sure to have a camera on hand for the finished product! Who knows? This might be a fantastic time to get that perfect holiday picture for those holiday cards you send.

Make your own cards!

You don’t have to rush out to your nearest card shop for the best holiday cards in town. Gather up some art materials, such as wrapping paper, construction paper, ribbons, bows, glitter, crayons, stickers, and more, and let your child create a personal holiday card. Help them prepare it, for mailing to that special relative or friend.

Make a holiday video!

Videotape your child while asking him or her a variety of questions. “What is your favorite holiday song?” “What is your favorite holiday food?” “What would be the best present you would like to get this year?” “How do you make holiday cookies?” You can come up with your own assortment of questions. You will be surprised and tickled by the response. This videotape would make a great gift for that out-of-town relative who does not often get the chance to see your child! What a precious keepsake, too. Imagine looking at the tape again in ten or twenty years!

Build a snowman….inside!

Grab some cotton balls and some construction paper and glue and let your child make a snowman on paper. Older children can add beads for the nose, eyes, mouth, and buttons.

Have an indoor picnic!

If you traditionally decorate your home for the holidays, spend an evening in the family room and spread out a blanket on the floor. Pack a picnic basket and enjoy the holiday spirit.

Get up and move!

I am not telling you to pack your bags! I am only telling you to re-energize yourself and get some of that excess energy out of your kids by turning on some holiday music and dancing to the beat. My three boys love to do stretching exercises with me to music. We will also do jumping jacks, run in place, and play Follow the Leader, to the beat of the music.

Wrap it up!

Too many presents to wrap and not enough time? Have your child help you wrap the gifts! (Just be sure none of the gifts you are wrapping are for your child!) My boys love to place bows on the packages and attach the gift cards. They even enjoy putting stickers on the packages. For more fun, buy plain paper and let your child decorate the paper with crayons, markers, stickers, etc., and see the joy on his or her face as you wrap gifts in the paper your child has designed!

It’s cookie time!

While making that holiday assortment of cookies, cakes, and pies, let your child sit close-by and make his or her own “treats” with Play-Doh. Your child can imitate what you are making and come up with some pretty fascinating treats, too! (Just make sure they do not eat the treats they made!)

Wintertime can be a fun time! Just look around you. There are plenty of things to do. Sometimes, you might get lucky enough and find the temperature rising to a place where you and your child can comfortably dash outside. But, once those cold winter winds come around again, just enjoy the precious time you and your child will have together. These days come around only once. Be creative. Let your child have some input as to what he or she wants to do. Sometimes, they can be much more creative than we can!

Have a beautiful and blessed holiday season!

Ann E Butenas is a stay-at-home mom of three preschool-age boys. She has an undergraduate degree in Communications, a post-bachelor paralegal certificate, and a Master’s in Business Management. She earned the latter during her first two pregnancies while running an at-home business at the same time. She has been professionally published as a writer since the age of 12. Ann currently owns and operates ANZ Publications, a publications business specializing in family-riented projects. Her most recent project includes a very unique medical and dental records binder….a great way to keep track of a child’s complete medical history from birth through adolescence. Visit the site at http://www.anzpublications.com. ANZ is an acronym, by the way, for her son’s Alec, Noah, and Zach. It is pronounced as “Ann’s,” for her first name, but spelled as such to include the boys! Her website showcases her new book.

First Week Home with Baby

The first week of your baby’s life brings big adjustments for both of you. You are adjusting to being a mother and caring for your baby and your baby is adjusting to life outside the womb. It is a time of great joy — and possibly immense fear! Although you’ve been preparing for the birth of your baby for months, now he is here and depending on you for everything which can seem overwhelming. Don’t expect too much of yourself during these first days! If anyone offers you help — take it!

During your baby’s first few weeks of life, he will be concentrating on getting to know you and his surroundings. Your baby needs to be handled so that life outside the womb seems as little different as possible to life inside the womb. Your baby’s needs, while they may seem overwhelming to you, are really simple: food, warmth and comfort from cuddling. Wrap him snugly and warmly, hold him closely, handle him slowly, and feed him when he’s hungry. Your baby will have the routing and sucking reflexes as well as tongue thrust. These are needed to get nourishment from the breast or bottle. You can also use this time to bond with your baby with lots of skin to skin contact.

Whether you decide to breast or bottle feed, feeding in the first few weeks is not an effortless process. Try to have early feeding sessions in a quiet setting with as few distractions as possible. Make sure you are in a comfortable position as it takes new babies a while to eat and you don’t want to end up stiff and sore. Cuddle and caress your baby as feeding time is a wonderful opportunity to show your baby how much he is loved.

If you are breastfeeding, be patient while you and your baby are getting the hang of it! The benefits of breastfeeding are many and in order for it to be successful, it is important to start out right. Keep in mind though it may take several weeks until you both feel comfortable and get a feeding schedule down.

Most new moms feel and experience:

  • Exhaustion!
  • Bloody vaginal discharge for the first week or so
  • Discomfort or pain in the perineal area if you had a vaginal delivery
  • Incision pain or numbness if you had a cesarean delivery
  • Abdominal cramping (afterpains) as the uterus contracts
  • Elation or depression or swings between both
  • Breast discomfort or engorgement
  • Fears about your adequacy as a mother
  • Profuse sweating after the first couple of days

Although it may be tempting to try to be a ‘supermom’, now is not the time. The best advice that I received as an new mom was to accept the help of others, eat regular meals and sleep when the baby sleeps. Now it’s my turn to pass that advice on to you.

The Importance of the Father/Child Bond

One of the most magical moments of my life was being at the birth of my child. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. I remember watching him squirm and cry as he met the world. I remember how he paused to listen to my voice as I whispered my love for him and commitment to him. To this day, spending time with my kids continues to be one of my favorite activities. To not spend time with my children is unfathomable.

For many fathers, this isn’t the case. They sit in hospital waiting rooms, clapping each other on the back and congratulating one another on a job well done, while their child enters the world without their father next to them. The day after the delivery and every day after are filled with missed opportunities to bond with their child and influence the directions they will take in life. They rationalize that they are sacrificing for their family by working long hours and justify their emotional distance as modeling how to survive in the “cold, cruel world.” Food on the table and a roof over head is nice but nothing makes up for loving, nurturing relationships with one’s father.

How do fathers build this bond? What barriers stand in the way? And, what are some practical tools to help fathers strengthen their children intellectually, emotionally, spiritually, and physically? To help me answer these questions, I asked for advice from dad’s who have a close bond with their children. How do I know they have a close bond? I asked their wives!

How do you bond with your child?

In response to this question, all of the fathers answered alike. They stated that the best way to bond was simply to spend time with a child. What you do is not as important as doing something.

They divided activities up into four main areas: Physical, Intellectual, Social, and Spiritual. A balance of these four areas would result in a child having a happier, healthier life. Physical activities are the most familiar to fathers and include working around the house together, sharing a hobby, coaching an athletic team, exercising together, and going places together. Intellectual activities focus on being involved in a child’s academics, participating in school related activities, encouraging hard work, and modeling yourself as a their primary teacher of life. Social activities centered on talking with children, sharing feelings and thoughts, demonstrating appropriate affection and manners, and getting to know your child’s friends. Spiritual activities are used the least by dad’s but have the most power to influence a child. These activities incorporate reading spiritual stories together, going to church or the synagogue, praying with children, establishing rules and order, being consistent and available, and exploring the mysteries of nature.

What is difference between the father/child bond and the mother/child bond?

It was quickly apparent from the surveys that dad’s have a different approach or style to bonding than mom’s. Dad’s have a more rough and tumble approach to physical interaction or may spend time in more physical activities such as play or working on a project together. Competition was also seen more in father/child bonding and was considered healthy if used in small doses and with sensitivity to a child’s temperament and abilities. Sportsmanship, but not necessary sports activities, was regarded as an essential ingredient in the development of a child’s characters. While the approach may differ, the need for bonding with mom and dad is equally significant. One dad joked that other than a couple of biological differences (e.g., giving birth or breastfeeding) he couldn’t see one as more important than the other.

What barriers prevent fathers from achieving a bond with their child?

All of the fathers agreed that work and the mismanagement of time were the biggest robbers of relationships with children. No one discounted a father’s responsibility to provide for his family, but all of them maintained that a healthy balance is needed between work and family. They felt that society makes it easy to use one’s career as an escape. Social influences tend to value the bond a child has with mom to be more important than with dad. But none of the dad’s questioned felt this barrier to be insurmountable. Eliminating barriers in society begins in the home. Dads must demonstrate that being involved in the home is important to them before society will start treating dads as important to the home. Dads need to take the initiative to change a diaper, clean up after dinner, give the kids their bath, and do the laundry. The collective effect of these “small” acts will ripple out into society to create “bigger” change.

Can a father bond with a child if they did not have a father growing up?

The entire group affirmed that not having a father would make it more difficult but not impossible to bond with a child. According to one dad, bonding is more of an innate need or spiritual drive, than simply a learned behavior. Therefore, fatherless fathers are not doomed to repeat their own childhood experiences. Another dad suggested “getting excited” by the little things that make a child excited or happy. Getting down on the child’s level, regressing to those early moments in life when you were a child, and sharing simple pleasures with your child will foster the bonding missed the first time around.

In summary, it is clear that the bond between a father and a child is an important one. Barriers, such as social values and absent fathers make bonding with children difficult but not impossible. Children need the unique style of bonding that fathers can provide and fathers can build that bond by spending time engaging in physical, intellectual, social, and spiritual activities.

Ron Huxley is a licensed family therapist, author, speaker, and father of four! Get more power tools for dad to build up your family relationships today at http://parentingtoolbox.com or http://angertoolbox.com

When Kids Cooperate

By Rae Pica

Given a choice, preschoolers prefer cooperative activities to competitive ones. Indeed, Scott Scheer, an associate professor at Ohio State University, contends humans actually have a “cooperative imperative” – a desire to work with others toward mutual goals that can run the spectrum from conceiving a child to sending a rocket to the moon.

In fact, using MRI technology to determine the effects of both competition and cooperation, scientists at Emory University recently found that when people collaborate, the brain sends out pleasure responses. Alfie Kohn, in No Contest: The Case Against Competition, identifies a great deal of research demonstrating cooperation’s positive effects on both social and emotional development.

He says cooperation:

  • is more conducive to psychological health.
  • leads to friendlier feelings among participants.
  • promotes a feeling of being in control of one’s life.
  • increases self-esteem.
  • results in greater sensitivity and trust toward others.
  • increases motivation.

When children are given the chance to work together toward a solution or common goal – whether creating a game or building a human pyramid – they know they each contribute to the success of the venture. Each child realizes he or she plays a vital role in the outcome, and each accepts the responsibility of fulfilling that role. They also learn to become tolerant of others’ ideas and to accept the similarities and differences of other children.

Furthermore, cooperative activities seldom cause the feelings of inferiority that can result from the comparisons made during competition. On the contrary, because cooperative and noncompetitive activities lead to a greater chance for success, they generate greater confidence in children.

Unlike competition, which research shows can foster antisocial behavior, cooperation has been determined to promote prosocial behaviors. Steve Grineski, author of Cooperative Learning in Physical Education, says the social skills needed for cooperative learning include:

  • listening to others
  • resolving conflict
  • supporting and encouraging others
  • taking turns
  • expressing enjoyment in the success of others
  • demonstrating the ability to criticize ideas, not individuals.

Nature or Nurture?

Is the drive to compete human nature, as is commonly believed; or is it learned?

One study indicates gender identify, which is typically established by the age of 3, plays a role in whether children are naturally cooperative or competitive. Preschool girls, according to the study, are cooperative, caring, and supportive of one another when learning new movement skills. They aren’t interested in competing or succeeding at someone else’s expense and actually seem to learn less efficiently when competition is introduced.

Preschool boys, on the other hand, are interested in how well they perform and in how their abilities compare to those of their classmates. However, the study further indicates the differences in the boys’ and girls’ behavior may indeed be dictated by society and culture, as Asian preschoolers of both genders tended to be cooperative and supportive.

An essay by Nicholas Kristof in the New York Times supports this latter contention. Kristof tells a hilarious story about trying to teach the game of musical chairs to a group of five-year-old Japanese children, who kept politely stepping out of the way so others could sit in their chairs. This would certainly seem to indicate that “dog-eat-dog” is taught in some societies — and not taught in others.

About Cooperative Games

Terry Orlick, author of The Second Cooperative Sports and Games Book, has long been a proponent of cooperative games. He writes that games can be “a beautiful way to bring people together. However, if you distort children’s play by rewarding excessive competition, physical aggression against others, cheating, and unfair play, you distort children’s lives.” On the other hand, about cooperative games, he says the concept is simple: “People play with one another rather than against one another; they play to overcome challenges, not to overcome other people; and they are freed by the very structure of the games to enjoy the play experience itself. No player need find himself or herself a bench warmer nursing a bruised self-image. Since the games are designed so that cooperation among payers is necessary to achieve the objective(s) of the game, children play together for common ends rather than against one another for mutually exclusive ends. In the process, they learn in a fun way how to become more considerate of one another, more aware of how other people are feeling, and more willing to operate in one another’s best interests.”

Rae Pica is a children’s movement specialist and the author of Your Active Child: How to Boost Physical, Emotional, and Cognitive Development through Age-Appropriate Activity (McGraw-Hill, 2003). You can visit Rae at www.movingandlearning.com.

Newborn Babies and Sleep

By Elizabeth Pantley

Congratulations on the birth of your new baby. This is a glorious time in your life. Whether this is your first baby or your fifth, you will find this a time of recovery, adjustment, sometimes confusion and frustration, but – most wonderfully – of falling in love.

Babies younger than four months old have very different sleep needs than older babies. This article will help you understand your newborn baby’s developing sleep patterns, and will help you develop reasonable expectations when it comes to your baby and sleep.

Read, Learn, and Beware of Bad Advice
babyAbsolutely everyone has an opinion about how you should handle sleep issues with your new baby. The danger to a new parent is that these tidbits of misguided advice (no matter how well-intentioned) can truly have a negative effect on our parenting skills and, by extension, our babies’ development…if we are not aware of the facts. The more knowledge you have the less likely that other people will make you doubt your parenting decisions.

When you have your facts straight, and when you have a parenting plan, you will be able to respond with confidence to those who are well-meaning but offering contrary or incorrect advice. So, your first step is to get smart! Know what you are doing, and know why you are doing it. Read books and magazines, attend classes or support groups – it all helps.

The Biology of Newborn Sleep
During the early months of your baby’s life, he sleeps when he is tired, it’s really that simple. You can do very little to force a new baby to sleep when he doesn’t want to sleep, and conversely, you can do little to wake him up when he is sleeping soundly.

A very important point to understand about newborn babies is that they have very, very tiny tummies. New babies grow rapidly, their diet is liquid, and it digests quickly. Formula digests quickly and breast milk digests even more rapidly. Although it would be nice to lay your little bundle down at a predetermined bedtime and not hear a peep from him until morning, even the most naïve among us know that this is not a realistic goal for a tiny baby. Newborns need to be fed every two to four hours – and sometimes more.

During those early months, your baby will have tremendous growth spurts that affect not only daytime, but also nighttime feeding as well, sometimes pushing that two- to four-hour schedule to a one- to two-hour schedule around the clock.

Sleeping “through the night”
You have probably heard that babies should start “sleeping through the night” at about two to four months of age. What you must understand is that, for a new baby, a five-hour stretch is a full night. Many (but nowhere near all) babies at this age can sleep uninterrupted from midnight to 5 a.m. (Not that they always do.) A far cry from what you may have thought “sleeping through the night” meant!

What’s more, while the scientific definition of “sleeping through the night” is five hours, most of us wouldn’t consider that anywhere near a full night’s sleep for ourselves. Also, some of these sleep-through-the-nighters will suddenly begin waking more frequently, and it’s often a full year or even two until your little one will settle into a mature, all-night, every night sleep pattern.

Falling Asleep at the Breast or Bottle
It is very natural for a newborn to fall asleep while sucking at the breast, a bottle, or a pacifier. When a baby always falls asleep this way, he learns to associate sucking with falling asleep; over time, he cannot fall asleep any other way. I have heard a number of sleep experts refer to this as a “negative sleep association.” I certainly disagree, and so would my baby. It is probably the most positive, natural, pleasant sleep association a baby can have. However, a large percentage of parents who are struggling with older babies who cannot fall asleep or stay asleep are fighting this natural and powerful sucking-to-sleep association.

Therefore, if you want your baby to be able to fall asleep without your help, it is essential that you sometimes let your newborn baby suck until he is sleepy, but not totally asleep. When you can, remove the breast, bottle, or pacifier from his mouth and let him finish falling asleep without something in his mouth. When you do this, your baby may resist, root, and fuss to regain the nipple. It’s perfectly okay to give him back the breast, bottle, or pacifier and start over a few minutes later. If you do this often enough, he will eventually learn how to fall asleep without sucking.

Waking for Night Feedings
Many pediatricians recommend that parents shouldn’t let a newborn sleep longer than three or four hours without feeding, and the vast majority of babies wake far more frequently than that. (There are a few exceptional babies who can go longer.) No matter what, your baby will wake up during the night. The key is to learn when you should pick her up for a night feeding and when you can let her go back to sleep on her own.

This is a time when you need to focus your instincts and intuition. This is when you should try very hard to learn how to read your baby’s signals. Here’s a tip that is critically important for you to know. Babies make many sleeping sounds, from grunts to whimpers to outright cries, and these noises don’t always signal awakening. These are what I call sleeping noises, and your baby is nearly or even totally asleep during these episodes. I remember when my first baby, Angela, was a newborn. Her cry awakened me many times, yet she was asleep in my arms before I even made it from cradle to rocking chair. She was making sleeping noises. In my desire to respond to my baby’s every cry, I actually taught her to wake up more often!

You need to listen and watch your baby carefully. Learn to differentiate between these sleeping sounds and awake and hungry sounds. If she is awake and hungry, you’ll want to feed her as quickly as possible. If you respond immediately when she is hungry, she will most likely go back to sleep quickly. But, if you let her cry escalate, she will wake herself up totally, and it will be harder and take longer for her to go back to sleep. Not to mention that you will then be wide awake, too!

Help Your Baby Distinguish Day from Night
A newborn baby sleeps about sixteen to eighteen hours per day, and this sleep is distributed evenly over six to seven brief sleep periods. You can help your baby distinguish between nighttime sleep and daytime sleep, and thus help him sleep longer periods at night.

Begin by having your baby take his daytime naps in a lit room where he can hear the noises of the day, perhaps a bassinet or cradle located in the main area of your home. Make nighttime sleep dark and quiet. You can also help your baby differentiate day naps from night sleep by using a nightly bath and a change into sleeping pajamas to signal the difference between the two.

Watch for Signs of Tiredness
One way to encourage good sleep is to get familiar with your baby’s sleepy signals and put her down to sleep as soon as she seems tired. A baby cannot put herself to sleep, nor can she understand her own sleepy signs. Yet a baby who is encouraged to stay awake when her body is craving sleep is typically an unhappy baby. Over time, this pattern develops into sleep deprivation, which further complicates your baby’s developing sleep maturity. Learn to read your baby’s sleepy signs — such as quieting down, losing interest in people and toys, and fussing — and put her to bed when that window of opportunity presents itself.

Make Yourself Comfortable
I’ve yet to hear a parent tell me that she or he loves getting up throughout the night to tend to a baby’s needs. As much as we adore our little bundles, it’s tough when you’re woken up over and over again, night after night. Since it’s a fact that your baby will be waking you up, you may as well make yourself as comfortable as possible. The first step is to learn to relax about night wakings right now. Being stressed or frustrated about having to get up won’t change a thing. The situation will improve day by day; and before you know it, your little newborn won’t be so little anymore – she’ll be walking and talking and getting into everything in sight…during the day, and sleeping peacefully all night long.

Excerpted with permission by McGraw-Hill/Contemporary Publishing from The No Cry Sleep Solution Gentle Ways to Help Your Baby Sleep Through the Night by Elizabeth Pantley, copyright 2002 Website: http://www.pantley.com/elizabeth

Early Bedtime Means Better Baby Sleep

By Elizabeth Pantley

In their efforts to encourage their baby to sleep better, one approach that many parents use is to put their baby to bed later in the evening. They think, “If he’s “really tired” he’ll sleep better, right?” Wrong! This often backfires because Baby becomes overtired, and chronically sleep-deprived.

In the majority of cases, a baby’s biological clock is preset for an early bedtime. When parents work with that time, a baby falls asleep more easily and stays asleep more peacefully. Most babies are primed to go to sleep for the night as early as 6:30 or 7:00 p.m. I often hear about how babies and toddlers have a “melt down” period at the end of the day, when they get fussy, whiny and out of sorts. I suspect that it’s simply a sign of over-tired children longing for sleep.

Early to bed, early to rise?
For babies, early to bed does not mean early to rise! Most babies sleep longer with an earlier bedtime. Many parents are afraid to put their baby to bed so early, thinking that they will then face a 5 a.m. wake up call. But keeping your little one up too late backfires, and more often, a late night is the one followed by that early morning awakening.

My youngest child, two-year-old Coleton used to go to bed at 9:30, the time when my three older children went to bed, because it was convenient for me. At that time in the evening, it would take him a long time to get settled. I never connected his inability to settle with his late bedtime. When I started putting him to bed at 7:00, he fell asleep much more quickly and slept more soundly.

What About Working Parents?
If you are a working parent, and your evening with your little one begins at 6:30 or 7:00, you may find yourself torn between keeping your baby up for some playtime and getting him right to bed. You may find, though, that when your baby goes to sleep earlier, and sleeps better, he awakens in a pleasant mood, eager to play. Because you have gotten a good night’s sleep, you can consider getting up earlier in the morning and saving some time before work to play with your baby, as an alternative to that late-evening play session. You’ll both enjoy that special morning time. Later, when your baby is consistently sleeping all night, every night, you can move bedtime a little later and judge whether the difference affects your baby’s sleep.

Finding Your Baby’s Best Bedtime
It can take some experimentation to find your baby’s best bedtime. If you have been putting your baby to bed too late in the evening, you can approach this adjustment in one of two different ways:

Adjust your baby’s bedtime to be earlier by fifteen to thirty minutes every two or three nights. Pay attention to how easily your baby falls asleep as well as his awakening time and mood to gauge the effectiveness of the changes until you settle on his best bedtime, or
Beginning at around 6:30 p.m., watch your baby closely. As soon as he exhibits any signs of tiredness (fussing, losing interest in toys, looking glazed, yawning) put him right to bed, even if his previous bedtime has been 11:00 p.m. When you do this, keep your home quiet and the baby’s room dark so that it resembles his usual environment in the middle of the night. If this bedtime is substantially earlier than usual, your baby may think he’s going down for a nap and awaken after a short snooze. If he does this, respond very quickly so that he doesn’t fully awaken. Follow your usual method for helping him fall back to sleep, such as rocking or nursing; keep the room dark and quiet as you do during the middle of the night.
Here’s what Tammy, mother of seven-month-old Brooklyn had to say about changing her baby’s bedtime, “I had been waiting until 10:00 to put Brooklyn to bed because that’s when I go to sleep. But your suggestion made so much sense that last night I put her down at 8:00. I loved having the evening to spend with my husband. We haven’t spent that much time alone together in months! And the baby actually had a better night’s sleep. I’m happy that all our needs can be met in such a pleasant way.”

It may take a week or more of adjustment to settle into a new bedtime, but once you do, you’ll find that both you and your baby are happier.

Excerpted with permission by McGraw-Hill/Contemporary Publishing from The No Cry Sleep Solution Gentle Ways to Help Your Baby Sleep Through the Night by Elizabeth Pantley, copyright 2002 Website: http://www.pantley.com/elizabeth

What is Preventing Your Baby from Sleeping Through the Night?

By Elizabeth Pantley

Here’s something that may really surprise you: As much as we may want our babies to sleep through the night, our own subconscious emotions sometimes hold us back from encouraging change in our babies’ sleeping habits. You yourself may be the very obstacle preventing a change in a routine that disrupts your life. So let’s figure out if anything is standing in your way.

Examine Your Own Needs and Goals
Today’s society leads us to believe that “normal babies” sleep through the night from about two months; my research indicates that this is more the exception than the rule. The number of families in your boat could fill a fleet of cruise ships.

“At our last day-care parent meeting, one father brought up the fact that his two-year-old daughter wasn’t sleeping through the night. I discovered that out of 24 toddlers only six stayed asleep all night long.” …Robin, mother of thirteen-month-old Alicia

You must figure out where your own problem lies. Is it in your baby’s routine, in your management of it, or simply in the minds of others? If you can honestly say you want to change your baby’s sleep habits because they are truly disruptive to you and your family, then you’re ready to make changes. But if you feel coerced into changing Baby’s patterns because Great Grandma Beulah or your friend from playgroup says that’s the way it should be, it’s time for a long, hard think.

Certainly, if your little one is waking you up every hour or two, you don’t have to think long on the question, “Is this disruptive to me?” It obviously is. However, if your baby is waking up only once or twice a night, it’s important that you determine exactly how much this pattern is disturbing to you, and decide on a realistic goal. Be honest in assessing the situation’s effect on your life. Begin today by contemplating these questions:

  • Am I content with the way things are, or am I becoming resentful, angry, or frustrated?
  • Is my baby’s nighttime routine negatively affecting my marriage, job, or relationships with my other children?
  • Is my baby happy, healthy, and seemingly well rested?
  • Am I happy, healthy, and well rested?

Once you answer these questions, you will have a better understanding of not only what is happening with regard to your baby’s sleep, but also how motivated you are to make a change.

Reluctance to Let Go of Those Nighttime Moments
A good, long, honest look into your heart may truly surprise you. You may find you actually relish those quiet night wakings when no one else is around. I remember in the middle of one night, I lay nursing Coleton by the light of the moon. The house was perfectly, peacefully quiet. As I gently stroked his downy hair and soft baby skin, I marveled at this tiny being beside me-and the thought hit me, “I love this! I love these silent moments that we share in the night.” It was then that I realized that even though I struggled through my baby’s hourly nighttime wakings, I needed to want to make a change in our night waking habits before I would see any changes in his sleeping patterns.

You may need to take a look at your own feelings. And if you find you’re truly ready to make a change, you’ll need to give yourself permission to let go of this stage of your baby’s life and move on to a different phase in your relationship. There will be lots of time to hug, cuddle, and love your little one, but you must truly feel ready to move those moments out of your sleeping time and into the light of day.

Worry About Your Baby’s Safety
We parents worry about our babies, and we should! With every night waking, as we have been tending to our child’s nightly needs, we have also been reassured that our baby is doing fine – every hour or two all night long. We get used to these checks; they provide continual reassurance of Baby’s safety.

“The first time my baby slept five straight hours, I woke up in a cold sweat. I nearly fell out of bed and ran down the hall. I was so sure that something was horribly wrong. I nearly wept when I found her sleeping peacefully.” …Azza, mother of seven-month-old Laila

Co-sleeping parents are not exempt from these fears. Even if you are sleeping right next to your baby, you’ll find that you have become used to checking on her frequently through the night. Even when she’s sleeping longer stretches, you aren’t sleeping, because you’re still on security duty. These are very normal worries, rooted in your natural instincts to protect your baby. Therefore, for you to allow your baby to sleep for longer stretches, you’ll need to find ways to feel confident that your baby is safe-all night long. Once you reassure yourself that your baby is safe while you sleep, you’ll have taken that first step toward helping her sleep all night.

Belief That Things Will Change on Their Own
You may hope, pray, and wish that one fine night, your baby will magically begin to sleep through the night. Maybe you’re crossing your fingers that he’ll just “outgrow” this stage, and you won’t have to do anything different at all. It’s a very rare night-waking baby who suddenly decides to sleep through the night all on his own. Granted, this may happen to you-but your baby may be two, three or four years old when it does! Decide now whether you have the patience to wait that long, or if you are ready to gently move the process along.

Too Fatigued to Work Toward Change
Change requires effort, and effort requires energy. In an exhausted state, we may find it easier just to keep things as they are than try something different. In other words, when Baby wakes for the fifth time that night, and I’m desperate for sleep, it’s so much easier just to resort to the easiest way to get him back to sleep (rock, nurse, or replace the pacifier) than it is to try something different. Only a parent who is truly sleep deprived can understand what I’m saying here. Others may calmly advise, “Well if things aren’t working for you, just change what you’re doing.” However, every night waking puts you in that foggy state where the only thing you crave is going back to sleep-plans and ideas seem like too much effort.

If you are to help your baby sleep all night, you will have to force yourself to make some changes and follow your plan, even in the middle of the night, even if it’s the tenth time your baby has called out for you. So, after reading this section and you’re sure you and your baby are ready, it’s time for you to make a commitment to change. That is the first important step to helping your baby sleep through the night.

Excerpted with permission by McGraw-Hill/Contemporary Publishing from The No Cry Sleep Solution Gentle Ways to Help Your Baby Sleep Through the Night by Elizabeth Pantley, copyright 2002 Website: http://www.pantley.com/elizabeth

Is Mothering Wearing You Out?

By Margaret Paul, Ph.D

I always wanted to have children and I was completely thrilled when I had my first child. Nothing, however, prepares a mother for what it’s like to be responsible for a child 24/7.

Before my son was born, I had time – time to read, to be creative, to spend time with friends, to take long baths, to spend time with my husband, to breathe.Suddenly there was no time for me. And, of course, after two more children, having any time for me became even more challenging.

That’s when I started getting sick. Not sick in the way you could name it – just sick in the way of being fatigued all the time. As much as I loved being a mother as well as continuing my practice as a psychotherapist, I was wearing out. Something had to change.

The real problem was in knowing how to take care of my children and myself, instead of just taking care of my children. I had been brought up to be a caretaker, which meant that everyone’s needs came before mine. That was really what was wearing me out. Not only that, but putting their needs before mine was creating children with entitlement issues – the more I put myself aside for them, the more they demanded and felt entitled to my time and attention.

Unfortunately, I didn’t discover this problem until my children were adolescents. By that time I was headed for serious illness. My immune system was shutting down and various doctors said I that if I didn’t change my lifestyle, I would end up with cancer or something equally serious.

It’s not easy to start to attend to yourself when you’ve always put others’ needs before your own. Yet for me it felt like a life-and-death situation. I had always been afraid that if I said “no” to my husband and children, I would discover that they really didn’t care about me. I was afraid to find out that they wouldn’t support me in learning to take care of myself. Yet I finally reached the point where I was willing to lose them rather than continue to lose myself and my health.

It was at this point that I began to develop a strong spiritual connection, and Spirit eventually guided me toward a self-healing process which we now call Inner Bonding. (For a free Inner Bonding course, see www.innerbonding.com). It was through practicing the six steps of this powerful process that I was able to start taking care of myself while I was working and taking care of my family, and my health gradually returned.

I had always had enormous compassion for others but generally lacked compassion for myself. My challenge was to turn my eyes inward to my own feelings and needs instead of always being tuned in just to others’ feelings and needs. I needed to learn to treat myself as well as I treated others. I needed to learn to stand up for myself when my family demanded that I take care of them to the detriment of myself. I needed to learn to have the courage to withstand their anger when I didn’t do just what they wanted me to do. I needed to learn to stand in my truth regarding what was loving to myself and others instead of trying to control their love with my compliance. It’s been a long and sometimes painful road, but one with great rewards.

In a session with Renee, one of my clients, she told me that she was struggling with this same issue. She was exhausted most of the time, and often felt depressed. She told me of a recent incident that had happened with her nine-year old daughter, Sarah. Renee had told Sarah that she wanted to watch a particular TV program at 8:00 that night, so Renee wanted to make sure that Sarah didn’t need anything from her after 8:00. When 8:00 came around after Renee had been spending time with Sarah, Renee said she was going to watch her TV program. Sarah said, “Mom, so the TV program is more important than I am.” Renee got confused by this, bought into the guilt, and gave into Sarah, thereby enabling Sarah’s already strong entitlement issues. Then Renee felt even more exhausted and depressed.

What Renee needed to say to Sarah was, “Honey, it is you who is being selfish in not caring about what is important to me and just wanting me to do what you want. I need you to care about me like I care about you.” Then she needed to watch her program, thus taking care of herself and at the same time role-modeling personal responsibility rather than enabling Sarah’s entitlement issue by giving herself up.

Learning to take care of ourselves is essential for our own health and the health of our family.

 

Margaret Paul, Ph.D. is the best-selling author and co-author of eight books, including “Do I Have To Give Up Me To Be Loved By You?”, “Do I Have To Give Up Me To Be Loved By My Kids?”, “Healing Your Aloneness”,”Inner Bonding”, and “Do I Have To Give Up Me To Be Loved By God?” Visit her web site for a FREE Inner Bonding course: http://www.innerbonding.com or mailto:margaret@innerbonding.com

Grading Your Child’s Friends

By Ron Huxley, LMFT

Peer Grading is a parenting tool that parents use to grade their child’s friends to protect them from negative influences. As children mature they become more other-centered versus parent-centered. They are more heavily influenced by the peer group and its culture than that of their parents. The believe that parents cannot understand what they are experiencing as teens and pre-teens. If some ways this is true. Today’s adolescent experiences more “adult-like” influences and decisions then most parents did when they were their child’s age. Today’s adolescent is faced with making decisions around sex, drugs, and antisocial behavior much earlier then ever before. But, parents also have a better perspective on right and wrong then do their children, regardless of what their child might believe.

This tool is used primarily as a protection for children. It is not meant to be a judgmental instrument to increase the parent-child gap. It may be necessary for parents to not disclose this tool to their children simply because they might misconstrue what parents are trying to do. Parents are simply looking at their child’s peers to determine how powerful and how positive or negative an influence that child is to their own child. An “A” grade would include peers who demonstrates behavior consistent with parents own set of values and behaviors. They are children that parents have a lot of knowledge about and have observed their behavior in a lot of diverse situations. They have shown that they do well in school, respect adults, participate in their community, and resist negative influences themselves. Consequently, they are peers with whom parents allow their children to have a lot of freedom and less supervision when with them. “B” grade peers are children with whom parents have little knowledge about. They appear to solid children with good social values and appropriate behavior but have not been observed acting in many different situations. Consequently, parents allow less freedom and provide more supervision than “A” grade children. “C” grade peers are children with whom parents have never or rarely observed their values and behaviors or parents are a little unsure about their type of influence on their children. More interaction, under parental supervision is necessary. “D” grade peers are children who have demonstrated a negative influence on a parent’s child and with whom their child is allowed little, if any interaction, unless closely supervised. “F” grade peers are children with whom parents do not allow any interaction with what-so-ever. These are peers who have openly displayed antisocial behavior and are engaging in behavior that is not consistent with parents own values.

It is important to remember that these grades are not life long brands. A child’s peers can change grades after they have demonstrated more appropriate social behavior. They can also drop in grades based on their decisions and actions. The higher the grade the less supervision and the more freedom a parent’s allows their child to have with him or her. It may be insightful for parents to ask themselves: “How would other parents grade my child as a peer?” Additionally, peer grading has nothing to do with a peers race or economic background. While they might affect opportunities, they have nothing to do with values or behaviors. It is simply a tool to help parents protect their child from negative influences by controlling the amount and type of interaction with other children who may have a negative impact on their own children.

 

Ron Huxley is a licensed child and family therapist and the founder of thewww.parentingtoolbox.com and www.angertoolbox.com websites. Get a “Parents Guide to Surviving the Holidays” ebook now or join one of his many newsletters athttp://parentingtoolbox.com/join.html

Dealing with Unwanted Parenting Advice

By Elizabeth Pantley
Author of Gentle Baby Care

“Help! I’m getting so frustrated with the endless stream of advice I get from my mother-in-law and brother! No matter what I do, I’m doing it wrong. I love them both, but how do I get them to stop dispensing all this unwanted advice?”

Just as your baby is an important part of your life, he is also important to others. People who care about your baby are bonded to you and your child in a special way that invites their counsel. Knowing this may give you a reason to handle the interference gently, in a way that leaves everyone’s feelings intact.

Regardless of the advice, it is your baby, and in the end, you will raise your child the way that you think best. So it’s rarely worth creating a war over a well-meaning person’s comments. You can respond to unwanted advice in a variety of ways:

Listen first
It’s natural to be defensive if you feel that someone is judging you; but chances are you are not being criticized; rather, the other person is sharing what they feel to be valuable insight. Try to listen – you may just learn something valuable.

Disregard
If you know that there is no convincing the other person to change her mind, simply smile, nod, and make a non-committal response, such as, “Interesting!” Then go about your own business…your way.

Agree
You might find one part of the advice that you agree with. If you can, provide wholehearted agreement on that topic.

Pick your battles
If your mother-in-law insists that Baby wear a hat on your walk to the park, go ahead and pop one on his head. This won’t have any long-term effects except that of placating her. However, don’t capitulate on issues that are important to you or the health or well-being of your child.

Steer clear of the topic
If your brother is pressuring you to let your baby cry to sleep, but you would never do that, then don’t complain to him about your baby getting you up five times the night before. If he brings up the topic, then distraction is definitely in order, such as, “Would you like a cup of coffee?”

Educate yourself
Knowledge is power; protect yourself and your sanity by reading up on your parenting choices. Rely on the confidence that you are doing your best for your baby.

Educate the other person
If your “teacher” is imparting information that you know to be outdated or wrong, share what you’ve learned on the topic. You may be able to open the other person’s mind. Refer to a study, book, or report that you have read.

Quote a doctor
Many people accept a point of view if a professional has validated it. If your own pediatrician agrees with your position, say, “My doctor said to wait until she’s at least six months before starting solids.” If your own doctor doesn’t back your view on that issue, then refer to another doctor – perhaps the author of a baby care book.

Be vague
You can avoid confrontation with an elusive response. For example, if your sister asks if you’ve started potty training yet (but you are many months away from even starting the process), you can answer with, “We’re moving in that direction.”

Ask for advice!
Your friendly counselor is possibly an expert on a few issues that you can agree on. Search out these points and invite guidance. She’ll be happy that she is helping you, and you’ll be happy you have a way to avoid a showdown about topics that you don’t agree on.

Memorize a standard response
Here’s a comment that can be said in response to almost any piece of advice: “This may not be the right way for you, but it’s the right way for me.”

Be honest
Try being honest about your feelings. Pick a time free of distractions and choose your words carefully, such as, “I know how much you love Harry, and I’m glad you spend so much time with him. I know you think you’re helping me when you give me advice about this, but I’m comfortable with my own approach, and I’d really appreciate if you’d understand that.”

Find a mediator
If the situation is putting a strain on your relationship with the advice-giver, you may want to ask another person to step in for you.

Search out like-minded friends
Join a support group or on-line club with people who share your parenting philosophies. Talking with others who are raising their babies in a way that is similar to your own can give you the strength to face people who don’t understand your viewpoints.

This article is an excerpt from Gentle Baby Care by Elizabeth Pantley. (McGraw-Hill, 2003)
Reprinted with permission.

Going Visiting With Your Baby

By Elizabeth Pantley
Author of Gentle Baby Care

Babies love new places! There’s so much to investigate and new things to touch. But many people aren’t too happy to have your little one crawling or toddling freely about the house exploring everything in sight. While you think its adorable that Baby found the Tupperware, your host may not think it’s cute that her tidy cabinet has been rearranged by sticky baby hands. If your host has a big heart she’ll let you know that your baby’s exploring is okay. But even then, you run the risk of your baby breaking or losing something.

Bring toys!
The best thing you can do is bring along a bag of toys to seize your child’s attention. You can purchase new items, or dig through your baby’s toy box to put together a collection of forgotten favorites. Avoid bringing loud toys that may annoy others, and bring toys that will hold your baby’s attention for a long time.

Bring your own supplies
Think about things that keep your baby happy at home or in the car, and bring these with you, such as your sling, a favorite blanket, a Boppy pillow, or a special lovey. If you are prepared, then your baby will be more content.

Safety issues
Visits with a mobile baby are tricky, especially if you’re at a home that isn’t childproof. If you want to avoid physically shadowing your baby around the house, bring a few safety tools, such as outlet plugs and a folding baby gate to section off stairways. When you arrive, assess the area and ask if chemicals, medications, or fragile vases can be put away during your visit. Remember that you’re certain to miss some hazards, so keep a close eye on Baby during your entire visit.

Food and eating
Whether your baby is new to solid food or has been eating it for a while, bring along a few favorites. If you don’t bring snacks with you, your baby may not touch the dinner that’s served and may cry for her favorite crackers. In any case, don’t feel you must push your baby to try something new to the point of a temper tantrum. Politely requesting something simple like toast or cheese is perfectly okay and will be welcomed more than a loud and tense test of parent/child wills.

What if you’re breastfeeding and your baby is hungry?
Do what comes naturally: Feed him! Breastfeeding is the most natural way to feed a baby. If your hosts aren’t used to seeing a mother breastfeed, then you’re doing our world a favor by introducing one more person to the beauty of baby feeding.

Be thoughtful about other’s sensitivities
This doesn’t mean you need to hide, but your efforts to be discreet are a courtesy for those around you and may help others feel more comfortable about seeing you breastfeeding your baby. Using a sling, blanket or nursing shirt are easy ways to accomplish this.

Changing Diapers
Bring a changing pad; this will protect the surface you’re using. If you don’t have a pad, ask for a towel. Ask where your host prefers that you change the baby, or suggest a location: “Do you mind if I lay the towel on your bed to change the baby?” Bring along (or ask to use) plastic bags to store messy diapers. Make sure that they are sealed so that they don’t create odors. If you use disposables, put used diapers in a sealed bag and offer to take them out to the trash. People don’t like stinky diapers in their bathroom trash.

Sleeping and napping
If your little one sleeps in a cradle or crib you may want to bring along a portable crib. If you don’t have one, or if you co-sleep at home, this is a time when “anything goes.” If your baby will sleep in your arms, then go ahead and enjoy an in-arms nap. If your baby is flexible, put a blanket on the floor and set up a sleeping nest. Don’t leave Baby alone, since the area probably isn’t childproof. A great nap solution is to bring your car seat into the house and strap your baby in securely, or fashion a bed from a large box or an empty dresser drawer. Keep your baby close by or check on her frequently.

For co-sleepers, your first order of business is to create a safe sleeping place. Inspect the furniture placement in the bedroom. If you know that pushing the bed against the wall would make the situation safer for your baby, then politely explain to your host. Let her know that you’ll move it back before you leave (and then remember to do so).

Be prepared for anything
Life with a baby is filled with surprises. Take a deep breath, and do your best to keep your baby content….and if things don’t go as well as you’d hoped, remind yourself that “This too shall pass.”

Show your appreciation
If you’ve had an overnight stay, if your host is helpful, or if you made special requests during your stay, remember to send a thank you note that expresses your appreciation.

This article is an excerpt from Gentle Baby Care by Elizabeth Pantley. (McGraw-Hill, 2003)
Reprinted with permission.

Stop the Diaper Changing Battles

By Elizabeth Pantley
Author of Gentle Baby Care

Babies are little bundles of energy! They don’t want to lie still to have their diapers changed. They cry, fuss, or even crawl away. A simple issue can turn into a major tug-of-war between parent and baby.

Diaper changing as a ritual
The position of parent and baby during a diaper change is perfect for creating a bonding experience between you. You are leaning over your baby, and your face is at the perfect arms-length distance for engaging eye contact and communication. What’s more, this golden opportunity presents itself many times during each day; no matter how busy you both get, you have a few moments of quiet connection. It’s too valuable a ritual to treat it as simply maintenance.

Learning about your baby
Diapering offers a perfect opportunity for you to truly absorb your baby’s cues and signals. You’ll learn how his little body works, what tickles him, what causes those tiny goose bumps. As you lift, move, and touch your baby, your hands will learn the map of his body and what’s normal for him. This is important because it will enable you to easily decipher any physical changes that need attention.

Developing trust
Regular diaper changes create rhythm in your baby’s world and afford the sense that the world is safe and dependable. They are regular and consistent episodes in days that may not always be predictable. Your loving touches teach your baby that he is valued, and your gentle care teaches him that he is respected.

A learning experience for your baby
Your baby does a lot of learning during diaper changes. It’s one of the few times that she actually sees her own body without clothes, when she can feel her complete movements without a wad of diaper between her legs. Diaper-off time is a great chance for her to stretch her limbs and learn how they move.

During changing time, your baby is also a captive audience to your voice, so she can focus on what you are saying and how you are saying it – an important component of her language learning process. Likewise, for a precious few minutes, you are her captive audience, so you can focus on what she’s saying and how she is saying it – crucial to the growth of your relationship.

What your baby thinks and feels
Many active babies could not care less if their diapers are clean. They’re too busy to concern themselves with such trivial issues. It may be important to you, but it’s not a priority for your child.

Diaper rash or uncomfortable diapers (wrong size or bad fit) can make him dread diaper changes, so check these first. Once you’re sure all the practical issues are covered, make a few adjustments in this unavoidable process to make it more enjoyable.

Take a deep breath
Given the number of diapers you have to change, it’s possible that what used to be a pleasant experience for you has gotten to be routine, or even worse, a hassle. When parents approach diaper changing in a brisk, no-nonsense way, it isn’t any fun for Baby. Try to reconnect with the bonding experience that diaper changing can be — a moment of calm in a busy day when you share one-on-one time with your baby.

Have some fun
This is a great time to sing songs, blow tummy raspberries, or do some tickle and play. A little fun might take the dread out of diaper changes for both of you. A game that stays fresh for a long time is “hide the diaper.” Put a new diaper on your head, on your shoulder, or tucked in your shirt and ask, “Where’s the diaper? I can’t find it!” A fun twist is to give the diaper a name and a silly voice, and use it as a puppet. Let the diaper call your child to the changing station and have it talk to him as you change it. (If you get tired of making Mister Diaper talk, just remember what it was like before you tried the idea.)

Use distraction
Keep a flashlight with your changing supplies and let your baby play with it while you change him. Some kids’ flashlights have a button to change the color of the light, or shape of the ray. Call this his “diaper flashlight” and put it away when the change is complete. You may find a different type of special toy that appeals to your little one, or even a basket of small interesting toys. If you reserve these only for diaper time, they can retain their novelty for a long time.

Try a stand-up diaper
If your baby’s diaper is just wet (not messy), try letting her stand up while you do a quick change. If you’re using cloth diapers, have one leg pre-pinned so that you can slide it on like pants, or opt for pre-fitted diapers that don’t require pins.

Time to potty train?
If your child is old enough and seems ready for the next step, consider potty training.

 This article is an excerpt from Gentle Baby Care by Elizabeth Pantley. (McGraw-Hill, 2003) 

Reprinted with permission.

Just What Exactly Is Postpartum Depression?

By Sara Duggan

Hello my name is Sara and I am the proud Mommie of 2 beautiful boys. I enjoy my job very much. I can say that now with much confidence, but there was a time that I couldn’t. There was a time that I despised being a Mommie. I can remember that just the touch of my children sent me into a rage. This made me feel very sad and empty. Although I had these negative feelings, somewhere deep inside of me I still wanted, with all my heart to be the Mommie I was meant to be to my two little boys. I didn’t know what was going on with me. I read up on Postpartum Depression prior to the birth of my boys but what I was going through did not match up to what I had read.

I thought I would be a little flighty, weepy, and sad, but I also thought that it would go away soon after it came. Another thing I didn’t know is that Postpartum Depression can happen anytime within the first year after the birth of your child. (I didn’t experience postpartum depression with my second child until about 3months postpartum.)

Many people, like myself, think they know what postpartum depression is but, unless you have lived it, you will never know. Most women experience the “baby blues” which is crying and a little mood swings. They usually occur anywhere between 3 days to 2 weeks after she has the baby. It soon subsides and she starts to feel like herself again.

Postpartum Depression is something completely different. It is like a deep hole that you sink into and can’t get out of. It is feeling like you are unworthy to be a mom or to be alive. It is feeling like everything you say and do is wrong. It is not being able to care for your hygiene needs or the needs of your baby. It is not being able to get out of bed in the morning; the afternoon, the evening, and pretty soon, you’re just not getting out of bed. It is thinking that your children/husband/partner will be better off without you in their life. It is wishing you did not have this baby to care for. It is feeling like running away. It is angry outbursts and loving caresses. It is not wanting to hold the baby, hear the baby, or love the baby.

Sometimes it is intense fear of going outside, paranoia, or fearing someone is trying to take your child away from you. It could also be overly obsessing over the cleanliness and health of you and your child, to the point where you do not feed or care for the both of you properly.

Sometimes someone may look like a “together” Mommie, doing all the “things” she is supposed to be doing, but on the inside she is a wreck about to explode. All of these and more go on inside the head of a Mommie experiencing Postpartum Depression. More than likely, she is not aware of these feelings or does not completely understand what is going on inside of her. Is it normal? Should she tell someone? What if they think she is crazy? Or worse, What if they think she is a bad Mommie and take her baby away?

It is wise to note that PPD can happen anywhere from 3 days after the baby is born to 1 year postpartum. A mom can do well for the first 5 or 6 months postpartum and fall into a deep depression. Also, if you have had PPD with previous pregnancies, there is a chance that you will have it in subsequent pregnancies. Make sure you let your care provider know if you have had PPD in the past and they can curtail the symptoms before they cause deep depression. There are medications available today that are safe to take while breastfeeding. So don’t let that keep you from taking care of you. After all, if you take care of you, you’ll be able to care for your baby!

Although this is a dark place, with help, the time you are in the “hole” is lessened with medication and talk therapy things can and will get better. PPD affects a lot more women than most are willing to admit. It is very normal. It is a sickness and needs to be treated right away at the first signs. For a preliminary test to see if you are risk for Postpartum Depression, visithttp://postpartumstress.com/ppd_risk__assessment_during.html

It is also helpful for husbands/partners to read the questions because sometimes it is they who recognize the signs first. Contact your doctor or therapist when you feel these symptoms. Sometimes all you need is talk therapy and a support group. Other times medicine may be necessary to get your hormones to balance out. For help online go to http://www.ppdsupportpage.com

Another illness likely to appear after the birth of the baby is Postpartum Psychosis. This is a very dangerous disorder. It can occur from 3 days to about 2 weeks postpartum. Its symptoms include paranoia, delusions, and hallucinations. IT IS IMPERATIVE THAT YOU GET THE MOTHER TO A DOCTOR OR AN EMERGENCY ROOM. This is nothing to take lightly. She could harm herself or others, including her children.

Having said all this, I would like to add, that PPD is very treatable. The sooner it is noticed and treated the sooner the mom will feel better. You can get past it. You can see the light at the end of the “hole” and you can get out. I am an example of this.

One more thing before I close, most women, about 80%, have baby blues and they go away within 2 – 3 weeks. Some even experience a heightened time of awareness and clearness. They feel Good and Happy with Mommiehood.

Something that you may want to keep in mind when preparing for the birth of your child is a Postpartum Doula. What is a Postpartum Doula you may be asking? Well, it is someone specially trained to support, encourage, and educate the Mommie during her postpartum period. You can check out the National association of Postpartum Care Services NAPCS for recommended certified doulas.

A postpartum doula will provide the Mommie with physical support, emotional support and household support. Unlike the Baby nurse, who is there for the babies needs, a Postpartum Doula is there for the Mommie. However, Postpartum Doula’s do not diagnose medical conditions for the Mommie or the baby, but they will refer them to a healthcare provider. Postpartum Doula’s do not take over the care of the baby, but assists the Mommie, in learning to care for her and her baby’s needs.

To better understand the differences between the “baby blues”, “Postpartum Depression” and Postpartum Psychosis, visithttp://www.geocities.com/mommie_care/defineppd.html where you will find my Definition of Terms.

Sara Duggan is the proud Mommie of Noah and Jonah. She is the wife of Terrence, her best friend. She owns MommieCare, a place for Mommies to turn to when they need information or products to enable them be the BEST they can be. She is a Volunteer Doula and plans on opening a Volunteer Postpartum Doula Practice in the Near Future. For more information click here

How to Have a Happy Marriage When You’re Busy Being Parents

Is your marriage everything you ever hoped it could be? Or has it been pushed down your list of priorities since having children? Let’s face it, parenthood is a full-time job, and it dramatically changes your marriage relationship. But marriage is the foundation upon which your entire family is structured. If your marriage is strong, your whole family will be strong; your life will be more peaceful, you’ll be a better parent, and you’ll, quite simply, have more fun in your life.

Make a commitment
To create or maintain a strong marriage you will have to take the first critical step: You must be willing to put time, effort and thought into nurturing your marriage. The ideas that follow will help you follow through on this commitment and will put new life and meaning into your marriage. A wonderful thing may happen. You may fall in love with your spouse all over again. In addition, your children will greatly benefit from your stronger relationship. Children feel secure when they know that Mom and Dad love each other-particularly in today’s world, where 50 percent of marriages end in divorce; half of your children’s friends have gone, or are going through a divorce; or maybe it’s your kids who have survived a divorce and are now living in a new family arrangement. Your children need daily proof that their family life is stable and predictable. When you make a commitment to your marriage, your children will feel the difference. No, they won’t suffer from neglect! They’ll blossom when your marriage-and their homelife-is thriving.

The surprising secret is that this doesn’t have to take any extra time in your already busy schedule. Just a change in attitude plus a committed focus can yield a stronger, happier marriage.

So here’s my challenge to you. Read the following suggestions and apply them in your marriage for the next 30 days. Then evaluate your marriage. I guarantee you’ll both be happier.

Look for the good, overlook the bad
You married this person for many good reasons. Your partner has many wonderful qualities. Your first step in adding sizzle to your marriage is to look for the good and overlook the bad.

Make it a habit to ignore the little annoying things – dirty socks on the floor, a day-old coffee cup on the counter, worn out flannel pajamas, an inelegant burp at the dinner table – and choose instead to search for those things that make you smile: the way he rolls on the floor with the baby; the fact that she made your favorite cookies, the peace in knowing someone so well that you can wear your worn out flannels or burp at the table.

Give two compliments every day
Now that you’ve committed to seeing the good in your partner, it’s time to say it! This is a golden key to your mate’s heart. Our world is so full of negative input, and we so rarely get compliments from other people. When we do get a compliment, it not only makes us feel great about ourselves, it actually makes us feel great about the person giving the compliment! Think about it! When your honey says, “You’re the best. I’m so glad I married you.” It not only makes you feel loved, it makes you feel more loving.

Compliments are easy to give, take such a little bit of time, and they’re free. Compliments are powerful; you just have to make the effort to say them. Anything works: “Dinner was great, you make my favorite sauce.” “Thanks for picking up the cleaning. It was very thoughtful, you saved me a trip.” “That sweater looks great on you.”

Play nice
That may sound funny to you, but think about it. How many times do you see — or experience — partners treating each other in impolite, harsh ways that they’d never even treat a friend? Sometimes we take our partners for granted and unintentionally display rudeness. As the saying goes, if you have a choice between being right and being nice, just choose to be nice. Or to put this in the wise words of Bambi’s friend Thumper, the bunny rabbit – “If you can’t say somethin’ nice don’t say nothin’ at all.”

Pick your battles
How often have you heard this advice about parenting? This is great advice for child-rearing-and it’s great advice to follow in your marriage as well. In any human relationship there will be disagreement and conflict. The key here is to decide which issues are worth pursuing and which are better off ignored. By doing this, you’ll find much less negative energy between you.

From now on, anytime you feel annoyed, take a minute to examine the issue at hand, and ask yourself a few questions. “How important is this?” “Is this worth picking a fight over?” “What would be the benefit of choosing this battle versus letting it go?”

The 60 second cuddle
You can often identify a newly married couple just by how much they touch each other – holding hands, sitting close, touching arms, kissing – just as you can spot an “oldly-married” couple by how little they touch. Mothers, in particular, often have less need for physical contact with their partners because their babies and young children provide so much opportunity for touch and cuddling that day’s end finds them “touched fulfilled”. So here’s a simple reminder: make the effort to touch your spouse more often. A pat, a hug, a kiss, a shoulder massage – the good feeling it produces for both of you far outweighs the effort.

Here’s the deal: Whenever you’ve been apart make it a rule that you will take just 60 seconds to cuddle, touch and connect. This can be addictive! If you follow this advice soon you’ll find yourselves touching each other more often, and increasing the romantic aspect of your relationship.

Spend more time talking to and listening to your partner
I don’t mean, “Remember to pick up Jimmy’s soccer uniform.” Or “I have a PTA meeting tonight.” Rather, get into the habit of sharing your thoughts about what you read in the paper, what you watch on TV, your hopes, your dreams, your concerns. Take a special interest in those things that your spouse is interested in and ask questions. And then listen to the answers.

Spend time with your spouse
It can be very difficult for your marriage to thrive if you spend all your time being “Mommy” and “Daddy”. You need to spend regular time as “Husband” and “Wife”. This doesn’t mean you have to take a two-week vacation in Hawaii. (Although that might be nice, too!) Just take small daily snippets of time when you can enjoy uninterrupted conversation, or even just quiet companionship, without a baby on your hip, a child tugging your shirtsleeve or a teenager begging for the car keys. A daily morning walk around the block or a shared cup of tea after all the children are in bed might work wonders to re-connect you to each other. And yes, it’s quite fine to talk about your children when you’re spending your time together, because, after all, your children are one of the most important connections you have in your relationship.

When you and your spouse regularly connect in a way that nurtures your relationship, you may find a renewed love between you, as well as a refreshed vigor that will allow you to be a better, more loving parent. You owe it to yourself – and to your kids – to nurture your relationship.

So take my challenge and use these ideas for the next 30 days. And watch your marriage take on a whole new glow.

Parts of this article are excerpted with permission from books by Elizabeth Pantley:Kid Cooperation: How to Stop Yelling, Nagging and Pleading and Get Kids to Cooperate and Hidden Messages: What Our Words and Actions are Really Telling Our Children http://www.pantley.com/elizabeth by New Harbinger Publications, Inc. and by McGraw-Hill/Contemporary

Grow a Successful Child

by Colleen Langenfeld

As parents, we all want to grow happy, healthy children. Unfortunately, parenting does not come with a guarantee, but there are some practical guidelines we can follow that will point our children in the right direction. Here are the suggestions our family has used in our continuing goal of raising six confident, competent adults (four children and two parents!).

We’re in this for the long haul.

As a parent, we are given a long-time perspective just by giving birth. The future stretches out l-o-n-g and fearful in front of us. But kids have no such perspective. Teaching them about cause and effect, in other words, consequences, can help them understand that their thoughts, words and actions, big and small, have meaning and future impact.

We’re in this together.

Children are astonishingly selfish, but often not intentionally so. It’s just the human condition. Part of parenting is to provide them with opportunities to be around others who are different than they are. Encouraging them (and participating with them) to help others will show them that we all must get along with each other and it’s not necessary for us all to be the same. The ability to make and maintain friendships is not just fun, it’s vital.

Stability.

Everyone needs stability…not to be confused with a rut! Stability means you can generally count on the people and situations around you, while understanding that life doesn’t hand out guarantees. Stability usually comes from the parents, who can only provide as much stability as they currently have themselves. In other words, if your marriage is on shaky ground, it’s going to be very difficult to provide the stability your children need. That is why it’s often said that the best thing a man can do for his kids is to love their mother. And vice versa.

Life is hard.

This is a fact and our children need to hear it from us first. However, it’s a difficult fact and if we as adults are struggling with this reality, we’re going to find it impossible to share it with our kids. The funny thing is, though, that children can often receive difficult facts easier than we can. All of our children are bright and observant in their own ways, so the truth is that they already know a lot about how life works; they just need help articulating and integrating it. That’s where we come in as parents. Provide your children with fascinating stories of inspiring people who have overcome great obstacles and made a difference in our world. After all, it’s easy to FEEL life is bad; the challenge is to DECIDE that life is good!

Control.

Once we get hold of the truth that life is difficult, the issue of control takes on new meaning. How much control do we really have over our lives? What does that control look like? Often, these are personal questions to be wrestled with, but psychiatrists generally tell us that an internal locus of control is necessary for healthy mental and emotional development. That means that we need to believe we are able to exert a certain amount of control over our lives. This leads us to….

Tools.

As parents, we can introduce a variety of tools to our children as they grow. We exercise control over our lives and build a bright future for ourselves to the extent that we believe such a thing is possible. A strong grounding in the tools available to do that will take our children a long way. Goal-setting, life planning, self-discipline, high expectations, and spiritual development are all effective tools that require practice and guidance to be the life-long habits that will benefit our children the most.

The Five R’s.

We all know about the importance of academics in our children’s future. Reading, writing and ‘rithmetic (math) along with other academics will give our children a strong foundation for the future. However, if we stop there we’ve only developed part of a human being. Respect and responsibility go hand in hand with academics to raise a child who is not only smart, but also able to work productively and happily with the people around him and honestly like himself, too.

Balance.

Ideally, life shouldn’t be too hard or too easy. Ideally. As parents, we can sometimes structure the microcosm of our homes to fill out those places our children need to work on. Appropriate challenges are vital to growing in maturity, but the overwhelmed child stops growing and quits. As long as your children know you are watching over them constantly and that you genuinely care for them, they will usually handle life’s jostling amazingly well. Teach them to study hard, work hard, play hard and rest hard. Raising our children will always have its share of frustrating obstacles and exhilarating peaks. It’s the one job that we cannot go back and do over, so the stakes are high. And the rewards…fantastic!

Colleen Langenfeld delivers deals, tips and creative resources to working moms who want the most out of their homes, families and careers at http://www.paintedgold.com . Sign up for our free newsletter and get an online Creativity Toolkit as our gift to you!

Pregnancy Week 40

It is now 39 weeks from your last menstrual period. Your baby is now at 37 weeks gestation and is almost 14 inches long from crown to rump (19 inches from head to toe) and weighs about 7 pounds.

The vernix that covered your baby’s body is mostly gone now.

WOW! Your baby has grown from one tiny little cell to over 200 million! Your baby will be born when he or he is ready — maybe as much as two weeks from now. Only a very small percentage (about 5%) of babies are born on their due date.

Advice for Mom

If you are planning to breastfeed, remember it is not instinctual. Remember that it might take a little time for you and your baby to adjust to each other. Seek support and guidance.

Note any passing of fluid and notify your doctor immediately.

Congratulations! You will be holding your baby in your arms in no time!

Find out what to expect for your first week home with your baby!

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