raisingkidswithlove

You don't have to be perfect to be the perfect parent!

How do you play with a toddler?


“I think of play as a toddler’s number one essential vitamin.  He needs large doses of it every day.  Play:  Thrills the senses.  Helps toddlers master movement.  Stretches the mind.  Stimulates language use.  Boosts friend-making skills.  Stimulates the immune system.  Builds self-confidence.  Improves nighttime sleeping.”

Dr. Harvey Karp, MD  The Happiest Toddler on the Block                                                   

Toddlers love to play, and the fact is, they must play! Play is the basis of learning for a toddler.  So yes, when a toddler squirts a banana out between his fingers, there is learning going on!  Toddlers learn how to manipulate their world through play…and one of the biggest parenting responsibilities is to provide opportunities for your child to have free play.  Developmentally many toddlers have separation anxiety, so they want to be near you when they play, but toddlers do not need you to lead their play.  Play for a toddler is based on exploration.  Too often parents want to “show” a toddler how to play…after all we know how that toy works, we read the directions!  Toddlers enjoy play more and learn more when they figure out their own “right way” to play with a toy; and it often is different from the directions.  The process of discovery through play is the tool to learning.

So how do you play with a toddler?  Here are a few suggestions:

  • Give your toddler physical help when needed.  Often toddlers know what they want to do, but don’t have the gross or fine motor control to actually act out their plan.  This will often lead to frustration.  A parent can help but not complete  a task of play for the toddler.  Example:  A toddler may want you to show them how to fill a  bucket to make a sand castle, but doesn’t want you to guide the entire process.  I always had to remind my builder husband of this…he wanted to build the castle!
  • Be a partner.  Many games need a partner.  A toddler can’t play ball without someone rolling or tossing the ball to him.  Let your toddler play the game until he or she is finished–not you.  Repeating a game many times is how a toddler masters a skill.  Don’t toss a ball a few times and quit when you are  bored!  Over and over again is how play works for a toddler!
  • Demonstrate.  A toddler will like to be given demonstrations on how things work or even suggestions.  Let your child be free to use your suggestion or not.  Do not interrupt his play to bring another idea or “show you how to do it”.  Let your toddler lead the play.
  • Help with concentration.  A toddler’s attention span is only a few minutes especially if the play involves sitting still.  If a parent sits with a toddler to talk, and encourage during a task, then the toddler will be able to  concentrate longer and might be able to complete a difficult task like a puzzle.  Encourage but don’t do it for your toddler.
  • Help your toddler play with others.  Toddlers will enjoy playing next to other children not really with other children.  Parallel play is common at this age.  Children will play next to each other without really cooperating.  Toddlers are not developmentally mature enough to be left with another child to “fight it out”.  They are not capable of sharing or playing fair without help.  Give two toddlers similar materials or toys and let them play as each of them wishes without interference from each other.  Eventually toddlers will  begin to talk to each other, and a friendship will begin to develop.  Often it is helpful for a toddler to play with older children too.   Older children provide good examples of imaginative play, problem solving, sharing and it helps the older child develop leadership skills too.  Guide your toddler in sharing…show them how to do it.  Eventually they will develop the capacity to share, but only after being shown many times.
  •   Be a good role model for your child when you play.  Ask if you may take a toy and use the words please and thank you.  When your toddler shares with you, praise your child for good sharing.  Choose cooperative games like playing ball, and other activities that take turns.  This helps teach a toddler good social skills        necessary for cooperative play.  Be patient, your child will be capable of sharing and playing with other children some time between the age or 2 and 3, if you have given your toddler the opportunity to develop the skill!
  • Beginning at 18 months encourage imitative and imaginative pretend play.  This is a very important step for your toddler.  Your child will start to imitate important people in his or her life, that would be you!!  Soon that play will change from simply imitating to imaginative play.  Your toddler will take a block and pretend it is a cell phone, or will play “house” with your pots and pans.  This starts symbolic thinking which is very important in developing math and reading skills later.  Imaginative play also teaches empathy…it helps a child start to learn how others feel.  It is fine for your little boy to play pretend with dolls and for your little girl to play pretend with trucks!!  Imaginative play also improves language.  Listen to your toddler, he will self talk as he pretends and will often tell you what to say when you are playing with him!  Join in the conversations!
  • Let your toddler play with safe every day items.  We all know it…your child’s favorite toy may just be the plastic containers in the kitchen, the laundry basket, a silky scarf, or a box!  Expensive toys really are not needed…your imaginative, creative toddler will play with every day things and enjoy it!  These items spark creativity and imagination, so save some money and encourage this!  Remember, a blanket over a card table works just as well as that expensive play house!
  • Get a little messy!  Toddlers love sensory play.  Get out the water, the finger paints, the pudding, the play dough, put on an apron and have fun!  Toddlers need messy creative play.  This will bring out the kid in you too!

So playing with your child is not rocket science.  It is letting your child discover his or her world safely and creatively.  So, sit on the floor, watch your toddler, participate in the play your toddler leads, keep the TV off, and get the plastic kitchen containers out and maybe a little pudding paint…it is going to be a fun day!

Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.

Cindy

Infants need play time too!


You are your baby’s first toy! 

Play time is important for infants too!  Infants play by moving, by looking (especially you and that funny face), by exploring with hands, feet, and mouth, and by interacting physically (a little tickle), emotionally, and verbally.  The time your baby spends playing with you is invaluable.  You don’t have to “teach” as you play, your baby is learning by just interacting with you!  You are your baby’s favorite toy! 

Let your baby look at you! 

Your baby is completely enthralled with YOU!  Look at your baby and make silly faces.  You will be amazed by your sweet baby trying to imitate some of your silly faces!  Smile, coo, stick your tongue out…your baby will love it! If your baby keeps looking away, then he or she may have had enough of your silly face for a while, be careful not to over stimulate. This little game stimulates your baby’s social, visual, and emotional development.  This teaches your baby ways to seek and receive your attention and affection.  Who knew that you could be entertained by just looking at your baby!  You and Dad have a new evening entertainment!

Play with touch!

Who doesn’t want to touch that soft baby skin?  Touch your little one with different textures.  Tissues, a blanket, the tip of your finger, a cotton ball…explore different touches across your baby’s tummy or cheeks.  Talking makes this even more fun for your baby.  “Doesn’t that tickle? OOOh feel good?”  Watch your baby and you will be able to tell what his favorite is.  Soon your little one will start to kick and get excited when you just start to touch his little belly.  Touch teaches sensory awareness, verbal interaction and body awareness.

Give your baby something to look at.

A mobile is a great first toy for your child.  It can be colorful or black and white with some accents of red, but your baby will love watching it!  Be sure to take the mobile down once your child can reach it or is starting to try to sit up.  The mobile provides visual stimulation and spatial awareness for your baby.

Try a little game of “The Voice”.

No, you can’t tell if your baby has a singing voice yet, 🙂  but your little one loves the sound of your voice.  He or she has heard your voice even before birth!  Put your baby in the center of the room and walk around the room singing and talking or making funny noises.  Your baby will begin to look for where you are!  Combine a little “Peekaboo” with it!  Your baby will love it.  This will help your baby develop listening skills and it helps develop a sense of trust in you as you disappear and come back!

Take your child on a tour.

Your home and backyard may be familiar to you, but your baby will love the change in scenery.  Carry your baby around the house and you will find all kinds of neat things.  Talk about what you see and what things do.  Light switches are amazing!  Head outside and discover the grass, the leaves, brush a flower across your little one’s cheek, introduce your child to the world!  New sights, sounds and textures are exciting for your baby, and talking about them builds language skills too!  Introducing your baby to the world may just help you appreciate the little things again too!


The oldies but goodies…all the finger plays you used to know
.

Games like Peek-a-boo, So Big, Patty Cake, This Little Piggy, Itsy Bitsy Spider are fun for you and your baby.  These finger plays and songs teach socialization skills, fine motor skills, object permanence, and are just plain fun.  If you don’t remember these oldies but goodies, look them up online or check out a book at the library.

Make an obstacle course.

Your new little crawler will love to crawl over and under things.  Get those pillows and cushions off the couch and start encouraging your baby to climb up and over, crawl, and tumble.   This is fun and helps build gross motor skills and coordination.  It might get your little one good and tired for a great nap too!

Try the fill and dump game.

Once your baby is sitting up and is developing some hand coordination, filling and dumping will be a favorite activity.  Stacking cups, measuring cups, plastic containers all work well to fill up with water in the bathtub, sand, blocks, raw rice or any item that can be scooped up and dumped.  Your baby will work on fine motor control, hand-eye coordination, and words like “full” “pour” “all gone” “empty” and others.

Stacking and knocking over.

Stacking will soon become the next fun activity.  Those same stacking cups can be used to build a tower and knock it down.  Blocks, stacking rings, plastic cups, books…anything can be used to stack and knock over.  This helps with fine motor development and cause and effect.

These are just a few examples of the type of play your infant will love the firs 12 months of life.  Don’t rush out and buy lots of expensive toys, you will be your child’s favorite toy these first few months.  There is no rush to “get ahead”; your child will learn all that he or she needs to learn with simple play.  The pressure to get ahead often takes away the most valuable tool for learning…play.  Be a kid again and fill your child’s day with play!  Have fun!

What is your favorite activity with your infant?  Post  some of your ideas!

Follow Raising Kids With Love on Facebook for more tips!

Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.

Cindy

Children’s reaction to the recent national tragedies, how can a parent help.


 

The last few weeks it has been very difficult to watch the news, anyone who has a heart has felt it break. Our nation has experienced hurricanes, floods, and now a tragic mass shooting.  Daily we have seen images of hurt, pain, and fear.   We have seen families who have lost their homes, belongings and livelihoods. We have seen children whose wide eyes are filled with fear and confusion; and we have experienced it through news and social media which allows us to almost feel as if we were there.  The last month has been saturated with tragedy.  Where do we go from here with our children?  If you are a child watching the news, this never stops.  The rain and wind blowing happens every day, children and families being rescued in boats happen over and over again, and the screams of fear and gunshots continue all day long.  If a child is younger than 5 they are still trying to figure out their world.  What is real?  What is pretend?  They may think these terrible events happen over and over again day after day because of the news coverage that is playing in their background.

Children age 3 and under absorb the pain and fear from around them.  They may not understand why, but they feel their parent’s fear.  They feel the increase in tension, they feel the lack of joy and laughter, they feel the change in routine as we are glued to the news.   Young children simply need to know that they are safe.  They feel this safety and comfort in routine and favorite rituals.  This is their security. They should not have exposure to the media and adult conversations about the tragedies or disasters that may surround them.  They need time with Mom and Dad and other adults who love them.  Children will feel a parent’s fear, so we must try to keep our youngest children cocooned in love and routine.

Preschool aged children from age 4 to 6 know much more than what most parents think.  They hear conversations, watch the TV when it is on, and feel the fear or tension in a home.  Magical thinking is very common at this age, so children will “fill in the blanks” with their thoughts.  They often think they may be the cause of some of the tragedy.  Their “time out” yesterday may in their mind have caused the storm.  At this age, children are not able to comprehend time, or the idea of “forever” in death.  Preschoolers exposed to these tragedies may develop new fears, have nightmares, and might wonder if the tragedies they see on TV or hear Mom and Dad talking about will happen to them.  Often preschoolers will ask questions, but they don’t need answers that include every detail.  Simple answers will alleviate their curiosity without elevating their anxiety.  Most of all they need to know that you will keep them safe.

Preschoolers will often try to make sense of an event through play.  You might see a child who experienced a hurricane actually “play hurricane” to work through the experience. You may see a child draw pictures showing what they felt, feared or experienced. This type of play gives a child a way to work through their thoughts, fears and anxieties. Sometimes the play might be disturbing to parents, such as a child playing that children are running from gunfire, but it is best for a parent not to stop the play unless a child is playing in a way that could result in injury.  Later a parent can then talk about the play with the child and again explain how they will keep them safe.

School age children often are working on rule following, what is good and bad, right and wrong.  Because of this normal growth and development, when they see natural disasters or tragedies they often want to do something to help.  Parents can assist school  age children in finding a way to give assistance through local charities.  Often children who are a part of responding to the needs of the victims feel less stress and anxiety.  Children who have families with religious roots can also rely on prayer to help a child work those feelings.  Concentrating on the “heroes” of the moment, those first responders, charities, and wonderful stories of selflessness that always surface during a tragedy are good conversation topics for parents of school aged children and older. School aged children often will have physical complaints like headaches and tummy aches when they are stressed or anxious.  Having open conversations about what they know about an event and how they are feeling is important.  Talking honestly with a school aged child regarding how you can stay safe such as putting an emergency kit together as a family, talking about weather alerts and safe places, and gun safety is important.  Remember not to let your emotions take over and that your message is always that you will keep them safe.  School aged children need normal routines and rituals, adults who reassure them and listen to their questions and answer honestly, and controlled exposure to the news and adult conversations regarding the events.  Again, children should be allowed to be children and not burdened with adult worries.

Teenagers are extremely aware about the world and events around them.  They are very connected to social media and have information at their fingertips.  They often know much more than their parents think, and many times don’t like to share their feelings with parents.  Teens harbor intense feelings during this stage of growth and development that can become even more intense when they see disasters or tragedies.  Their friends are very important and their friends’ reactions can actually fuel their feelings.  Teens will watch adults carefully to determine how they should react.  They worry about their future and how events may influence their future goals and life.  They need open conversations with trusted adults who speak the truth and give solid suggestions for them.  What can they do?  How can they help? What can we do as a family or society to change this? Motivating teens to act is the best way for them to work through their intense emotional responses.  But once again, routine will help a teen get back to feeling in control.  Many teens will jump right back into friends and activities to escape the feelings that can be so intense. Respect how your teen learns to handle their emotions.

So as parents, we must keep our feelings and anxiety in check around our children.  Our children MUST feel that the world is a manageable place and as parents, we will keep them safe at all costs.  Our younger children need to be protected from adult conversations and too much exposure to the news.  Our older children need our honesty, time to ask questions and time to discuss.  We need to help them navigate the information they hear and develop a positive action/response to an impossibly tragic event.   Most importantly, our children need to be children…..protect them from exposure to those topics they can’t process except with anxiety.  Hug your family extra tight today, do something that is positive for those victims who are suffering, and concentrate on and enjoy the small joys and blessings in your life.  We are a strong nation made up of strong, caring people….we always come together at the worst of times, we will survive and become a stronger, more caring nation. Look around, there are heroes among us!

Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.

Cindy

 

 

 

 

 

It is that time of year….time for a flu vaccine for everyone 6 months of age and older!


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is the time of year when I start my daily reminders to parents (I sometimes can be annoying, I guess)… but it is time…time for that flu shot!  Put your excuses away, everyone 6 months and older should receive a flu shot, no ifs, ands, or buts!  It seems that there are always a lot of questions about the flu shot, and lots of excuses too! Here are answers to the most common questions I have heard…

  1. When should I receive it?

The time is now…it takes about 2 to 3 weeks for your body to build up antibodies for influenza.  Flu season can begin as early as October, but usually peaks in January and February and can last into May.  There have been some early influenza cases this fall!

  1. Why should everyone get the flu vaccine?

The flu is a miserable illness.  Many people don’t realize how sick they can be if they get true influenza.  Healthy adults who are infected with the flu are often unable to work, have a difficult time caring for families, and most importantly can spread the flu to others.  Those adults over 65 are at most risk for flu related deaths.  Depending on the year and the flu strain, sometimes the flu will affect children more seriously. Babies under 6 months of age need to have a “cocoon” of protection around them since they are too young to receive the vaccine.  That means anyone who has close contact with an infant should be immunized against the flu…parents, grandparents, siblings, and daycare providers. Pregnant women are also more at risk for complications from the flu.  The Flu vaccine is safe during pregnancy, and it protects your unborn child and your baby after birth! When healthy adults are vaccinated, they are protecting themselves, the elderly, the chronically ill, and babies!  So take one for the team!!    If you can keep yourself and your family from getting sick, then the flu shot is an easy decision!

  1. Why do we need a flu vaccine every year?

Flu viruses change…and then flu vaccines change too.  Studies are conducted to try to predict what flu viruses will be most prevalent each year.  The vaccine is different this year from last year.  Even if you had influenza last year, your immunity will fade over time.   The flu vaccine serves as a boost to our immune system to help prevent the flu and it hopefully protect us from the “flu strain of the year”.  Sometimes the flu vaccine is less effective than other years, but even in those years, a flu vaccine will result in a less severe case of influenza if you do become ill.

  1. Can I get the flu from the flu vaccine?

No!  The flu vaccine is an inactivated virus…you CANNOT get the flu from the vaccine.  Most side effects are very mild.  There may be some soreness at the injection site, very few children even have fever.

  1. Last year I got the vaccine, and our whole house still came down with vomiting and diarrhea!

The flu vaccine will not protect against other viruses other than influenza.  The influenza virus is a respiratory flu, not the stomach flu! Influenza can result in pneumonia, severe ear infections, wheezing, high fevers, dehydration and just feeling miserable!

  1. Who receives two doses?

All children between 6 months and 8 years who have never had a flu vaccine will need 2 doses at least 4 weeks apart.  If your baby turns 6 months old during the flu season, he or she should receive the vaccine!  If your child is older than 8 or had 2 doses in prior years, then he will only need 1 dose of the flu vaccine.

  1. My child is allergic to eggs, so we can’t have the vaccine.

Research shows that even children and adults who have egg allergies can receive the flu vaccine without a problem.  The American Academy of Pediatrics stated this year in their recommendations for the 2017-2018 flu vaccine “All children with an egg allergy of any severity can receive influenza vaccine without any additional precautions beyond those recommended for any vaccine.” 

September 2017 From the American Academy of Pediatrics Policy Statement

  1. What happened to the flu mist?

Just like last year, your only option is the flu shot.  Unfortunately, the nasal mist was not as effective as the shot.  So, the small “poke” is a must again this year.  Be honest with your children that this small “ouch” will protect them from becoming very sick.  Infants will calm very quickly after the vaccine with sucking and cuddling.  Older children can be taught to take deep abdominal breaths and blow out a “candle” to try to relax or sing their A B C’s or count to 10.  The small “ouch” will be over before they know it and a celebratory “high 5” and a treat (ice cream cones were always my kids’ favorite) will make that “ouch” memory fade.

I will be on my soap box about flu vaccines for a while because they are so important to so many people. Get the vaccine for the health of yourself and your family AND get it for those babies who aren’t old enough to receive the vaccine and the elderly whose immune system doesn’t always respond fully to the vaccine, and the chronically ill who may not be able to receive the vaccine…protect them too.  So it is time…get that flu vaccine for everyone that you love, it is important!

Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.

Cindy

Toddler bedtime blues


Time for that nap!  Don’t miss the window for naps….toddlers need naps to sleep well at night!  Establish good sleep routines for naps and night-time!

It was 8:30,  I was tired, and my 2-year-old seemed to be gearing up for the evening.  My patience was short and soon everyone ended up melting down.  Not a very pleasant way to end the day!  I hated when an evening in our home ended in a melt down!  I always felt like such a terrible Mom, but evenings like that made me re-group and remember that naps, early bedtimes and calming routines were the cornerstone to good sleep for everyone.  Besides, when the kids were in bed early, I always had time to take a breather, visit with Brad and reward myself with a bowl of ice cream for making it through another day!

Often children are sleeping pretty well as they enter the toddler years, and then it seems that overnight, bedtime becomes a battle.  So many parents will tell me that their toddler “must not require much sleep” because they can’t get them to sleep in the evening.  Soon the pattern becomes a toddler who is up until late, a parent that has no down time, and a household that is stressful every evening.  The fact is, toddlers need about 13 to 14 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period.  Without that sleep, tantrums increase, whining becomes the norm, and a toddler’s day is not filled with discovery and play but frustration and tears.   These are some reasons families with toddlers often develop “bedtime blues”.

  • If a toddler is  not sleeping enough—they are harder to get to sleep consistently.  How hectic are your days?  If he is over scheduled or over stimulated you might want to slow it down for sleep’s sake.  When a child is constantly on the go, it is hard to settle down for sleep.  We need positive associations with sleep, not negative ones brought on by tantrums, yelling and harshness prior to bedtime.
  • Separation anxiety is a true toddler fear, often this separation anxiety is the start of sleep problems during the toddler years.
  • Toddlers are exploring control and testing.  Your child will test to see if bed time is negotiable!  Sometimes a tired parent will give in pretty easily setting the precedent for the following nights.
  • Toddlers don’t want to miss anything!  They realize that life goes on when they are napping or sleeping.
  • Most parents underestimate their child’s need for sleep.  Toddlers need between 13 and 14 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period.  An increase in tantrums, whining, crying, even misdiagnosis of hyperactivity can come from a child who is chronically sleep deprived. Toddlers are wired “early to bed, early to rise” !
  • Sleep is a health issue.  Parents need to control this health issue just like you do routine health care.  You wouldn’t let a child eat whatever they want for dinner, and you shouldn’t let a child decide his or her own bedtime.  Sleep is a basic need like food or clothing, and you are the parent!
  • There is no research that shows that letting a toddler fuss it out to sleep causes any psychological damage.  A child who is consistently loved and cared for during the day will thrive, even if there are several nights of “crying it out” to go to sleep.

So what is a parent to do?

1.  Watch your toddler’s behavior and do not let them become overly tired.  Remember that an overly tired toddler has a difficult time going to sleep and staying to sleep.  Usually, a toddler should not be up longer than a 5 hour stretch.  If your toddler rises at 7:30 in the morning, he or she will be ready for a nap about 12:30.  There should be about 5 hours between the nap wake time and bedtime.  So a toddler that sleeps from 12:30 to 2:00 or 2:30 is ready for bed by about 7:30 in the evening.

2.  Create a reasonable bedtime routine.  The routine should be calming and repeatable each evening.  Don’t let this routine take on a life of its own!  Thirty minutes of bedtime preparation is all that is needed.  A routine that is predictable will help your toddler calm down and know that bedtime is near.  This routine should include calming the house about an hour before bed by dimming the lights and turning off the TV.  Establish a routine that both you and your child enjoys.  This routine might include taking a bath, brushing teeth, cuddling and reading a story, singing a song, saying prayers, talking about the day and planning tomorrow, providing a “lovey”, and giving another snuggle before leaving the room.

3.  After the routine, your child may call or cry for you.  Be strong and consistent.  You can peek in and tell your child that it is night-time and time to sleep, but do not go back and rock and comfort to sleep.  Your child will learn to fall asleep on his or her own.  This is a learned skill, and an important one!  Give your child suggestions.  “You don’t have to sleep, just read your books or snuggle with your bear.”  Leave a night-light on if necessary.

4.  Establishing a sleep routine usually takes about three to four  nights of consistency.  Parents need to be on the same page and tackle this as a team!  Do not confuse your child with two different approaches to sleep.  Make a plan, and stick to it.  Remember that sleep is a health issue, you are being a good parent!

If you establish good sleep habits with your toddler, your daytime hours will be much more fun!  It is amazing how the “terrible twos” may just become terrific if you have a child that is not overly tired.

More to come….how to handle specific night-time challenges!

Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.

Cindy

Why is my baby crying???


purple crying

Is your baby in a PURPLE phase of crying???

I know the look….I remember the feeling.  Every week I see a new Mom with exhausted worried eyes, and the question, “Is this crying and fussing normal?”  Most new parents are not prepared for the amount of crying their precious bundle produces!  Let’s face it, every baby cries…some more than others, and crying can really stress exhausted parents out.

Parents want to comfort their baby, even prevent their crying.  The truth is, there are times that babies just cry and soothing can be difficult.  Beginning at about 2 weeks, most babies will begin fussy periods.  The peak of crying usually occurs between 1 and 2 months of age and usually reduces at about the 3 to 4 month mark.  Is this colic?  Reflux? Fussiness?  Maybe….

There often is not a real reason for a newborn baby’s crying.  Sometimes it is best to concentrate on what might soothe than searching for the why.  After all, there has been many many studies reviewed trying to determine the answer of why babies fuss and what works to soothe.  Parents will often ask me what I think about probiotics, herbal supplements, gripe water, and other treatments for a fussy baby.  I always caution about “giving” a baby a supplement or treatment that is not prescribed or has not been tested completely.  Studies have shown that none of these alternative treatments actually decrease crying.  A 2011 review by the American Academy of Pediatrics of 15 large studies showed that none of these methods really helped much.  We need to be very cautious about putting anything into our babies that has no evidence base of effectiveness.  Many of these alternative therapies have not been thoroughly tested for safety.  Remember that the words “all natural” are not proof that a supplement is actually safe or effective.

Some soothing techniques are worth a try.  I think swaddling and white noise is effective for many babies.  Dr. Harvey Karp touts the 5 S’s which work for many new parents and infant massage can be calming for both parents and baby.  Walks, swings, rocking, car rides, watching for sleep cues, and other soothing techniques are all worth a try for normal newborn fussiness and crying.

Normal newborn fussiness should decrease dramatically by 4 months…and if it doesn’t then parents need to talk further with their health care provider.  Babies in the first 4 months may actually be unsoothable about 5-15% of the time, fuss about 65% of the time and cry about 35%  of the time (that is a lot of crying!) according to Dr. Barr an infant crying specialist (yes there is such a thing!)  Dr. Barr talks about a PURPLE period of crying that ALL babies go through.  Some babies cry up to 5 hours a day and some for as little as 20 minutes, but all babies during the first 3 months have periods of crying and are difficult to soothe.  These periods can result in a Mom and Dad becoming worried, frustrated, and on edge.  Many times parents will feel like they are doing something wrong!  We just don’t expect our baby to seem so unhappy!  The good news….most babies have a significant drop in crying between the 3rd and 4th month of age.

P-Peak  Your baby may cry more each week.  The most is at 2 months and may decrease by 3 to 5 months.

U-Unexpected Crying can come and go and you don’t know why.

R-Resists soothing Your baby may not stop crying or fussing no matter what you try.

P-Pain like face Your baby may look like he is in pain, even when he is not.

L-Long lasting.  Crying can last as long as 5 hours in a day.

E-Evening Your baby may cry more in the late afternoon or evening.

This is NORMAL developmental crying….the PURPLE phase!

www.purplecryinfo.com

So what does a Mom and Dad DO to help during these weeks of PURPLE crying during the newborn period?

  1. Discuss your baby’s crying with your health care provider at a well-baby check.  Decide together whether your baby’s crying is simply the PURPLE period or if there is a health related issue.  Sometimes simply knowing that your baby is healthy will help you deal with the crying!
  2. If it is normal developmental infant crying…then concentrate on different soothing techniques and quit asking WHY, there probably is no answer to the why!!
  3. Try the Happiest Baby on the Block technique, take walks outside in the fresh air and sunlight (this helps your mood and is soothing to baby) decrease the stimulation in the house, play soothing music, try white noise, and most importantly….take a break and ask for help when you need it!
  4. Remember, it is fine to put your baby down in a safe place and take a break.  Take 15 minutes to stand in the shower, walk out on your porch, sip a cup of tea….but take a break so you can cope with the crying in a calm manner.  Call a friend and ask for help if you are unable to cope calmly.  Never handle your baby roughly or shake your baby in frustration, this can cause permanent injury.  Remember, even very good and loving parents can become frustrated with a fussy baby, take a break.
  5. Remember, holding your baby and soothing will not spoil your child at this age and it will help you both get through this PURPLE period.  This too will pass, just like all challenges of parenthood……

Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.

Cindy

“Sleep like a baby” Really?


Establishing a calming routine before bed is important!

When I brought our oldest Corri home from the hospital, I thought I knew about the sleep patterns of infants.  After all, I had the degrees to prove that I was an “educated” Mom!  The truth is, nothing can prepare you for the lack of sleep that new parents usually experience.  Quickly my plans to reorganize my closets during Corri’s long daytime naps (don’t newborns sleep all the time?) went by the way side.  Yes, newborns DO sleep a lot…just in very short intervals.  Corri never slept long enough for any reorganization of closets, and when she did sleep I was too tired to reorganize.  Oh, the lessons of a new parent!

Sleep is VERY important for our babies, and for you!  There are some sleep tips for new parents that will help your baby “learn” to sleep and establish good patterns for the future.  I firmly believe that our children are largely sleep deprived because of our busy schedules.  Good sleep is essential for healthy children, clear through the teen years!  Many of the healthy sleep habits you establish with your young children will result in healthy sleep habits for a lifetime.

The first 3 months of a baby’s life there is no real routine.  Anything that you read that tells you that you can establish or “force” routine at this age is mistaken.  I do not think that baby  sleep training books are valuable at this age, and they can really be destructive to your baby’s establishment of good sleep habits.  Your job as a parent during the first year is to help your baby realize that the world is a great place!  When your baby cries, you need to respond.  Baby will quickly learn to trust you and feel loved.  You cannot spoil a newborn!  You CAN spoil an older child, but that discussion is for another day!

Newborn sleep patterns are different from adults.  They have sleep cycles that are much shorter than ours, and have longer patterns of active sleep rather than deep sleep, especially in the first 3 months.  Parents often complain that their infant will “cat nap” .  This is a fairly normal pattern during the first 3 months of life.  Very young infants do not know how to self soothe either.  Those skills develop after the first 3 months also.  Here are a few tips that will help establish good sleep habits for the future.  Remember, there is light at the end of the tunnel, life will become easier after the first few months.

1.  Know your baby’s sleep cues…do not let your baby become over tired.

Most parents in the beginning have a bit of a difficult time learning sleep cues.  Newborn babies should not be up longer than an hour and a half to two hours maximum.  If your baby becomes overly tired, it is much more difficult for your baby to sleep!  Look for your baby to rub at his or her eyes, begin to blank stare and not engage, yawn, and fuss.  When you see some cues, take a look at the length of time your baby has been awake.  The next time your baby is awake, start the process of putting him or her down for a nap 15 minutes earlier.  This way you never miss the window of opportunity, an overstimulated baby does not sleep well.  You often will feel like all you have time for is a feeding, a diaper change, a small amount of interaction and then your baby is ready to sleep again!

2.  Swaddle your baby.

Newborns until the end of the 4th month have a reflex that causes them to startle.  You often will see your baby twitch, grimace, have a sweet sleep grin and jump during the early active sleep pattern.  The twitching and jumping or moro reflex as it is called, will wake your baby.  If you swaddle using a light blanket or a swaddle sleep sack, your baby will not wake with a startle as often and will feel more secure.   Many moms and dads will tell me their baby does not like the swaddle.  I encourage you to try it again.  Try swaddling your baby before a nursing or feeding, or before you begin to rock your child to calm.  Most of the time babies will relax into the swaddle and love it!  They look like a cute baby burrito!

3.  Try white noise.

Babies heard white noise inside mom’s womb during the entire pregnancy.  This sound is very calming to a newborn.  My 2nd daughter loved the sound of a blow dryer.  She was a fussy baby, and quickly my blow dryer became part of the decor of my family room.  Now, there are white noise machines, white noise phone apps, and white noise CDs that parents swear by, a much better look than the blow dryer!  White noise can be part of a “switch” that helps soothe a fussy baby.  You might even try getting your face down by your baby’s ear and “shsh shsh shsh”, which will work too.

4.  Provide day and night light rhythm. 

Many newborns get their days and nights mixed up.  There is nothing worse than an infant that sleeps well during the day and is up all night!  Moms often notice that babies before birth are more active at night too!  To help your baby learn the day and night pattern, keep the daytime hours light with normal noise patterns in your home.  Light on our eyes helps to cue our bodies to when it is time to be awake and when it is time to be asleep.  That is part of the reason we feel so sleepy during the gloom of dark winter days!  Stand in front of a window with your baby and expose your baby to natural light.  Do not darken the rooms for your baby to nap during the day and keep regular noise in the house.  No tip toeing!  In the evening, start to dim lights and keep things calm and quiet about an hour before “bedtime”.  Then with every nighttime feeding keep the room dark, do not change the diaper unless it is dirty, and do not interact.  Just feed your baby and put back to bed.  Eventually your baby will learn the difference between day and night and sleep more soundly and longer during the night hours.  This pattern of day and night will help older children and adults fall to sleep more easily too!

5.  Wake your baby to eat during the day.

Do not let your baby sleep longer than 3 hours during the day.  Wake your baby to eat, and unless your doctor advises you differently, never wake a sleeping baby at night!  You want your baby to receive most of their nutrition during the waking hours, and less at night.

6.  Move with your baby!

Movement will calm a baby to sleep.  Rocking, swinging, and wearing your baby will all help lull your little one into a deep sleep pattern.  Rocking to sleep is fine in the early months.  Many parents have a hard time transitioning from the swing or arms to bed without the baby waking.  Do the limp arm test!  Remember that babies have a very active sleep pattern before they move into a deep sleep.  If you try to transfer when your little one is still grimacing, sleep grinning, or you see rapid eye movement under closed eye lids, most likely your baby will wake quickly.   Rock or provide movement until your baby has transitioned from the active sleep pattern to a deep sleep.  You will be able to pick up your baby’s arm and feel that it is limp.  When you see that, then it is much easier to place your baby in the crib and your baby stay asleep.

7.  Use a pacifier.

Babies need to suck many times to sleep soundly.  The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends using a pacifier at sleep as a deterrent to SIDS.  Sucking calms a baby.  A baby that tends to become over stimulated easily often needs more suck time.  I am a big believer in the pacifier or a thumb or finger sucker resulting in a calm baby.  We can worry about the habit later!

8.  Establish a sleep routine.

The earlier your baby connects routine with sleep the better.  Do the same thing every time you put your baby to bed and quickly your child will connect those activities with sleep.  This pattern will develop good sleep patterns all the way to adulthood!  So, plan the feeding, bathing, massage, rocking, singing, reading pattern that works for you!  Keep the routine simple and repeatable.  The bedtime or nap time routine should not be longer than about 20 minutes.  You can establish a bedtime for your baby even though you know you will be up again!  Just treat every feeding after “bedtime” as a night-time feeding.  Children in general are wired early to bed early to rise!  Have an early bedtime for a good sleeper and for you to have an evening of “adult time”.

9.  Do not let your baby “cry it out” until after 6 months.

The first 6 months parents need to respond to a crying baby at night.  After 6 months, most babies are developmentally ready to sleep a stretch through the night. When you are emotionally ready and after your baby is at least 6 months old, you can do the “baby shuffle” and check on your baby every 5 to 10 minutes without picking your baby up.  Comfort your baby with a “shh” go to sleep, a pat and then leave.  The first night you may be “shuffling” in and out of the nursery for an hour or more. The 2nd night will be shorter and usually by the 3rd or 4th night your baby will comfort to sleep on his or her own.  You must be consistent and not give in.  Soon you will put a drowsy baby to bed and your baby will be able to fall asleep without your assistance!

10.  Even with doing all the “right things” babies have sleep disturbances.

Children will have periods of sleep disturbances through all developmental stages.  With each new skill a baby learns, example rolling over, there will often be a sleep pattern disturbance.  Babies like to practice at night!  There is also teething, separation anxiety, illness….many reasons you will see disturbances even when you are doing all the right things in establishing good sleep patterns.  Always go back to the basics each time.  Good sleep is essential! Teaching healthy sleep patterns is a huge gift to your child, and you!

Soon you will be getting longer stretches of sleep….until those darn teen years creep up and you find yourself waiting up for your child!  That is another issue another day!  🙂

Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.

Cindy

I love these sleep resources:

Sleep What Every Parent Needs to Know

American Academy of Pediatrics Rachel Y. Moon, MD, FAAP Editor in Chief

The No-Cry Sleep Solution 

Elizabeth Pantley

The Happiest Baby on the Block

Dr. Harvey Karp

Sweet Dreams

Paul M Fleiss, M.D., M.P.H., F.A.A.P

Raising an unspoiled child…how to strike that parenting balance


spoiled

A spoiled child grows into an adult who feels entitled…how do you strike the balance between wants and needs as a parent?

It is so difficult to see your child upset, disappointed, or wanting something that you don’t feel is necessary or maybe can’t afford. There were many days when I questioned whether we should break down and buy an item that one of our kids “just HAD to have”, fold and give that cookie before dinner to keep the peace, or rescue a child from the consequence of a behavior because their tears broke my heart. There were days that I did…but I know that the lessons the kids learned when I did NOT were much more valuable.

When you bring home your precious baby, that first year there is very little difference between your child’s wants and needs. Everything your child wants IS a need. Your sweet baby communicates those needs loudly and clearly resulting in you feeding, holding, rocking, changing, and responding. As a parent, your quick response to those needs lets your child learn that he is loved and safe. Very important lessons!

Fast forward to a 3-year-old laying on the floor at the grocery store check-out line screaming for a package of M & Ms at 9:00 am. Does he need them? No, but he sure wants them! Is the behavior annoying, do you want to make it go away quickly? Yes, but purchasing the candy may not be the best lesson for your child!

What exactly is spoiling?

As parents we must teach our children how to navigate the world even when there is frustration or disappointment. Think no M&Ms at 9:00 am, not getting your attention when you are speaking with another adult, having to save money to buy those designer jeans, and dealing with sitting the bench during a basketball game. Our children must learn that when disappointment in life happens, when they must wait for something they want, or the world doesn’t revolve around their desires, that life doesn’t crash down around them and that they are still loved. Your child must learn that in life you must work hard, be patient, and “play nicely” to be happy and successful. Being loved does not mean there are no bumps in the road, being loved means you are taught how to navigate them.

Spoiling means your child will learn that they are entitled to things. This entitlement replaces the idea of hard work and patience to get or achieve things. Children who are spoiled often do not learn the difference between wants and needs. Spoiling is never due to giving your child the things he or she needs, the opposite is true. When your child has what they need, good behavior patterns can follow. Children need loving physical contact, soothing when upset, structure, routine, positive words, food, clothing, shelter, medical care, toys, …basics…these basics bring an emotionally solid foundation and feeling of security. How do you prevent the “spoiled brat” that none of us want to raise? How do you strike the balance as a parent? Of course there are times we will give our children things they simply want; there is nothing better than seeing the excitement of getting something that is special! Of course we are going to fold and stop the “madness” in the grocery store and give in to the M&Ms occasionally. Of course we will respond to the whining….but how do we strike the balance??

  1. Don’t buy things your child wants constantly.  Gifts are important parts of childhood…the holidays, birthdays, and other special occasions are wonderful, exciting times for your child. Receiving a gift every time you walk through Target and see the latest toy is not the best parenting choice. This results in a child who no longer appreciates but expects.
  2. Delay gratification.  Help your child develop patience. It is fine to tell your child “I will help in a minute when I finish this.” “That new Barbie is very nice, let’s write it down on your birthday wish list.” This will help your child learn that his world will not collapse when he does not get what he wants NOW. Delayed gratification teaches the difference between wants and needs and that others have needs too.
  3. Develop strong values and morals as a family, give together.   Raising an unspoiled child is not just about saying “no” to things, it is about developing a value based home. A home that has kindness, generosity, gratitude, hard work, and feelings as its core.  Teach what it feels like to make someone else happy. Point out when your child is kind.  Start talking about gratitude. Share what you are thankful for each day. A great time is during family dinners or right before bed. Ask your child to share 3 things each day he is thankful for….you share too!  Share as a family, donate used toys your child no longer needs, participate as a family in donations to charities…be sure your child is included! This is a great way to teach your child about the joy of giving and appreciation for what he has. There is happiness in appreciation; there is misery in concentrating on what you don’t have.
  4. Watch how much screen time your child has. Advertising knows how to send the message to your child on what he “needs”! Children who learn to self entertain and play outside are less needy!
  5. Spoiling is not just too many things, it is an attitude too.  Don’t give into temper tantrums, this teaches that those actions result in “getting what I want”.  Have consistent consequences for unacceptable behavior; try not to fold because it is easier. Parenting is hard work!
  6. Let natural consequences of life happen for your child…bumps in the road happen, learning to handle that is essential.
  7. Give your child praise, but praise for specific behaviors or accomplishments. Constant blanket praising results in a child who feels the world owes him this. Let your child learn that positive actions feel good INTERNALLY!
  8. Give your child chores and responsibilities. In the real world, we are all responsible for something. This fosters a good work ethic and self confidence too.  Studies show that children who have routine chores at home are happier, more responsible, and learn the value of taking care of possessions!
  9. Remember, giving your child things does not replace your child’s need for your time. So many of us are busy!  Many parents feel some guilt regarding the hours they spend away from their children!  What your children crave is your time, not your gifts.  Taking time to talk to your children, read stories, and play games is better than any purchased gift.  The feeling of contentment from the latest video game is fleeting, the feeling of love from your time is not.
  10. Live the values you teach. Your child learns what he sees. Does your child see you buying the newest and the best? Do you show your child that you often sacrifice and delay gratification? Talk to your child about what you want, but demonstrate that you might not need it!

Fostering an environment that doesn’t result in a child who feels entitled is not always easy. There will be times when your child may be unhappy, angry, or even throw a fit, but it is only for a brief time. Giving in affects behavior for the long-term. I am not telling you to make your child’s life difficult. There are certainly times that we will and should indulge our child. But remember, a spoiled child learns that behavior, that spoiled behavior it is a result of parenting. You cannot love your child too much…but sometimes loving your child means your child will not get everything he wants. 🙂

There is nothing harder as a parent than seeing your child disappointed about something he or she wants but can’t have, but nothing makes you prouder as a parent than seeing your child handle the ups and downs of life with grace, respect and a “can do” attitude.

Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.

Cindy

 

 

Baby talk! Encouraging language development in your child.


Facial expressions are important in the development of language in children!

Talking to your child and using lots of animated facial expressions are important for your child’s language development!

Believe me, hearing the sweet voice of your child say “Ma Ma” or “Da Da” is one of those moments you always remember.  Later, I can remember thinking….”Maybe I should change my name, I am tired of hearing “MO-OMMMM!” Suddenly it was a two syllable word that rocked the house!  Now, I love hearing “Mom” when I get that phone call or one of the kids bursts through the door for a visit!  The fact is, language development in your child is exciting and fun, and early development is important.  Studies show us that the number of words your child hears is proportionate to the size of his or her vocabulary that is developed.  This is through direct spoken words to your child, through conversation or reading, not words heard from the TV or radio, or conversations around your child.  Some experts tell us that a parent should be saying 30,000 words per day to their child.  Wow, that is a lot of talking!  Now I tell you this as a fun fact, not to have you tally mark each word you say to your child!  I don’t want to add another task to your day, or worry to your list!  The 30,000 per day number does send the message home though that talk is important, and as parents we have to work at talking and reading to our children!  In this age of TV, computers, I-Pods and I-Pads, and smart phones; sometimes the spoken word and art of conversation is lost.  As a parent we need to bring that art of truly talking with our children back!

What can we do to foster language development in our children?

  • Talk to your child!  When your infant is looking at you or an object…talk to your child!  When your child coos, coo back…this is the start of the art of conversing.  Describe what your baby is seeing.  Talk about what you are doing during the day.  Read stories and talk about the pictures in board books.  Studies show that children that hear 30,000 words a day from birth to age 3 have better language skills at 3 but also have an academic edge still in 3rd grade…no matter the socioeconomic level!  TALK A LOT TO YOUR CHILD!  It can be the great equalizer for academic success!
  • Repeat.  This helps a child link sound and the meaning of words.  By the time a child is about 1, they have most of the sounds that put words together, they just don’t have the words!  Repetition helps a child put those sounds into words.
  • Always respond to any sound your child makes.  When your baby coos, talk back.  When your child squeals with a favorite toy, talk about how much your child likes that special toy.  When your child babbles and reaches for an item, say what the item is before you give it to your child.
  • Play taking turn games.  This teaches conversation!  Blow on your baby’s tummy and wait for his response.  Repeat it again.  Play peek-a-boo and other games that encourage taking turns in conversation…cause and effect.
  • Eye contact.  Your child needs to see your face when you are talking.  This helps your child see how the words are formed by watching your mouth.  Your smiles, facial expressions and encouragement gives your child positive reinforcement for their attempts in communicating.
  • “Motherese” is good!  The high-pitched sing-song voice most moms use to talk to their baby is good!  Babies like the pitch of this type of talk and the slow pace helps them understand better.  Teach Dad how to do it!  It tends to come more naturally to Moms.
  • Give your child the opportunity to talk.  Don’t anticipate every need, allow your child to point and make attempts to ask for what he or she wants.
  • Narrate your day.  Talk to your baby as you change a diaper, give a bath, cook a meal.  Describe what you are doing and what your child is doing.
  • Expand your child’s communication.  When your child says “dog”, you can say “Yes that is a dog!  It is a brown dog!”
  • Read.  Reading is a great opportunity to engage with your child.  Your child will learn more words and will develop a love of books.  Hearing the same book over and over helps to make language connections in your child’s brain.
  • Go on field trips!  Take your child to the grocery, the post office, on hikes…talk about what you see!  Watch your child, and see what he or she is interested in or excited about.  Talk about that rock or stick he or she picks up!
  • Use music.  Music encourages your child to pronounce words and practice putting sentences together.  Songs also help children remember things…I still can’t put things in alphabetical order without singing my A B C’s!  🙂
  • Play language games.  Point and name games like “Where is your nose?” “This is Mommy’s toes, where are your toes?”  Helps your child become
  • aware of himself and make language connections, plus it is fun!
  • Don’t worry but refer early.  There is a wide range of normal with speech development.  Don’t obsess and worry over your child’s development of speech.  Every day work on providing the opportunities to allow your child’s speech to develop.  If you have questions or concerns, the earlier you refer for evaluation, the easier most speech delays can be handled.

Language Milestones from The American Speech – Language – Hearing Association

0-3 Months

  • Baby will startle to sound
  • Quiets or smiles when you speak to him
  • Recognizes your voice
  • Smiles at you
  • Coos

4-6 Months

  • Babbles and uses sounds with p, b and m
  • Laughs
  • Makes excitement sounds and unhappy sounds
  • Makes gurgling sounds
  • Likes music

7 Months – 1 Year

  • Likes “peek-a-boo”, “patty cake”, “soo big!”
  • Uses “speech” not crying to sometimes get your attention.
  • Uses gestures like pointing, putting arms up, waving.
  • Recognizes words that you say like “cup” and other common words.
  • Starts to follow 1 step directions.
  • About the first birthday will have about 2 or 3 words like ball, ma ma, da da, dog.

1 Year – 2 Year

  • Points to pictures in a book when named.
  • Knows animal sounds.
  • Points to a few body parts when asked.
  • Can say a two word question or sentence by age 2.
  • Vocabulary expanding every month.

2 Year – 3 Year

  • Follows two step directions.
  • Has a word for almost everything.
  • Is understood most of the time by those with him often.
  • Speaks in 2 to 3 word sentences.
  • Starting to understand concepts like big and little, up and down, in and on.

When do you refer?

  • A baby who doesn’t respond to sound or who doesn’t make vocal sound.
  • A child who does not point, or wave “bye bye” at 12 months.
  • A child at 18 months that uses gestures over words to communicate.
  • A child at age 2 or older that only imitates speech and does not speak spontaneously.
  • A child at age 2 who can’t follow simple 1 or 2 step directions.
  • A child at age 2 who parents are unable to understand at least 1/2 of the child’s speech, or a 3 year old child that a parent cannot understand 3/4 of the child’s speech.
  • A 4 year old child who is not understandable by others.
  • Don’t sit and worry….refer early.  Most speech referrals are made between 15 months and 2 years of age.

Remember, infants, toddlers, and preschoolers are like little language sponges.  Talk, talk, talk, and turn that TV off!  Your child will soon be yelling “MO-OMMMMM!”….be careful what you wish for!!  🙂

Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.

Cindy

Taking Care of Your Child’s Teeth


This cute little smile cost us several thousand dollars later to straighten it out….but worth it!

There is nothing cuter than a toothless grin of a baby.  Next the cute little pearly whites that erupt create a darling smile, then there is a toothless grin again as the tooth fairy starts to make visits to your home, and then soon your child will have  two big front teeth that look way too big for their mouth.  As your child grows, their dental needs change too.  Why is dental health so important for children? Dental decay is the most common chronic childhood illness.  There are at least 4 million preschoolers that have had at least one cavity.  Forty to fifty percent of children will have cavities before the age of five.  51 million school hours are lost each year due to dental health problems.  The American diet is high in sugar, and we are using more and more  non-fluoridated bottled water for drinking.  This all adds up to an increase in dental cavities, and a decrease in dental health of our children.  Children with cavities in their primary or “baby” teeth have more problems with poor weight gain, iron deficiency, speech problems and poor dental health as adults.  Taking care of our children’s teeth is part of good health care!

I.  When do baby teeth form and erupt?

  •  The primary teeth or baby teeth begin to form before your baby is born at about the 14th 19th week of pregnancy.  The crown, or the white part of the tooth that is seen, continues to develop until several weeks to several months after your child is born.
  • Total of 20 baby teeth, 10 on top and 10 on the bottom by about age 3.
  • The first tooth to appear usually is the lower central incisors (the bottom two teeth) around 6 months of age.  Don’t panic if your baby’s first tooth isn’t the lower two teeth…some babies teeth to the beat of their own drummer!
  • Teething can be painful for infants.  Babies explore their world with their mouths, and during teething this can be uncomfortable.  There can be redness, swelling in the gums, drooling, increase in finger sucking, and the need to bite and chew on any object.  Some babies will pull at ears or rub their jaw line, teething pain is often referred to the ear area.
  • Sometimes parents will see a “blister” where the tooth is about to erupt, this is normal.
  •  Many babies  like a clean teething ring, frozen wash cloth, frozen fruit in a mesh feeder, frozen bagel or mom’s fingers to rub the gums.
  • You can give acetaminophen, or ibuprofen (after 6 months of age) to help with the pain.  Ibuprofen is a bit more effective for inflammation of the gums, but wait until your baby is at least 6 months to use this!
  • Do NOT place oral numbing ointments on your baby’s gums.  This can cause a decrease in the gag reflex and could be dangerous.
  • Teething pain usually occurs for 3 to 4 days prior to the tooth breaking through the gum.  Pain should decrease once the tooth breaks through the gum line.  There may still be some discomfort for a few days after.  It is not a month-long process unless your baby is cutting multiple teeth one after the other.
  • Teething does NOT cause a fever, vomiting, diarrhea or cold symptoms.  If your baby has any of these symptoms with teething, he or she is probably ill too.
  • Teething can cause an increase in drooling which can lead to a rash or irritation around the mouth and on a baby’s chest.  Keep the area dry by changing shirts frequently, using absorbent bibs, and “water proofing” the skin with ointments.

II. When is the first dental visit?

  • The first dental visit should be at about age one or 6 months after the first tooth.  It is important to have your child’s first teeth examined.  Dental problems can begin early.  Children with healthy teeth can eat better, develop better speech, and dental cavities can cause a permanent state of infection in your child.
  •  Usually the first visit is just a visual exam—usually on mom of dad’s lap.  Going to the dentist is just like a well child exam at your child’s doctor.  We want to be sure we support healthy teeth, not just see the dentist when there is a problem!

III.  How do you care for the first teeth?

  • Wipe your baby’s first teeth using a  wash cloth or gauze or a soft bristled baby toothbrush.  Ideally, your baby’s teeth should be wiped or brushed twice a day.  Once in the morning and once before bed.  The earlier your child becomes accustomed to wiping or brushing their teeth, the easier it will be.
  • You can use a small smear (about the size of a grain of rice) of fluoride toothpaste on your child’s tooth or teeth until age 3 and then a pea size amount after age 3.  Fluoride is important!  It helps strengthen your child’s teeth and prevent decay.
  • You should help your child brush teeth until at least age 6.  Children are not coordinated enough to brush teeth well before that.   Sometimes this will be a battle, but it is worth the battle.  We want to form good dental hygiene habits early!  Do what you have to do to get teeth brushed.
  • Have your child sit on your lap facing out, or you sit on the floor and lean your child back into your lap to brush.
  • Let your child brush after you brush.  Use circular motions on the teeth and brush along the gum line.
  • Use stickers, games, songs, whatever it takes to get the tooth brushing done.  If your child cries, brush quickly…but at least the mouth will be open!
  •  Never put your baby to bed with a bottle of formula or breast milk.  This will result in decay in your baby’s first teeth!
  •  Never put juice or any other sugared drink in a bottle.
  •  Do not allow your child to walk around with a sippy cup of juice or milk all day long.  This will leave a continual coating of sugars on your child’s teeth.
  •  You can begin to floss your child’s teeth when they start to touch.  Again, this is a good habit to start young!
  • As your child begins to eat table food, try to avoid high sugar snacks.  Sticky snacks are the worst.  Fruit snacks, dried fruit like raisins and any other sticky food must be brushed out of your child’s teeth.

IV.  When do I worry about thumb sucking, finger sucking and pacifiers?

  • It is perfectly normal for infants and young children to need to suck.  Sucking decreases stress in young children and makes for a happier child!
  • It should be discouraged starting at about age 18 months.  Parents should limit pacifier use to bedtime and nap time.
  • All thumb sucking and pacifier use should be discouraged after age 3.
  • Most children stop on their own, but some need help.  Most will then quit with encouragement from the dentist and parents.   Do not use negative reinforcement like hot sauce on a thumb, taping fingers, or putting mittens on your child.
  • Prolonged sucking can create crowded, crooked teeth or bite problem.   The fingers, thumb and pacifier all affect the teeth the same way.

VI. My child grinds his teeth, is this bad?

  • Teeth grinding happens in many toddlers.  The toddler’s molars are very smooth, and children will often grind.
  • Most children outgrow the habit by about age 6.
  • If teeth grinding continues after permanent teeth arrive, then speak with your child’s dentist.

VII.  What should I do if my child injures his mouth and teeth?

  • Be sure and ask your dentist when he or she would like to be contacted for a tooth injury.
  • If a child knocks out a permanent tooth, keep it moist or drop it into cup of milk and call the dentist immediately or head to the ER.
  • If a child is hit in the mouth–always call the dentist for an exam even if there is  no obvious damage.
  • If a child chips a tooth–call the dentist even if there is no sensitivity.
  • Your child should use a mouth guard for sporting activities!

Start good dental habits early…find your child a dental office home where both you and your child are comfortable.  Dental care should not be scary but just a part of good health.  Take care of your child’s smile, it is one of the most beautiful things a parent sees!

Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.

Cindy

www.ada.org

www.aapd.org

www.healthychildren.org

%d bloggers like this: