Archive for the ‘Baby Care’ Category


Sick Babies, Sick Parents

Where's MY soup?

Where’s MY soup?

I was prepared for our normal routine to get tossed aside while Frances was sick, but I wasn’t prepared for how disruptive it is to be a sick parent.

Franci spent a week with a high fever and another 5 days convalescing. She had little appetite and no energy, so we spent her few waking hours snuggling on the couch and trying desperately to find food she would eat. I tried everything, even resorting to ice cream (which despite loving on a normal basis, wouldn’t touch while sick). Since she was sick, I felt no guilt plying her with processed foods and fruit juice. I held her when she was fussy and indulged her every whim. After all, I believe in coddling sick members of my family.

After she started to feel better, I’m the one who took a turn for the worst. Our daily schedule broke down even more than when she was sick. For example, Franci doesn’t get to eat between mealtimes but while I was sick she got a cracker every time she started to bother me. Anything to keep her quiet while I moaned and rocked and ran to the bathroom.

I had no energy to try out 10 different healthy foods until I found one she would eat instead of spitting out or tossing on the floor. So once again I plied her with processed food in various shades of white (minus the ice cream). TV was watched in abundance and, at one desperate moment, she even got to hold my phone.

Whatever guilt I didn’t feel while babying my sick baby returned tenfold as I let her run wild during my own illness. We maintain a fairly strict order around here, but how does one manage when sick? More importantly, how am I supposed to deal with it once I’m out numbered??

How do you maintain household order, and your own sanity, when sickness hits your home? Do you call in reinforcements? Let it run its course and hope it doesn’t take too long to return to normal? Or do you have a contingency system in place?

Dealing with Tantrums

The Many Faces of Tantrums

The many faces of tantrums

About two months ago Frances started throwing tantrums.  They are your garden-variety tantrums that occur when you try and change her diaper or take away something she wants to play with that is off limits (like a phone or pill bottle) or offer her food she doesn’t like.

While it may be possible to reduce certain triggers, like baby-proofing tempting cupboards or only offering her food she likes, leaving her in a dirty diaper is not an option. Plus, I believe it’s a bad habit to give into her every whim, so sometimes she just has to put up with not being picked up as I finish my blog post.

Understanding that her tantrums are a result of not being able to communicate and being frustrated, tired or hungry doesn’t make dealing with them any more fun. The only thing we can do is whether the storm and not get too frustrated ourselves.

I think the hardest trap to avoid falling into is not using punishments or rewards. It’s not fair to take away something just because Franci is too young to communicate. And I don’t want to get in the habit of bribing her for good behavior. Especially since she probably doesn’t understand that concept yet any way.

For me, the worst part about tantrums at this age are knowing that she is so desperate to be understood, but just can’t figure out how to communicate. The emotions she is experiencing, like pain from teething, are hard to verbalize. I can show her the sign for pain a million times, but I don’t think she understands what pain is.

In an effort to get past this phase (that will inevitably last several years) I am turning to the internet for advice. BabyZone had a good primer on tantrums, and Baby Centre had some good tips, but the best advice comes from parents who have gone through the same thing. Of course, I have to wade through a bunch of less useful comments to find the gems.

What tricks did you use to get through your child’s tantrums? I’ll try anything!

When to Wean

Too busy to nurse

Too busy to nurse

When we began our breastfeeding journey, I remember hearing the advice, “even one day is better than nothing. And one week is better than one day, one month is better than one week. Any amount of time breastfeeding is a good choice.” It was comforting to know that no matter how long we breastfed, it was a good choice.

Even though I still believe in this advice, it’s hard to make the decision to wean. If one month is better than one week, isn’t 16 months better than 15? I’m finding it very difficult to decide to end something that is so good for my child.

We’ve already passed the American Association of Pediatric’s recommendation of one year, and I don’t think we’ll make it to World Health Organization’s recommendation of two years. (Thank goodness we’re not weaning according to these milestones).

In the course of researching weaning, I noticed that no one wants to suggest cues or milestones that indicate a child is ready to stop breastfeeding. Instead the advice is a vague, like, “when the child is ready…” or “when the child initiates weaning”. Well, what does this look like?? Some organizations, like the Mayo Clinic and La Leche League, provide tips on how to wean, but nothing about what signs to look for.

I realize that no one wants to get criticized for providing advice that someone may not like or agree with, but it sure doesn’t make a hard decision easier!

What “signs” led you to end your breastfeeding journey? After it was over, did you wish you had stopped sooner or kept at it longer?

How to Choose a Midwife

Midwife Home Visit

Midwife Home Visit

It has been a few years since Joy posted about her experience giving birth with a midwife. She wrote a series of three great posts: Choosing a Midwife, The Unique Perspective Midwives Bring to Birth and Top Ten Reasons for Choosing a Midwife Over an MD. I recommend them to anyone even considering going with a midwife, not just for a home birth but at a birthing center or hospital.

When I was pregnant with Frances, the only maternity insurance a self-employed woman could get in our state only covered emergencies. After doing a little research, I discovered a hospital birth would cost us at minimum $10,000 out of pocket. Since birthing centers are illegal here, we decided to look into a home birth with a midwife. I never thought I’d give birth at home, but I’m too frugal to drop $10K when there are cheaper alternatives. Plus, I had the assurance that if complications arose, we were covered by our insurance.

Now that Obamacare has mandated I have access to maternity coverage, I could give birth at a hospital without going bankrupt. The thing is, I wouldn’t dream of it! I had such a wonderful experience with a midwife-assisted home birth, I’m excited to do it again.

Since there are no birthing centers in our state, and no state licensing for midwives, we had to be extra diligent when choosing a midwife. It was up to us to make sure she was experienced and qualified.  To make sure we were thorough, I scoured the internet for advice on what to ask a potential midwife. I consulted many websites, and came up with a list of questions that elicited comments like, “Wow, you’re prepared!”, and “What a thorough list of questions.” from the midwives we interviewed.

With a few exceptions, these questions aren’t just good for midwives. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to interview a few OB’s with these questions before committing to one.

Questions for Midwives

  1. How many births have you attended? How many births are you attending now?
  2. Do you participate in regular peer review?
  3. Do you maintain statistics from your births and what happens at each one?
  4. Have you ever been named in a law suit? Please explain.
  5. Have you had any bad outcomes for the baby or mother? Please explain.
  6. Have you had any women dissatisfied with their care? How did you handle this?
  7. How many hours of continuing education do you complete each year?
  8. What if you are unavailable, for some reason, when I go into labor?
  9. Which doulas have you worked with? Who would you recommend?
  10. Is water birth an option?
  11. Do you have a doctor you work with if it’s deemed I’m high risk at any time?
  12. Who are your usual assistants and when can I meet them?
  13. What conditions would cause me to be “high risk”? How would you treat these conditions before they make me “high risk”?
  14. What is your hospital transfer rate?
  15. What is the protocol for a hospital transfer? How do you decide if it’s needed and how would it be done?
  16. Would you remain with me if I end up being transferred?
  17. What happens with your fee if I have to transfer out of your care?
  18. What is your cesarean rate?
  19. Do you monitor and check the baby’s heartbeat during pregnancy and labor?
  20. Are you certified in Neonatal Resuscitation? CPR? Advanced Life Support in Obstetrics? Pediatric Advanced Life Support?
  21. Have you ever had to resuscitate a baby?
  22. Do you have a protocol to help prevent me from being positive for Strep B?
  23. Are you willing to use alternative protocols for Strep B positive?
  24. Have you had experience with shoulder dystocia? Breech babies? Cord prolapse?
  25. Do you have experience turning a breech baby?
  26. What happens if the baby is in distress after it’s born?
  27. When do you decide to transfer the baby and how?
  28. Do you have a pediatrician you work with or recommend?
  29. Under what conditions would you artificially rupture the membranes?
  30. At what point would you consider the artificial induction of labor? What are some of the methods you use?
  31. What happens if I go past 42 weeks?
  32. Do you do pregnancy and newborn screening blood tests or will I need to see a doctor for this?
  33. What equipment do you normally bring to the birth?
  34. What is your opinion about eating and drinking during labor?
  35. What is your episiotomy rate? How do you work to prevent tearing?
  36. How many third or fourth degree tears have you had?
  37. Can you suture if a tear occurs? Up to what degree?
  38. Do you have a problem waiting for a while after the placenta is delivered to cut the cord?
  39. What do you use to stop excessive bleeding after delivery?

Did I forget any questions? Please add to the list!

Review: Amazon Mom

Amazon Mom

Amazon Mom

Most of you have probably heard of Amazon Prime, but have you heard of Amazon Mom? It gives you all the perks of a Prime membership (free 2-day shipping, access to the Kindle lending library, and free instant video streaming) plus 20% off Subscribe & Save orders of five or more.

(For those of you not familiar with Subscribe & Save, here’s how it works: Whatever items you’ve subscribed to are delivered by the first of the month at a 5% discount. You can cancel at any time, skip deliveries or have items delivered every two months, or six months, or whatever you decide.  If you don’t cancel the subscription for an item, it is automatically delivered on the schedule you’ve set but you get a warning email with plenty of time to postpone or cancel subscription items.)

The thing about a Prime membership is that you kind of have to work for it. If you order a couple things a month, it’s probably not worth it. But if you’re like us and live in a smaller city where we can’t buy a lot of our preferred items, it’s possible to make it a good deal. We’ve been Amazon Prime members for years now because we order so many household items online that our UPS driver knows us by name.

You don’t have to be a mom to sign up for Amazon Mom, but you do have to have enough space to store whatever you buy.  You often have to buy cases, or at least packs of two.  The trick is to be creative and thorough about figuring out what you can order through Subscribe & Save and making sure you have at least five orders each time you choose to have a delivery. Sure you can order dishwasher detergent, but keep in mind you might end up storing a few bottles.

This also means you have to be good about keeping your subscriptions up-to-date so you don’t receive too much organic baby food or too many OxiClean Max Force Gel Sticks too often. (Then again, if you have a baby you can never have too many of these.) When the end of the month approaches, I log in to see what items are scheduled for delivery and arrange things so that I hit the magic number “five”. I may have an extra case of Chlorine Free Diapers or a bottle of Multi-Vitamins to store, but it’s worth it. If I’m close to five subscriptions but not there, I can always round it out with coffee or tea or toothpaste. You get the idea.

While Amazon Mom may not be for everyone, it’s worth it for moms who love a good deal but are too busy – or too tired – for the store.

Watching TV: The early years

sesame-street

Good ol’ Sesame Street

Like all babies, Frances loves screen time.  She will ask to watch the same video of herself ad nauseum, even if there is nothing going on.  She’s not in the habit of watching shows, but I’m sure she’d like to.  This got me thinking, just how bad is screen time for one-year-olds?  What are other pre-toddlers watching, and how much time are they spending in front of the TV?

The Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) published the most widely cited study in 2003, and I wasn’t able to find a lot of new research. The first iPad wasn’t even released until 2010. I didn’t even have a smart phone back in 2003. Perhaps it’s time for a newer study.

Some of the information seems pretty accurate, like the fact that most children begin watching TV at 9 months old. But that 52% of kids under 1 watch, on average, 2.5 hours a day? Well, the KFF said so in 2003. They also said 60% of one-year-olds watch 3 hours a day, and 71% of two-year-olds watch the same amount.  Considering most of these kids are only awake 12 hours a day, that’s a good portion of their lives.

Here are some guidelines I gleaned from my readings:

Since sometimes screen time can’t be avoided, it’s best to stick with educational material. Shows (and apps) that prompt the viewer to respond can slightly increase vocabulary (whereas other shows decrease it). The best thing, apparently, is to watch the show (or play the game) with the child. Of course, doesn’t that defeat the whole purpose of having a few minutes of time to yourself? If you’re going to sit down with a kid and interact, you might as well read her a book.

If your kids are watching TV, stick to programs with a positive message. 81% of parents have seen their children imitate behavior they see on TV. This goes for both positive (sharing, helping) and negative (hitting, kicking) behavior. Try and avoid fast-paced shows that can over stimulate a child’s brain, since this over-stimulation can lead to attention-deficit problems in the long run. Instead, choose shows where characters treat each other with respect, solve problems and are slow paced.

Among all the articles I read, I enjoyed Farhad Manjoo’s take on screen time on Slate the best. As long as your baby is spending plenty of time playing with objects in the real world, reading books, interacting with people and playing outside, 30 minutes of educational programming isn’t going to have any negative long-term effects.

What’s the screen time policy at your house? What shows do your kids watch that don’t make you feel (too) guilty?

When to Start Daycare

Daycare

Daycare

I’ve always thought that eventually Frances would go to daycare for a few hours a week. It might be “wasted money”, since I work from home, but some days it seems like she’d have a lot more fun at daycare than sitting around the house listening to me say, “not now, sweetheart, I’m working”.

Daycare offers more than just a break for me. We’re still new enough to town that we haven’t met many people, so Franci doesn’t have a lot of play dates. We’re talking once every 8 weeks or so. I would like her to be exposed to other children a little more often, not to mention other people in general. She’s very wary of new people right now, and I can’t help but think that’s because she only sees the same half dozen faces regularly.

We do things a particular way in our house, and I imagine things operate quite differently at daycare. I figure it would be good for Franci to be exposed new things and new ways of doing things. It can’t hurt, right?

Right now I’m going through a big internal debate concerning the best time to start daycare. Our “first choice” has space opening up in June, and Frances will be 15 months old then. She would go for three hours a day, three days a week. If we don’t start then, we’d have to wait until February for the next enrolment opportunity, when Frances would be almost two.

Is it better to start early, or wait until she is a little older? I’ve read that kids under two aren’t developed enough to “play” together, but I don’t know if that is true. If we wait until she’s two, will it be harder her to be away from me for the first time? Or is the separation period difficult no matter when you start?

Air Purification System

Air Purification System

I love being surrounded by living things, so we have always had a lot of house plants. In my opinion, you can never have too many. It turns out that there is more to having house plants than enjoying their greenery year round.

In 1989, NASA and the Associated Landscape Contractors of America did a two-year study that proved indoor plants are successful at removing benzene, trichloroethylene, and formaldehyde from the air. You can read a good summary of the study here. The house plants most effective at removing these chemicals are Bamboo Palm, Chinese Evergreen, English Ivy, Gerbera Daisy, Dragon Tree, Corn Plant, Mother-in-Law’s Tongue, Chrysanthemum and Peace Lily. These are all easily found, often at the grocery store or hardware store, if you’re too busy to make an extra trip to a nursery.

If you have children or pets but want to enjoy the beauty, oxygen production and air cleaning properties of house plants, you may want to choose varieties that are not poisonous. While most toxic house plants aren’t that bad (they cause skin irritations or stomach aches but won’t kill you), it might not be worth the risk. Check out this website that lists safe and toxic house plants.

Even if you don’t have poisonous plants in your home, it’s a good idea to teach your kids to look but don’t touch. You never know what kinds of plants they will encounter outside or at someone else’s house.

Nightmares or Night Terrors?

Nightmare or Night Terror?

Nightmare or Night Terror?

Frances has been waking up in the night a few nights a week in a fit of tears. This is very unusual for her, and distressing for us, because she seems so sad! At first I thought it was night terrors, because I’ve heard that’s a thing for infants and toddlers, but now I’m not so sure.

Night terrors usually don’t start until a child is 18 months, and are different than nightmares in that the child cannot be awakened or comforted. Franci is only 13 months, and when we go to comfort her, she is awake and responds immediately to our attention.

Night terrors are a type of parasomnia, like sleep walking or sleep eating, and affect about 5% of the population under five years old. Most kids outgrow it, but considering that an episode lasts between 5 and 45 minutes, every incident must feel like it lasts forever. Especially since the best thing you can do is not wake her and simply make sure she doesn’t hurt herself while thrashing about.

Night terrors also differ from nightmares in that a child has no recollection of a night terror, but will often remember his nightmares. So while a night terror may be more traumatic for the parent, a nightmare is more distressing to the child.

If you have a family history of parasomnia, and your child is over-tired, he is more likely to suffer from night terrors. If the night terrors are predictable, some sources recommend waking your child before an episode occurs to disrupt the cycle. You can also wake your child after the night terror to make sure they don’t drift right back into deep sleep and have another episode.

Nightmares usually happen in the second half of the night, not the first (when night terrors usually occur), because that is when dreaming is most likely to take place. This is consistent with Franci’s recent behavior.

They can also be triggered by traumatic events. She’s had a couple of bad falls lately as she becomes more mobile, which makes me wonder if she’s more bothered about them than I thought. She also had blood drawn a couple weeks ago, which was definitely traumatic for both of us. She’s too young to talk about her nightmares, so it’s hard to know for sure. Maybe her premolars, which are definitely coming in, are bothering her. Or maybe she just has a really wet diaper!

Whether she really is having a nightmare, or is just in discomfort, the remedy is the same: comfort her, change her diaper, nurse her back to sleep. I’m worried we’re starting a habit of night nursing, something we haven’t done in eight months.

Is there something else I can be doing to help Franci through her night-time troubles? How do you cope with your baby’s nightmares?

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  • Are BPA-Free Plastics Safe?

    Not Safe Enough?

    Not Safe Enough?

    I remember getting rid of my trusty Nalgene bottle when BPA-Free became the big thing.  I tried switching to stainless steel, but couldn’t stand the taste.  I’ve finally settled on glass, but it’s not always the most convenient.  Frances is still at the stage where every sippy cup gets tossed on the floor when she’s through with it, so unless I want to hold it for her it has to be plastic.

    I figured as long as we stuck with BPA-Free sippy cups, I didn’t have to worry too much. Well, it turns out that recent studies are showing that other plastics are just as full of estrogenic activity as BPA when put through the same cell-based tests. Since the plastic industry isn’t required to test the chemicals that have replaced BPA unless there is proof that they are harmful, consumers have no idea whether or not these new plastics contain endocrine disruptors.

    It seems to me that no one is in a big hurry to vet the new plastics. I mean, if each new plastic is proved harmful, what are we left with? There is no way that plastic is going away any time soon. Even I loathe to give up plastic completely, since the ten minutes Franci drinks from her sippy cups is ten minutes I get to spend cleaning or eating or blogging.

    Fortunately, there are tons of great alternatives to plastic these days. Many of the new glass bottles have rubber sleeves that protect them from normal use. Although I haven’t found a glass sippy cup I’m willing to trust, we do like our Dr. Brown’s glass bottles.

    Last year I tested out several glass water bottles and found that Aquasana
    bottles are the cheapest and easiest to drink out of. The best part is that my drink never taste like plastic or metal!

    My favorite water bottle

    My favorite water bottle

    Instead of storing leftovers in plastic containers, we’ve switched to glass. It’s actually more convenient, since most are microwave, oven and dishwasher safe.

    We may not be able to cut plastic completely out of our lives, but at least we can limit our exposure.

    Are you worried about BPA and other plastic chemicals?

    The Eco-nomical Baby Guide
    Eco-nomical Baby Guide
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