Archive for the ‘Baby Care’ Category


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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  • Filed under: Baby Care
  • 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?

    Fluoridating Your Baby

    Use Fluoride Toothpaste!

    Use Fluoride Toothpaste!

    Second to vaccinating, the hot-button issue with conscientious parents today is whether or not to give your child fluoride.

    If you live in a municipality that has more than 400,000 people, your water is most likely fluoridated. There are also plenty of communities whose drinking supply naturally has fluoride, especially if you live in the west. The only way to know how much fluoride is in your water is to read the Consumer Confidence Report that the EPA requires each community water system to provide. (search “Consumer Confidence Report” and your town name to find your local report).

    There’s a lot of propaganda out there on both sides of the issue. Groups like the Fluoride Action Network cite a myriad of studies that “prove” how “dangerous” fluoride is. They make no concessions that fluoride can be beneficial, despite evidence that it is one of the only substancs that can actually re-mineralize teeth. They tend to showcase communities that have toxic levels of fluoride occurring naturally in the water that cause wide-spread bone-density issues. While it’s true that some water sources have too much fluoride, the excess is actually removed from water in industrialized places.

    Topical fluoride application is more beneficial than ingestion, modern studies are showing. Dental fluorosis is one of the first signs of too much fluoride, and looks like white spots on the teeth. It is caused by consuming too much fluoride while the teeth are forming under the gums. Low-income communities have higher rates of fluorosis not from the water supply, but from canned food and juice.

    However, fluoride makes teeth resistant to acid so that the bacteria can not dissolve them or cause cavities. Which is why the American Dental Association recommends that you use a rice-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste on your baby’s teeth as soon as they come in.

    From all the research I’ve read, there isn’t much point in ingesting extra fluoride. In fact, it can cause permanent discoloration. That’s an inconvenience, but not dangerous. It would be impossible to digest a toxic amount of fluoride in a community with water fluoridation, so don’t waste time worrying about that. If you want to avoid dental fluorosis, eat fresh vegetables instead of canned, and don’t drink fruit juice.

    Instead, focus on the topical application of fluoride if you want to prevent cavities. In fact, the wide-spread use of fluoride toothpaste has done more for the decline in cavities than Community Water Fluoridation ever has.

    As for Franci, I’m not going to give her any more of her fluoride supplement. Instead, I’m going to start using a grain of rice sized dot of fluoride toothpaste when I brush her teeth. She’ll end up ingesting some of it any way, which will be enough for those adult teeth buds that we won’t see for a few years.

    What are your views on Community Water Fluoridation? Do you give your kids fluoride supplements or use fluoride toothpaste?

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  • Filed under: Baby Care, General
  • Working Variety into a Baby’s Diet

    Banana Again??

    Banana Again??

    Now that Frances is down to nursing three times a day, the amount of solid food she can consume at one sitting is quite impressive. I don’t know how her stomach can hold so much food!

    I’ve been worrying, as only a mother can, about the variety in her diet. Since she’ll eat just about anything, I’ve been pureeing every vegetable I can think of into a thick paste with some sort of meat. I keep a fish version, a lamb version and a chicken version in the freezer and alternate which one she eats each day.

    Although she is not picky in general, she is particular about what she eats at which time of day. For example, her afternoon meal has to be fruit, and she won’t eat savory food at dinner. So I can’t feed her a vegetable-meat puree at any other meal but lunch. She has a strong preference for oatmeal at dinner, to which I add pumpkin or squash, yogurt and a little fruit all pureed together.

    She’s been eating probably two dozen bananas a month, and after a couple months of this I’m thinking it’s time to switch things up. The problem is, it is so cheap and easy! I buy a bunch, and by the time we run out, it’s time to go grocery shopping again any way. It takes less effort to mush a banana than anything else I’ve found (with avocados close behind, which is the one food she will not eat).

    How do you mix things up? It’s hard to get out of the habit of making a big batch of oatmeal, since I know she likes it. Maybe it’s time to switch to another grain? Maybe buckwheat or quinoa or farro? Maybe all three at once? Do I add in lentils or legumes? It seems like making my own baby food is a slippery slope since there is an endless combination of ingredients to use. It can drive a mom crazy!

    How do you keep your sanity while providing a variety of fruits and vegetables? How do you decide what “super-foods” to include versus “convenience foods”?

    Work At Home Moms

    Work-At-Home-Mom

    Work-At-Home-Mom

    The Huffington Post reprinted a popular article on their blog recently that originally appeared on The Healthy Doctor blog, A Letter From a Working Mother to a Stay-At-Home Mother (and Vice Versa)

    I think they left out an important percentage of the mom-population: Work-At-Home-Moms (WAHM). In my casual surfing of Facebook and Etsy, I’ve come to realize how large this group really is.

    Perhaps we’re hard to categorize, because working hours aren’t always consistent. And while one WAHM may work 5 hours a week, another may work 40. And that could even be the same mom, just in a different week!

    Since we are all about inclusion these days here in ‘Merica, I’ve decided to write my own letter, from one Work-At-Home-Mom to another:

    Dear Work-At-Home-Mom:

    You’ve made the decision to stay at home to raise your children, because the thought of missing the smallest milestone compels you. What you didn’t count on was the possibility of missing them any way, while at your work station or blocking out all distractions for just ten more minutes so you can reach a stopping point.

    You might avoid cabin-fever, unlike many SAHMs, because your work connects you to the outside world. Whether it’s emailing back and forth, or talking on the phone, you’re interacting with other adults more than just answering “cash or credit” at the grocery store. But the physical isolation can get to you as well. It’s hard to fit in play dates when there is a stack of chores to tackle after work hours.

    It’s a struggle to find the right balance of working enough hours to satisfy monetary and professional goals, while not working so many as to reach a breaking point or drive your family crazy. Since no one can “do it all”, don’t count on having a hobby. Unless your hobby is also your work, in which case be careful not to get sick of it! Maybe your new hobby now is cooking or cleaning, or listening to books on tape while doing chores.

    Since you must become a multitasking, organizational expert to navigate the WAHM world, it’s hard to set that all aside and do something unplanned. Or to just do one thing at a time! Perhaps the biggest challenge is to dedicate undivided attention to your family. To sit down and play with your children, and not with your smart phone in one hand, checking email with one eye while admiring a tower of blocks with the other. To color at the kitchen table with your kids, instead of sitting them down to color while you make dinner.

    As tempting as it is to burn the candle at both ends, a good night’s sleep becomes the most important thing. Too little rest and you will make more mistakes and your work will take longer, or your patience with your children will wane. You don’t have the luxury of napping when your baby naps, since that is prime working time. And you certainly can’t sneak in a nap in your car on your lunch break.

    Hopefully we can find and connect with each other locally and online and foster our own community. If there can be a “buy locally” trend or a “buy American” campaign, why can’t we start one that focuses on supporting other WAHM moms? Whether you’re looking to make a website for your own business, or buy a cake for your child’s birthday, you can bet there is a WAHM that can deliver the goods. Let’s give it a try!

    Love from the trenches,

    Work-At-Home Mom

    Music for Babies

    Playing along with Papa

    Playing along with Papa

    Frances loves music.  The minute you start to hum or whistle she starts nodding her head along with the sound, no matter how made-up or off-key the song is!

    I think most babies have an innate love of music. I’m sure there are countless studies on the subject, but I can say for a fact that it’s true for Franci. When I play the piano or her dad plays guitar for her she stops what she’s doing and listens.

    One thing I’ve noticed, is that she doesn’t care about the music if you aren’t directing it at her. Sometimes she hears music on the TV and will nod along, but she loses interest quickly. She also doesn’t seem to notice music when she’s riding in the car, which is unfortunate since she’s not crazy about going for a drive to begin with.

    So there seems to be a difference between having music directed towards her, and hearing music in the background. I wonder if there is music that she would actually listen to on “tape”, instead of hearing it live or on TV. She seems to enjoy dancing so much I would love to be able to pop in a CD and let her rock out!

    Are your kids crazy about music too? What albums did they enjoy at a year old? Her birthday is coming right up, and I’m still trying to figure out the perfect gift. I’m not looking for Lullabys or Disney Silly Songs or music just for children, but a play list or CD of regular songs that she would enjoy dancing to (and that wouldn’t drive her parents crazy).

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  • Filed under: Baby Care
  • Giving Childhood Back to Children

    More than just for fun!

    More than just for fun!

    Peter Gray wrote an article, “Give childhood back to children: if we want our offspring to have happy, productive and moral lives, we must allow more time for play, not less“, that is making the rounds and I think it’s one that everyone should read, not just parents. I thought it was going to be about allowing kids more freedom – to run to the corner store to buy milk or to walk home from school unsupervised – but it was specifically about the importance of play.

    Playtime is more than just a way to pass a few hours. Gray’s research asserts that play is essential in all mammals’ development, and the those that have the most to learn play the most. He makes great points about creativity and the fact that we have robots and computers to do many of the tasks that we used to do, so our focus now should be on solving problems and thinking towards the future.

    One point I agree with (and so did Einstein) is that too much schooling can destroy your interest in a topic you once enjoyed. After completing my Computer Science degree, I didn’t want to touch a computer for years. In contrast, my husband saw himself in a similar position and chose to leave school and pursue CS on his own. Guess who still loves computers and enjoys making a living with them?

    Play teaches children self-control and teamwork better than any classroom because they live the results. There are correlations between the opportunities to play and mental disorders and anxiety. I know that I’m in a healthier state of mind if I have time to play!

    The most ironic part of this situation is that while US (and UK, where Gray resides) schooling becomes more rigorous, China is doing the exact opposite. They tried what we’re trying already, and it was a miserable failure (check out, “China’s 10 new and surprising school reform rules“, on the Washington Post’s website for more on this topic).

    Where do you stand on the subject? Do you think school days should be longer and holidays shorter? Are we too hard on young students or not hard enough?

    Get well soon!

    Get well soon!

    I’ve posted about our decision to vaccinate Frances on an alternative vaccination schedule, and I’m still very interested about the vaccine debate, especially with the recent news about outbreaks of measles due to the lack of herd immunity in communities such as Brooklyn.

    I usually just skim the titles, but one article recently caught my eye that is worth a read: Growing Up Unvaccinated. The author was not vaccinated as a child, but has chosen to vaccinate her own children. When faced between letting her child suffer through the measles and the consequences (such as infertility or the use of antibiotics) and vaccinating, it’s a no-brainer. I tend to agree with the author. A very sick child is heartbreaking, and is no fun for the parent either.

    After learning about how long it takes the body to get back to normal after a round of antibiotics, I try and avoid them at all costs. If I’m sick a few days longer, it’s worth it to keep my digestive track healthy.

    So if I have to chose between vaccines and antibiotics for Franci, I’m sticking with the vaccines. What about you?

    The Eco-nomical Baby Guide
    Eco-nomical Baby Guide
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