Friday, November 30, 2012

Car Seat Rule #3: Newborns

This is the third in my sometime Car Seat Rules series (Rule #1, on chest clips; Rule #2, on rear-facing).

I want to talk specifically about newborns in car seats. Often demonstrations are given using older babies or toddlers, but most of us first use car seats with newborns, and it's helpful to know some specific rules pertaining to newborns that may not apply to older babies.

A newborn may sit in an infant "bucket-style" car seat or in a rear-facing convertible car seat. The same rules apply in either type of seat. These rules really apply to any rear-facing baby or toddler, with some additional detail given for the specific case of a newborn. (For "newborn," I mean a baby from birth to approximately three months of age.)

1. What's Wrong with This Picture?
A brand new NJ in a Graco infant car seat. 
See if you can spot any problems with how he's buckled! (Answers below.)

2. What's Wrong with This Picture?

Here is newborn SB in his Chicco KeyFit30 infant seat, with two-year-old NJ looking on. Can you spot any problems with how he's buckled? (Answers below.)

So what are the rules for newborns in car seats?

1. The shoulder harness straps must be adjusted AT or BELOW the baby's shoulders.

This means that if the straps are above your baby's shoulders on their lowest setting, then the seat is too big for your newborn. Many seats come with additional newborn support padding. If your seat comes with this additional padding, you may need to use it both for your baby's comfort and to bring him up to the level of the lowest shoulder harness slots. DO NOT USE ANY AFTERMARKET PADDING with your car seat. The general rule is, if it didn't come in the box with your car seat, you shouldn't put it on your car seat. (This also applies to head supports and shoulder strap padding!)

If you do use the support padding that comes with your car seat, check your user's manual for the upper weight limit for this padding, and remove it when your baby reaches that weight limit. A heavier baby will compress the padding in the event of an accident, which may mean that the harness is not tight enough, potentially causing your baby injury or even causing him to be ejected from his seat.

2.  The chest clip must be fastened and lined up with his armpits or nipples.

I've talked about the chest clip before. At length. If your car seat has a chest clip, use it properly.

3.  Did I mention? Don't use any aftermarket products on your seat.

Don't use any padding, supports, add-ons, or accessories that didn't come in the box with your car seat. This includes the ever-popular Bundle-Me, head supports, shoulder strap padding, and body support pillows. These (a) interfere with the harness, meaning you may not be able to adjust, buckle, or tighten it properly; and (b) are not crash-tested with your seat, meaning you don't know how safely your car seat will perform in a crash if you are using one of these products.

4.  Make sure your car seat is installed at a 45 degree angle.

Newborns don't have enough head control to sit at a more vertical angle. If the seat is not reclined properly, his heavy head can fall forward onto his chest, obstructing his airway.

5.  It's okay for the head to fall to one side or the other, but not forward.

If your baby looks uncomfortable because his head is tilted far to one side or the other, especially if he falls asleep in the car seat, you may put a rolled up receiving blanket on either side of his head to offer additional support. You should put the blankets in after he is buckled in properly. They should not be attached to the car seat in any way, and they should not go between the baby and the car seat.

6.  Don't be afraid to tighten the harness!

The harness should be tight enough to pass the "pinch test." The pinch test is when you attempt to gather the strap between your thumb and forefinger at the baby's shoulder. If your fingers slide off the strap, then it is tight enough. If you can pinch and hold the strap material between your thumb and forefinger, the harness is too loose.

One tip: After you buckle the harness, tug on the straps around the baby's tummy to pull the slack out of the hip area, then tighten.

7.  If your baby is cold, put blankets on over the harness.

You should not put too many layers of clothing on your baby when he is in his car seat. Bulky clothing will prevent the harness from being properly tightened. If your baby is cold, buckle him into his seat in one or two layers of clothing and then put blankets or a jacket over the baby. You can tuck a blanket around the baby tightly to help keep him calm if he usually likes to be swaddled, but you should not put a blanket between the baby and the harness or behind the baby.

My friend was generous enough to allow me to film her newborn, at about seven weeks old, being buckled into his car seat. Please watch and share this video, and subscribe to the Jessica on Babies YouTube channel!

Note: Unless it states otherwise in your car seat manual, the handle of the car seat may be in any position when the seat is in the car, as long as it is locked in that position.

Answers to "What's Wrong with This Picture?"
1. Harness is not tight enough - you can see how loose it is around his right shoulder. Too much slack in the hip area. Chest clip is too low - if the slack were pulled out of the straps and the harness properly tightened, you could see that the clip is not at his armpits. It's hard to see anything else from the angle of the photo. The head support came with the car seat, but it is probably both unnecessary and useless.

2. Harness is not tight enough - you can see the slack at his chest area. Chest clip is too low. All of the additional padding - shoulder pads, head support, and body support - came with the car seat and are acceptable to use. Because the car seat was not in the car in this picture, I can only assume I made the corrections before we went anywhere. :)

And, finally, in this picture, baby SB is buckled nice and securely, harness properly tightened, chest clip properly positioned. He is in one layer of clothing and is kept warm by placing a blanket over the harness.

It's Your Turn, Take 2! Your Breastfeeding and Formula-Feeding Experiences

Let's make this easier. I haven't had a very enthusiastic response to my little survey, posted Wednesday. I've made a web-based survey for you to fill in instead, rather than having to answer in a comment or email. Responses will be anonymous, and you can feel free to comment on any question to clarify or enhance your response. Enjoy!

Click here to take the survey!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

It's Your Turn! Which Is Easier, Breastfeeding or Formula-Feeding?

I want to try something different with this post. I get a lot of hits on my blog for people looking for "is breastfeeding easier than formula?" and related searches. They mostly land on this post. I've also written a few others, like this one, and this one, that touch on that topic. Because this seems to be a popular question, I want to put it to my readers to help me answer it. In the comments, or in an email to jessicaonbabies (at) gmail (dot) com, or as a comment on this post on the Facebook page, answer the following questions as honestly as you can, either from your own experience or the experiences of friends and relatives. You can keep it anonymous if you want to, and feel free to expand on your answers if you want to be more specific. I'm interested to see what the general trends are. I'll follow up on this post in a week or two with a compilation of your responses and my reaction, as well as my own answers!

1. In your experience, or the experiences of people around you, do you see breastfeeding as:
a. Very difficult
b. Difficult
c. Manageable
d. Easy

2. In your experience, or the experiences of people around you, do you see formula feeding as:
a. Very difficult
b. Difficult
c. Manageable
d. Easy

3. Do you know how to properly prepare a bottle of formula?
a. Definitely
b. I think so
c. Not sure
d. No

4. Do you know what a proper latch looks like when breastfeeding?
a. Definitely
b. I think so
c. Not sure
d. No

5. Before you had a baby of your own, did you ever see someone breastfeeding a baby? (Including on TV)
a. Never
b. Once or twice
c. Occasionally
d. Often

6. Before you had a baby of your own, did you ever see someone giving a baby a bottle (regardless of what was in it)? (Including on TV)
a. Never
b. Once or twice
c. Occasionally
d. Often

7. Before you had a baby of your own, did you ever see someone prepare a bottle of formula? (Including on TV)
a. Never
b. Once or twice
c. Occasionally
d. Often

8. Before you had a baby of your own, did you personally ever prepare a bottle of formula for a baby?
a. Yes
b. No

9. Before you were pregnant, were you aware of the breastfeeding versus formula "wars"?
a. Yes
b. No

10. In your opinion, which is "easier," overall?
a. Breastfeeding
b. Formula-feeding

Monday, November 26, 2012

3-Across in a Toyota Camry

On Thanksgiving, we drove up to Los Angeles to spend the day with family. Our 2006 Highlander has over 100,000 miles on it, and we decided to see if we could take advantage of the better gas mileage and lower overall miles on my husband's 2012 Camry for the drive up this year. Since buying the Camry earlier this year, we hadn't tried to put three across in the back seat. Our two older sons had ridden in it multiple times, and we had SB's Graco Nautilus and a booster seat for NJ installed in the car already. In order to fit three across, however, we had to take out the Nautilus and move the two Radians from the Highlander to the Camry.

We were able to make it work by putting SB, who is almost four, front-facing in his five-point-harnessed Radian65, behind the driver; GI, who is 14 months, rear-facing in his Radian R100, in the middle; and NJ, who is six, in a booster seat behind the passenger. While I would have preferred to put NJ in the middle, it would have been next to impossible for him to get in and out easily and to buckle his seatbelt - really, the same problem he had in the Highlander.

SB's Radian65 was installed using the LATCH connectors, GI's Radian R100 was installed using the seatbelt, as there were no LATCH connectors for the middle seat, and NJ, of course, used the seatbelt with his booster.

It worked out well, and so I am pleased to report that, for those of you trying to get three across in the back of a sedan, it is entirely possible in a 2012 Toyota Camry using Diono Radian seats. I don't think it would have been possible with wider seats, such as the Graco Nautilus. It probably would have worked with an infant seat with a base, as well, although we had no reason to try it.


Installed but empty. You can see the black-and-beige Radian front-facing on the driver's side, the dark gray Radian rear-facing in the middle, and the booster on the passenger's side.

And here they are, loaded up and ready to go. SB peeking out from the side of his Radian, GI watching me from his rear-facing Radian, and NJ proudly modeling proper seatbelt use in his booster seat. 


Also, don't miss my video demonstrating how to properly harness a four-year-old in a five-point harness, the inaugural video of my new YouTube channel. Subscribe now to see future videos, which will typically integrate with a related blog post!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Book News

Just a quick announcement: The Kindle Edition of my book, The "Yes, It's Normal!" Guide to Breastfeeding is now $1.99 (reduced from $2.99) at least until the end of this year!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Babies in Non-Baby-Proofed Houses

Thanksgiving with a toddler, for a third time, has inspired me to write this post.

Ever since NJ was a toddler, we've spent Thanksgiving with my family in Los Angeles, as well as other family get-togethers such as Mother's and Father's Day. NJ was the first baby in my family in over 20 years, and my relatives' houses hadn't had children in them in a long time. Houses without young children have a tendency to collect tchotchkes and decorations, plants, and other non-baby-friendly items on side tables, bookshelves, coffee tables, etc. While decoratively sound, this tchotchke-collecting isn't so great when there's a toddler around.

The first few times we visited relatives with our baby- and toddler-aged son, we had to make the rounds, picking up or putting away all kinds of things, like fireplace tools and decorative items, candles, collectible coasters, photo books, and so on. As NJ got older and less likely to get into things, it was easier to visit without having to give the place a once-over first. By the time SB was a mobile baby, we had gotten pretty good about semi-baby-proofing and keeping an eye on the kids.

The only other problem is what the kids should do with themselves during the family visit. I remember as a kid being bored out of my skull while the adults sat around chatting. My brother and I were the only kids at most of these events; my aunt doesn't have kids, so there weren't any near-same-age cousins to hang out with. My kids are in the same situation - my brother doesn't have kids, so they have only each other for company. NJ and SB are now old enough that they're pretty happy to hang out upstairs watching movies. GI, however, is at exactly the wrong age for a family gathering. He's old enough to want to be up and exploring, young enough to have little patience for sitting at the table for two hours, young enough not to be able to take instructions, but old enough to toddle around all over the place, find things to pick up, throw, or chew on, and otherwise cause destruction.

Thus, Thanksgiving this year was interesting. On the one hand, it was very pleasant to be able to set NJ and SB up with a movie, knowing that they were happy and entertained and we didn't have to listen to whining. On the other hand, GI kept us on our toes a bit.

Fortunately, after five years of visiting with kids of various ages, my aunt's house is far less dangerous than it once was. We had to keep an eye on him as far as not knocking over the TV, getting into the cat's litterbox (although he actually showed no interest in it), and a few other random things. It was actually one of the easier Thanksgiving-with-toddler scenarios we've been in.

One thing that has really helped is that we've started keeping a few toys at my aunt's house. A few dollars' worth of Hot Wheels cars and two Tonka trucks that they only see when we're there make a big difference. Plus, we don't have to schlep a bunch of toys with us when we go, along with the food we were bringing, the diaper bag, and anything else we might need for a two-hour drive and several-hour stay with three boys.

So, some advice for visiting relatives' houses when you have young kids and they don't!

1) Don't be embarrassed to nurse the baby if you need to. (This has never applied to me in my thankfully very supportive family, but I know other families may be less open.)
2) Leave toys at relatives' houses so the kids have something novel to play with when they're there.
3) Let older kids have a little leeway - even if TV or video games are limited at home, for example, be sensitive to the fact that they have less to do and are genuinely more bored when they're at relatives' houses.
4) Help the hosts pick up or move items that may be dangerous to your mobile baby or toddler so that you can feel comfortable letting baby roam a bit.
5) Bring at least one change of clothes for each kid. You never know which one is going to throw up, spill, or have a bathroom accident or leaky diaper. It's often not the one you expect!
6) If you'll be there during naptime, arrange in advance for a quiet place to put the kid(s) down for a nap - a guest room, den, or other room with a closed door, for example.

What special tips or tricks do you have for visiting this holiday season?

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

NJ's RSV Story

Back in March, I had promised a post telling the story of The Time That NJ Had RSV. I'm always on the prowl for blog topics, and when I suggest one to my future self, all the better! Stick with me. This is a good one.

Back in February of 2007, we were getting prepared for a major change. We were moving from Philadelphia to San Diego. This was a move we had planned on, in theory, for many years, but had only actually had about six weeks to prepare for, from the time we knew my husband had a job waiting there for him to the time he was to start said job. NJ was almost four months old. We had planned to rent a U-Haul trailer, load it with (hopefully) everything we owned that we didn't want to part with in our two-bedroom apartment, and set out across country. We expected it to take about a week, what with having to allow time for baby care, resting, and so on. We invited a friend of mine to come along, just to have an extra set of hands and eyes. She agreed.

We planned to leave on Friday, February 23, hoping to be in San Diego by March 2. Early in the week before we had to hit the road, NJ came down with a bad cold and cough. We took him to the doctor, where he was diagnosed with probable RSV. It didn't seem to be a severe case, so the doctor gave him an albuterol inhaler with a spacer chamber, saying that if we should need it on the drive, it would be much more portable than a nebulizer, and just as effective.

By Friday, not only was NJ still sick, but I had come down with an awful cold as well. I was coughing, congested, and generally miserable. Things were not looking up. We had decided to keep NJ's four-month "well"-baby visit for that day. Only, he was far from well. Indeed, the doctor was concerned enough about his wheezing that she gave us a nebulizer and sent us to the hospital. She told us that we should stay in the hospital overnight and that we simply could not leave for San Diego that afternoon as planned.

But at the ER, NJ was happy, playful, and had responded well to a nebulizer treatment. The pediatrician at the ER was hesitant to admit him, saying that he really wasn't that sick after all. We could handle the nebulizer treatments every four hours at home, and we should return to our pediatrician in the morning for a follow-up.

So, we spent the night in an empty apartment. Our stuff was packed and loaded in the trailer. We had no TV, no furniture except our bed and a couch that wouldn't fit in the trailer and a couple of bookshelves that we'd decided to leave behind. We had no food. My mom stayed with us and did NJ's night-time treatments, and we returned to the doctor the next morning.

He was a bit better in the morning, but the doctor insisted that we needed to continue the treatments, and we shouldn't leave town just yet, in case he got worse and needed to return to the hospital.

Well, okay. But we were supposed to be moving to San Diego! We HAD to get on the road by Sunday or we wouldn't make it to San Diego in time for my husband to start his new job.

What choice did we have? We scrapped our plans. The trailer was unloaded and returned to U-Haul. We hired movers to come pick up the stuff on Sunday morning. My husband would head out by car Sunday afternoon, and I would fly with NJ and my friend to Los Angeles the following Tuesday to wait for him. We would stay at my aunt's house in LA until we reunited, then drive down to San Diego together and wait for the movers.

And that was that. My husband hit the road Sunday afternoon, headed to Pittsburgh for his first overnight stop with a cousin there. NJ and I went to my mom's to spend a couple of nights until our Tuesday evening flight. I was still feeling very sick, but NJ started to do better. By Tuesday, I was starting to feel human again, thank goodness.

My friend and I flew out with NJ, as planned. He handled the trip like a pro, and everything went very smoothly. My husband arrived in LA on Wednesday evening, having made incredibly good time. Without a baby or trailer to slow him down, he had driven a good 800 to 900 miles a day!

NJ recovered just fine, obviously, although he was left with some reactive asthma that rears its ugly head occasionally. It amazes me to think how much our lives have changed since that move. Our family has grown by two children, we've bought a house, and we're quite settled here in southern California. It still makes for a good story, though!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Watch My 4-Year-Old Get Into His Car Seat

Jessica on Babies now has a YouTube channel. I intend to post informational videos about Jessica on Babies topics. The inaugural video is SB getting buckled into his car seat. SB rides in a Sunshine Kids (now Diono) Radian65, front-facing. He will be four next month. The Radian65 has a front-facing weight limit of 65 pounds. SB is about 34 pounds and 38" tall. That means he has lots of room to grow in his car seat.

I took this video with my phone. I would like to purchase a proper digital video camera and some video editing software in order to make higher-quality videos for the YouTube channel. For ways to help me raise the funds for such a purchase, check out the "Support Us" page or see the "Support Jessica on Babies" section on the right side of this page.

Please subscribe to the YouTube channel to see new videos as they're posted. Thanks for watching!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

How is a Water Heater Like a Car Seat? Or, Being Prepared for What MIGHT Happen

Monday morning, we woke up to a broken water heater. In a sense, I knew it had to be coming. It was the original water heater that had come with the house, which was built 12 years ago. Water heaters don't last forever. On the other hand, I had really, really hoped it would be something I didn't have to worry about for a long, long time still. I wasn't prepared, financially or otherwise, to have my water heater break.

But, it happened, as we knew it would. A couple of cold November nights did us in. Water leaking from the bottom of a cold heater, a call to a contractor friend for a plumber referral, and four hours later, a brand new water heater in place of the old one, and us out a good chunk of money for the pleasure. At least now I don't have to worry about it for a while! It happened, it's over, and we move on.

I bring this up because it illustrates a point I try to make with car seats. How is a water heater like a car seat? you might ask. Well, I'll tell you.

It isn't.

But I was incredibly relieved that I had had the foresight not to store anything too close to the water heater that might be damaged by water leaking. Closest to it were a stack of plastic storage tubs. The bottom of one and the top of another were damp, but nothing inside was damaged. There was a roll of brown packing paper on the floor (I don't even know where it came from), a box of Kleenex (oh well), and otherwise nothing was lost or damaged by the water. Also, just last week I had bought a 5 gallon bucket, which was conveniently right near the water heater, which I could put under the drips to catch them before more water spread through the garage.

The chances of the water heater bursting or causing any major problems were small. There was no way to predict if or when it would happen. Sometimes you can know it's time for a new water heater before it starts leaking. Sometimes, G-d forbid, the water heater can burst and make a real mess.

The point is, I prepared for something that might happen, and my preparations paid off. We didn't lose anything important to the water.

And this is where the car seat comparison comes in, you see? You install your car seats properly, you buckle your kids in properly, you wear your seat belt, and you drive safely, not because you know for sure that an accident will happen, but because one might. You think ahead and prepare for a possibility. Indeed, the chances of being in a car accident are frighteningly high, so it makes sense to be prepared for the eventuality. Just like we carry car insurance and homeowners' or renters' insurance, just like we put money in a college fund and an emergency fund, just like we fasten our furniture to the walls and don't store valuable items near the water heater, we use our car seats properly every time - every time - because one morning you might wake up to a leaking water heater - I mean - G-d forbid, you might get in an accident on the way to school and be ever-so-grateful you used your car seats properly that day.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Learning to Talk

My baby is learning to talk. He's taking it slowly, like his brothers did, but judging from how verbal and bright they are now, at six and almost-four, I'm not worried. So let's talk a little bit about how babies learn to talk.

The young human mind is incredibly adept at learning a language. We are hard-wired to learn to talk, and at least up until about puberty, most of us have a remarkable facility for picking up languages, nuances of sounds and grammar, syntax variety, and so on. Babies who are exposed to more than one language simultaneously while developing will very quickly learn to differentiate languages, know which one to speak with whom, and easily switch between the languages. I believe that people who grew up speaking more than one language also tend to be better at learning new languages when they are older.

But even for those of us who are sadly monolingual (or happily monolingual), watching a baby learn to talk is a miraculous experience.

Most babies will start to recognize certain combinations of sounds as familiar quite early on. Almost from birth, they'll recognize their mother's and father's voices, and the voices of other people who are often around. Some babies already recognize their own names by six months of age. By a year, many babies can recognize the names of people around them (Mommy, Daddy, siblings), some body parts, and simple directions like "up", "down", and "eat." By one year, in fact, many babies are already uttering some words, like "Mama" or "cup." I was at the park several months ago and heard a 10-month-old say "down" when he wanted his grandmother to take him down the slide.

By early toddlerhood, most babies can understand simple instructions, like "sit down" or "get your shoes." I remember very clearly that NJ, at 15 months, could understand, "Get Mommy's shoes." He would go to the closet, pull out a pair of my shoes, and bring them to me. I was suitably impressed.

Once a baby learns that an utterance (or sign!) has meaning, it won't be long before they start saying more words or making more signs. There will be a language explosion, and it will seem like every day they're using three new words.

It's important to remember that babies understand long before they can speak. My 14-month-old obviously understands quite a lot. He understands "Grandma is here!" or "Say 'night-night' to your brothers," or "Where's your duck?" (in the bath). He understands "Time to take NJ to school." I know this because he'll very excitedly toddle over to the stroller and climb in! Even though he doesn't say any words yet, he is very definitely learning language!

I mentioned in my "Breastfeeding a Toddler" post a couple of weeks ago that I had taught GI a sign to use when he wanted to nurse. Making words with your mouth is actually quite complicated and involves fine motor skills to get your tongue, cheeks, lips, and throat in the right position to create the vowel and consonant sounds you need, in the right order, to form the word. I watch my almost-four-year-old still work very hard to say certain words clearly. He has to remember how to make each sound, in what order, and move smoothly from one sound to the next. Speech therapy helped him a lot with this, and I see how he'll stop to think about what sounds he needs to make and ready his lips and tongue accordingly. It's kind of cute. His speech clarity has improved markedly in the last year, and while he still has a cutesy "toddler-esque" feel to his pronunciation, and a pronounced lisp besides, it's encouraging to know that he's working it out. Which brings me to the value of sign language for a young toddler.

Babies develop the fine motor skills in their fingers and hands before their lips and tongue are able to form the complex shapes for the sounds of language. By teaching them a few signs, they can learn to express needs before they can accurately form the words verbally. GI even tries to work out new signs for himself when the two signs he has don't prove adequate. He couples this with pointing and an earnest "uh uh uh uh" to let me know he's desperately trying to communicate something to me.

Also, on Friday, he very clearly said "more!" when he wanted more of something. He only did it twice, and he's back to signing instead of speaking, but I know it's coming. That verbal explosion will be here within the next few months, and then there will be no stopping him. Neither NJ nor SB said any obvious words until about 16 or 17 months, but once they started talking, they kept right on going, graduating to phrases and sentences in a remarkably short period of time.

How do you teach your child to talk? Simple. Talk to him! Give an instruction and then demonstrate what you mean. Narrate your day. "Mommy is going to buy some apples. Do you like apples? Here are some nice red apples. Let's put some in a bag and put them in the cart." There, you've taught him "apple", "bag", "cart," and eventually "red". You've taught him "put". You've engaged him by using a question, which has a different inflection than a sentence. You've referred to yourself and to him. So much goes into a simple sentence like "Here are some nice red apples!"

Even before you're certain she understands what you're saying, talk to her. I like to simply have a running commentary about whatever is happening around my babies. "Look, there's the kitty cat! Oh, he said 'Meow!' Can you say 'Meow?' He's coming over here. Mommy's going to pet the cat. Do you hear him purring? He likes when Mommy pets him. Do you want to pet him? Use a gentle touch. Nice. Open hand. Don't pull his fur. He doesn't like that. Pet nicely." It may feel odd at first, or even a little silly, but it's so valuable. And you'll know when they start to understand and respond to specific things you say. Suddenly, you'll realize that when you say, "Here comes the kitty cat!", she'll look around for the cat and smile when she sees him, or even point. And when you see that she understands, you can take it a step farther. "Do you see the kitty cat? Where's the cat?" and wait as she looks around. When she spots him, "You found the kitty! There he is! Do you want to pet him?"

My favorite is to play the nose-beeping game. Whenever he's nursing, and his face is so close to mine, and his little nose is just right there for the tapping, I press it and say "beep!" As he starts to understand, he'll anticipate and smile. Eventually, he'll return the favor, pressing my nose and waiting for the "beep!" Of course, always name the body part! "I'm going to beep your nose! Can you beep Mommy's nose?" Now he learns the word nose, and he learns where it is, and, eventually, he learns "your nose" versus "my nose." You can also teach body parts while dressing him. "I'm putting your shirt over your head. Okay, let's put your arm in. Where's your hand? There it is! Here are your pants. Put your foot in. Okay, stand up. Where are your shoes? Let's put your shoes on. Sit down. Where's your foot? Good job! Okay, other foot!"

Finally, once they do start talking, you can correct and enhance their language by repeating back what they say in a full sentence. If they say, "Want wawa," you repeat, "You want water? Okay, I'll give you some water." This shows that you are listening to them and acknowledging what they're saying while at the same time providing correct grammar and syntax and the correct pronunciation of the word.

Watching babies acquire language is so much fun, and it makes life easier in so many ways when you know they can understand you and, even better, when you can understand them. Toddlers present many other challenges, of course, but it truly is a magical time.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

On Teeth: Second Edition

About six months ago, I wrote a riveting post on teeth, and now that we have returned to the dentist for our regular six-month cleanings, I now have an even more riveting follow-up post for you!

1) GI
GI now has four teeth and is working on two more. He has two on top and two on the bottom, which is great for biting but not for chewing. Both NJ and SB had far more teeth by 14 months, and I'm kind of looking forward, in an odd sort of way, to GI's getting his bicuspids, which typically happens around one year but can be later for some kids. The teething hasn't been a piece of cake, but it hasn't been the hellish experience I expected. He hasn't gotten a new tooth in months, though, just hanging around with these four. Who needs teeth, anyway?

He doesn't bite, really. Sometimes he tries to pull away from the breast without letting go, first, and I yelp, but he's never drawn blood or left marks. Thank goodness.

2) SB
SB has excellent teeth. The dentist told me yesterday that his hygiene is very good. That's good! He chipped a front tooth at some point. I don't even know when it happened! But it's only in the enamel and not the dentin, and the dentist said we can probably just leave it alone.

3) NJ
NJ's got a permanent tooth coming in on the bottom, behind his baby tooth! Oops! I didn't even know! It's already erupted, even! The baby tooth is a little bit wiggly, and the dentist said we should wiggle it and wiggle it and try to coax it out, or else she'll have to pull it to make room for the permanent tooth. I'd hate for him to have to lose his first tooth artificially. I've been looking forward to this milestone.

NJ also has two of his six-year-old molars in, both on top. One has a little cavity. We're going back in a few weeks for a filling and a sealant. I told him, he has to make sure to brush way in the back, now. It's a big responsibility, having permanent teeth!

4) Me!
No new cavities, for a change. How nice for things to settle down for a bit.

I know that one day, we'll be discussing things like braces and more fillings and other expensive notions. I keep praying that my kids have my good oral flora, that breastfeeding SB and GI will help their teeth grow in straight and their bites develop correctly. For now, I'm happy that my kids don't mind going to the dentist and are cooperative and friendly while there. Indeed, NJ said to me, "Do we have to go to the dentist every six months?" I said six months was what they recommend. He continued, "Because I wish we could come once a month!" I guess I'm doing something right!


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Sunday, November 4, 2012

Call for Reader Input!

I hope those of you who were in the path of Hurricane Sandy are recovering. We watched anxiously from the West Coast to make sure our East Coast friends and family came through safely. If you would like to post a link to charities you like who are aiding in relief efforts, please feel free to do so here in the comments or on the Facebook page.

In an entirely unrelated note, I have started designing an app to be a companion to The "Yes, It's Normal!" Guide to Breastfeeding. If you have a breastfeeding support/newborn baby care app that you like, what are some features you find essential or especially helpful? Do you have suggestions for tools that should be included in the Yes, It's Normal! app?

Thursday, November 1, 2012

How Dad Can Bond with Baby

"I plan to pump and make bottles once in a while so his dad can feed him and bond with him, too."
"We do formula at night so Daddy can take the night feedings. He needs that bonding time."
"If I breastfeed exclusively, then how will his dad bond with him?"
"I want to make sure my husband has a chance to bond with my baby, too, so I think he should handle some of the feedings."

I hear or read comments like these often, usually couched as arguments against exclusive breastfeeding, and what it comes down to is the concern that if Dad doesn't feed the baby sometimes, if Mom is "hogging" the baby by breastfeeding all the time, then Dad won't get to bond with his baby.

Why is feeding so closely associated with bonding? Why is there this notion that the only way to bond with a baby is by feeding?

Part of the issue is that we breastfeeding advocates often tout the "bonding" aspect of breastfeeding as one of the major benefits. Nursing a baby activates love and attachment hormones in the mother (oxytocin and prolactin) that encourage the mother to protect and care for her child. Coupled with this are the warm feelings that the cuddling and eye contact associated with feeding provoke.

But there must be ways to bond with a baby aside from nursing! After all, parents who bottle-feed become attached to and bonded with their babies without nursing them. Parents who take in older children who no longer need bottles or breastfeeding bond with and love their adoptive children. What about stepparents who come into children's lives after infancy and become very well bonded with them?

While nursing, and feeding in general, definitely promotes that bond, not nursing or feeding doesn't prevent bonding.

While the mother may be the only one who can nurse a new baby, dads can certainly bond with their babies in other ways.

If we want to keep talking about feeding = bonding, then, once breastfeeding and supply are well established (at around four to six weeks), mom can start pumping so that Dad can give the baby a bottle. Indeed, if Mom is returning to work, she'll need to pump and have someone feed the baby from a bottle anyway, and it's a good idea to get baby used to taking a bottle of pumped milk before he has to be separated from Mom for any length of time. However, I do not recommend having Dad give a bottle at night in the early weeks, especially if there is any concern about milk supply, because late-night and early-morning feedings are essential for establishing supply and stimulating milk production. If he does give a bottle at night, then Mom should wake up and pump at around the same time that Dad is giving a bottle, at least for the first several weeks.

Continuing on the feeding = bonding track, once baby starts taking solid foods (around six months of age), Dad can feed baby! That first introduction to solid foods is usually fun and hilarious, watching baby's expression as he experiences a new texture and flavor, trying out the spoon for the first time. Of course, this has to wait until the baby is old enough for solids, but it can certainly be an enjoyable bonding=feeding time for Dad.

Moving on from feeding, how about bathing baby? My husband was the expert baby-bath giver for our oldest. Baths are fun and relaxing for baby and parents alike, and the skin-to-skin contact of Dad's hand as he washes the baby is healthy and also stimulates bonding and love. Dad can also massage baby before bed (Google "infant massage" for techniques).

Dad can diaper and dress baby. Before our oldest was born, we scoffed at the idea that diapering the baby would be a time of bonding. Who wants to change a poopy diaper? It's just a chore that has to be done. But we both soon found out that, while not exactly "fun" in the "enjoyment" sense of the word, changing a diaper can be much more than just changing a diaper, especially when it comes with tickles of the armpits, raspberries on the tummy, and stroking those adorable baby feet. Anything to entice a smile!

Dad can soothe the baby. Especially in those early days and weeks, when the baby may be fussy in the evenings and need help calming down, Dad can absolutely hold and cuddle the unhappy baby. He can hold the baby skin-to-skin against his chest, which will help the baby regulate his breathing and heart rate and keep him warm. He can swaddle, bounce, shush, or sing to the baby. Often, I've seen the magic of Dad's big, warm hands comfort a baby with gas or other tummy troubles, and Dad's deeper voice is calming and relaxing for the baby.

Dad can wear the baby. When baby needs to be carried, Dad can strap him on just as easily as Mom. Wearing a baby in a wrap or front-carrier is beneficial for both baby and parent!

Dad can sleep with the baby. While I know that not all married couples share a bed, it is pretty common. If Mom is co-sleeping, then so is Dad! Dad can cuddle his sleeping baby, gaze at the sweet sleeping face, and help quiet him during night wakings. And even if they don't co-sleep, what cuter picture is there than of baby asleep against Daddy's chest for a cozy nap?

The essential piece to bonding with your baby is not the feeding, it's taking care of your baby in general. Any way that you care for a baby will encourage a bond. The only way to ensure that Dad does not bond with his baby is for him not to participate in the day-to-day needs of his baby. The above ideas are just a few of the myriad ways fathers contribute to the well-being and care of their babies.