Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Successful parenting without spending money: a mother's story

Sickened by the whole whirl of 'kiddy consumerism’, eight months ago Hattie
Garlick did something radical and decided to opt out altogether. So how are
she and two-year-old Johnny faring? 

Hattie Garlick with her two-year-old son, Johnny, at home
Hattie Garlick with her two-year-old son, Johnny, at home Photo: LAURA HYND

7:00AM BST 05 Aug 2013
You don’t expect to be faced with an existential crisis at a children’s birthday party. Yet there I was, in early January, cake half way to mouth, when one of the fathers asked me, 'So do you think the way we’re raising
our children is evil?’ How had I got here? A fortnight before, I’d blithely started a blog, Free our Kids, that would chart a year-long personal challenge: could I go a whole year without spending any money on children’s products for my son? In retrospect, I hadn’t thought a great deal about it.I published the first entry, went to make a coffee, and came back to a small storm of online interest. One hundred messages, five hundred new Twitter followers and 10,000 visits to the blog by the end of the day. By the end of that week, it had had international coverage from Australian breakfast TV to the Hollywood blogger Perez Hilton. I’m not an eco-warrior or a socialist. I don’t, as that father suggested, think 'we should all just weave our shoes out of palm fronds, go live in the hills and sing kumbaya.’ 

Neither am I another self-appointed expert on other people’s parenting techniques. I’m just a working mother
with limited time, patience and funds.This became critical three days before last Christmas when I was made redundant. It was terrifying. Every area of unnecessary spending – new clothes, eating out, magazine subscriptions – had already been eliminated when our two-year-old son was born. But I began to notice something: my wallet was stuffed with receipts for toys, 'Tiny Tots Tumble Classes’ and cute little trousers
from Baby Gap. Every supermarket shop included at least £15 of 'children’s food’ such as mini pots of yoghurt, special squash and fish fingers. It all added up. And it wasn’t just about the expense. According to UNICEF’s well-being reports, British children’s happiness lags well behind many others in the developed world.

Learning the guitar with his father, Tom

The reason? We, their parents, are trapping them in a cycle of 'compulsive consumerism’ that makes them miserable. Meanwhile, parents are wracked with guilt, partly because we can’t afford all the things we think
our children want and need. I thought of Johnny’s overflowing toy box and of how rarely he actually played with anything in it. Apparently, there are 474 million unused toys gathering dust in British homes – seven for every single person in the country. Was I accidentally teaching my son materialistic values? I made a New Year resolution to cut out all spending on 'kiddy consumerism’: no more new toys, no more new clothes, no kiddy snacks, paid-for activities, disposable nappies or professional haircuts. Our mothers and grandmothers managed without them, right? There must be alternatives. But points that had felt clear, typed onto the glow of a laptop screen, became clouded with emotion as I looked at the room of presents and cutely-outfitted children. Would
I be depriving Johnny? Was I prepared for him to stand out from his peers? Before I could think about clothes
and toys, however, I had to tackle food. Johnny has always been fussy. I’ve relied on organic toddler lasagne
and mini-rice cakes to coax him into eating. Heading to Tesco for the new, 'real’ food we would be eating together,
I was suddenly aware of the vast range of children’s products on offer. Infant ready meals didn’t even exist as an industry category in 2006. Now they’re worth £25.8 million in this country and are growing by 23 per cent every year. Why had I been buying them? Yes, I had a picky toddler who screamed at the sight of a cucumber. I was short of time. But, I'm realising, I was short of self-confidence too. I was easily lured by promises of brain-boosting omegas and balanced diets. Not this time. That night, instead of cooking two separate meals, we sat down to a family supper of shepherd’s pie. And… nothing happened. Well, Johnny picked out the carrots and built a tower with them. But there was no tantrum. Later in the week, he threw his ratatouille at the wall and I momentarily pined for Jamie Oliver’s fish fingers. But, instead, I spooned what was left onto my plate, took a deep breath, and got on with the day. It’s meant compromises for my husband and I – fewer spicy curries,
more pedestrian pies – but I no longer dread my son’s mealtimes and spend much less time in the kitchen.

Johnny being helpful in the kitchen and playing the piano
And, because I haven’t spent extra time and money on Johnny’s meal, I’m more relaxed if he refuses it.
He just has a banana and usually eats the next meal. As the months wore on, I began to see that a lack
of self-confidence was behind a lot of my spending. My husband and I don't have any family within an hour’s
drive of our home. Without the advice and support of relatives to lean on, there were times when I felt scared, incompetent and alone.I was easy prey for product marketers. I remember standing in the baby aisle of a department store jiggling a screaming, colicky infant, my eyes and mind blurred by a rainbow of pastel-coloured goods promising to 'soothe’ and 'comfort’ my angry child, as I had failed to do. Exhausted, and desperate to do the right thing, I’d fallen for the idea that I wasn’t enough on my own. To be a good parent, I needed all these props – educational mobiles that played Beethoven sonatas, baby sign language classes and purees put together in a factory. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the annual cost of raising a child in Britain hit a ten-year high this year of £1,307 - 58% more than a decade ago. Over £500 a year goes on clothes alone. Partly to combat this and partly to reach out to my neighbours, I decided to hold a swapping party for local parents. I posted an invitation on a community Facebook page inviting parents over to exchange unwanted kids’ things. Having done that, I panicked: an unspecified number of total strangers was about to descend on my home. Then the doorbell rang. Three hours later, I’d passed on a bag of old baby toys and acquired three pairs of trousers, two T-shirts and some books. And I’d gone from knowing only two people on our road to suddenly having a dozen new friends to call on for help, company, activities and swaps. 

Johnny and friends are let loose in the kitchen
A recent National Trust report noted a 'pay to play culture’ across Britain – the prevalent feeling amongst parents that, with expensive classes and entertainment all around us, simply leaving your child to play outside with a stick must count as lazy or, worse, uncaring. Over the months, we’ve found that most of the activities that we enjoy doing together are, in fact, free: cooking, gardening, foraging, even just getting together with neighbours for coffee and 'music lessons’ (everyone brings whatever instruments they’ve got, or even just pots and pans, and we turn the music up loud). There have been times when turfing Johnny and his friends into the garden has resulted in tantrums and tears (mine as well as theirs) and I can’t just let him play on our busy London street. Work deadlines mean I often don’t have time to plan inventive games of my own. But we can just turn up to the park now and, instead of Jonny playing on his own, he plays with his friends from the neighbourhood.There’s just no need to pay for soft play sessions and classes when your child has a social life on his doorstep.One challenging moment came when I realised I’d forgotten all about children’s toothpaste and no-tears shampoo. Surely those were non-negotiable purchases? I called Dr Chris Flower, a cosmetics expert, who told me that while some children’s products are less concentrated, many are just brightly packaged, appealingly fragranced versions of adult cosmetics. Sure enough, I uncovered industry reports bragging about the success of 'character licensing’ (the use of cartoon characters) in fostering 'pester power’ in children as young as two, thereby boosting their sales.I wrote a triumphant blog post about my discovery - I love a bit of myth-busting - and I wasn’t prepared for the reaction of other parents. “How can you scrimp on your child’s safety?” asked one mother. No matter how much research you’ve done that always hurts.

Johnny gets creative in the garden.

But the real test was when Johnny grew out of his shoes and the podiatrists I spoke to disagreed on whether
or not new shoes are essential at his age. Realising that there are no hard and fast rules is liberating but also frightening. Without the security of expert advice to follow, I was on my own. A virtually unscuffed pair of second-hand leather lace-ups was offered to us by a neighbour. I accepted them with mixed feelings. The reaction online was, unexpectedly, one of interest rather than condemnation. Many of my greatest fears have gone unrealised: cloth nappies, for example. On the first day of using them, I laid out what I imagined were the essentials: pair of marigolds, nose peg, industrial bin liner. When the big reveal happened, it was a bit of an anti-climax. The nappies snap on with poppers or Velcro, have a flushable liner and the rest goes into the machine. Huh. Hanging them out to dry and making my tiny stand against disposable culture, I felt a deep and unfamiliar sense of satisfaction. It just about made up for carting bags of dirty rags around with me whenever
I went out. And Johnny doesn’t stand out from his smartly-dressed peers at all. Toddlers grow so fast that their clothes barely get worn. Some of the 'second hand’ items I’ve acquired still have the tags attached. And, you know, maybe London did host the world’s first Kid’s Fashion Week this year - but two year olds really don’t care about trends.

The first Global Kids’ Fashion Week, in London

There are times when that old materialistic hankering rears its head. At the moment, there is a craze in
London for a particular brand of micro scooter. Johnny seems to be the only child in our neighbourhood without one.He’s happy and content. He hasn’t asked me for one. And yet I want him to have one. It’s made me realise that not wanting Johnny to stand out isn’t always about Johnny – sometimes it’s about me. We’re now six months into our project and people keep asking what we’ll do when the year is up. Will we buy Johnny a massive present? I don’t think so. He hasn’t even noticed the change. Will we carry on? I’m pregnant and recently found out it’s a girl. The thought of the consumer clarion calls my daughter will have to resist as she grows up is quite daunting: the princess dresses, the fashionable clothes, the expensive make-up. I want to do everything I can to help her see through the notion that she 'needs’ those things to feel truly feminine. When our year of free parenting is finished, I won’t be devoting days of my life to hunting for the perfect anorak on online swapping sites like Freecycle when there’s one going for £3.50 in the Oxfam down the road - it’s just not sane. But I hope we'll keep hold of some of the lessons we’ve learned.It turns out Johnny will happily spend hours building something out of a cardboard box but only be amused by a new toy for a few minutes. We’re tending to tadpoles and vegetables in the garden now, and Johnny takes it really seriously. He takes his grandparents out there when they come round and they watch the birds and butterflies and talk about how plants grow.I wouldn’t swap it for
a million micro scooters.
Article reference: This article was written by Hattie Gartlick in The Telegraph 7:00am BST 05 Aug 2013  

Monday, January 20, 2014

You've just started your child in a new creche. It's the first day however things go wrong and your child protests loudly when its' time for you to say good bye. Many children experience anxiety when starting a new childcare arrangement but there is plenty you can do to make the transition as stress free as possible for you and your child. Remember lots of patience and hugs are very important at this stage.

Here are a few tips:

Prepare your child by talking to them in advance, tell them where they will be going, what they will be doing.

Take your child to visit the creche or childcare center on a couple of occasions before you need to leave them for the first time.  Show your child where they will be going.  Answer any questions they may have openly and honestly reassuring them that everything is OK. Sometimes you can arrange to have a few short "trial" periods of 1, 2 or 3 hours before the first full day at creche.

Arrive at least 15 minutes ahead of time so that you can help your child to settle into an activity before you have to head off to work. They are less likely to protest your departure if they are having fun and involved with an activity.

If you feel it necessary, familiar objects such as a favourite stuffed animal or security blanket should be on hand. Your child may find it easier to adjust to a particular care situation having a favoured toy to hold when feeling anxious or upset.

Try and allocate enough time so you aren't rushing to sign in and settle your child into an activity.

Pay attention to your own body language when saying good bye to your child. If you're feeling uncertain about the new arrangement you could be conveying some of your own anxiety to your child. Try to leave the rush hour mentality at the door

Resist the temptation to sneak out the door while your child isn't looking. You'll simply create more problems for both of you. Fearing that you're going to disappear again, your child may become unwilling to let you out of sight for a minute, even when you are at home.

If your child reacts strongly see if your partner or a trusted friend can drop the child off instead. They might actually be protesting your departure more than the particular childcare environment.

If you feel there is a problem of any sort you should ask your child's creche or center if they can provide insights. For instance maybe the child doesn't like one of the other children in the group or is having difficulty settling down for an afternoon nap!

Consistency is important so stick to a routine. Avoid making other changes to your child's routine while getting used to a new childcare arrangement. For example this would not be a ideal time to move them from a cot to a bed.

Accept the fact that it takes time for young children to adjust to a new childcare setting and some children take longer than others.

For more information on pregnancy, birth and parenting visit www.babyonline.co.za

Monday, April 22, 2013

Switching from breastfeeding to bottle feeding

  Bottle feeding – Switching from breastfeeding to bottle feeding

My baby is 4 months old and I have to go back to work in
6 weeks time. I have decided that I would rather give my baby formula than try to express milk for the feeds that I will miss. Please can you help me to make the process as easy as possible for baby?
You have done well to make the decision in advance so that you have plenty of time to start supplementing feeds in an easy and unstressed manner. In general the optimum time to start offering a supplementary feed is when baby is around six weeks old. At this age the breastfeeding is well established but not to the extent that baby will reject the bottle. Remember this is a very broad generalisation and that every baby is an individual! For this reason it may be necessary to enlist help, so that the introductory formula feeds are not given by you.
Make sure that your helper ensures that the experience is a loving and positive one for the baby, with lots of cuddling and chatting. If it’s not possible to have help in this situation then try to wear heavy clothing between you and the baby and try gentle distraction. When introducing the first formula feed, both you and the hungry baby should be in a positive frame of mind. Once you have successfully introduced one feed per day, stick with that one feed for a week or ten days before introducing another feed. This helps baby to get used to the new situation and will reduce your levels of discomfort, as the milk will initially build up in expectation of the missed feed.
For more info on breastfeeding and bottle feeding visit www.babyonline.co.za

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Potty training

Most parents eagerly anticipate potty training as a milestone in their child's development, if for no other reason than that it means an end to nappy changing. But few moms and dads are prepared for how long potty training can take.
Sure, some children master it within a few days, but others can take several months. In general, the younger your child is when you start to toilet-train, the longer it takes. You and your child have a better chance of success if you understand the elements of training and approach the process in a clear fashion. Here are the basic steps:

A. Assess your child's potty training readiness — and your own

When your child is about a year old, she'll be able to begin to recognize that she has a full rectum or bladder. Some children are ready to start potty training as early as 18 months, while others aren't interested in the process until after the age of 3. Many parents begin potty training when their children are about 2 and a half.
Try not to put on the pressure – rushing her when she's not ready will be counterproductive.
And don't expect this child to have the same timeline as your older child. Boys tend to train a bit more slowly than girls, while second (and subsequent) children may learn more quickly than firstborns.

B. Buy the right equipment

First and foremost, invest in a child-size potty chair or a special adapter seat that attaches to your regular toilet. This eases the anxiety some children feel about the grown-up toilet – some fear falling into it, others dislike the loud noise of the flush.
Figure out what equipment is best for your toddler before you go shopping, then ask your child to help you pick a potty chair out. Once you get the special chair home, write his name on it and encourage him to play with it.

If you're buying a potty chair for your son, look for one without a urine guard or with a removable one. You may have to wipe up a little more stray pee, but the guards tend to bump into and scrape a boy's penis when he sits on the potty, which can discourage him from training.

If you're using an adapter seat, make sure it's comfy and secure, and buy a stool to go with it. Your toddler will need the stool in order to get up and down from the toilet quickly and easily, as well as to brace his feet while sitting, which helps him push when he's having a bowel movement.

C. Create a routine

Set your toddler on the potty seat, fully clothed, once a day – after breakfast, before her bath, or whenever else she's likely to have a bowel movement. This will help her get used to the potty and accept it as part of her routine. If there's not an easily accessible bathroom around, bring your child's portable potty outside, to the playroom, or wherever she may be.
Once she's fine with this routine, have her sit on the potty bare-bottomed. Again, let her get used to how this feels. At this point, let her know that this is what Mommy and Daddy (and any older siblings) do every day – that taking off your pants before you use the bathroom is a grown-up thing to do.
If sitting on the potty with or without clothes is upsetting to your toddler, don't push it. Never restrain her or physically force her to sit there, especially if she seems scared. It's better to put the potty aside for a few weeks before trying again. Then, if she's willing to sit there, you know she's comfortable enough to proceed.

D. Demonstrate for your child

Children learn by imitation, and watching you use the bathroom is a natural way to understand what using the toilet is all about. If you have a son, it's simpler to teach him to pee sitting down at this young age. Later, when he's mastered that, he can watch his dad, older brother, or friend pee standing up – he's bound to pick it up quickly with just a little encouragement.
When you demonstrate for your toddler, it's helpful to talk about how you know it's time to go to the bathroom, then explain what's going on as you're using the toilet and let him see afterward what you "made." Then show him how you wipe with toilet paper, pull up your underwear, flush the toilet, and wash your hands.
Even though you'll be helping your toddler with these activities for some time, especially wiping after a bowel movement, seeing you do it and hearing you talk through it will help him get used to the whole process. (If your toddler is a girl, when you wipe her be sure to go from front to back, especially after a bowel movement, to minimize the risk of urinary tract infections.)
If your toddler has older siblings or friends who are potty-trained, consider having them demonstrate, too. It can be helpful for your child to see others close to his age exhibiting the skills he's trying to learn.

E. Explain the process

Show your toddler the connection between pooping and the toilet. The next time she poops in her diaper, take her to the potty, sit her down, and empty the diaper beneath her into the bowl. Afterward, let her flush if she wants to (but don't force her if she's scared) so she can watch her feces disappear.
You also may want to pick up a few potty-training picture books or videos for your toddler, which can assist her in taking in all this new information. Everyone Poops, by Taro Gomi, is a perennial favorite, as well as Where's the Poop? and Once Upon a Potty, which even comes in a version with a doll and miniature potty.
Keeping a book like this in the bathroom, or a poster or flipbook that illustrates the steps in using the potty, can help your toddler get familiar with the process and relate it to what she does in the bathroom.

F. Foster the habit

Encourage your toddler to sit on the potty whenever he feels the urge to go. If he needs help getting there and taking off his diaper, make sure he knows it's okay to ask you for help any time.
If you can, let him run around bare-bottomed sometimes with the potty nearby. The more time he spends out of diapers, the faster he's likely to learn, although you'll have to steel yourself to clean up a few more puddles. Tell him he can use the potty whenever he wants to, and remind him occasionally that it's there if he needs it.
Sometimes toddlers won't sit on the potty long enough to relax and let anything come out. Calmly encourage him to sit there for at least a minute or so. You'll have the best luck getting him to stay put if you keep him company and talk to him or read him a book.
When your toddler uses the potty successfully, shower him with praise. This will help to give him positive reinforcement as he masters potty training. Chances are that he'll continue to have accidents, but he'll start to grasp that getting something in the potty is an accomplishment.
Still, try not to make a big deal out of every trip to the potty or your toddler may start to feel nervous and self-conscious under the glare of all that attention.

G. Grab some training pants

Once training is under way, consider adding training pants – extra-thick cloth or disposables that pull on like underwear – to your routine. They'll allow your toddler to undress for the potty on her own, which is a critical step toward becoming completely potty-trained.
While cloth training pants are less convenient than disposable pull-ups, many parents say they work better because your toddler can really feel when she pees or poops in them. Whichever option you choose, introduce them gradually – probably for a few hours at a time – and stick with diapers at night for the time being.
When your child consistently seeks out the potty whenever she has to go, it's time to move on to "big-kid" underwear. Many moms and dads have found that undies with a favorite character on them give kids a dandy incentive to stay dry.

H. Handle setbacks gracefully

Toilet training can be difficult for parents and children. Keep in mind that temporary setbacks are completely normal and virtually every child will have several accidents before being able to stay dry all day long.
An accident doesn't mean that you've failed. When it happens, don't get angry or punish your child. After all, it's only recently that his muscle development has allowed him to hold his bladder and rectum closed at all, and he's still learning why it's important to use the potty. Mastering the process will take time.
What can you do? Reduce the chance of accidents by dressing your toddler in clothes that are easy to remove quickly. When he has an accident anyway, be positive and loving and calmly clean it up. Suggest sweetly that next time he try using his potty instead.

I. Introduce night training

Don't give away that stash of diapers just yet. Even when your child is consistently clean and dry all day, it may take several more months, or even years, for her to stay dry all night. At this age, her body is still too immature to wake her up in the middle of the night reliably just to go to the bathroom. In fact, it's perfectly normal for a child to continue wetting the bed occasionally until she's in her early school years.
When you're ready to embark on night training, your toddler should continue to wear a diaper or pull-up to bed, but encourage her to use the potty if she has to pee or poop during the night. Tell her that if she wakes up in the middle of the night needing to go, she can call you for help. You can also try putting her potty near her bed so she can use it right there.
If she manages to stay dry consistently at night, it might be a good time to start nighttime training. Put a plastic sheet under the cloth one to protect the mattress. Put your toddler in underwear (or nothing) and have her use the toilet before you tuck her in. Then see how it goes. When she wakes up, get her in the habit of using the bathroom before she begins her day.
But remember that many children aren't ready to stay dry at night until they're school-age. There's also not much you can do to help things along, short of limiting liquids before bedtime, so if your toddler doesn't seem to get the hang of it, put her back in nighttime diapers and try again in a few months when she's a little older.

J. Jump for joy — you're done!

Believe it or not, when your child is mentally and physically ready to learn this new skill, he will. And if you wait until he's really ready to start, the process shouldn't be too painful for either of you.
When it's over, reinforce his pride in his achievement by letting him give away leftover diapers to a family with younger kids or help you pack up the cloth diapers and send them away with the diaper delivery service one last time.
And don't forget to pat yourself on the back. Now you won't have to think about diapers ever again – at least, not until the next baby.
Ref The ABCs of potty training article on http://www.babycentre.com

Monday, January 14, 2013

Toddler sunburn

If your baby gets a sunburn and he's younger than 12 months old, call the doctor, even if the sunburn appears mild. Sunburn in a child under age 1 can be more serious than it appears. The doctor will ask about your baby's symptoms and possibly ask you to bring your baby in for an examination, to make sure he doesn't need emergency treatment.
If your child is age 1 or older and his skin is just a little pink and tender, you probably don't need to call the doctor. (See more details under "When to call the doctor," below.) Just try to keep him as comfortable as possible until the burn heals, and follow these tips.

Do's and don'ts for treating and soothing sunburn

  • Offer plenty of fluids: breast milk or formula if your child is a baby, water and other liquids if he's older. This helps the skin heal and replaces fluids lost by being out in the sun.
  • Soak a clean, soft washcloth in cool water, wring it out, and gently place it on the sunburned area for ten to 15 minutes a few times a day, making sure your child doesn't get chilled.
  • Try a cool bath. To make it more soothing, add baking soda or an oatmeal-based bath treatment (found in drugstores). Pat your child's skin dry – don't rub!
  • Apply a water-based (alcohol-free) moisturizing lotion or an aloe vera gel to relieve itching. Itching can get worse if the burn starts to peel.
  • If your child's hurting, you can probably give him the correct dose of children's acetaminophen or ibuprofen to ease the pain. If you have a baby younger than 12 months, ask the doctor when you call whether it's okay to offer a pain reliever. (Ibuprofen is recommended for children 6 months and up.) Never give your child aspirin. It can put him at risk for a sometimes fatal condition called Reye's syndrome.
  • Dress your child in loose clothing that won't irritate burned skin.
  • Keep your child out of the sun until the burn has completely healed. It's very easy for a child who's already sunburned to get a second burn.
  • Don't put petroleum-based products like petroleum jelly on your child's skin. These prevent heat and sweat from escaping and can make a burn worse. The same goes for butter and oils.
  • Don't use first-aid sprays or ointments that contain benzocaine. Benzocaine can irritate skin or cause an allergic reaction.
  • Don't pop any blisters. Blisters form to protect your child's underlying skin, and breaking them open can lead to infection. If they do break, apply an antibiotic ointment and a nonstick wound dressing. Don't trim off the dead skin.
 When to call the doctor
Call the doctor right away if your baby has a sunburn.
If a child age 1 or older has a mild sunburn and his skin is just a little pink and tender, you don't need to call the doctor.
Note: You may not notice a sunburn right after you bring your child indoors. The redness and pain of a mild first-degree burn can take several hours to appear.
Call the doctor if your child:
  • starts to blister in the first 24 hours
  • has swelling on his hands or face
  • has signs of infection (pus or red streaks)
  • is running a fever or has chills
  • has a headache
  • seems to be in extreme pain or just doesn't feel well
  • vomits, feels lightheaded, or faints
Why is a sunburn so serious?
A sunburn is literally burned skin. Your child's skin is very thin and very sensitive, so it can burn quickly.
A sunburn might be a first-degree burn, which causes redness, mild swelling, and pain. A second-degree burn is more serious. It's more painful, with more swelling, redness, and blisters.
A first-degree burn usually heals in two to five days. A second-degree burn can last for a couple of weeks.
If your child has spent too much time in the sun, he may also be at risk for heat stroke.
What if my child's skin starts peeling?
Don't be alarmed if the sunburned skin starts to peel. Peeling is a natural part of the healing process. It usually begins a few days after the sunburn happens.
Is skin damage from the sun worth worrying about?
Yes. A sunburn means that the skin has been damaged by ultraviolet (UV) radiation, and exposure to UV radiation from the sun is the number one cause of all types of skin cancers. Some studies suggest that severe sunburns during childhood cause melanoma – the deadliest form of skin cancer – later in life.
Because children's skin is more sensitive than adults' skin, children are more prone to sunburn and skin damage. Fair-haired, pale-skinned, freckled, and green- or blue-eyed children are most at risk for skin damage and cancer from sun exposure, but ultraviolet radiation is dangerous for everyone.
How can I keep my child from getting a sunburn?
It's not hard, but you have to be diligent. A child can get burned after only ten to 15 minutes of exposure, even on a cloudy or cool day.
Dress your child for outdoor activities in long sleeves, pants, and a hat, and apply sunscreen. Keep him in the shade as much as possible, although shade provides only partial protection against sunburn.
The sun is most dangerous between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., but the skin is exposed to UV rays during all daylight hours, year round, even when it's cloudy.
Put sunscreen on any exposed areas of skin. Choose a sunscreen with an SPF (sun protection factor) of at least 15 and apply it liberally about 15 to 30 minutes before you head outdoors, to give it a chance to be absorbed. Reapply sunscreen every two hours, or more often if your child is sweating a lot or has been in the water.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Do all babies experience separation anxiety?

Yes, to a degree. Separation anxiety is a normal emotional stage of development that starts when babies begin to understand that things and people exist even when they're not present – something called "object permanence."
At certain stages, most babies or toddlers will show true anxiety and be upset at the prospect – or reality – of being separated from a parent. If you think about separation anxiety in evolutionary terms, it makes sense: A defenseless baby would naturally get upset at being separated from the person who protects and cares for him.
In many ways, attitudes about babies and separations are cultural. Western countries tend to stress autonomy from a very early age. But in many other cultures, infants are rarely separated from their mother in the first year of life.
Regardless of the origins of this developmental stage, it's frustrating for babies and parents. The good news is that separation anxiety will pass and you can take steps to make it more manageable. And in the meantime, enjoy the sweetness of knowing that to your child, you're number one.

When does it most commonly occur?
Babies can show signs of separation anxiety as early as 6 or 7 months, but the crisis age for most babies peaks between 10 to 18 months. Most commonly, separation anxiety strikes when you – or your partner – leave your child to go to work or run an errand Your baby can also experience separation anxiety at night, safely tucked in her crib with you in the next room. Separation anxiety usually eases by the time babies are 24 months old.

How can I help my baby through it?
Several options are available to parents:
Minimize separations as much as possible and take your baby along if he seems to feel anxious. With this option, you're basically waiting for your baby to outgrow this stage.

Set up childcare with people your baby is familiar with. If you have to leave your baby – for example, to return to work – try leaving him with people he already knows, like his father, grandmother, or aunt. Your baby may still protest, but he might adjust more easily to your absence when surrounded by well-known faces.

Let your baby get to know a new caregiver first. If you need to leave your child with someone he doesn't know, give him a chance to get to know his caregiver while you're still around (see details below).

How should I prepare my baby for separations?As with any transition, give your baby an opportunity to gradually get used to the idea. Whether you're leaving her with a family member or a paid childcare provider, try the following suggestions:

Practice at home. It'll be easier for your baby to cope with your absence if she's the one who initiates a separation. Let her crawl off to another room on her own (one where you're sure she'll be safe unsupervised briefly) and wait for a couple of minutes before going after her.

You can also tell your baby you're leaving a room, where you're going, and that you'll be back. Either way, your child will learn that everything will be okay when you're gone for a minute or two – and that you'll always come back.

Build in time for your baby to get comfortable. Hire a new sitter to visit and play with your baby several times before leaving them alone for the first time. For your first real outing, ask the sitter to arrive about 30 minutes before you depart so that she and the baby can be well engaged before you step out the door.

Employ the same approach at a daycare center or at your nursery, place of worship, or health club.

Always say goodbye. Kiss and hug your baby when you leave and tell her where you're going and when you'll be back, but don't prolong your goodbyes. And resist the urge to sneak out the back door. Your baby will only become more upset if she thinks you've disappeared into thin air.

Keep it light. Your baby is quite tuned in to how you feel, so show your warmth and enthusiasm for the caregiver you've chosen.

Try not to cry or act upset if your baby starts crying – at least not while she can see you. You'll both get through this. The caregiver will probably tell you later that your baby's tears stopped before you were even out of the driveway.

Once you leave, leave. Repeated trips back into the house or daycare center to calm your baby will make it harder on you, your child, and the caregiver.

Try a trial at first. Limit the first night or afternoon out to no more than an hour. As you and your baby become more familiar with the sitter or the childcare setting, you can extend your outings.

How should we handle nighttime separation anxiety?
Your baby's fear of being separated from you at night is very real for him, so you'll want to do your best to keep the hours preceding bedtime as nurturing and peaceful (and fun) as possible. In addition:

Spend some extra cuddle time with your baby before bed by reading, snuggling, and softly singing together.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Developmental milestones: Crawling


Crawling is your baby's first method of getting around efficiently on his own. In the traditional crawl, he'll start by learning to balance on his hands and knees. Then he'll figure out how to move forward and backward by pushing off with his knees. At the same time, he'll be strengthening the muscles that will soon enable him to walk.

When it develops

Most babies learn to crawl between the ages of 7and 10 months. Your baby may opt for another method of locomotion around this time, though – like bottom shuffling (scooting around on her bottom, using a hand behind and a foot in front to propel herself), slithering on her stomach, or rolling across the room.
Don't worry about her style; it's getting mobile that's important, no matter how your baby does it. Some babies skip crawling altogether and move directly to pulling up, standing, cruising (furniture walking), and walking.
Since the "Back to Sleep" campaign was initiated in 1994, many babies seem to be crawling later or skipping it completely. (The campaign aims to reduce the risk of SIDS by encouraging parents to put babies to sleep on their back.)

How it develops

Your baby will likely start crawling soon after he's able to sit well without support (probably by the time he's 8 months old). After this point, he can hold his head up to look around, and his arm, leg, and back muscles are strong enough to keep him from falling on the floor when he gets up on his hands and knees.

Over a couple of months, your baby will gradually learn to move confidently from a sitting position to being on all fours, and he'll soon realize he can rock back and forth when his limbs are straight and his trunk is parallel to the floor.

Somewhere around 9 or 10 months, he'll figure out that pushing off with his knees gives him just the boost he needs to go mobile. As he gains proficiency, he'll learn to go from a crawling position back into a sitting position.

He'll also master the advanced technique that pediatrician William Sears calls "cross-crawling" – moving one arm and the opposite leg together when he moves forward, rather than using an arm and a leg from the same side. After that, practice makes perfect. Look for him to be a really competent crawler by the time he's a year old.

What's next

After your baby has mastered crawling, the only thing between her and complete mobility is learning to walk. To that end, she'll soon begin pulling herself up on everything she can reach, whether it's the coffee table or Grandma's leg. Once she gets the feel of balancing on her legs, she'll be ready to stand on her own and cruise while holding on to furniture. Then it's just a matter of time until she's walking, running, jumping, and leaping.

Your role

From the start, long before your baby's ready to crawl, give him plenty of tummy time. Placing your baby on his tummy and playing with him for several minutes a few times a day while he's awake and alert will help to develop muscles that he needs to crawl. Tummy time can also prevent a flat spot from developing on his head, which sometimes happens when infants spend a lot of time on their backs.
The best way to encourage crawling – as with reaching and grabbing – is to place toys and other desirable objects (even yourself) just beyond your baby's reach. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) also suggests using pillows, boxes, and sofa cushions to create obstacle courses for him to negotiate. This will help improve his confidence, speed, and agility. Just don't leave him alone – if he gets stuck under a pillow or box, he'll be frightened and may be in danger of smothering.

A crawling baby can get into a lot of mischief. Make sure your house is childproofed, with a special emphasis on stairway gates. Your baby will be drawn to stairs, but they can be dangerous, so keep them off-limits until he's really mastered walking (usually by about 18 months). Even then, supervise him closely. For now, suggests the AAP, create a couple of practice steps with foam blocks or sturdy cardboard boxes covered in fabric.

You don't have to invest in shoes just yet. Your baby won't need to wear footwear regularly until he's mastered walking.

When to be concerned

Babies develop skills using different methods and different timetables. But if your child hasn't shown an interest in getting mobile by some means (whether it's creeping, crawling, rolling, or scooting), figured out how to move her arms and legs together in a coordinated motion, or learned to use both arms and both legs equally by the time she's a year old, bring it up at her next doctor's appointment. Keep in mind that premature babies may reach this and other milestones several months later than their peers.