Tuesday, May 31, 2005

How to Help an Older Sibling Adjust to a New Baby

Being the older sibling when a brand new baby enters the household can be a tough role to fill. Rare are the cases when the older sibling is 8-10 years older than the baby and can reasonably and logically understand the needs of the newborn and the diminished amount of time the parents can give. Although older children dislike sharing their parents, they understand why. However, older siblings who are 6-years-old or younger often have a very difficult time with the seemingly divided loyalties of the parents.

Before the baby arrived, the older child often had the sole attention of his parents. He was the center of his own little universe, and theirs as well, or so he thought. A child age 6 or under has difficulty understanding the concept of sharing, let alone sharing his role as the universe's center. Parents often find that when the new baby is brought home, they are suddenly thrust into a situation with two centers of the universe and the result can feel like intergalactic war. But take heart; intergalactic war can be avoided and peace can reign supreme. Following are a few things parents can do to ensure their older child adjusts as easily as possible, and to avoid much of the potential conflict.

1. Tell the sibling early. As soon as the joyous parents decide to let the rest of the world know the happy news that they are going to have another baby, they should tell the older sibling first. If possible, allow the sibling to share the news so he will feel as though it is his news as well as his parents'. Explain to him in words he will understand that he will have a new baby brother or sister and how wonderful it will be. Talk about how the baby will grow in Mommy's tummy and answer any of his questions. Of course, keep it to his age level. A 4-year-old doesn't need a lesson in sex education.

2. Visit other babies. Find anyone you know who has a new baby so your child can see what the baby is like and begin to get a glimpse about what his brother or sister will be like. If possible, take your child to a hospital to see the newborns in the nursery. Explain to him about how helpless and fragile babies are. Expose your child to babies of varying ages: newborns, babies who can sit up, crawlers, toddlers and so on. Let him know that in the early days, the baby won't be a playmate, but rather, someone to look after and care for, much like a doll.

3. Read about babies. There are many wonderful books on the market that are written for just such occasions. Some books will explain all about the baby while others directly address the feelings of the new older sibling. Read them all and talk about it often. Ask someone at your local bookstore or public library and they should be able to help you find something suitable.

4. Prepare the nursery together. Depending on the older sibling's age and ability, he may only be able to help you in small ways, such as setting up stuffed animals on a low shelf or putting pillows into the crib. Regardless of how small the task, invite your child to take part in decorating and preparing the nursery. Let him choose colors or toys or clothing for the baby. If possible, bring the older sibling to any baby showers or special celebrations. Remind him often that this is his baby as well as yours.

5. Spend special moments. Use the months of pregnancy to spend special moments with your child that you won't otherwise be able to share once the baby comes. Go for walks, visit the playground, go out for ice cream, and have special cuddle moments. Remind the older sibling that there will be times when you can not hold him once the baby arrives, but that you will continue to hold him as often as possible. Explain that there will be times of frustration and anger on his part, but that we all have to learn to share. Assure him often that you love him and will love him just as much after the baby arrives. If he asks who you will love more, don't squirm, just assure him that he will always be your first child and therefore, you love him in ways you will never love the new baby.

6. Carefully plan the delivery time. If there are no grandparents or extended family nearby, make sure you find someone suitable for the older sibling to stay with when it is time to deliver the baby. Some parents choose to allow the sibling to be in the delivery room and watch the birth, but if not, arrange for him to be with a good friend or school mate with whom he feels comfortable, especially if the visit must last over night. Since delivery dates are rarely planned, make your arrangements well in advance and have alternate plans in the event that the baby arrives at a time when the original arrangements can't be carried out as planned.

7. Bring the sibling to the hospital. As soon as the new baby is born and the mother and baby are allowed to have visitors, have someone bring the older sibling to the hospital. If possible, let him be the first visitor and let him visit without family and friends looking on. This is an intimate and sometimes frightening time for a small child and even with all the planning and preparation in the world, he may feel threatened and upset when he sees his mother cuddling the new wrinkled baby. Invite him to sit on the hospital bed with mom and let him touch the baby. If he is old enough, let him sit in a chair and hold and cuddle the baby himself. Tell him how big and strong he is and how the baby will look up to him.

8. Give the sibling a job to do. Once you return home from the hospital and begin the next couple months of sleep deprivation, diapers and nursing, give your older sibling special tasks to make him feel needed and important. This isn't the time to use him as a tiny slave who brings you everything you need, but rather, to ask him for help a couple of times each day and thank him profusely. Let him know when you are tired and assure him that you need and appreciate him. If there is anything the older sibling can do for the baby, by all means, let him do it. Some 5 and 6-year-olds are very proficient at changing diapers. If your child can do this, encourage it. If your older sibling is merely a 2-year-old, perhaps his job can be to make sure the baby has its favorite blanket, just like he has a favorite blanket. Make sure the tasks are age-appropriate.

9. Schedule alone times. You may not have the luxury or energy to spend the amount of time with your older child that you had before the baby came, but do what you can. In the first few weeks, especially, try to carve out even a mere 15 minutes while the baby is napping, and invite your older sibling to crawl into your lap and cuddle or talk. Remember that it is completely normal for an older child to regress a bit and he might want to suck on a bottle or revert to baby talk. Don't deride him for this, just indulge him in those first weeks and it should pass. Many times this is a way for the older sibling to test the parents and see if they really love him as much as the baby.

10. State your love often. You will, no doubt, be enamored with your newborn, and rightly so. While it is so easy and natural to cuddle and whisper sweet words to a tiny baby, your older child needs it now more than the baby does. Remind yourself, when you are nursing or cuddling the baby, to talk to your older child instead of the baby. Tell him how special he is and how much you love him. The baby will be satisfied by your voice and won't have a clue to whom you are talking. But your older child will know and that's what matters.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Your Baby is Growing before your eyes....

Babies grow up so fast, especially when you don't want them too.

My oldest is counting down the days until he hits those double digits and for me I can't even believe he's as old as he is. I remember the birth like it was yesterday, it was a very long pregnancy and once that baby wanted out he was on his way. He was a quick birth which I guess would go with his growing so fast and never wanting to stop right? It still doesn't seem right, I still remember him learning to walk and the smile with only one tooth. I remember the first time he hit a ball off a tee and just this past year I left him at camp during the day. He's also the type that has to have hands on everything and if he can do it hands on he is able to catch on just as well.

My second child is the one that wants to learn as much as she can and have as many books as she is allowed. Right now she is trying to learn to read so she can read to herself or to her sister. I know she just about has it and once she does she'll be growing up before my eyes. I have no clue if we'll read the same type of books but I sure do hope she keeps my love for books.
My youngest, which I said was going to stay my baby has a totally different idea, she wants to be just like her older brother and sister and there is no convincing her otherwise. She'll turn two this year and it's unbelievable. I watch her grow and learn and it's just an amazing part in nature to experience. She is constantly growing out of her little outfits and I'm always running to the store to buy a new one that I thought she'd wear for a while and didn't. I remember driving to the hospital after finally finding a ride and almost not making it there. She is the one that in stores will get your attention and once you have it she acts shy, if you stop watching her she is wanting the attention again.

So from watching the way mine have grown I've learned a few things about babies, yes they do grow up fast. Yes, they will always be your baby no matter what. As soon as your little one whether they are young or older gets hurt you will be there for them. Not all babies are the same though and they each will do something different as well as learn, each of mine have their own styles of how they deal with things. I also learned that all babies are the same as we love each of them and they all must be taught and taken care of.

Hug your baby today because even though they will always be your children, they won't always be small.

Picking A Baby-Sitter for Baby

Picking a baby-sitter for baby should not be a simple thing to do. If you want to ensure that your baby will be safely cared for, you should make sure that you follow these steps for hiring a baby-sitter.

1. The age does make a difference. Why? Well this is a rather simple answer. If you hire an 11 year old versus a 20 year old, who do you think is going to have the most knowledge about caring for your baby? Also, you want to make sure that the baby-sitter will be old enough to really ensure that your baby will be handled with care.

2. Interview the baby-sitter before simply hiring them on the job. This is extremely important so that you can see any potential difficulties that may arise with the baby-sitter. Ask how much experience they have had with baby-sitting, and ask how they would handle certain emergency situations if needed. Ask them about their knowledge of how to tend the baby in the appropriate manner needed, such as how to hold the bottle up, how long to cook it for, when baby needs a nap, etc.

3. Ask the baby-sitter for recommendations. This way you can call other people and hear what they have to say about how that baby-sitter handles the children. Getting information from an outside source is an extreme benefit of knowledge to have.

4. Show the baby-sitter around the house and let them know about the areas that the baby should not be near.

5. Give a schedule to the baby-sitter. This is important so that the baby-sitter can understand and get a feel for when baby needs to eat, or have their diaper changed, take a nap, or whatever your certain and particular requirements may be.

6. Always call to check in and see how the baby-sitter's progress and relationship with the baby is doing, and not just how the baby is doing. This is important and vital to make sure that you will see no conflict arise. If you hear irritation in the baby-sitters voice, or catch on any sort of hint that the baby-sitter is not the right one for your baby, then you will have that knowledge, and you can find a different one.

As you can see there are several many steps that are extremely important for finding the right baby-sitter. If you just pick any old baby-sitter, you never know if your baby will be put in harm. You should have the right to ask the baby-sitter personal questions such as "do you take anger management classes?" or anything like that, because you will need to know what your baby is being exposed to and if there is any potential danger or harm. If you follow these steps, you will be able to rest easy knowing that your baby will be in safe care. There have been many reports about the danger of abusive nanny's and baby-sitter's, so always make sure to be on the look-out.

Advice for Expectant Dads: Stuff to Take to the Hospital

by Leanne Phillips

In the rush to get mom to the hospital and to keep her happy and uncomfortable, dads are sometimes overlooked. If you are an expecting dad, you may be spending long hours at the hospital awaiting the birth of your child. While you want to be as supportive of mom as you possibly can be, be sure to take care of yourself as well. Plan ahead, and while mom is packing her hospital bag, pack a bag of your own. Here are some things you should be sure to bring with you to the hospital to make the event go more smoothly and to keep you comfortable while you await the happy event.

1. Books and magazines. Waiting for baby is an exciting time, filled with lots of hustle, bustle and activity throughout the hospital. There can be a lot of down time, too, though. Mom may spend time sleeping in between rounds of contractions, or there may be times when you are relegated to a hallway or to the lobby while mom is undergoing certain procedures. Plan ahead for this down time by bringing along with you a book that you have been meaning to read and several magazines. You may find that you are unable to concentrate fully enough to get into a great novel. Magazines are great for skimming when you need something to occupy your time, but are a little too distracted or tired for heavy reading. Consider packing a couple of magazines for mom, too, or even your baby name book if you have not yet decided definitely on a name.

2. Address book. Make sure to pack your address book so that you have the telephone numbers of your family and friends with you at the hospital. If you had to leave the house in a hurry, you may not have had time to call anyone who needs to be notified that mom is in the hospital and is getting ready to deliver. You may want to notify your wife's mother, if she is planning to come to the hospital to be with her daughter, or if you think she will be of comfort and help to your wife during labor. You may also find yourself in need of a little comfort, or someone to talk to, while you wait for your wife to give birth. Have the telephone numbers of your own friends and family available so you can call to give them updates, or even just to chat when you are feeling nervous or stressed. Also, you will of course want to have those numbers handy so that you can notify family and friends once the blessed event arrives and your new child is born.

3. Medical or insurance card. To ensure that things go smoothly at the hospital, make sure you have your medical card, insurance card or insurance information available and handy for the trip to the hospital. This can speed up the admitting process and allow you to spend valuable time with your wife, comforting her and assisting her during labor. This is preferable to being stuck in the hospital's admitting office, trying to sort out insurance issues or confirm insurance coverage, while your child is being born.

4. Hand grip exerciser or stress ball. A good thing to bring with you to the hospital is a hand grip exerciser. These exercisers have two handles which meet in the middle with a spring in between them. You use the exerciser by gripping the two handles and pulling them closed together against the force of the spring, then releasing. Another item you may wish to bring with you is a stress ball. These are small, pliable balls that you can squeeze and release in your hand. If you do not have one of these and are not able to buy one in time, you can grab a tennis ball or other small rubber ball to bring with you instead. While your wife is in labor, it may be very helpful to her if you rub her back or massage her tight neck muscles when she is tense or in pain. Your hands can get very tired and stiff from this activity. If you have a hand grip exerciser or stress ball available, be sure to use them in between massaging your wife's sore muscles in order to keep your hand muscles loose and free from pain.

5. Money and snacks. The trip to the hospital sometimes comes with little or no advance warning. You may not have time to swing by your bank's ATM on the way to the hospital. It is a good idea to pack some cash in your own hospital bag so that you are prepared for your stay at the hospital. You may spend many, many hours at the hospital while your wife is preparing to give birth. You will want to make sure that you have money with you so that you can purchase food, snacks, coffee, soda pop or bottled water from the hospital cafeteria or vending machines. Remember, too, you may not always be able to get away from the birthing center when you are hungry, so it is a good idea to pack a few snacks to bring with you to the hospital. Nutrition bars are a great quick snack.

6. Quarters. Be sure to also pack, in addition to your cell phone and telephone calling card, one or two rolls of quarters for making telephone calls from the hospital pay phone. You may not be permitted to use your cell phone in the hospital, and even if you are, you may find that you get little or no reception due to the hospital's machines, computers and equipment. Also, it can be frustrating to have to dial a billion numbers for each and every telephone call in order to use a telephone calling card. Save the calling card for long distance calls and have plenty of quarters available for making local calls.

7. Hobby paraphernalia. If you have a hobby or interest that is somewhat portable, it may be a good idea to pack up your hobby equipment and bring it along with you. Many men nowadays enjoy hobbies such as knitting or embroidery. If you do not have a portable hobby, consider starting one. Hobbies like this are not only fun, constructive and portable, but are extremely relaxing and good for your mental well-being. On top of that, just imagine how impressed your in-laws will be when they arrive at the hospital and find you knitting a pair of booties for your brand new baby.

8. Stuff for mom. Be sure to pack a few things to help keep mom comfortable during labor. She will appreciate your thoughtfulness. Some things to pack include the following: Lotions and moisturizers, a mister bottle of water and some of her favorite things from home that may make her feel more comfortable and at ease. For example, she may appreciate having a favorite blanket available. You might also consider packing a few of her favorite photographs, perhaps photos of the two of you when you were first dating or from your wedding. If you have other children waiting at home for their new baby brother or sister, be sure to bring photos of the children. You might want to bring a few framed family photographs and place them on her bed table or in the window sill where she can see them. That way, she can feel surrounded by her family even when they cannot be right there with her.

9. Cameras. Definitely do not forget to pack your camera, digital camera and/or video camera and plenty of film. You will want to capture every moment of the blessed event on film. It would be a real shame to forget the camera and not have photographs to look back on in years to come. Take photographs of your wife while she is in labor, but only with her prior approval. She may not feel like having her photo taken, especially in the later stages of labor. Before you take your wife's photo, ask her permission and offer to help her with her hair and freshening up so that she looks and feels her best. In the midst of labor is often not a time when a woman feels her most attractive, so be sure to be sensitive of this fact. You might even take group photos of the nurses, doctors and midwives that are helping you so that you can remember them in years to come, as well as photos of family and friends that come to visit you, mom and the new baby. Of course, you will want to take photos of mom and the new baby once the baby arrives. Ask a nurse to take a photo of the three of you together. This is something that is often missed.

10. A change of clothes. While mom is packing her own bag with nighties, slippers and extra socks, make sure to pack a few things of your own. Bring at least one full change of clothes and, perhaps, a couple of clean shirts, a pair of comfortable tennis shoes, several pairs of socks, several changes of briefs or boxers (your choice), a shaving kit, soap, toothbrush and toothpaste. You may be spending several hours to a day or two at the hospital without being able to get away for a shower. You can keep yourself feeling clean, refreshed and comfortable by being prepared for that contingency and bringing these things from home.

Copyright (c) 2005 by Leni Leanne Phillips

When Do They Stop Being Babies?

by Paulla Estes

We all know the definition of a baby, if there is such a thing; it is a tiny person who can not yet take care of himself. A baby usually cannot walk or feed himself or use the bathroom by himself or clean up after himself. A baby is utterly dependent on other human beings for his complete care. If this is the definition of a baby, then when does a child stop being a baby?

Once babies begin to walk, we no longer call them babies: they become toddlers. Once babies begin to talk and communicate with us, we might still call them toddlers or just small children. When babies are old enough to use the bathroom on their own and feed themselves without too much fuss, they usually graduate to the status of being called preschoolers. Once they start kindergarten, learn to read, and establish friendships, they are known as children and the baby days seem to be long gone.

But ask any mom and she will tell you conflicting things about the definition of a baby. Most moms will agree that the definitions listed above are accurate in general, but when a mom refers to her own child, the line between being her baby and being a toddler, preschooler, child, teen, or even adult, is very fuzzy.

If you have ever seen the book, Love you Forever, you'll know what I mean. The tiny young mother in the book cuddles her newborn son, whispering cherishing words into his ear about how she'll love him forever and how he will always be her baby. As he grows into a naughty toddler, she continues to visit his bedside each night with the same sentiments. When he becomes a rambunctious little boy, playing with other rambunctious little boys, she still visits his sleeping form and whispers the promising words of love. This continues as the boy grows into a teen and even young adult. Finally comes the day when the boy is grown and moves away new a new home. In the night, the mother drives her car to the young man's home, climbs a ladder up into his bedroom window, and secretly whispers the loving sentiments into his sleeping ear.

The story would be perfect if it ended there, but it does not. The reader assumes that the boy never really realized what was being whispered to him as he slept through all his growing-up years, for each time she told him these things, he was asleep. But the story takes a turn when the son is now well into adulthood and the little mother is in failing health. She wants to go visit her son but she is too weak, so he drives to her home and goes to her bedside; he picks her tiny form up into his big, strong arms and holds her close. The reader chokes back tears as the son gently rocks his mother and whispers into her ear the same words she has whispered to him since infancy. The scene is touching as we see how the love of a mother has impacted her son; he has turned out much like her.

Yet we see this even more in the next surprising scene. The son goes back to his own home and visits the bedside of his tiny newborn daughter. He takes her from her crib and cuddles her, rocking her, and whispering the same loving words, assuring her that she will always be his baby.

So the question still remains, when does a baby stop being a baby? Ask any mother and she might say, never.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Cradle Cap

Cradle cap, or seborrhea dermatitis, is a skin condition that shows itself as yellow, crusty scales on the scalp and sometimes on baby's face. The description of cradle cap actually sounds worse than the condition and makes this fairly common type of dermatitis sound rather yucky. In reality, cradle cap is fairly similar to adult dandruff, can be treated, and while annoying to see on your darling baby, causes no real harm. Cradle cap is not contagious and can show up in any baby. Cradle cap commonly starts in the first 3 months of baby's life.

The symptoms of cradle cap include a scaly, crusty rash with redness or irritation often present as well.The scales of cradle cap may look oily or weepy. Cradle cap is diagnosed by examination of the baby's scalp. Many experts believe cradle cap is caused by a combination of overactive sebaceous glands and hormones. It is not at all related to being dirty.

Many concerned parents start to wash their baby's hair more often in an effort to fight cradle cap. While it is okay to wash baby's hair frequently with a mild shampoo, this will not cure cradle cap and too much washing may actually further stimulate baby's oil glands and make cradle cap worse.

Cradle cap does not need to be treated unless it itches baby's scalp. To treat cradle cap, apply a small amount of baby oil to baby's scalp. Let the baby oil sit on baby's scalp for several minutes to start to soften and loosen the scales. Use a small baby comb to very gently loosen the scales. Use a soft baby brush to brush the scales away and follow up by washing babies hair with a mild shampoo.

For particularly troublesome cradle cap in babies six months old and older, you can use a special seborrhea shampoo to wash babies hair. Be careful, however, because this type of shampoo will irritate babies eyes if it happens to get in them. If cradle cap causes redness and irritation, use a little cortisone on the red, inflamed area.

Baby will eventually outgrow cradle cap, but if the condition gets drastically worse, spreads to other parts of baby's body, or does not respond to treatment at all, consult your baby's pediatrician for advice.

Constipation

You might wonder if your baby is constipated if baby doesn't pass a stool in a couple of days. Unfortunately babies do get constipated and constipation can make things rather uncomfortable for both baby and baby's parents. So how do you know if baby is constipated? There is no set frequency of bowel movements when it comes to babies. Some babies may pass a stool after nearly every feeding, some may go once per day, and others may skip a day or two. The frequency of bowel movements is often related to what baby eats.

For example, breast fed babies tend to have bowel movements more often than formula fed infants. Exclusively breast fed babies tend to have loose, yellow stools several times a day as young infants, tapering off to once a day or even once every three days. Formula fed babies tend to have firmer, darker bowel movements. The frequency of baby's bowel movements depends both on what baby consumes and how quickly baby's digestive system works. Once baby has begun to consume solid foods, baby's bowel movement pattern may change again, to become both more formed and less frequent.

To determine if your baby is really constipated look at type of stool rather than the frequency. If baby is truly constipated baby's stool will consist of dry, hard pellets or large, hard, and difficult to pass stools. Your baby is most likely constipated if he or she is having bowel movements at less frequency than is normal for your baby and is experiencing difficulty and discomfort passing them. Other signs baby is constipated include tummy discomfort coupled with hard infrequent stools and blood on the outside of the stool.

Constipation can be caused by too little water in the waste material that needs to be passed, not enough muscle movement, or a combination of both these things. New foods or drinks can contribute to constipation. Often the addition of cow's milk to a child's diet will cause constipation. If you believe a certain food or drink has caused your baby to become constipated, discontinue using it and consult your baby's doctor. If your baby is formula fed try switching to a different formula to see if that helps. Ask your baby's pediatrician about what brand you should try.

Rice cereal, a very common first baby food, is low in fiber and could contribute to constipation. Consider switching to oatmeal or barley infant cereal or add fruits or vegetables (pureed) to baby's cereal. In constipation prone babies, it is wise to avoid offering bananas and rice cereal or at least reduce the amount consumed. Give more pureed prunes and pears instead. If you have an older baby ask your doctor if it is okay to add bran or flax seed oil to baby's cereal.

Make sure your baby is getting enough fluids. This suggestion may seem rather obvious, but it is possible for baby to receive less fluid than he or she needs. If baby is wetting less than six diapers per day and is experiencing constipation, add extra fluids by giving baby apple or prune juice diluted with water.

Get baby moving! Activity is key in preventing constipation, so make sure your baby gets around plenty. If your baby is crawling get down on the floor and make a game out of getting him to crawl around with you. If baby isn't able to crawl yet help baby move by bicycling baby's legs. To do this lay baby on his back and move his legs up and forward in a pedaling motion.

If fiber, extra fluids, and activity don't help ease baby's constipation, talk to baby's doctor about using glycerin suppositories or glycerin liquid to help stimulate your baby's rectum and help her to have a bowel movement. Avoid using glycerin suppositories or liquid too often, however, because baby could become dependent on them to be able to pass her stools.

Reflections on Eighteen Years

Eighteen years ago today, my first daughter was born. Wow, that seems like forever right now! I remember clearly the night that she was born. I watched television at home until about eight o'clock, even though I had known for several days that I was having mild labor pains. Talking with my doctor several times each day had reassured me that it was OK to wait awhile longer at home.

We finally drove to the hospital at about eight-thirty, and found one of the biggest crowds in maternity that our local hospital had ever seen. There wasn't a spare labor room, so I spent quite a bit of time on a gurney in the hallway! It was ridiculously hot, and the air conditioning system wasn't functioning right. I was very sick for some reason, even though I hadn't eaten all day long.

Baby was born around 2:30 in the morning and I remember being very glad to see her. Of course, she was absolutely perfect and it was love at first sight. Her daddy followed her as the nurses took her off for her tests and measuring, and he tells to this day about how they held her upside down by her ankles and she looked right into his eyes from across the room as if to ask "How could you let them DO this to me??" Her eyes were a remarkable shade of bright dark blue, a shade that I've only seen on each of my other two daughters in the first day or two after they were born. I guess children who have very dark brown eyes are born with that eye color and it changes to brown far more quickly than usual.

It was a few hours later that the medical team let us know that the baby was fairly jaundiced, and would have to spend time under special lights to regulate her blood chemicals. She looked quite like a little porn star, lying there under the lamps with her diaper off under her and small sunshades over her teensy eyes. One of the treatments for the jaundice at that time was to limit her nursing from me, so she also was having her first bottles at that time.

The next day, her pediatrician informed us that she had some looseness in her hip joints that could be a mild dysplasia, and he recommended that she wear a soft brace for the first few weeks of her life. At that point, the stress of the entire experience was too much for me, so I politely said, "Excuse me a minute," and burst into tears. I remember that he was sort of surprised by my orderly and short breakdown...he told me later that it was completely different than the response he was expecting.

The little one had to stay in the hospital for several days after I was released, so, sore and tired as I was, I made the trip back into town (about a half hour's ride over some bumpy country roads) three times each day to be with her and feed her a few times. We made our last trip at about eleven at night, just before the hospital was trying to settle the nursery for the evening. Lo and behold, there was her doctor doing his evening rounds. He said, "You know, her levels are lower now-would you like to take her home?" Of course, we answered. Then we both realized that we had absolutely nothing with us except the carseat that she would need because we were under the impression that she wouldn't be released until the next day.

I always wondered how the hospital handled cases like this, where the new parents weren't prepared to take baby when the time came. Never thought I'd be one of them, though! It turns out that they have packets of supplies for indigent parents-handmade baby blankets, a gown, and little tiny footies to keep the new baby warm. A local church's women's group keeps the hospital supplied with these items as a charitable project. The quilt and gown were beautifully made, and you have no idea how much I appreciated those women at that very moment. I'm not sure how we would've managed otherwise. When life settled down a few weeks later, we sent a generous financial donation to help them continue their work and show our appreciation, figuring that most of the families who use their items probably are not in a position to help like that.

Our little one got home after midnight that night. She was wide awake and ready for action, and I don't think any of us slept a wink that entire night. Maybe it was the quiet of her new home that threw her, or perhaps the darkness. Hospital nurseries, at least eighteen years ago, were quite bright even at night, and there is always some activity making small noises. I guess in addition, she was used to being under those Billi lights to help with her jaundice, so maybe the darkness really did bother her. Who knows? In any case, she was quite unhappy for quite a few hours after we tried to settle her into her crib. It was a very long first night home.

Hard to believe that eighteen years have passed since then. That teensy little baby wearing that brace has grown into a successful and competent young woman. She's graduating from high school tomorrow, and will be leaving for college in a few short months. She's tackled challenges and learned and grown and is ready to take on adult responsibilities (at least sort of!). Her father and I are very proud of her, and we tell her regularly.

I guess the ending moral of this little piece of prose is "Don't blink or you'll miss it." Don't spend your time wishing that your baby will hurry up and grow up. It happens all too fast as it is, and before you know it, you'll be launching your baby out into the world the way that we are. It's exciting, but it's a little bit sad, too. Life moves on!

Friday, May 27, 2005

Babies and Television viewing

By Mylea

Today unfortunately, children are being exposed to constant television viewing from the time of infancy. On several occasions I have had parents in the initial stages of bringing their child to daycare inform me that if we wanted to keep the child busy just set them in front of the television because they love to watch the colors and movement. The idea of teaching babies to focus on the television at such as early age is simply not good for this child.

Doctors from the Japan Pediatric Association says that children who watch television for extended periods of time are more likely to have difficulty communicating. Why do you think that is? Let us stop and think about it, if our children are of speaking age and yet they never have to talk due to not being able to have an interactive conversation with a television set we are in fact stumping the speech process. They have nothing to exercise or build on other than listening to others. Because of no exchange of communication while watching television some of the problems that might occur are; impaired ability to remember words or to maintain eye contact with you. They become unable to form interpersonal relationships with others as well as may prevent them from having healthy mental growth.

The Pediatric Association recommends that parents turn off the television sets during times when family interaction is encouraged, such as meal time. This would also include times when mother is nursing. Today almost every child has a computer in his room, or a video game and a television. Studies have been conducted with taking these electronic devices out of the rooms of children and the results were, communication skills improved.

For healthy mental growth, spend time with your children outside playing games. Encourage them to talk at mealtime; you can do this by taking turns sharing information about your day. Depending on the age of the child, in the beginning ask appropriate questions that require more than a yes or no answer. Listen intently to the answer your child gives, sometimes their answer may shock you but the important thing is not to over-react to what they have said. Now, that you have opened the door to communication do not close it by not thinking before you respond to what your child feels comfortable enough in sharing with you.

As parents, we first want to set the example ourselves of not constantly watching the television set. Take the initiative to sit with your baby or toddler and play games, introduce and identify new words to them by pointing to the object and assigning a name to it. Use appropriate facial expressions and voice tones during play; this is also helps in effective communication growth. Do not practice baby talk; instead use proper pronunciations of words in building vocabulary. Children television viewing is not bad within itself but the key is moderation. We want our children to grow up being good communicators and this can only happen if we as parents take an active role in their mental growth.

Choosing a Pediatrician

Many new parents feel most comfortable establishing a relationship with a doctor who specializes in children's healthcare: a pediatrician. Doctors at the local walk-in clinic are convenient, but most are general practitioners. They have the skills to meet the common needs of nearly anyone, but often do not have the specialized knowledge of any particular group of patients. A pediatrician, on the other hand, is a specialist in the particular unique healthcare needs of babies and children. This expertise makes them a great choice for your child's doctor. And by establishing an ongoing relationship with this person, you will allow the doctor to become an expert on one of the most important people in the world: your child. That's quite an advantage when you think about it.

Choosing a pediatrician is a very important decision. There are many factors to take into account. From location and office policies to insurance concerns, you need to consider the details of working with a particular doctor. You'll also want to think about personality, demeanor, and philosophy. By weighing all of these points carefully, you will be able to make the best decision for you and your baby.

If you are like most people these days, your first priority must be matching your insurance plan. Any doctor you consider needs to be covered in some fashion by your medical insurance. For some, this simply means that part of the doctor's fees will eventually be reimbursed. For others, you will need to choose from a specific list of providers or stay within certain geographic limits. Some plans may dictate which doctor you can see or which hospital you are allowed to use. Whatever the case, be sure you understand your insurance plan and its benefits. Contact your plan's customer service department or your employer's Human Resource Department to clarify any points you are not sure about.

It can be helpful to get recommendations from people you trust before choosing your pediatrician. Your own doctor, friends, relatives, or coworkers might have ideas and suggestions for you. Recommendations can be particularly useful if this is your first child or if you are new to the area. A handful of recommendations will provide you with a starting point in your search. Multiple recommendations for the same doctor might indicate that he or she is popular with others.

Check the hospital that the doctor is affiliated with. It's important that your doctor has privileges at the hospital you would want to take your child to in an emergency. You'll also want to make sure the hospital is covered on your particular insurance plan.

Once you've scoped out a doctor that you'd like to meet, schedule an appointment to interview him or her. You might need to pay for an appointment, but it will be money well spent. You want to make sure that you can work with this person for years to come and a bit of time and money spent now will save you quite a bit of aggravation down the road. Make sure the doctor is accepting new patients, and that you feel comfortable with his or her general attitudes and demeanor. Do you feel attended to? Do you feel like your questions and concerns are being addressed? Make sure the doctor's general attitudes about childrearing and children's health are in line with your own. For example, a doctor that believes in holistic cures may not be a good match if you are the type who wants to solve the problem as soon as possible and would rather have a pill to cure the illness if that's possible. Be sure that your doctor treats you and others with respect, and that you are comfortable with his or her general manner and think that your child will eventually be comfortable, as well. Remember that pediatricians see children well into their college years, so try to gauge how this doctor would treat children of various ages. Is the patience there to respond to childish questions and to reassure a frightened toddler? Will the doctor take a minute to encourage your elementary student who is considering a medical career? These things are all important, too.

Check the office's policies. Are the hours convenient to your usual schedule? What happens when you need a doctor's advice after hours? Find out if there is a number you can call if there is an emergency after hours or if you have to take the child to the emergency room. It's far better to able to contact the doctor if need be when your child is ill at two in the morning than to have to pack everyone up for a trip to the hospital. It's cheaper too! There may be a charge for an after-hours phone call, but it's bound to be far less expensive than taking the young one to the hospital for an earache.

And how about payment policies? Some offices require you to pay for visits in full then get reimbursed by your insurance while others will accept co-payment and file the paperwork for you. Does the doctor's office file insurance paperwork? Do they follow up when necessary? It may also be important to clarify the policy on financial problems and late payments, especially if your job is less than stable. All of these things vary from office to office, and there is no one right or wrong answers. But there are answers that won't work well to meet your personal needs, and you should be aware of the policies before you choose to establish a relationship.

Put some thought into choosing your child's doctor. This person will be there for you when you are upset or worried about your child, and most certainly will be there for your child when he or she is sick or hurt. Your child's doctor will answer your questions and reassure you when needed. You'll want to be sure that you're ready to share your life and your child's life with this person.

Breastfeeding Newborns

Breastfeeding a newborn baby can be tricky. Many new mothers are hesitant to nurse their infants because they are not knowledgeable about the best way to breastfeed. Understandably, you will not know all the positions or tricks the first time around. Doctors will recommend that new mothers attempt breastfeeding. Often, women try breastfeeding in the hospital, and immediately give up when they discover that is it difficult to maneuver the baby. Breastfeeding takes time and patience. The first few times may feel awkward. Nonetheless within a few days or weeks, the mother and baby will get into the routine.

Some women opt not to breastfeed. It is their body and their baby, thus they have the right to make this decision. There are mothers who try and make non-breastfeeding mothers feel bad. True, mothers were created to provide milk for their babies. Medical doctors and researchers will even imply that breastfed babies are healthier. Of course, many mothers know that this is not necessarily true. Millions of children are not breastfed and live a healthy life. In fact, in my circle of friends, ironically the mothers who were pro breastfeeding had more health issues with their children than the mothers who chose infant formula.

Mothers that do choose to breastfeed may need a few pointers to help them along the way. It helps to have a trusted friend or relative that can show or suggest positions. However, those who do not have anyone to guide them have turned to the right place.
Prior to nursing your baby it may be ideal to wash your hands. Once this is done, carry your baby to a couch or chair. The key to breastfeeding is finding the right position. This position should be comfortable for both you and your baby, more so for the infant. There are several positions to choose. These positions include the cradle hold, placing the baby on your side, or laying the baby at your side. Experiment with all three positions to determine which one is best.

Some mothers experience difficulty getting the baby to accept the breast. To begin breastfeeding, hold the baby close to your chest. Gently rub against his or her mouth. When the baby opens his mouth, pull him or her closer to you. Infants will normally attach themselves to the nipple and begin feeding. Mothers may experience some pain. Fortunately, the pain only last a few seconds to a minute. If the pain last longer, re-position the baby. They are likely only sucking on the tip.

In some situations, mothers may experience severe soreness. They tend to release the infant before he or she is finished feeding. Those who experience persistent soreness may consider switching the baby to the other breast as soon as they feel a little tenderness. Continuing to breastfeed when sore could prolong soreness and make it difficult to breastfeed later in the day. Mothers could also consider pumping their milk and bottle feeding to allow sore breast to heal.

Releasing the baby from the breast is the easiest part of breastfeeding. If the infant does not have a tight suction, simple pull them away from your chest area. Infants with a tight suction may require the mother sticking her finger in their mouth to loosen the suction. Immediately burp the baby once they finish nursing. New mothers often forget this important step. Burping serves two purposes. One, it helps the milk to digest. Two, it helps to alleviate gas. An infant with gas pains is not a pretty picture. The way to determine whether your baby is experiencing gas pains is by touching their stomach. Gas makes the stomach feel hard. The infant may also be screaming and kicking one leg. Infant gas relief medical drops are a must for every nursery bag. Within seconds, these drops stop gas pains.

Once the baby is burped, they likely want more milk. Mothers can latch the infant onto their other breast. The infant may not want anymore milk and refuse the breast. A mother will generally breast feed around 10 to 12 times in one day. Do not wait until the baby starts crying to feed. Indicators that they are hungry include smacking of the lips, restlessness, or whining.

Mothers who decide to breastfeed need to understand that everything they eat is passed to their milk. Thus, spicy foods or foods high in salt should be limited. Certain foods can make babies experience gas pains. Breastfeeding mothers should also maintain a healthy diet and drink plenty or water. Breastfeeding is not for everyone. Many mothers have tried nursing their infants, and in the end decided that bottle feeding was a better choice. These mothers have no reason to feel ashamed, nor should they be judged by other mothers who consider breastfeeding the better alternative.

Have You Read to Your Baby Today?

By Christina VanGinkel

Do not wait for your babies to turn into toddlers, or even preschoolers, to start reading to them. Read to your baby from the very first day you bring him or her home. Do not let anyone tell you that an infant will not get anything out of it either. Statistics have long proven that infants that are read to early and consistently are ahead academically of children that do not have this same advantage. Not to mention what both you and your baby will both gain from it, togetherness.

What should you read to your infant? Any book will do to start. It has something to do with the tone of our voices when we read. The calming effect is how I refer to it. Not calming as in directly to the child, though it does that too, but calming to us, the adult. This in turn lets the baby become calm in our presence. When your infant reaches about six weeks of age, start to progress towards children's board books, as babies like to grasp anything their hands meet, and board books will be able to withstand all the tugging, pulling, and even teething that they will eventually be submitted too.

My favorite children's books to read aloud are those that rhyme. Infants and young children pick up the singsong effect that rhyming stories emit, and it seems like they are more likely to memorize a rhyming story than any other style. Besides the ever-popular Dr. Seuss stories, many authors write in the rhyming style today. A few that immediately come to mind include Karma Wilson, who wrote the delightful Bear Wants More, Bear Snores On, and Bear Stays up for Christmas, all featuring the most adorable illustrations by Jane Chapman. Dori Chaconas, author of On a Wintry Morning, is another favorite, as is anything by the late Linda Smith, including When Moon Fell Down. All of these are destined to become classics and you could not go wrong by introducing your infant to the works of these three authors.

If rhyme is not your style, pick something else, because the main advantage is the basic reading itself. Find a quiet spot in your house if you can, preferably somewhere cozy. If nothing like this exists, try to create a space. It could be a rocking chair, or even a few pillows tossed on the floor where you can settle down comfortably with baby. By the time you have done this a few times, you will be amazed at how even a fussy baby will settle down when they realize that they are going to be read a story. Some people also suggest reading at the same time each day, and that may work for some, but I read whenever the mood would strike. In addition, my daughter not only reads to my grandson everyday, but also whenever he seems to be getting overly fussy, out come the books.

I know some of you are saying that this is all good, but the costs of books are so high, that you cannot afford to be buying them for your infants and toddlers. While I agree that some seem high, that is because authors and illustrators have to make a living too. Moreover, there are many affordable alternatives besides the regular bookstore shelves. Check the sales racks anywhere books are sold on a regular basis. Dollar Stores often have a variety of nice board and toddler books. Libraries are free, and if you find a book that your child adores at the library, you can always make it a lesson in saving when they are a bit older, to help them purchase that favorite book for their own.

Wherever you end up getting books from, remember that reading them together is one of the greatest things you can do for your kids.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Choosing Quality Toys: First Books

Experts have been telling new parents for years now that you should read aloud to your baby from birth onward. They say that reading aloud to children as early as possible and as often as possible will help them achieve greater success in school and learn to read more easily when the time comes. Speaking as a teacher, they are absolutely right! And it's not too hard to read aloud to your little one right after birth. I remember many, many afternoons resting my baby daughter on my knee and rocking gently as I read articles from my favorite magazines. It doesn't much matter what you read to the baby, as long as he or she is hearing your voice, the cadences of the language, and feeling your love and attention. However, things begin to change in a few short months. Babies start to pay more attention to the world around them and they become better equipped to focus on things like books. You'll want to switch over to more age appropriate reading material very soon! Here's what to look for when choosing books for your baby.

The first concern is the book's construction. It doesn't take long for infants to begin to reach, grab, and pull at books. Like everything else, books will go into baby's mouth for a thorough exploring with tongue and lips. Books for babies need to be safe for these kinds of explorations and sturdy enough to stand up to this kind of use. Be sure that the books you buy for your little one are well-made and that the pages are firmly attached together. If there are three-dimensional decorations, make sure they cannot possibly come off-you don't want to give your baby a choking hazard without thinking! Colors and inks need to be waterproof or colorfast. You don't want the book's colors to get into your baby's system. Make sure the book states that it is completely nontoxic, and follow the age recommendations provided by the manufacturer.

There is a growing line of plastic books being marketed for the very young. These have some great advantages: they are nearly unbreakable, they are washable, and they are very sturdy. Plastic pages will stand up to your baby's first attempts to turn pages and also be able to withstand being picked up by the covers or by the pages, as babies will do. Another plus of plastic books is their bright, safe colors. Babies just adore bright, primary colors, and these books have the colors put right into the plastic if they are of high quality. You'll want to steer clear of the cheap versions that have the colors painted or screen printed on. Plastic books last a very long time, but do be careful about leaving them in places where they might get hot. When plastic overheats, it can become brittle and crack. Check the books regularly for damage of this sort, and get rid of any that are flaking, cracking, or peeling.

Cloth books are the traditional first choice for baby's first ventures into literature. These books have squishable, squeezable pages, and they are very easy for little ones to grab onto. Make sure that the seams are firmly attached and that the edges of the book are bound in such a way as to prevent fraying. Ideally, the book should be washable! Make sure the dyes used are color-fast, and that the color doesn't rub off or run when wet.

There are also a number of books on the market that are made of a heavy cardboard covered with a laminated or glossy surface. Most of these can be wiped clean when needbe with a damp cloth. Again, be sure the pages are firmly attached, and that the edges are finished so that they won't come undone. It's also wise to avoid cardboard books that have sharp corners. Everything should be rounded to keep baby safe and to prevent paper cuts and similar injuries.

No matter what construction type you choose, there are several kinds of books that should be in your baby's first book collection. Each serves a different developmental purpose and will help your baby build skills that will be needed later in life. It's a great idea to have a wide variety of books available for your little one, so collect as many as you can and take advantage of your local library or toy exchange to supplement your own collection.

Babies respond very well to books that contain pictures of other babies and different kinds of faces. Scientists think that little ones are built to seek the kinds of patterns they see in faces from birth so that they learn to socialize. Books that are themed around pictures of babies will quickly become favorities. In addition, these are often pictures of babies at stages slightly ahead of your young infant. The pictures might be of older infants and toddlers who are doing things that your baby hasn't yet tried or isn't yet capable of. These examples can help your child develop the important skills of imitation and learning from example.

Many books for infants are picture-naming books designed to build vocabulary skills. They are full of clear pictures, in the form of either simple line drawings or photographs of common objects. The picutres are labelled. The book doesn't attempt to tell a story, but rather is intended to help the child understand more about the world around him or her. Many also have the pictures grouped into logical categories, such as things in different rooms of the house or types of tools or animals. Your child will learn about names of important things and also will develop categorization skills by using these kinds of books. Start by pointing to the different items and naming them with your baby. As your little one gains motor control, you'll be able to say the name of an item and have your baby point to it on the page. Finally, when baby is learning to talk, you can point to an item and ask "What's this?" These books also will help your conversations when you aren't reading. You will find that your child will make connections between things in the world around him or her back to the book where the pictures are. The ability to move between the concrete and the abstract in this way is an important intellectual leap that is one of the foundations of later school learning.

Be sure your child has some nursery rhyme books, as well. Nursery rhymes build a sense of language and also help kids develop skills called "phonemic awareness." Phonemic awareness skills are the foundation for later learning in phonics and spelling, and development starts very early in infancy when your baby is exposed to rhyming, alliteration, and similar word play that nursery rhymes are wonderful for providing. It's also important that your child begin to learn to keep track and pay attention to these little stories. Later in life, he or she will need to focus attention for increasing periods of time, and the rhymes are the perfect size to begin the process.

The so-called "busy books" are also high on the list of must-have literature for growing babies. These books have textures and manipulative parts that baby will learn to love as time goes by. Start with the texture, touchy-feely books, because your little one will be able to participate in the reading very early on by swinging a hand to the item in the book. You'll find books with furry patches, crinkly cellophane, and many other textures to explore. There are other books that have holes drilled into the pages that are perfect for small fingers to poke into. Many of these are also counting books and will encourage your child to learn about numbers. Finally, there are the true busy books that have zippers to zip, buttons to manipulate, and so forth. These become appropriate between the ages of eighteen months to three years or so, and will help your child learn many basic skills related to dressing and other life essentials.

Finally, don't forget the alphabet books! Even though your baby won't be trying to read for several more years in all likelihood, exposure to ABC books is important. These books build vocabulary and phonemic awareness. They help your little one make the connection between printed words and their spoken counterparts. Many will build categorization skills, like animal alphabet books or ABC's of farm life.

You can see how many different jobs these early books can do in your child's life. It's almost inexpressable how important it is that you read to your child, and these sturdy first books are just the place to begin.

What's in a Name?

by Christina VanGinkel

Ok, I have a gripe. Why is it that some parents insist on giving their children names that are way off the mark from being your average, typical name? You know what names I am talking about, the ones that sound as if they should have been something else, but the parents presumably sneezed when the nurse was putting the newborn's name in the charts. Next thing you know, instead of a Marcus running around, you have yourself a bona fide, honest to goodness, Farcus. Worse, there are the parents who name their child after a character in a show they watched on late night television.

A few years back we were selling an old car that we no longer used to a man and his wife with whom my husband happened to work. They lived off the beaten track in a relatively rural area north of us. Let me clarify before going any further that by me stating they live off the beaten track that this has nothing whatsoever to do with the name they chose for their child. I happen to live on the opposite end of the county from them, off the beaten track, in a relatively rural area. Anyhow, my husband had told him that I would drive the car up, and that he would follow and meet me at their house to finalize the sale. I arrived before my husband by approximately five minutes. In those few short minutes, I was greeted by this man and his wife and their lovely ten-year-old son. The husband's name was Joe, the wife's name was Emily, and I kid you not, their child's name was Festus. You got it, just like in the old TV western Gunsmoke.

How is it that some relatively normal adults saddle their children with names that some overworked scriptwriter in some back room gave a character on an imaginary show? Do they honestly believe that this will bring their child fame and fortune? If they would only stop and think for a minute, they would realize that a name such as Festus is only going to bring their child unwanted teasing during their elementary years and possibly beyond.

Moreover, to think, I was almost guilty of this myself. While I was pregnant with my second child, now the mother of my beautiful, and normally named grandson, I was obsessed with watching the daytime soap opera The Young and the Restless. On the show was this character called Reva. Not a bad name I thought. It had a very sophisticated sound to it, but moreover, it was not to be confused with the name Reba, as in the famous country western singer/movie-star. Reva sounded glorious to my ears. However, no matter how many times I approached my husband with the idea that if we had a daughter, we should name her Reva, I was met with this blank stare as if he did not hear me. The morning our daughter was born my husband disappeared for a few minutes immediately after the birth. Later that day when a nurse came into the room to verify all the birth details, she never asked me the name to be put on the birth certificate. As she was leaving the room, I asked her if she needed the name to put down and she turned and said, no, that would not be necessary, as my husband had already informed all the nurses, staff, and anyone else that would listen to him that our newborn's name was Rebecca.

My husband later told me that naming a child after someone is ok if the parents know the person, but they should never saddle a child with a name just because it looks and sounds good on the television or the big screen. The whole point being, give the name you are going to stick your child with for the rest of his or her life a major amount of thought. Though I am sure there are plenty of Farcus's, Festus's, and Reva's playing in schoolyards across the country, and the majority of them are happy and well adjusted, we as parents should think twice, even three or four times, before handing down any name to a child. Keep in mind that what we place on a birth certificate is most likely going to stay with that child for their entire life, unless as adults they choose to change it themselves.

While Reva is still a name I like, I once asked my daughter if she would have liked being named that. I was met with this blank stare as if she head not heard me. Upon prodding her for a reply, she answered that she was very glad she had at least one parent with a bit of sense!

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

What I Would Have Missed!

Whether you are a parent or parent-to-be for the first time in your life, or you are simply adding a wonderful addition to your already blessed family, your life will change in magnificent and sometimes subtle ways. Hang on for the ride of your life, and try to enjoy every minute (or almost every minute) of it. Your life will truly never be the same.

As I think back to a couple of years ago when my husband and I were wondering whether to try to have a baby, I shudder to think of what we would have missed if we had chosen to shut that door forever. Although I have three children from a prior marriage, my husband had never experience true fatherhood. Of course, he is a wonderful step-father, and my children love him dearly. However, there isn't any substitute for their real father, and while their affection towards my husband is very real, no one can take the place of their dad in their hearts.

We had a dilemma, though. The children were already way past the baby stage when we began to throw the idea back and forth about having a baby. My daughters were already teenagers, and my son was fast approaching the teen years. Did we really want to start over with a baby? After all, in a few, very short years, we would be free to travel all that we wanted. Since we are both teachers, we have plenty of time in the summer for leisurely activities. My husband is an avid golfer. I love to read for hours at a time. We both love to fish and look forward to discovering that new creek just waiting for us to wade through its crystal clear waters. Sleeping late is still a luxury to me, and I treasure my Sunday afternoon naps.

Every other weekend when the children were at their dad's house, my husband and I had wonderful one-on-one time to spend with each other. We might play a game, take a walk, go to the movies, go out to eat, or fish till dark. Our free weekends were always full of promising possibilities, and there was plenty of time for uninterrupted intimacy to boot! What more could we ask for? Why would we want to mess that up?!

Still, as I spent my days going to work, doing some shopping, or driving down the road, I found my eyes drawn towards that woman pushing a stroller down the street, the baby in the high chair sitting next to us at the restaurant, the child peeking shyly out the window of a car sitting next to me at a red light.

I found myself searching through message boards and forums in the Internet that were filled with older women wanting to get pregnant or older mothers expressing their joy at the birth of their late-life child. I tried to guess the ages of the women I saw with babies in the grocery store. Was that child their son or grandson? Were they older than me. At forty-one, I knew that I was running out of time. My biological clock was ticking, and my eggs were aging!

Once my husband and I decided that we did, indeed, want to add to our family, I thought the most difficult part was over. I'd always conceived my children easily and quickly, so why would this be any different? Mother Nature had a different plan, though. Maybe God was really testing us to see if this was what we really wanted. Through the next year, I eagerly awaited the time of my next period, only to be disgusted and disgruntled when it actually occurred. There were several times when I imagined that I truly was pregnant, only to have two or three pregnancy tests prove me wrong. It just wasn't happening. My eggs were too old. I was too old. There wouldn't be any baby for us, or so I thought.

My emotions were on a rollercoaster. When my period would begin, I would comfort myself by saying that this was the way it was suppose to be. My husband and I would have more time for each other. I could lavish all my extra time and attention on my children before they flew from the nest I'd created. I could take more time to do the things that I love to do. I was already a mother, so I shouldn't be upset that I couldn't have another child.

As far as my husband went, he took it much better than I did. Of course, he would be disappointed each month, but he'd quickly recover, look me in the eyes and tell me that he was perfectly content with me and his step-children. I believed him, most of the time. I guess I was the person who was hardest on me.

After a year, I all but gave up. It just wasn't going to happen. I was a year older, which meant my chances of getting pregnant were becoming slimmer and slimmer. I told myself I didn't care, and I told everyone else that, too. I decided I didn't want a child after all, and I did a good job of convincing myself that this was for the best. I let it go, and I didn't think about it. Then, I received the surpise of my life!

My period was late, but I really wasn't sure because I wasn't keeping track anymore. My breasts were sore, but that happened sometimes when it was time for my period, so I didn't pay attention to them. After a few days of this, though, I decided I'd use the last pregnancy test left over from the endless stash I had kept during my trying to conceive period. Guess what? It was positive!

I showed it to my husband, and we stared at each other in disbelief! We were pregnant! Of course, common sense told me to wait at least till the first three months were past before I told anyone, but common sense wasn't the strongest emotion that I had at this point in time. I told everyone! My children were shocked and excited, and my husband was ecstatic. What about me?

I have to admit that I was scared and apprehensive. Could I still work full-time and take care of an infant? Would my other children feel neglected and left out? Would I still be able to attend all of their activities? How would my older body recover? Would the baby be healthy? Would he or she have birth defects or chromosomal disorders because of my age? Had I made a terrible mistake? I was terrified!

But, as the months quickly passed, and my stomach grew, I looked towards the birth of my child with more and more anticipation. We discovered he was a boy, and we struggled with a name that we all could love. We decorated the nursery and bought clothes and supplies. We watched in awe as my tummy rippled with the movement of our unborn son. We smiled, laughed, and whispered to him in the night. As the time of the delivery drew near, I remembered what labor was like, and I became nervous and apprehensive.

Then came the day of my induction. My parents, in-laws, and children all came to the hospital. My husband was wonderful as usual, and when we first saw our precious baby, we both cried. As I watched his older sisters and brother hold him, I finally realized what a miracle he truly was.

Now, a year has passed, and our baby is one. He is truly a gift to our family. If any of us is down, all we have to do is look at his smiling face. I call him my little sidekick, and I take him almost everywhere with me. I miss him when I'm away from him, and I adore everything that he does. His laugh is infectious, and his smile is a constant joy. As I press his sweet head to my shoulder and breathe in his baby scent, I wonder I could have ever questioned whether I should bring him into this world. I shudder to think at what we all would have missed. He is truly a blessing to so many people, and he has brought our family closer together. After all, you can never have too many people to love, can you? So if you are struggling with the decision of whether to conceive or not, just picture in your mind for a moment a new little face gazing up at you with complete and total adoration. That should do it!

Babies' Sign Language

By Mylea

Babies and sign language at an early age can be very beneficial to a child. Sign language can be taught to babies in the pre-verbal stage along with their parents, caregivers and even grandparents. The best age groups are between 6 months and 3 years old who are not yet able to speak clearly.

Learning baby sign language will help an 8-month old baby express their need for milk or that she is hungry. By the age of 10-months, she could tell you what she saw, such as an airplane. By 18-months, if she has an earache she would be able to convey that to her caregiver. When you are out in public, learning baby sign language would enable you to manage the behavior of your child without having to say a word. Think of the frustration that will be curtailed by having a communication mode with your pre-verbal child. By introducing baby sign language, you as a parent will jumpstart their language development as well as enhance self-esteem in your child.

Some of the proven benefits that will be gained by teaching baby sign language to your child is an increase in IQ and interest in books. When reading books to your child you will be able to point to the pictures and give them the sign to match as you say the word.
Having this communication in place early will change the way you and your child interact with each other strengthening the bond between you even more.

In the book Baby Signs written by Drs. Linda Acredolo and Susan Goodwyn they suggest you start to model signs from birth. It is not until about 6-months old that baby develops the ability to remember signs and is able to begin using the motor skills needed to make signs. Signs at first will not be exact, but the more you practice with your baby and they develop better motor skills they will become more distinct to you.

How do you know when baby is ready to communicate? Baby will start to bring objects to you hoping for an identification of the object. Has your baby started to clap or wave bye-bye? If she has she is showing signs of readiness. Do your baby experience a measure of frustration when you are unable to understand them resulting in temper tantrums? These are a few but not all of the indicators that might be present in the child that is ready to communicate but has not yet developed language skills. Even though you may start signing with your child from about 6 - 7 months she may not start signing back to you until closer to 12 months. On the other hand, some children by the age of 8 - 9 months are signing to you on a regular basis. Once the meaning of the signs are internalized and the necessary motor skills are developed your child will sign to you, but it is solely dependant upon the individual child and their personal development. The main thing to remember is do not give up, hang in there and it will pay off.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Three Kids And A Baby

I am planning to embark on a critical mission. On Wednesday, morning at 6 am, I will leave my home and drive four hours to a world full of strange and unpredictable beings. I will be accompanied by three young, but enthusiastic females and an even younger, but truly tyrannical male.

Our mission? We must find a way to prove that Mommy can drive four hours on the highway with children, enter an amusement park with the same children, enjoy eight hours in the amusement park with the children, and exit the amusement park with the same 4 children without losing her mind. Also prohibited during this mission are screaming, running away, staying seated or otherwise resting for more that 5 minutes, hiding behind tall humans to avoid small humans, getting dizzy, or giving in to queasy feelings on rides. Mommy will be required to ply small fry with endless amounts of junk food, cheerfully ride the scrambler (just one more time), and empty her purse of anything green that happens to be in it. Hiding change for paying tolls is absolutely not allowed!

I have somehow gotten myself into taking a field trip to an amusement park with my four children ages 10, 7, 5, and six months. I don't know why I did it, but I agreed to let their father stay home. I am less than four hours away from starting my mission and the fear has begun to set in. How will I ever survive 8 to 10 hours in an amusement park with my four children? My children a hard to keep calm at the local park, so I can only imagine the type of pandemonium that will ensue once we actually pass the amusement park gates.

I've been coaching my children, over the last two weeks, on what I expect of their behavior. They have been warned to stay with me at all times, not to run ahead, or lag behind. They know I will not spend an outrageous amount on souvenirs, but I'm sure they have guessed that I can be coaxed into spending a mildly ridiculous amount on amusement park food. I know I will be, quite literally, exhausted by the end of our trip. I am exhausted after a day of keeping up with them at home, so I am sure this will be ten times more tiring.

Despite the wear and tear my children will put on my poor body, I am prepared to give this trip my all and enjoy myself as much as possible in the process. What I am not prepared for is keeping my six month baby (tyrant) happy and quiet. My adorable baby, Alex, is a joy to be around. I feel blessed to have him in my life. Alex, however, is attached to me at all times. I cannot put him down. I am nursing him or holding him, walking him or cuddling him. I am not exaggerating when I state the fact that he sits by himself only about thirty minutes per day. I even cuddle him while he sleeps since we have not yet come to an agreement about him sleeping in his crib.

You might be wondering, after learning about baby Alex, how I manage to get anything done. The answer is: by wearing my baby. I put him in his sling and get to work. It can be back-breaking because Alex already weighs in at twenty-five pounds, but it is the only way I can get anything done. Well meaning friends have suggested I simply let him cry it out, but I cannot handle that. Listening to baby Alex cry for me, watching his chubby little face turn beat red, seeing his normally smiling eyes fill with tears, just hurts my heart too much. I am an old softie. I do, however, let him cry while I'm cooking. I just will not take the risk of unintentionally injuring my sweet baby by trying to cook with him in my arms or strapped to me. The thirty minutes baby Alex spends sitting by himself per day, are usually while I am preparing dinner for our family.

It is mostly because Alex is so demanding of me physically that I am so frightened about our trip. I wonder: will he cry to be nursed every 15 minutes? Will he allow me to push him in his very cute but not very highly regarded ( by him at least) stroller? Will I have to sling him through the park for the entire day? Will I be able to walk at the end of the day, after carrying him for so long? Will baby Alex like the strange sights, sounds, and smells in the amusement park or will they make him even more unwilling to let go of me? Will this amusement park mission exhaust him so much that he will be cranky and irritable all the way home? And the most important question of all : why did I ever agree to do this alone?

As you can see I have many concerns about this trip. I hope, in spite of my concerns, that I will be pleasantly surprised with a smooth and enjoyable trip. I will do everything in my power to make sure the trip does go well, for my children's sake. They are so looking forward to going that they ate their vegetables at dinner, did not even ask for dessert, cleaned their rooms, showered (with soap), and got into bed without any nagging at all from me. I'm not certain if they actually went right to sleep because they do have trouble sleeping the night before a big trip, but the fact that they climbed into their beds without any prodding from me is truly a miracle.

Unconventional Baby Showers

by Christina VanGinkel

It has long been traditional that first time expectant mothers were given a baby shower by friends or relatives. Any gifts that could be used for additional bundles of joy were stored away to be used when the next baby arrived. Cribs, high chairs, bouncers, clothing, bedding, bottles, even toys were all reused for additional children. Nowadays, it is common for women giving birth to their second and subsequent children to have another shower complete with repeat gifts that were often received at the first shower. Gifts given the first time around may have been given away for lack of storage, sold at a rummage sale, even discarded. Today, if one or two children have used an item, the new parents, or extended family, often think that a new addition to the family means brand new everything.

If you happen to suddenly find yourself in different circumstances, such as going right back to work after the birth and could use the extra equipment to outfit a grandparent's or babysitter's house, by all means go ahead and have a second or even third traditional style baby shower.

However, if you find yourself pregnant with a new addition and already have all the equipment that goes hand in hand with having a baby in the house, consider some alternative ideas. Think about celebrating the coming arrival with all your friends by requesting, or asking the party throwers to request, either a no gift party, or an unconventional gift list, such as gift coupons for free babysitting for the older siblings, or some other unorthodox but useful items.

Nothing is wrong with celebrating subsequent births; it just makes more sense to have party goers know that the gifts they give are actually things you can use. If you choose to go the no gift route, consider asking everyone to bring a baby gift to be donated to a local hospital or shelter. On the other hand, ask everyone to come with a gift of a non-perishable food item to be donated to a shelter. Try to find the spirit to spread the joy to some other newly expectant parents who may not be as fortunate as you may be.

Celebrating the arrival of your brand new baby should not be tied to gifts if you already have everything you need. Still, you will want to remember the party for your future child. Mark the day by having all the attendees write a note about how they know you and the rest of the baby's family in a scrapbook, so when baby is older, he or she will have a solid remembrance of this special day.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Getting Your Baby to Sleep

The number one complaint by new mothers is being tired. It does not matter if you have one child or three, having a new baby in the house means change. A mother will experience double the workload; however they are usually unable to regroup because of the lack of sleep. In the beginning, babies sleep a lot. Nonetheless, they also wake up a lot. Some mothers are fortunate to have newborn babies that sleep through the night within a few weeks. Other mothers are not as fortunate. Mothers often wonder how to get their baby to sleep.

There are many techniques to help a baby fall asleep, and perhaps stay asleep for a longer period. The trick is finding the technique that best suits your baby. Discovering babies desired positions could be difficult if they prefer to fall asleep in an uncommon position. For example, a friend of mine can only get her baby to fall asleep by placing her in a vibrating bouncer. Another mother must place a musical teddy bear near her infant. Some infants fall asleep to motion, others to music, some to both. The key is discovering what makes your baby tick.

Mothers should initially try rocking their infant to sleep. This generally works well, however the mother may discover that the infant wakes up soon after they are laid down. Therefore rocking is a better choice if the mother plans to sit for a long extended period. Some will discourage rocking and holding a baby to get them to sleep because the infant may become accustomed to sleeping in this matter. Parents who choose to rock and hold their infant should keep in mind that as the child becomes older it may be difficult to break them of this habit.

During feedings is commonly when most infants and babies fall asleep. Try feeding infants that appear tired or restless. However, do not over feed an infant. If the baby recently ate, try another technique. Some parents make the mistake giving an infant a bottle every time they whine. This is not good because it teaches them early that food is the solution to boredom or feeling upset. Some may disagree with my next statement however an infant can become greedy. They love to eat, even when they are not hungry. Thus, they may cry in order to get another bottle or feeding.

Motion is also a great way to get a baby to sleep. It is not uncommon to hear of a parent who drives their baby around the block to get them asleep. I have also heard of parents who sit their infant in the carrier, and place the carrier on top of the washing machine. It is a fact that a baby loves motion. Vibration is the key to getting an infant to sleep for a long period of time. New parents may be unaware of the baby items that vibrate. Baby superstores have a wide selection of items to help a baby sleep. A vibrating bouncer and vibrating attachments for cribs are a top pick.

Rocking, swinging, and dancing with a baby will also put them to sleep. However once the movement stops, the baby is likely to wake-up. Vibrating machines are better because once the baby is placed in a bouncer or crib, the vibration provides constant movement, which allows them to sleep for hours. Noise also plays a part in getting an infant to sleep. A baby may find it difficult to sleep in a quiet room. Parents could include a musical lamp or stuffed animal. The humming of a fan or humidifier is also perfect for giving a soft background noise to help them sleep longer. A smooth jazz CD in repeat mode is also a proven technique for providing infant hours of sleep time.

A baby will also sleep longer if he or she is relaxed. Again, feedings are the perfect time for putting a baby to sleep because a full stomach will relax them. However, baths are also soothing and calming. Baby bath gels such as lavender are known for creating a tranquil mood in infants. Immediately put the baby to sleep after a bath. The more relax a baby is, the longer they will sleep.

Once a parent determines the best technique for getting their infant to sleep, they should put it to good use. The longer a baby sleep, the more time a mother has to do routine household chores. The mother could also use this time to get some needed rest. As the baby becomes older they will begin to sleep for much longer periods until they are eventually sleeping through the entire night. This usually happens between six and twelve months. Parents will agree that a baby sleeping sound through the night is a welcoming mat.

Letting Babies Cry

by Christina VanGinkel

Everyone has an opinion on whether a baby should be left to cry for any length of time. Many people believe that as long as the baby has been checked for all the basics, such as a wet or dirty diaper, nothing pinching or poking them, not too hot, too cold, etc. they should be left to cry it out so they do not become spoiled. What many people never think of is that the baby may still be in need of something. That being physical contact. Others forget the simple rule that before approximately two to three months old, and even older in some kids, a cry always means something. They do not know enough about the outside world to cry simply to manipulate someone. They are very self-centered at such an early age and if they are crying, it is for a reason. A brand new baby may be feeling the loss of the warmth and protection that was second nature to them in the womb. They may be unable to handle the challenges of the different stimuli that they are surrounded with on a daily basis. If picking up and cradling that infant can provide a sense of security, who are we as adults to deny them that just for the sake of not spoiling them.

An older baby that is relatively well adjusted, and will often play contentedly by itself the majority of the time, may suddenly crave the warmth and protection of a parent. They may be entering a stage where they are more aware of the different surroundings, sounds, and sights that fill their space. This is when you will have to star making judgment calls on whether to pick them up every time they cry.

If you are in tune to your child, or try to be as much as possible, you should start to pick up the differences in his or her cries as time goes by. A cry that means hold me, I am just craving a small amount of bonding, and pick me up because if you do not I am going to scream louder and demand to be carried everywhere, are most often very different in tone.

If you think you are no good at deciphering the differences, hang in there. It may be that your infant is too young, and all the cries mean hold me, feed me, clean me, and rock me. When they are a bit older, you will suddenly be confronted with the other type of cry, and you will instinctively know that they have reached an age where they are trying to manipulate their world. You will then have to decide whether to pick them up or let them cry.

Personally, I carried my children everywhere. They are now twenty-three, twenty-one, and twelve. The two older are well-adjusted adults and my twelve-year old is well on his way. No harm came to them from me toting them about first in my arms, and then on my hip. My back even held out, though I was often bombarded with comments as I carried my youngest around until he was pre-school age. Considering he entered the world at nine pounds fourteen ounces and continued to grow at a rapid, consistent rate, and I am all of five feet two inches tall, we still survived just fine.

Ultimately, remember this is a personal decision, one of the many thousands that you will have to make in regards to the upbringing of your children. Do what you think is best and do not think twice about what all the statistics say, or family and friends say. Remember also that even if you choose to pick up that crying baby, as I chose to do, that is no guarantee that the baby will miraculously quit crying. As babies are known to do, sometimes they cry for no reason whatsoever. That is half the fun of being a parent, dealing with the unexpected!

How To Treat A Diaper Rash

The best treatment for diaper rash is prevention. Keep baby's bottom clean and dry. Diaper rash thrives in a warm, wet environment. Change baby's diaper as soon as your baby's diaper becomes wet or is soiled. Let your baby go without diapers from time to time to allow your baby to get air to his or her bottom. Make sure your baby's diaper is not too tight because a too tight diaper may rub against baby's skin and cause irritation. Be careful with commercial baby wipes because the chemicals in the wipes can irritate baby's delicate skin as well.

Consider disposable diapers. Although disposable diapers are not as good for the environment as cloth diapers, they may be better at helping to prevent diaper rash. This is because disposable diapers are more absorbent and keep baby drier. Cloth diapers, especially when used in conjunction with plastic pants, can trap heat and moisture against baby's skin and lead to diaper rash. Detergent used to wash cloth diapers can also irritate baby's skin.

To treat diaper rash, make sure baby's bottom gets plenty of air. Keep baby out of diapers for at least a couple of hours per day, until the rash has cleared up. This may be messy, but it really does work. Place a waterproof pad under baby to help minimize the amount of cleaning up you will need to do.

Use warm water to clean baby's bottom while baby has a rash. Avoiding the use of soap, during this time, will help to prevent further irritation of the diaper area. If you must use soap, use a very mild type and use just a small amount.

Purchase and use a diaper ointment that contains zinc oxide to dry up diaper rash and protect baby's skin from moisture. Avoid the use of powder on baby. Powders containing talc can get into your baby's lungs and irritate them. Cornstarch can actually worsen a yeast infection.

Contact your baby's doctor if any of the following occur: the diaper rash persists for more than a few days, baby develops a fever, the rash spreads to other parts of baby's body, the rash begins to look strange to you, or the diaper rash seems to be getting worse in spite of your treatment efforts.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Choosing Quality Toys: Stuffed Animals

If your household is like most, it won't be long after baby is born that you will feel like you are hosting an entire zoo filled with plush animals. It seems like everyone, especially other adults who either don't have kids or whose children are grown, think that your baby needs that cute stuffed zebra or dog or teddy bear or dinosaur that they found. For some reason, many people find plush toys to be completely irresistible, and they will purchase them for your baby. Chances are very good that you yourself will find a few of these cuddly toys that your child absolutely HAS to have, as well! No matter how they arrive at your house, first and foremost, you'll need to make sure that they are safe for your baby. Next, you'll want to deal with management issues, such as where to keep them and what to do with them. Finally, you will eventually need suggestions about how to clean them when needed.

Stuffed animal safety has to be your first priority. There are a surprising number of plush toys that do not meet even the most basic of safety standards for children! In addition, babies of different ages and stages have divergent needs when it comes to safety. Toys that are perfectly safe and wonderful for a kindergartener could be a fatal hazard for an infant.

One of the most common problems with stuffed animals is small parts that can be removed by a persistent youngster and turn into a choking hazard. For this reason, do not allow your baby access to any toy that has parts that are smaller than a quarter that can be removed. Check eyes, facial decorations, buttons, buckles, and the ends of tails, as these are common places for manufacturers to put these sorts of items. Make sure that ears, tails and other features are securely attached. Don't allow a tail to be long enough and flexible enough to wrap around any portion of the child's body (including fingers!). String-like tails can choke a little one if they become wrapped around the neck, or they can get tangled tightly enough around arms, legs, fingers, or toes to cut off circulation and damage the child's muscles and nerves.

It's also important to check the seams on the stuffed toy. Make sure there are no loose threads or areas where the seam is likely to pull apart. You don't want holes in these creatures, because the filling can come out. It can be a choking hazard itself, or at minimum, it can make quite a mess. Whatever fur should also be firmly attached. You should not be able to pull hair out of the animal, and it should not shed when handled. The dye used to color the animal also needs to be fast and unlikely to rub off on the skin.

Remember that plush animals of any sort should not be left in the crib or cradle with an infant. This is for the same reason that parents are advised to remove pillows and other soft items from the bed when baby is sleeping. Babies who cannot roll or lift their heads on their own can shove themselves up against the stuffed animal and smother. Be safe! Allow the baby access to the stuffed animal only when fully supervised by an adult. If the child cannot have your undivided attention right then, keep the stuffed animals out of reach. You might want to use them as decorative additions to the nursery or playroom while your baby is still little.

Stuffed animals can also be a potential allergy problem. They tend to collect dust and dust mites, and if your child (or you!) is allergic, the stuffed animals can cause a lot of discomfort and health problems. Many doctors recommend that whatever stuffed animals you keep around not be stored in the child's room or in or around the child's bed. If your child is showing signs of allergies, such as chronic runny or stuffy nose, frequent ear infections, many colds, or similar problems, you may want to consider getting rid of the stuffed animals or at least limiting contact with them.

Stuffed animals are such a common present that you will need to have a plan for what to do with them soon after your baby's birth. They can make nice decorations for the nursery or play room. You can perch them atop mirrors or other pieces of furniture where baby can see them but isn't at risk of smothering on them. You could keep a few of them in the playroom, or scatter them around parts of your house where the baby spends a lot of time. Do not plan to keep them in the bathroom, though, because the moisture and dampness will quickly cause problems.

Some families find the stuffed animal collection grows so quickly that they run out of places to store them. If this is the case for you, consider putting several of them aside in a closed box or bin and rotating them every few weeks. In this way, your baby will get a chance to enjoy all of the toys, and the variety will be stimulating and interesting. You can also use stuffed animals as puppets. Keep some in a box set aside for that purpose and use them to act out stories for your baby.

And don't forget to pop a few small ones into your diaper bag. Stuffed animals make a wonderful diversion for your baby when you are away from home. They are generally quiet, you can use them to "talk" to the baby, and your little one will enjoy seeing them just like old friends if you only get them out when you are on the road.

Stuffed toys are notoriously tough to clean. For this reason, I suggest that small children be given stuffed animals that are machine washable. For the most part, these are smooth rather than furry, but they sure do clean up much more easily. Many stores sell stuffed animals that are made of corduroy or similar materials that have a bit of a nap to them and feel pleasant to the touch, and these are best for the very young. Babies who are still spitting up or likely to drop the toys in the dirt especially need friends that can be popped into the washer.

Once your child has passed the point of being likely to spit up or wet on the toys, you can move to plush toys that are surface washable. This remains important long after your child leaves early infancy because many children still get into trouble when they are sick and are unable to control their bodily functions or clean up nasal discharge properly. I know it's gross, but it IS important!!

Only after your little one has matured beyond these points (generally late preschool through early elementary) is it safe to give them a traditional, non-washable stuffed buddy on a regular basis. And even these need the occasional cleaning. They get dusty if pushed aside for any length of time. One good way to clean a stuffed animal is to vacuum it! If you need to clean a stuffed toy when dealing with head lice (a surprisingly common problem in many areas), it can be sealed in an airtight container, such as a trash bag for at least two weeks. Stuffed toys that have an odor for whatever reason might improve if left in the sun for a day or two. Sunshine is a natural deodorizer and will help eliminate many kinds of smells, including mildew and smoke.

Stuffed animals are great fun and most children love them. They are intriguing to children of a wide range of ages and developmental stages. From infants who enjoy looking at them from a distance to young children who will use them as props in pretend games to older kids who adopt them as special friends, stuffed animals play a huge role in most children's lives. Take simple steps to make sure that your child stays safe around plush toys and that the toys you offer can be cleaned when needed. Enjoy!