Friday, September 30, 2005

The Physical Benefits of Infant Massage

Baby massage as a trend is something that is helping many parents to bond with their children. The emotional benefits of massage include extra closeness, decreased stress hormones, and increase endorphins. If those benefits still leave you a little skeptical, check into the physical advantages the massages will give your baby.

You may have learned that when your baby is very small, touch is his most important sense to your baby. The skin is attached to the central nervous system, and touch helps your baby to identify his or her environment. Touching your baby regularly for a massage means that he or she will become accustomed to your touch and the physiological effects is causes.

Babies who do not receive touch because of sickness or abandonment do not thrive. Researchers and pediatricians have discovered that touch is vital to helping a baby develop at a normal rate. Your use of massage aids this development. The pituitary gland secretes growth hormone, and studies show that baby massage helps to increase the growth hormone that your baby receives.

Most parents have heard premonitions about the dangers of not putting socks on baby's feet, but few parents know why that is. Babies' circulatory systems are not fully developed, which means that the extreme peripheries of their bodies, such as the top of their heads, their hands, and their feet, will be cold because they are not getting enough blood to them.

Massage helps with this circulation issue. You will be helping your baby's circulatory system by massaging your baby. Many parents report that their babies' hands and feet get warmer during a massage. Relaxing muscles absorb more blood while contracting muscles release blood to return to the heart. That means that the relaxation and contract pattern during massage increase the little one's circulation.

Baby massage also aids in relaxation of the muscles around the joints. During the infant days, your baby is learning to move his body in different ways. Much of this movement depends on your little one's ability to make use of his joints. Massage will help your baby to gain flexibility in his joints.

Regular massages also have a sloughing effect for your baby's skin. Skin typically sloughs off dead cells frequently, but sometimes babies' skin is not as good as this process because of the extra oils needed for protection in the womb. The massage will remove these cells from your baby's skin. The skin will then be free to release toxins and increase sebum production. Sebum is a natural oil that helps the skin's elasticity and increases resistance to infection.

Massage also stimulates the vagus nerve, which affects the gastrointestinal track. The vagus nerve helps the body absorb insulin, glucose, and other food release hormones. It can promote the movement of wastes through the body by improving the lymphatic system. Baby massage overall makes your baby feel better through a number of physical benefits. These benefits are hopefully enough to make you try massage with your little one.

By Julia Mercer

Setting Up For Massage

When you decide to massage your baby, you will need to prepare both of your for the event. First, you will need to find a quiet, draft-free room. You will want baby in just a diaper or perhaps a diaper and onesie, which is why you will want a draft-free room. The quiet will help both of you relax. You should wear loose-fitting clothing so that you will not have to struggle with your clothing during the massage.

Before you get baby for the massage, wash your hands to be sure that they are clean. Do not touch baby while they are cold, however. Also take off any jewelry so that you do not scratch your baby accidentally. Prepare a bowl of massage oil so that you will have it handy when you get ready for the massage.

When you bring in the baby, you will need to place him or her on a soft, warm surface. You can try a long pillow that is short, a large towel, or a thick blanket. Make sure that baby is comfortable and avoid fabrics like wool that will irritate the skin once you use the oil.

During the massage, too, you will need to follow a few simple rules. Do not think about anything else that is going on. Remove all worries or other thoughts from your mind and concentrate on the massage so that you and your baby get the best results.

You also will need to keep your touch rhythmic so that the baby can get an intuitive idea of what you will be doing. You also should talk or sing to your baby. Use small phrases or sing lullabies. Your baby will be able to respond to the softness in your voice. Maintain eye contact with your baby during the massage so that he or she will be able to trust you.

If your baby does not like the massage, then he or she will cry to let you know. Stop the massage at this point. The benefits, emotional and physical, are negated if your baby is not calm during the massage. You also will make him or her stress out about the massage. You will subvert any future plans you have for massage as well.

Should your baby cry the first time out, though, that does not mean that you should give up on the massage idea. Wait a few days and try again. You may want to try massaging a clothed baby first or try massaging without the oil. Do what works best for the two of you.

You also should make sure that you are comfortable while you are performing the massage. While the massage is not for you specifically, it will help you to get closer to your baby, to make him or her happy, and to relax yourself. By maintaining a comfortable position, you will be able to derive benefit from the massage as well.

The baby massage experience is one that you and your baby should look forward to and that can become a big part of your new lives together.

By Julia Mercer

The Emotional Benefits Of Baby Massage

Baby massage has become a trend for young professional parents hoping to spend some quality time with their little ones. There are a number of benefits to massage, however, so it may be something you want to consider even if you feel that you do not match the cultural mores of the baby massage set.

Babies - like everyone else - have muscle reactions that are associated with their emotions. Every emotional reaction that someone has causes a corresponding muscle reaction. Using massage can help you help your baby deal with baby stresses, such as sleeping woes, weaning, or a fall.

Offering your baby a massage also helps your baby learn to trust you. While your baby will learn to trust you because you provide for her basic needs, massaging can increase the closeness of your relationship. While many new fathers want to be involved with their little ones, they are unsure of themselves – even more so than moms. Using massage is a way to practice handling your baby in a way that is beneficial and relaxing for baby and Dad.

The blood has cortisol in it. The body releases this stress hormone anytime you feel any kind of stress. Repeated and regular massage will help the body to reduce the amount of cortisol the body releases. The body will maintain this reduced level between massages, helping your baby to feel less stressed. Remember that while a baby's life may seem simply and easy to us, it is stressful for baby because he is learning new things everyday.

An additional benefit of baby massage is that you will help to increase your baby's production of endorphins. These hormones are "happy hormones." They have some control over emotional reactions and will help your baby to feel happier. Endorphins also dull pain, which will help your little one. The combination of decreased cortisol and increased endorphins will give baby a general sense of good well-being. It will, of course, make you feel great, too.

It is important that you maintain eye contact with your baby when you are giving a massage. This eye contact will help your little one to trust you and know that you are trying to make him or her feel better.

You also should kiss your baby and talk to her while you are giving the massage. Tell her that you are giving her a massage and that it will help her. Explain that it relaxes her body. While your baby cannot understand your words, she or he will gets stimulation just from your voice.

The emotional benefits to massage are many. While there are physical benefits as well, just the emotional aid baby massage gives your new little bundle makes it worth it to give it a chance. Remember, too, that you should ease yourself into the massage. It makes some moms and dads uncomfortable at first. If you give it a chance, though, you and your baby will work your way into it, and it can become an important part of your lives.

By Julia Mercer

Get Started Today Making Your Own Baby Food

There are great reasons to make your own baby food. Here we will discuss some of those reasons as well as ways to get started once you decide to go ahead and do it.

First, you will need the proper materials. You must have something to grind the food and a steam basket. The basket will sit on top of a pot of water. You will boil the water, using the steam in it to cook the veggies and keep the vitamins and minerals in the food instead of letting them soak into the water. You can try a simple metal steamer or the bamboo varieties for a good baby food steamer.

There are precious few places selling the grinders these days. Look online for a great deal. If you cannot find a grinder, you can try a very small food processor, as that should work as well and can convert to a family food grinder once baby no longer needs it. Another option is called a food mill, and this appliance strains the food to a very baby-food like consistency.

Remember to keep safety first when you are making food for baby. Your little one has a sensitive tummy, so you absolutely must wash your hands before you make food for your baby. Clean the utensils before you use them, even if you only used them to stir foods for Mom and Dad.

The food should be cooked and converted into baby food as soon as you remove it from the refrigerator instead of waiting for it to return to room temperature. Also keep in mind that if you make an excess, which you most often will, then you should store and freeze it as soon as you make it. This food will have no preservatives, and baby's immune system is not fully developed, even if you are breast-feeding. That is why you must take extra precautions with safety to avoid any bacteria getting into baby's food.

When you do freeze foods, do so deliberately. You should use a spoon to measure out the baby food. Put it in dollops on a cookie sheet, the way you would cookie dough. Allow the food to freeze and then store - with labels indicating the food and date!

You can use plastic freezer bags or containers, or you can use boiled baby food jars. The foods will keep for up to two months.

Baby food is a less expensive way to feed your baby. Also instead of relying on the limited selection available in baby foods, you can be sure that you are providing a wide array of foods for your little one. For example, most baby food companies make only squash, carrots, and sweet potatoes in the first foods line, but you can use your imagination to add to your baby's choices.

Making your baby food can be fun, and while more tedious than picking up jars at the store, it is less expensive and will help you transition the little one to real food.

By Julia Mercer

Creating a Scrapbook for Baby

By Christina VanGinkel

Creating a unique scrapbook for baby is one of the best ways to create a lasting memory of your child's earliest days. Too often, parents are too busy to record much more than a few quick snapshots. As difficult as it may be though, it is best to try to record a few journal entries in these early days to make a better record of the memories. Waiting until you have more time always sounds like a good idea; but in essence never works out. The small, important recollections are clouded over in our minds, and forgotten.

Even the busiest parent can keep a small notebook out to record thoughts and ideas. Toss it on your counter with an attached pen, or drop a small one in baby's diaper bag, just somewhere that you deem accessible. The notebook does not have to be anything fancy either, even a few pieces of printer paper folded in half and stapled will work. Depending on your schedule, allocate a few minutes every day to write about baby and your feelings. Steal the time from some other task, or combine it with another one, such as after a feeding. When you sit down with baby, be sure to tuck your notebook and pen nearby. If baby falls asleep, use the time to both sneak in some extra snuggle time with your little one, and then take a few minutes to jot down a few entries that can later be used for journaling in your scrapbook. Remind yourself that staying stress free is as important as every other task that involves baby, and scrap booking is a great way to relieve stress and to remind yourself immediately just how wonderful baby is.

If you are overwhelmed with the prospect of coming up with page layouts once you start your book, remember that it is more about the information than the embellishments. You can always go back and spice up a page later, or change things around. You will also notice that once you do a few pages, they will become easier. If you are still blocked for ideas, check out a few of the many scrapbook magazines available. Parenting magazines that also include craft ideas often include scrapbook layout ideas, as scrap booking itself grows on a continual basis, with parents one of its biggest group of fans. Begin small if you are overly intimidated. Scrapbooks are available in various sizes, from the larger 12" x 12" size, down to mini albums of only 4" x 4". These small sizes work perfect as gifts for grandparents and are a great way to test the scrap booking waters!

If you do not know where to purchase supplies, nearly any major retailer, such as Wal-Mart, now carry scrapbook supplies, as do many online and brick and mortar style stores that sell crafts in general. Some stores even sell only scrapbook and card supplies. Scrapbooks are a hobby that can be enjoyed now, as you create them, and far into the future when you look back at them many years from now, in remembering just how little baby once was.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

When Potty Training Lapses

By Christina VanGinkel

My grandson is twenty-seven months old and has been potty trained for several months. He still wears a diaper at night, but even most nights he stays dry. So imagine my daughter's dismay this past week when he suddenly peed in his pants in the middle of the day. She said he told he had to go, but never made it to the bathroom. She did not make a big deal out of it, exactly the opposite. She just washed him up and put clean clothes on him, and that was it.

He stayed dry the remainder of the day and the following morning and afternoon. Late the next evening though, he again told he had to go to the bathroom. This in itself is unusual, as he usually just heads to the bathroom and after he is there, he may shout for some help, but announcing beforehand that he is going to the bathroom is outside his normal routine. Well, this time he did not only pee his pants. This also explained why he had the accident the day before. His stomach was most likely becoming upset, and at his young age, even with his advanced verbal skills, was not able to explain that his stomach hurt. As she cleaned him up this time, she asked him if his tummy was feeling bad. He said he had fishes swimming in it! (You have to know my grandson to understand this one. He likes everything there is about fish; they are a natural magnet to him. He must have put the unsettled feeling of his stomach to the notion he must get when he watches a tank of fish swimming around.) He ended up having a mild bout of some stomach bug or virus, and after another twenty-four hour period, he was fine. She made sure he was well hydrated, and just paid extra attention to his bathroom needs during the following few days.

Imagine how some parents may have reacted to their child who has been toilet trained for a few months, then have an accident as he did the day before his stomach bug became apparent. This can work as reminders to not over react when a toilet-trained child has a lapse backwards. Sometimes it is because of a scenario such as this, or maybe because the child has developed a new interest in some toy and just forgets to go to the bathroom. Sometimes, a child who is toilet-trained, will just lapse a tad. For whatever reason, or non-reason, the best tactic is to not react, or make a big deal. Ask them why, they may have a reason, or they may just tell you they do not know. Leave it at that, and chances are it will not be recurring. If it is, deal with it in a calm manner. Too often parents become upset when a child lapses in their toilet training, but in all regards, it is actually quite natural. They are busy little beings who are taking in so much knowledge that it is perfectly normal, even expected, that they occasionally become overloaded and something has to give. Oftentimes what gives is their dry bottom. Take it in stride and before you know it, they will be right back to potty training 101 earning a well deserved A+ grade.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Having Baby and Going to Work

By Christina VanGinkel

I have been a stay at home mother for nearly twenty years. I have worked during this time, but as a freelance writer and craft designer, all of which I was able to participate in from the comfort of my own home. I attended a few craft shows through the years, selling handcrafted art. In addition, I am again toying with the idea of venturing back into this field, in part for the money, and in part to just get out into the real world now and then in a larger capacity than as a body standing in a generic checkout line. I did employ the occasional sitter for the times I had a two-day show, but the normal routine was to leave the children in the care of my husband.

Today, as more and more young mothers go off to work within the first year of their baby's birth, oftentimes within the first few weeks after giving birth, I am constantly in amazement at how they do it. With my youngest now thirteen years old, I cannot imagine having to head out the door at the same time he does, or before, and not being there in the afternoon when he arrives home. I know many mothers who do, some out of necessity, some out of a personal need to work outside of the home. I commend them, as there have been times that I actually wished I did work outside the house, but then I remember that I would have to get dressed in more than my usual attire of jeans and a sweatshirt. (For your information, my idea of getting dressed up means finding a pair of jeans and a t-shirt that have no obvious holes or stains in them.)

I bring this all up, because I know a young mother who has two toddlers, and out of financial necessity, is heading into the workforce. She has to arrange daycare to go on job interviews, and for the time she would be employed. None of this can be left to the last minute, as it will be very difficult for her to find quality daycare as it is, let alone last minute. She also has to work out arrangements on what to do if one of her children is ill and cannot go to the regular daycare. She has no spouse to rely on, so this must all be handled by her. When I asked her how hard it was to do it on her own, she replied that it was a bit, but that things would work out. She would not change a thing, other than having a magic wand to pick a reliable sitter maybe!

I know of another situation where the mother is actually a doctor, and though she had what she deemed competent daycare, she ended up taking her toddler along to the office on a regular workday as her sitter just never showed up. She has a husband, but he was out of town for business. She works in a small clinic, and canceling her patients for the day was not an option available. This happens occasionally she said, not a big thing.

A third young mother I know is working in much the same field as me, though she does interviews. She also has been known to show up with a toddler in tow. So far, this has worked out, but there may come a day that it does not. She does not feel that her income would support a sitter, and tries to schedule meetings around her husband's schedule, though this does not always pan out.

Three different mothers, three different scenarios, each with their own difficulties, yet each of these mothers would not trade their lives for anything. They love their children and are more than happy to try to make it work. Whether you are a stay at home mother, or work outside the house, you will have your own select challenges in raising your children. I hope you find a bit of the aplomb each of these three mothers seem to! I sure wish I could.

Baby Foods

The other day my two year old toddler asked me to buy the "banana cookies". No, we were not in the grocery store cookie aisle. We were in the baby food aisle. That's right. Beechnut makes banana flavored cookies for babies. Apparently my toddler remembered how much he liked the taste and wanted to relive the experience.

These days, if you peruse the baby food aisle you will be amazed at the vast selection of foods available. Much more than just jars of pureed peas and pears, today's baby foods come in flavors like Blueberry Buckle and Apple Crisp-- and they are appealing to babies and toddlers alike. Be careful or you just may find that your kindergartner is eating all of baby's food!

New finds in the baby food aisle

If you're looking for a snack for baby, you now have more to offer than just Cheerios. You can find fruit and vegetable flavored "puffs" in the baby aisle. My children love the berry flavored puffs and the sweet potato flavored puffs.

The Gerber Graduates line has offerings like biter biscuits, zwieback toast and fruit wagon wheels (great for teethers). And for your little self-feeder, Gerber's Pasta Pickups are a great, non-messy way to let baby feed himself (with flavors like Spinach and Cheese ravioli, mom or dad may even want to sneak a bite).

Gerber's L'il Entrees line is almost like a TV dinner for your baby-- great if you're on the run (a vegetable chicken dinner is paired with apples and sweet potatoes, for example).

And if you're looking for organic food for your baby, you don't have to make a special trip to the health food store. Gerber has a line of organic baby foods called Tender Harvest. With flavors like Country Chicken with Brown Rice and Apple Pear Raspberry, your baby will enjoy a variety of delicious flavors.

Gerber's new Mini Fruits and Mini Veggies line is touted as "freeze dried" fruits and vegetables, with flavors like corn and banana strawberry.

Over at Beechnut, babies can be treated to diced apple, pear or carrot chunks (very soft texture for babies with few teeth). The Arrowroot Cookies and the Cheese Crackers make snack time fun for baby, while providing more vitamins and minerals than regular "adult" crackers.

Beechnut's Table time line can have your baby eating a meal in minutes-- with flavors like Chicken and Potatoes in Cheese Sauce or Lasagna in Meat Sauce, your baby will love meal time. Or try a container of Beechnut Veggie Soup-- accompanied with some veggie crackers.

Food-giant, Heinz, also carries a line of products for your baby. Besides their impressive assortment of first foods and junior foods, their toddler line includes delicious meat and vegetable combinations, as well as toddler "cuisine" like animal-shaped pasta in tomato sauce. They also have a line of nutritious cereals for baby, like Nutrios and Apple Cinnamon Crisp.

And speaking of baby food, have you ever tasted Gerber's Vanilla Custard Pudding? It's simply decadent! It satisfies my sweet tooth, that's for sure, and baby may want a taste, too.

Taking Baby to an Adult Gathering

By Christina VanGinkel

A question was raised on an online board that I visit about whether or not it was ok to bring an infant (less than three months old) to a public gathering of adults. The original question pointed out that the mother was breastfeeding, so if she could not bring the infant along, she would not be able to go (nothing was noted about why the mother could not express milk to leave with a sitter). It was also pointed out that an infant of that age tends to fuss and cry and it would be a possible disruption to the crowd. The event was an all day affair, from mid morning to early evening.

That I was dismayed by the amount of answers, and the variety of reactions would be putting it mildly. Replies ranged from the 'It is totally ok', to 'don't be rude'. The ones saying that it would be rude referred to another event that they had been at where a mother brought an infant along, and it had cried incessantly, left for hours to fuss in its little carrier. I did not think this reflected on the baby so much as the mother, and I did point this out. Whether at home or somewhere else, an infant carrier / infant car seat is made to protect your little one during travel, and it is fine to let an infant sleep in one, but once they are awake they should be taken out, especially if they are fussing. A parent who uses a car seat as a potential babysitter is not doing the baby any good, or the other adults around them who must sit by, watch the infant fuss, and cry.

To the other extreme though, an infant less than three months old is hardly an intrusion on a gathering of adults, as long as the gathering does not involve smoke or drink. A three month old or younger cannot crawl around getting at things yet, and is not likely to be overly rambunctious. This particular gathering was a meeting of scrapbook enthusiasts. While many of the adults in attendance were probably there getting some much needed time away from their own clan, an infant in the room who was being cared for by his or her mother, and taken out of the room if they became fussy or started howling, would hardly be termed an intrusion, more likely an attraction. As long as the mother would be comfortable with letting others hold baby, and was ready to exit the room if baby fussed loudly, I thought it would be fine.

The strong reactions that were so varied prompted one member to suggest calling the event planners and asking their opinion or policy on just such a question. I personally would opt for this last suggestion and leave it up to the people holding the event. If you find yourself in such a situation and you do bring baby along, remember that others there may be escaping from their own children, so if baby fusses or cries, remove yourself and baby from the room until all is calm again. Do not be like the mother who apparently did not think her screaming infant was a disruption. Leave a good impression for the next mother who is torn between not going and going with infant in tow.

Monday, September 26, 2005

How Dads Can Help in Pregnancy

Many books and articles have been written for mothers-to-be. There are whole sections of bookstores and libraries on pregnancy, birth, and being a mom. Recently, there have been a few books written on being a dad, but they are few and far between; and rare is the book or magazine article which focuses on being a dad during the pregnancy. Since the baby is still on the inside and the father can't really do anything tangible to help with the baby, most people think it is a non-issue. But nothing could be farther from the truth. Fathers are indispensable, as we all know, but their importance doesn't begin and end with conception, only to regain status once the precious little bundle arrives on the scene. Fathers play a very important role during the pregnancy, if not for the baby directly, then for the mental health of the pregnant mother. Following are some tips and ways that fathers can help and encourage their pregnant wives.

1. Patience. If there's one thing we all know about pregnant women, it's that the hormones do a number on their bodies AND minds, and sometimes it feels like nine long months of PMS. Fathers-to-be would do well to be extra sensitive and understanding during this difficult time of change and mood swings. Being pregnant, especially for the first time, can be a scary thing for young moms. Dads should be there to calm their fears and give them comfort.

2. Study. She may be the one reading all the books on pregnancy and birth, but dads should read the material as well, if not only to be informed, but to show her how important this is to him, and to be able to converse with her about it intelligently.

3. Compliment her. Many pregnant moms feel fat and ugly, even though most people agree that there is a certain "glow" and beauty to a pregnant woman. While most husbands think their wives are beautiful during this special time, she needs to hear it more than ever before. A husband should reassure his wife daily that she is beautiful and that he is still attracted to her.

4. Discuss names. While the husband may not care about the baby's name, or if he thinks the decision has been made, many pregnant women like to bat about several names over and over, getting used to the feel of the sound on her tongue, and imagining how it will feel to call a baby by that name. Husbands should indulge their wives and plan to talk about all sorts of baby names - even ones that most husbands think are awful.

5. Talk to seasoned dads. Fathers-to-be should learn from their predecessors. A husband could talk to his own father, his father-in-law, a good friend, or someone older that he trusts to give him good counsel. Don't be afraid to ask questions. If a new father goes out of his way to learn and make the pregnancy a special time, his wife will be eternally grateful.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Baby's First Halloween

By Christina VanGinkel

Babies may be hard work and cause a lack of sleep, especially during their earliest months, but they are also a lot of fun. Take Halloween as an example. For those of you adults who have always loved the idea of Trick or Treat, maybe even the act of Trick or Treating yourself, but had no small child to go with, well, now that you have your own little bundle of joy, head out, as even an infant is suitable accompaniment for going door to door!

Dressing up your small ghost, devil, or pumpkin can be as much fun as eating the candy rewards. Well, almost as much fun. Just be sure to dress baby according to the weather, and then get into the act yourself and dress up in a matching outfit so the doors you are knocking on know that you take this holiday seriously.

For those of you in cold weather climates, pick costumes that are actually converted snowsuits or warm sleepers. That way, you will not be struggling with blankets and jackets, while at the same time trying to show off the costume beneath. Some good costumes that work well from converted outerwear include animals, dragons, devils, and pumpkins. If you would rather dress baby in their normal outerwear, but the jacket or snowsuit does not lend itself well to any costume theme you can think of, throw a white t-shirt or other white shirt over the whole ensemble that you have converted by adding wings. Pick a size that will easily go over the child's outdoor gear. In addition, keep in mind that baby will most likely be wearing a hat or hood. Try to incorporate this feature into the costume at the planning stage.

If you will be showing off baby indoors, the sky is the limit. Stores carry a variety of costumes for infants, and if you cannot find anything to your liking, search the library or bookstore for current magazines that celebrate the upcoming Halloween. Many offer ideas or even complete patterns for Halloween costumes for infants, toddlers, and older children.

In the end, if you are a Halloween lover, but do not want to go door to door, an infant in the house is the perfect excuse to throw a Halloween bash for friends and family. Do it the first year baby has arrived and you will be setting up a tradition that can be repeated year after year. Decorate with fun as the theme, and add to your collection each year. When baby is a few years older, let them help pick out some additions to the decorations.

Round off the gala event with a hauntingly good variety of food, such as spider web decorated cupcakes, ghoulish goulash, and spiced pumpkin parfait. Add a traditional apple bob for the adults and older kids in attendance, along with a ghostly green goop punch (really 7-Up and gobs of lime sherbert) and you will have created the first of what will be many family traditions that you can share with your newborn little devil!

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Getting through Pregnancy

There are so many things surrounding the arrival of a new baby. New moms have to get used to the idea of pregnancy, and at about the time they come to terms with that, the baby arrives and they have to learn how to take care of the wee little one. Although God gave us nine months to be pregnant, which seems to be more than enough time to prepare, it can seem to go by rather quickly, with lots of on-the-job training. If only there were an instruction manual or someone who could walk us through the steps - someone who went through the same exact experiences we are going through. Alas, there is no such person. Every pregnancy and every baby are different, as is every mom, so the on-the-job training will stay. Still, there are ways to prepare for having a baby - not just physically and materially, but mentally. Following are several ways to get through your pregnancy and prepare for upcoming motherhood.

1. Exercise. If you never exercised before getting pregnant, this is not the time to take up running or weight lifting. However, you can walk, and you should. Try to walk every day. Start out walking only 15 minutes and then try to work up to 30 minutes or more. This will keep your blood flowing, your heart pumping, and will give you all around better body health. Try to exercise even on the days when you don't feel like it.

2. Diet. This does not mean a weight loss diet, but rather, a healthy diet. This is the time to spend the extra money on lean meats and fresh fruits and vegetables. Take the prenatal vitamins prescribed by your doctor, and any others that he gives you permission to take, including iron. Drink plenty of water; in fact, you should drink only water. Consider taking a fiber supplement as well, so you'll stay regular and avoid hemorrhoids.

3. Read. This is the time to check out every book from the library on pregnancy, motherhood, and new babies. You should be getting more rest during your pregnancy, so spend time on the sofa or in a rocker reading about how your life will change, and all the wonderful advice about caring for a new baby.

4. Talk to baby. Your baby inside you can hear and recognize your voice. Talk and sing to him or read out loud to him. Let him know how you're feeling.

5. Talk to an older woman. Although every pregnancy is different, talk to a woman who has been there and who will help you know what to expect and give you encouragement. This is not the time to work things out with your mother if you have a tense relationship. If she's not the one, find someone at work or church or a kind neighbor. Having an older woman with your through your pregnancy is invaluable.

Enjoy getting ready and looking forward to your new baby. And remember, there is a first time for everyone and it will all work out!

Friday, September 23, 2005

Conversations with Baby: The Why's

Last time we visited the subject of conversing with your baby, we covered how to manage this. I gave you a quick how-to guide for talking with a little one who couldn't talk back. I promised that this time around I would tell you exactly why you should be doing this apparently nonsensical thing with your child.

So what's the big deal? Why go to all of the trouble of contriving conversations with someone who cannot yet talk or with someone who speaks in single word sentences? Why bother, especially if this doesn't come easily or naturally to you? The best reason is because it is very good for baby. Your little one will get a head start on learning language, which is a gift you can ill afford not to give. We need to do everything in our power to help children learn as much language as they can as quickly as they can. Nearly all later learning is founded on langugae, and this simple activity can help ensure that most children learn these necessary skills. It *is* important, and here is a run-down of how it will help your baby.

Young children's brains are hard-wired, so to speak, to learn language quickly and efficiently. Their brains are receptive to the kinds of learning necessary to master language in infancy and early childhood. Not only do they have a phenomenal memory for new words, but they also can quickly learn the rules of language, such as syntax and grammar. You don't hear sentences like "Me go" for very long in a young child's vocabulary because they rapidly learn that this isn't quite the way to say it. They lose words like "runned," as well when they learn that not all verbs add the -ed ending for the past tense. No, they won't be able to put it in those terms, but they can and do learn to apply the concepts. And they do all of this by listening to conversations around them and those directed at them. No special teaching is necessary for most children who are developing normally. But if you provide them with numerous opportunities to hear language being used in conversation, you give their brains lots of material to work with, to learn from, and to form generalizations about. The more you talk to them, the faster they can learn about language!

And conversation teaches other things, as well. Children learn social conventions from your practice conversations. They learn that it is important to maintain eye contact with the people you are speaking with. They learn that conversation has a give-and-take rhythm. They discover an early lesson about taking turns with others. The baby also learns the beginnings of not interrupting the conversational partner. Babies learn about making and maintaining eye contact. They discover and imitate facial expressions. The learning just goes on and on when you take the time to converse with your little one.

Babies gain emotional confidence from conversations, too. By taking the time to "converse" with your nonverbal baby, you are setting the stage for the expectation that you will listen later on when baby really does have something to say. You send the message that your baby is important to you. That's pretty powerful! It forms the foundation for healthy emotional development.

So, now you're running out of excuses. You can no longer claim that you don't know how to begin a conversation with your baby or that you don't know what to say. You can say ANYTHING! You can't say that you don't know why it is important to talk to your little one, either. It builds language and social skills and lays a foundation for sound emotional development. What are you waiting for? Go talk to your baby!

Books to help prepare your child for a new baby

If you are expecting a new baby, you are already juggling a million things--- everything from emotions to physical changes to organizing things around your house to make way for your new little one. Add an older child into the mix, and you have one more thing to do-- prepare your older child for a new baby brother or sister.

If your older child is used to having all of the attention, then bringing a new baby into the house is a major milestone. So how can you help your older child get ready for the new baby? Try reading some of these wonderful books together-- these titles will help your older child adjust to the changes that will be happening in your household once baby arrives:

"I'm A Big Brother" or "I'm a Big Sister" by Joanna Cole. If you only read one book to your child after baby arrives, this should be it (if you have both an older brother and an older sister in your house, then read both of them). Easy to understand text and cheery pictures make it a great book about the joys of big brotherhood and big sisterhood. This popular book can be found at most discount retailers, book stores and online booksellers.

"Waiting for Baby" by Harriet Ziefert. This book will help your child anticipate the arrival of the new baby-- the little boy in this story can't wait for the arrival of the new baby! As a special surprise, there's a small gift for your new baby included with this book, so your child will love having something special to give to your new baby.

"Spot's Baby Sister": by Eric Hill. Most toddlers and preschoolers are already familiar with the loveable dog character, Spot, from Eric Hill's popular lift-a รข€“flap book series. In this book, Spot gets a baby sister. Your child will love identifying with Spot while lifting the flaps and looking for hidden surprises.

"Peter's Chair" by Ezra Jack Keats. Old school fans of children's may remember the distinctive illustrations in Keats' books fondly (my personal favorite is "The Snowy Day"). In this book, young Peter is about to become a big brother, but he is dismayed to see that many of his old things (like his cradle and his crib) are being painted pink for his baby sister. So before all of his favorite things can be changed for the new baby, he takes off with his favorite chair. This is a god big for the older sibling that feels a tad possessive about his or her old baby crib and other items. Of course there's a happy ending as Peter learns a valuable lesson.

"Happy Birth Day" by Robie H. Harris. The illustrations in this book are absolutely stunning-- and also realistic. Your child will love the concept of the new baby's "Birth day" (after all, who doesn't love birthdays?). Keep in mind that the illustrations of a new baby's first moments after birth are surprisingly realistic. But this book will give your child an idea of what you and the new baby will experience after he or she is born.

The Top Halloween Costumes for Baby

Nothing is cuter than a baby all bundled up in his or her very first Halloween costume. If you're shopping for a Halloween costume for your baby, keep in mind that costumes for baby should be warm and comfortable-- and most of them are one piece zip up style outfits. If you're looking for ideas for what to dress you little guy or gal in, here are some of the top Halloween costume ideas for babies:

Pumpkin. Dressing your little pumpkin up as a pumpkin-- what could be cuter? Look for a two piece pumpkin shaped outfit that comes with a little pumpkin top cap.

Pea in a Pod. Tiny babies look adorable in a green pea-pod bunting. This is the perfect costume for a tiny baby that doesn't crawl yet. Your sweet pea will be the cutest veggie on the block!

Bumblebee. Babies love bumble bee sounds, so why not buy a cute yellow and black bumble bee outfit? You can buy a one piece bunting bee outfit for a newborn or a more elaborate outfit with wings for an older baby.

Froggy. MY son was a Froggy for his first Halloween and the pictures are priceless. Buy a one piece outfit that has Froggy eyes on the top-- your baby's sweet little face will poke out under the gigantic eyeballs.


Ladybug. This is a classic first Halloween costume for a little girl. A red and black lady bug costume-- with or without wings-- will make your little love bug look so sweet.

Bunny. A bunny costume can be used for wither a boy or a girl. Look for a bright white bunny outfit with big floppy ears. The Tom Arena Signature Collection bunny costume is one of the cutest ones on the market (retails for about 50 dollars, but it's worth it for the quality).

Black cat. This is another unisex costume idea-- any little boy or little girl will be the cat's meow in a black cat costume. If you think your baby will try to pull off the cat ears, look for a one piece costume with the ears attached to the hood.

Lion. Imagine your baby's face peering out from a big, fuzzy lion's mane. The lion costume is another cute idea for your sweet faced little one.

Teddy bear. A little bear costume is so adorable. Look for a warm, plush teddy bear costume that will keep your baby snug on Halloween night.

Things to avoid when dressing your baby for Halloween:

Steer clear of costumes that have tiny buttons, sequins or jewels attached to them-- your baby may try to pull loose embellishments off and could put them in his or her mouth.

Avoid costumes that cover your baby's entire face-- a young baby will most certainly not want to be encased in a mask all night!

Skip the Halloween makeup. Young babies will most likely smear any face makeup that you try to put on them-- your little cat doesn't have to have a black, made-up nose to be cute!

Conversations with Baby: The How-To's

Does this title catch your interest and make you wonder? If it did, you must be asking, "How can I hold a conversation with someone who is too young to talk?" You wonder what could be the purpose of such an exercise. When we think of conversations, we think of sharing ideas. Conversations are generally thought of as taking place between equals. We discuss politics, world affairs, and the important parts of life. In this context, babies and even most children can't begin to participate. You're right. Babies and young children most certainly cannot hold up their end of adult conversations. However, if we tweak the definition of "conversation" just a bit, we find ourselves in a whole other ballpark, and it's one where conversations between baby and adult are not only possible, but necessary.

Let's start with that definition tweaking that I mentioned earlier. I spoke of conversation as being a sharing of ideas, and that is certainly one aspect. However, conversation can also be thought of as a give and take interaction, where people respond to on another. If you look at conversation in that way, suddenly you have an activity that baby can join in with. Even the youngest babies quickly learn to respond in turn when the adults "converse" with them.

For some parents, these nonsensical conversations come quite naturally. They fall into a natural rhythm of give and take with the little one. Other parents, for whatever reason, cannot seem to get into the groove. Perhaps they are naturally quiet, or maybe they just feel a bit silly talking to someone who can't talk back. Maybe they truly don't realize the importance of this simple activity. It's so important that all parents should make an effort, though. Here's how you do it!

Choose a time when both you and your little one are feeling fine and when you do not feel rushed. Like all conversations, eye contact is very important in conversations with baby. Position yourself so that you can see baby's face and eyes and so the little one can easily see you. Smile and use an engaging, pleasant tone. Now, make a comment! Nearly anything will do. You can say something about what you and baby are doing together, talk about what you can see in the world around you, or ask a question. It doesn't really matter how serious or silly it is, but be sure to keep your tone pleasant. Don't talk politics if you find the subject upsetting!

Once you've started the conversation, wait. Baby is quite likely to respond to the sound of your voice in some fashion. Your answer may come in the form of a gurgle, a coo, a squeal, a wave, or a wiggle. In other words, take anything baby does as a response. That's your cue to take your turn by making another comment. And you're off! Each of you will respond in turn and baby will be talking for real before you know it.

Talks with your baby are vital! In the next installment, we'll talk about exactly why you should keep these silly and apparently meaningless conversations going regularly. For now, just practice and know that you're doing something really important!

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Shopping with Baby

By Christina VanGinkel

Shopping with young kids in tow can be difficult at best, even impossible. If you have to shop, (for example if you have an upcoming wedding that you cannot miss) and you absolutely need a new outfit, but a babysitter is just not going to work out, there are ways to shop with kids and still keep your sanity.

For the smallest children, bring along their car seat or similar carrier to keep them contained. Not every store has shopping carts, especially most clothing stores and outlets. Swap your infants toy on the carrier's handle, or add one, so that they have something brand new to keep their attention, at least for a short while. Do not lug along a huge diaper bag either. Transfer your most needed items to a small bag, or use the storage often included on these carriers. Many of them have a small 'glove box' style compartment underneath.

If a stroller is a possibility, bring it along. They work great for both infants and toddlers, and even the slightly older child who hates to ride in a cart may often jump at the chance to go for a ride around the mall in the stroller. My daughter always let my grandson walk, as he hated the cart. When I asked her why she did not try the stroller, she said she just assumed he would balk at that also. She tried it, and he actually loves it. For one, it is more comfortable. If he will always like it or not, who knows for sure, but in the meantime, she can shop hands free, and know that he is buckled in securely.

If you know a youngster that is not quite old enough to baby sit, but would love to earn a few extra dollars, plus the chance to practice babysitting, arrange to bring them along for an extra pair of hands and eyes to help with baby. This will relieve you of having to keep baby occupied one hundred percent of the time, and your young employee will be gaining valuable, supervised practice. The plus side to this is that you may also gain a trusted babysitter a year or so down the road.

Bring along a snack, extra bottles, etc. Something simple like Cheerios, or Fruit Loops, in a small, lidded container, or a zip style baggie, can keep a toddler occupied for a good length of time, especially if this is not something you would normally do. The zip bags that have an actual littler zipper with pull on them work the best. Even the smallest fingers can work them, and the kids spend as much time zipping and unzipping the bags as they do eating the contents.

Not going when either baby or you are tired is also the best scenario. You may be tempted to go when your little one is tired, hoping they will sleep through the excursion, and this may work. If your child is a light sleeper though, this will most likely not work, and you will be shopping with a tired, crabby baby instead of a small sleeping angel.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Helping Your Child Adjust to School

By Christina VanGinkel

Your little one started school this fall, and after a few weeks of classes, they suddenly seem to be running low on steam. Is this normal, you might be asking. After ruling out any potential illnesses, you can rest assured that it is normal. They are suddenly facing a structured time away from home. Even if they were previously in daycare, school is a different scenario. More rules, more structure, more tasks, more reason to be tuckered out at the end of the day. If they are in half-day school, you will notice some of this, but most likely not to the extreme that a child who has been thrust into an all-day school may exhibit.

Be sure to question, if a schedule has not been sent home, their daily routine. Be sure they are getting adequate rest time and snacks. If they are there all day, what is the routine for lunch like? Do they have enough time to eat? A visit to your child's school for the day is one of the best ways to put their day into perspective for you. I did this when my youngest child was in Kindergarten. I was amazed at how tired I was by the end of the day, and it was a good way to gain a viewpoint of where he was coming from at the end of each day.

If your child rides a bus, be prepared for them to fall asleep while riding, especially if the ride is a long one. My son's bus ride was then, and is still, nearly an hour long from the school to our rural home. During his first week of Kindergarten, I can remember watching the bus go right by our house and going into a panic. The driver stopped the bus at the next corner and came back. She had seen me waiting and realized that my son was not on the bus, or so she thought. He had fallen asleep on the seat, with his head on his backpack in place of a pillow. When she went by our driveway, besides seeing me waiting, several other older children had also spoke out to remind her that he was indeed on the bus, but was sleeping.

When they get home, they may also be ravenous, and unable to wait until dinnertime, especially if it is some time away. Be prepared with some healthy foods that will bridge the gap between school and dinner. Avoid letting them fill up on sweets and chips, as tempting as it may be to let them snack on whatever they want.

As much of an interruption to a child's carefree existence as anything else will ever be in their life, keep in mind that it is normally a 'good and valid' interruption. Your child will adjust, as will you. Soon, they will be getting through the school days with more energy, as their internal time clocks adjust to the structure. In addition, you can rest assured that every weekend, they will somehow find the energy to still be awake at dawn to watch their cartoons!

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Unique Baby Names and Meanings

I have been noticing that it seems like more and more parents are creating one-of-a-kind names for babies these days. If you are not confident enough to come up with a unique name on your own, perhaps these suggestions for distinctive names will spark an idea for you.

Choosing a name for a baby is one of the most memorable times of a pregnancy. Mothers-to-be read name books from cover to cover and often make lists adding and subtracting names for months until there is a name or two that becomes a favorite. Often if there is a conflict about which name to use, the second choice is given as a middle name.

We will start with Celtic and Irish Gaelic names. A unique boy's name in this category is Ciaran which is pronounced "keer-ahn." The meaning of Ciaran is "little black haired one." A pretty Celtic name for a girl is Aoife. This is pronounced "eef-ya" or "eef-fa" and means beauty.

If you are interested in Spanish names, try Abdias for a boy. Prounounce it "ob-dee-ahs" with the accent on the middle syllable. The meaning is "servant of the Lord." A Spanish girl's name that means "hope" is Esperanza. Marisol is a girl's name that is a combination of the two Spanish names Maria and Soledad. For an alternate Spanish boy's name, Macario means "blessed."

For some unique names without a particular culture or grouping, try Harper, Riley, Madison, Carter, Mariah, Adrian, Sheldon, Jackson, Rowan, Aaliyah, Bailey, Alisha, Charity, or Destiny.

If it is a French name you would like to use for your baby, the boy's name of Nazaire has a meaning of "consecrated to God." Another choice is Remy (pronounced ray-me) that has a meaning of "oarsman." If you are naming a girl, Oriana or Oriane means "gold" according to some sources. Desiree is a girl's name of French origin that means "desired."

A few Russian boy's and girl's names with their respective meanings include:

Anton meaning "priceless"
Nikolai meaning "victory of the people"
Vitali meaning "life giving"
Melaniya meaning "black or dark"
Tatiana is of unknown meaning

If it is an Italian name that you would like to name the baby, some unique monikers in that category would be:

Amato meaning "beloved" or "darling"
Fabio meaning "bean"
Gianni meaning "God is gracious"
Rafaele meaning "God has healed"
Allegra meaning "merry or cheerful"
Bianca meaning "white or fair"
Serena meaning "calm" or "exalted"
Ginevra meaning "fair lady" (this is the Irish form of Jennifer)

No matter what name you end up choosing for the baby, be ready to tell the records people at the hospital when it is time to fill out the birth certificate. Write the name out or at the very least, spell it slowly so that there will not be a mistake on the certificate.

Make sure that you have said the name aloud many times to check how well it flows. If it sounds clunky with your surname, it probably isn't the best choice. And one final "checkpoint" you will want to do is to see what the baby's initials will spell. It has been the embarrassment of more than one parent to not realize until after the name is official that the initials of baby's first, middle, and last names spell something that isn't a very nice word.

Let's Hear it for Baby Food!

When I was a little girl of four, my baby brother was born. I remember being fascinated by all the baby paraphernalia, my early maternal instinct showing itself well intact. I loved the smell of the powder, the baby shampoo, and even the diaper rash ointment. I loved the smell of my baby brother when my mom let me hold him, all wrapped snug in his light blue blanket. I loved watching my brother when he slept, feeding him a bottle, and I especially loved all the gifts that friends and family brought to him. But my favorite part of the whole baby scene was the baby food. I was fascinated that the baby food tasted and smelled just like regular food, but that it was completely strained so that my little brother could eat it even before his tiny teeth grew in. I loved all the different flavors of fruit, and especially the desserts. It seemed that baby desserts were just as good, if not better, than the ones my mom served to the rest of the family.

Well, I grew up and ultimately had children of my own. When my firstborn, my son, was old enough to begin eating baby food, I didn't give it a lot of thought, until one day I opened one of the desserts, and I was transported back in time to the days when my mom gave me little tastes of my brother's baby food. It was a delightful scent, and once again, I tasted the delectable flavors. I think my son's (and my) favorite was called Dutch Apple Dessert. This was a strained version of a very sweet apple pie. He also liked the one with peaches and cream.

Introducing baby food into a baby's diet can be a tricky thing. Not only does a baby have to learn how to put his mouth around a spoon, there are other considerations such as bad behavior and allergies. Babies must be taught to try every type of food and must be disciplined not to spit, throw, or cry when they do not get their way. In addition, new parents must be careful to introduce only one new food at a time, so that if an allergic reaction occurs, it will be clear which food caused the reaction. I can't say that I was the best disciplinarian or the most organized when introducing new foods. I was excited to show my son how fun food could be and how great everything tasted, so I let him try just about every type of baby food. Of course, like me, he loved the desserts best, but he also liked the other foods.

Several years later when my daughters were born, I knew friends who were beginning to strain their own foods because they didn't want their babies to eat processed baby food. I can understand this sentiment, but for many of us, we simply don't have the time or inclination to strain our own baby food. For many of us, the baby food in the little jars on the supermarket shelf will just have to suffice. And for many of us, we're glad, because we want to continue sneaking a taste!

Differences in our Children Make them Individuals

By Christina VanGinkel

Every baby is so much an individual, that even within one family; each child will progress at various rates. Some babies will crawl early and be up walking around long before the first year has passed, while the next baby may absolutely refuse to take a step, even though their first birthday has come and long gone. Talking is no different. Some kids are little chatter boxes, words, phrases, even complete sentences rolling out fluently somewhere around their second birthday, even earlier. Other kids reach their second birthday knowing only a smattering of words and phrases. Alternatively, they may know the words, but are reluctant to talk except when necessary.

To keep yourself from stressing out over the 'who did what, when' scenario, check with your family doctor or pediatrician to be sure there are no underlying problems or delays in development, then make the decision to just enjoy your child as is. Remind yourself that playing the comparison game from child to child will get you nowhere and gain you nothing. Why everyone is in such a hurry for his or her kids to grow up so fast is always a sticking point for me personally, anyway. If little 'Johnny' is not talking at the same age as little 'Lisa' did, what, if anything, does that really mean? Most likely, it means that maybe 'Johnny' is a quieter, more laid back personality, or maybe he does not have to talk as much with big sister 'Lisa' giving answer to his needs before he gets a chance to ask mom or dad for things. Maybe he is so busy exploring his toys, crawling after the cat, enjoying his bottle, what ever, that he has not made it a priority in his life to be uttering words at the same space as one of his older siblings or the kids next door.

The same scenario repeats itself in neighborhoods worldwide every day of the week. Moreover, parents fret, and worry, every day of the week. Potty training is another childhood right that should carry with it its very own stigma of being a source of comparison. I was guilty of this until I reminded myself of the biggest fact with kids, which is that no two are ever alike, no matter how much you may wish they were. For example, I had three children. One was not ready to use the bathroom regularly until nearly three years of age. Another was confidently going at about two, even staying dry through the night on most occasions; though I usually put to bed in a diaper for those evenings that they did not stay dry until morning. Of the three, one was dry night and day by thirteen months, with little prompting from my husband or me at all. They just announced that they did not need their diapers (This one was also an early talker, and was reading on their own long before school age!) and refused to wear them.

Love your kids for their similarities and love them for their differences. Just love them and you will never regret their individuality as they grow into people with personalities that you could never have guessed if you tried to for a million years.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Tantrum Crying in Older Children

You've seen them in the grocery store, at the local fast food restaurant, and at the park. You know who I mean: those OTHER parents who have no control over their children. Their kids scream and cry and yell while they blythly go their merry way with the shopping or whatever their business is. They ignore their little one's cries and don't do a thing to make the crying stop. Even other people's looks and comments about child abuse don't seem to phase them. They go about their business and the child keeps on crying. The rest of us have every right to be annoyed, right?

Well, not exactly. A good chunk of parenting is how the mom or dad responds to whatever the child is doing. And a valid response to crying, after one has made sure that baby is safe, comfortable, and his or her needs have been met, is to ignore it. Now, I'm not talking about a teeny infant who has no other way of communicating. I firmly believe that the very young babies cry for reasons and that they need attention to solve their problems. No, the ones I'm talking about are the older infants, the toddlers, and the preschoolers. These children have learned that crying gets results and can make parents change their minds, and that's not a good situation. The correct name for this sort of behavior is a temper tantrum. The little one is using his or her crying to manipulate the adults.

Even older kids cry when something is truly wrong, so it's important to assure yourself that the baby is indeed not hurt, uncomfortable, or otherwise in distress. But once you are satisfied that basic needs are met, you are left with crying from the emotional stress of not getting his or her own way. The child is trying to manipulate the adult into a decision that may not be good for him or her. The wise parent ignores this behavior! That is why you may see a parent with young children somewhat hurriedly going along in the grocery store while seeming to ignore the baby's cries. You probably don't have the whole story. The youngster may very well be crying because the parent exercised a parental right to choose something for the baby. Little ones can cry if they don't get the toy or candy that has attracted their attention. The baby might be crying because the parent won't allow him or her to run loose and knock over displays. There are all sorts of set-ups for conflicts between parent and child out in public, and usually, the parent must maintain control to keep the child from behaving inappropriately. And babies cry when they don't get their own way.

So the next time that you hear the howls of an older infant, toddler or preschooler in a public place, have a little bit of sympathy for that parent. He or she is probably doing the hard part of parenting: saying "no" to a stubborn and willful child. That takes guts, especially when the outside world is watching and accusing you of being a bad person because you made the little one cry. And if you're the parent, stick to your guns. You know what's best for your baby, and you are in charge. If you've decided that the crying is tantrum related, don't give in just to shut the kid up! You'll undo all of your hard work and have an even tougher time the next round. Do what you have to do and then get the child somewhere where the crying won't bother others. If it's possible, take the child out of the situation.

Crying, angry babies are a natural part of life. Kids do that. It's how the parents respond that is important. Don't chastise a parent for doing his or her job! It's not always convenient or pleasant, but sometimes children have to learn limits to their behavior. This will undoubtedly make them mad, and they are likely to cry. Parents should not give in, even in a public place to save themselves embarrassment. Don't make the job any harder by criticizing them!

Friday, September 16, 2005

Baby Proofing a Hotel Room

By Christina VanGinkel

Baby proofing your home and other places that you will be spending time with your infant or young child is an important issue. Sadly, it is one that though of utmost importance, often becomes overlooked accept for the most glaring atrocities. Latches on cabinets, plug in covers, gates on stairwells, etc. Yet, if you do stay vigilant, you can be assured that you are saving both your child and yourself from harm and heartache. Baby proofing when you are traveling is just as important as the steps taken at home, and there are definitive steps to take when staying in a hotel.

A recent phone call I received from my daughter brought this problem for parents to the front of my thoughts, especially in regards to traveling with an infant or toddler. She is some distance away from me right now, with her husband and my grandson, in Mississippi. They are staying in a hotel in Jackson. Upon their arrival, one of the first things she noticed about the room was that its third floor window was missing a screen. While the window was located high enough that my young grandson could not reach it, she still was unnerved by it, in part she said because she knew it would bother me. She made sure the window was shut and locked, and notified the front desk. Not that she would trust a screen to keep him from falling, but that if that was amiss, what else might be in the room? She then proceeded to look around the room to do a quick assessment of any other possible problems, such as outlets needing covering, cords in awkward spots, pointy corners, glass topped tables, tipsy furniture, and blind cords that hung within reach of my grandson. She also looked around the floor area and inside of the drawers for anything left behind from a past guest that the house cleaners may have missed. She does this at every hotel she stays in, not taking the chance that something small but harmful might have been left behind. She also makes sure the toilet lid is closed at night, along with the bathroom door.

While she realizes accidents can, and do happen, she tries not to be trusting of her surroundings at the possible expense of her son. She also goes on to tell me that I worry way too much, yet she says that my constant worries when she and her siblings were small have ingrained in her a common sense approach to just being aware of her surroundings. She checks out where the exits are in any hotel they stay in, where the fire extinguishers and fire alarms are, and does things like making sure exterior hotel doors are shut behind their entries, and never walking around the hotel alone. A little extra caution when staying in a hotel away from baby's normal environment can go a long way towards ensuring that they are in a safe place. Take the time to check out the room, get down on your hands and knees and do a baby check the same way you did at home when they first started crawling around. If something is amiss, do not hesitate to contact management to fix whatever the problem is, as it is after all, the safety of your most prized possession at stake!

Learn Good Discipline Techniques For Your Baby

While babies, particularly in the early part of infancy, cannot understand right from wrong, it only takes a few months before they begin to understand when Mom and Dad do not want them to do something. There are ways to begin a life of quality discipline with your baby without causing stress and frustration.

First, be firm. You need to know your boundaries. It is important for you and your partner to talk about your discipline concerns. There are several types of parenting styles, including authoritarian, permissive, and democratic. Authoritarian parents are rigid in their concerns; they make rules and expect their children to follow them without question. Permissive parents make no rules because they want their children to learn on their own. Democratic parents are the ones childcare experts boast works best. These parents have rules, but they understand when they are not working and can rethink their plans.

Once you know what style of parenting you have, you will be better equipped to deal with your baby. When your baby at four months old does something wrong, you simply say "no" and remove the child from the situation. As baby grows, however, you should explain. "No. Putting your finger in the fan can hurt you." While your little one won't understand you, it is important to explain to your baby what is going on. That way he or she will pick up on your reasons eventually.

Experts disagree on the merits of spanking. While some argue that it is not harmful, others say that it is immoral. Evidence swings both ways, but it all converges on one point. Physical punishment is a short-term technique only. There is no evidence that spanking children teaches them why they should not engage in a certain behavior, which means that they are likely to repeat the behavior as they stopped because they were hit, not because they were told why touching the stove was bad. Avoiding physical punishment means that you must be more structured in your parenting and that you must explain your decisions to your little one. In the long run, though, it teaches your children how to act when you are not in the room just as when you are there.

Babies cannot understand the whole of human language, which leads many parents to believe they should simply stop baby when it seems necessary. It is, however, important for you to tell baby what is going on. Here are some statements you could make to your baby.

"No, do not put your fingers in the fan. No."

"We are nice to the puppy. He's our friend."

While your child will not understand exactly what you are saying, he eventually will pick up on the ideas you are sharing. At the very least, remember that your baby can tell from the tone of your voice if you are unhappy and will pick up on these cues to listen to you telling her right from wrong. Use a firm tone without yelling. Your baby will get the idea, and you will start on the road to good discipline.

By Julia Mercer

Your Pregnancy: Tips for the First Trimester

Pregnancy is an exciting time for most women, but as many expectant mothers already know, the first trimester can be trying to say the least.
The first trimester, which is the first 13 weeks of your pregnancy, is an important time for your baby's development. It is also the time when you are most likely to experience common pregnancy symptoms such as tiredness and morning sickness.

The good news is, many of these will usually symptoms disappear once you hit your second trimester. Better still, the first trimester usually flies by-- after all, based on the "last menstrual period" system of calculating your due date, you'll be about 4 weeks pregnant by the time you get a positive pregnancy test reading.

Here are some tips to help you through your first trimester of pregnancy:

-- Schedule doctor visits right away. As soon as you find out you're pregnant, call your OB/GYN to schedule your prenatal care. If you're not already taking prenatal vitamins, your doctor will prescribe them to you. Adequate intake of vitamins, and especially folic acid, is crucial during your pregnancy. If you are not yet pregnant but are planning to get pregnant, you should start taking prenatal vitamins with folic acid now.

-- Eat healthy. Even if your diet previously consisted of junk foods and sodas, it's till not too late to change your eating habits for your baby's sake. Load up on fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and whole grain breads. Stay away from processed lunch meats and soft cheeses like feta and blue cheese (these foods can contain listeria, a bacteria which is harmful to fetuses). Avoid caffeine and junk foods.

-- If you're feeling queasy, adjust your eating schedule. Morning sickness (not an accurate name because it can occur throughout the day and night) is very common during pregnancy. Let your stomach settle a bit by eating small meals and snacks throughout the day instead of three large meals. Nibbling on dry saltine crackers may also help to settle your stomach. If your morning sickness is severe, your OB/GYN may need to prescribe something for you. If you are experiencing waves of nausea which don't include vomiting, eating small meals may help. Obviously you should avoid foods that make your stomach feel upset (I couldn't eat my favorite lunch, tuna fish, the entire time I was pregnant with my son).


-- Join a pregnancy support group. There are many online support groups that have chat rooms and message boards where you can post pregnancy questions or concerns or just meet other expectant moms. Ivillage.com has a wonderful pregnancy community with "Expectant Mother Clubs" starting every few weeks (you can sign up for the appropriate club based on your due date). The best part is, once you deliver your baby, you can continue with your club when it converts to a "Playgroup".

The first trimester is a time of anticipation, anxiety and excitement. There is nothing more wonderful than hearing that first heartbeat or seeing your baby's tiny profile during an ultrasound. It is these joys that will make your first trimester a wonderful time for you.

Stress and the Family

By Christina VanGinkel

Taking time out for yourself is important whether you have a newborn, toddler, or even a school-aged child. If you neglect your own personal well being and happiness, there is no way you can function for any length of time at a level where you will be doing you family any good. Sometimes finding this time surprisingly means spending more time with your children, unbelievably.

Whether you work outside of the house, or are a stay at home mother, your day is most likely filled with childcare tasks including, but not limited to diapering, bathing, feeding, shopping, watching your children to keep them out of harms way, and teaching them how to grow up well adjusted amid all of life's struggles and joys.

Add to all of this the stress of dealing with spouses, co-workers, newscasts broadcasting disasters both huge and small, some far away, and many right on your doorstep. It can be so overbearing at times that all you may want to do is shut the door on it all. Take heart in the fact that everybody has days, even large stretches of time, where they also feel the same. Try to take stock of exactly why you are feeling overwhelmed. Consider if there is anything you can do, immediately, to bring the tension and stress level of your daily routine to a more moderate, or even non-existent level. Be realistic when searching out what it is that stresses you, and do not overlook even the smallest signal. Talk to your spouse, tell them how you feel, and see if they have any suggestions. Sometimes they may be more open to your feelings, because they are dealing with many of the same issues.

While you may want to watch the news to keep abreast of what is going on in the world, if watching day in and out is achieving mostly the rising of your blood pressure and stress level, shut it off. Give yourself permission to flip the switch and take a walk. Or turn the channel to something light, or even better yet, a music channel that is playing something corny like show tunes. Get your kids together and dance. Be warned, younger kids will dance around and have a blast, slightly older kids will think you are as corny as they come. Either scenario will leave you laughing which is one of the best stress relievers of all time.

Consider hobbies both old and new. If you have ever been a reader, or would like to be, head to the library or bookstore. Take up a sport that you have always wanted to try. Not enough hours in the day you say, or money, then had the children to your spouse, lock yourself in the bathroom with a music station turned up loud on the radio, and take a bubble bath. Simple really works best anyways. I personally used this last idea from the time my oldest was an infant, all the way until now, with my youngest almost a teenager. By simply shutting the door to everyone for just an hour, soaking in the hot water, I come out of the bath much more calm and serene.

All right, I know some of you are saying that even that is not an option. Then gather your child (or children) into your lap and read to them. If they are racing along life at speeds that just make you, want to pull up the brakes, take a deep breath to start. Then, remind yourself how sweet they were the day they were born, or on their first birthday, whatever moment you can recall where they were just the sweetest little things, and help them get back to that point. Read to them something fun, something soothing, and something silly. You will find calm, and so will your kids.

Another scenario that I know plays out in homes all the time that brings on a lot of stress is screaming. You heard me right again. If you are a screamer, stop. Not tomorrow, not after the kids are in bed and the homework is done, but right now. If you are a screamer, you may feel as if you are releasing your stress, but it is really just building more stress up around you to press in on you from the outside. Screaming does no good for anyone, other than when they are trapped in a burning building.

If after all of this, you still feel like crawling under a rock, or worse, seek professional help from your family doctor, minister, or other professional. It may not only help, it can actually be liberating to share your worries with someone outside the family unit.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Motions with Rhymes and Songs

It's important to teach your infants and toddlers songs, rhymes, and games with motions. You know the ones: Eency Weency Spider, Ride a Cock Horse, Where is Thumbkin, Pat-a-Cake, Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes, and more. These activities not only build language and reading readiness skills, but they also teach valuable social and coordination skills. I know it sounds like child's play to most of you, but let me assure you that is is vital. Even though they are categorized as play activities, they are profoundly important to your child's overall development. Children who do not have these activities in their background are at a profound disadvantage when they start school.

The rhymes and songs that have attendant motions will help your baby learn about language. Most of these songs and games express ideas about daily life or common events, like going to school, or things your child is familiar with, like spiders or horses. Children hear language structure in the rhymes and learn about building phrases and sentences. The words they hear broaden their vocabulary and the familiarity of songs and rhymes makes these new words more accessible and more likely to be learned. This builds fluency skills. These activities are full of the rhythm of our language, as well. Designed to encourage clapping or other kinds of movement, these songs and rhymes lend knowledge about cadence and how our language moves.

The rhymes and alliterations in these songs help your child develop greater understanding of the sounds of the language. Eventually, this knowledge will help your little one to master reading and spelling skills in early elementary school. It is the beginning or foundation of discrimination of same and different sounds and of the complex understanding of word families and word stems. Young children learn that words are created from syllables and phonemes, even though they cannot put this knowledge into words.

Movement games such as nursery rhymes and finger plays teach social skills as well. Children learn the give and take patterns of conversation from call and response activities. They develop attention and listening skills as they hear the rhymes. They learn to follow directions, too. Infants and toddlers discover that eye contact is important for interactions between people. Perhaps most importantly, young children learn that language and learning can be fun. It's much easier to learn when the activities are fun!

These games also support the development of coordination skills. Children must master imitation in order to participate, and that skill requires understanding of position in space and body awareness. Many of the motions require fine movements of hands or fingers, preparing young children for later tasks of manipulating pencils, crayons and scissors. Some songs build pantomimes into their motions, helping little ones literally go through the motions of everyday actions like washing or eating.

As you can see, these songs, rhymes and games hold a load of value for your young child. Far from being unimportant playtime diversions, these activities are actually vital parts of your child's development. They teach your child valuable skills, like language, reading readiness, social, and coordination skills. Take the time to teach them to your child and you will be laying the groundwork for school success as well as life success.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Library Story time for Baby

Many new parents find great joy in reading to their babies. It is never too early to start reading to your baby and some women, in fact, read out loud to their babies while they are still pregnant.

But when it comes to structured story times for your baby, you may be wondering how old your child should be before he or she can truly appreciate them. Granted, you can put even the littlest newborn in your lap and gently read a classic book like "Goodnight Moon" or any other favorite, but structured, group story times can be enjoyed at any age as well.

Most public libraries offer story time programs for babies and toddlers. If your baby is under one year old, you should be able to sign him or her up for a "Babies" program. My local library, for example, offers a program for babies aged zero to twelve months. It's called "Raise a Reader" and it's a great way to introduce babies to the concept of group story times and sing a longs.

Even little babies are usually mesmerized by bold, colorful picture books and familiar, repetitive songs. By taking your baby to a group story time each week, he or she will begin to learn a variety of new words and songs.

Because most public library programs are free, they are a great way for you to do something wonderful for your baby without spending a dime. Another plus? You will get to meet other moms and babies your child's age. A library story time could turn into a play date with another child-- and your baby is never too young to meet new friends (and neither are you, for that matter).

If your local library is a busy one, you may be required to sign up for story time sessions. Make sure to stop by the library or check their website to see the dates and times for story time sign ups. Other, smaller libraries may offer drop in story times which don't require pre-registration. If your favorite library does not offer children's story time programs, speak to the head librarian to inquire why. If it is strictly a budgeting matter, perhaps a few inquiries could generate enough interest to have them establish something.

Another option is to take your child to book store story times. Most large, chain bookstores offer story times both during the week and on weekends-- just check their schedule to see if there are age appropriate story sessions for your little one. If you are a stay at home parent, try to take advantage of story times that are offered during the week-- weekends can get busy at libraries and book stores. Also, be sure to ask the librarian or story leader for any handouts pertaining to story time. This could include book suggestions, song lyrics and finger plays or rhymes. By "practicing" these story time favorites with your baby, he or she will become more familiar with them and will truly be mesmerized the next time you go to story time.

Crying, a Signal for Frustration?

By Christina VanGinkel

In talking with a young mother that I happened to be sitting by at the park the other day, she mentioned how her young daughter cried at the simplest things. She cried if she was told she could not have a cookie when she asked for one. She sobbed uncontrollably if told that it was time to put away the crayons, because it was almost dinner. In addition, heaven forbid she was asked to run and use the bathroom if they were going to be heading out in the car, and a bathroom would not be convenient for the next half an hour. We came unto this subject when my grandson walked by her and she started to cry. We think it was because he jumped up on the shaky bridge and walked across it. She had been looking at it, trying to decide if she was going across when he marched right up and hopped on.

As we talked, I told her that I was a mom of three, and grandmother to one grandson, the little bundle of energy racing around the park with no fear whatsoever. I went on to tell her that this bundle of energy's mom was very similar in actions, at about the same age, to what she was experiencing with her own daughter. I assured her that in my own personal experience, her daughter was going through a phase that would pass right around the time her daughter started school. We went on to discuss how each child was different, and if this continued she should probably discuss the situation with her pediatrician or family doctor. We also discussed what was happening when her daughter did experience what she referred to as a meltdown.

It was clear that whenever her daughter was overwhelmed by 'urgency' this was usually a trigger, or if she was interrupted unexpectedly, when she was getting up the courage to do something on her own, as had just happened when my grandson raced past her to the shaky bridge. She had been contemplating getting up on it, when he inadvertently interrupted her. While this is a situation that the mother, as had I, would have a hard time avoiding, there were things she could do at home and in her own personal situations. Recognize the triggers for example. If being told that it was time to put away the crayons would set off the showers of tears, try giving her several short warnings first. Start by letting her know that the table is going to need setting in, say, fifteen minutes. A warning again in a few minutes that she should finish what she is working on, then again when she has about five minutes left. If she has a hard time still grasping the concept, try a kitchen timer. This will giver her daughter some control visually of the time left. I use to use a sand timer that came boxed in an old game. Whenever I would need my daughter to finish a task I would hand her the timer and let her flip it over to start. By allowing her this 'space' we slowly but surely lost most of the crying. It also showed her that we were at least acknowledging that certain situations frustrated her, which provided us all the time and space to help her voice what it was that was bothering her. She was feeling as if she had no control. By giving her some control, but letting us, the parents, still set the rules, we were able to find a happy solution all the way round.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Mommy's First Christmas?

One of my favorite photographs of my daughter was taken during her first Christmas. I realized many years later that the first Christmas for babies never really impresses the infant too highly, so I accepted the notion that it is really a time to celebrate parenthood.

Baby's first Christmas is a time to make memories. The photograph I mentioned is very fresh in my mind all these years later. She was 4 months old and wearing a striped sleeper. It was between 2 and 3 a.m. and she had just had her middle of the night bottle. The problem was always that she thought 2 a.m. was morning and she never wanted to go back to sleep after waking me in the wee hours like that.

That particular night (early morning rather!) I decided not to try putting her back to sleep because it rarely worked. I turned the Christmas tree lights on and put the baby on the floor under the tree for a picture. It turned out great! She is staring up at the lights and they are reflected in her eyes. It is my favorite "first Christmas" memory but the baby wasn't impressed and has no memories of that special early morning, of course.

Take some time during the first holiday season of your baby's life to build some memories and celebrate the new life and joy the little one has brought to you. Don't forget to buy or make a "baby's first Christmas" ornament for the tree and then make it a tradition to put it on the tree again each year to follow.

Take many pictures. This would include things such as the parents and siblings with baby near the tree; the baby with a wrapped package; or perhaps at a church service. Another photo opportunity is to get a picture taken with Santa Claus. I have a collection of that sort of picture from babyhood until my daughter would no longer allow such a thing (Santa is for LITTLE kids, Mom!) and it would make a great holiday decoration for a crafty person to put those Santa pictures into some kind of display or collage.

Don't forget to get plenty of pictures and videos of the baby with various family members at any holiday gatherings that you attend. These will become priceless treasures from the moment you capture those images.

Since the baby will be under 12 months old, this would be an excellent time to start a journal if you don't already have one. Whether it is your own journal or a gift you will someday be giving the child, writing about that first Christmas will secure the feelings and memories that the baby won't be able to recall. Write down the thoughts you have concerning this special event. How did siblings, cousins, or grandparents celebrate with the baby? What gifts were given, and by whom?

Also write down the various moods the baby had. Was there a certain calmness when carols were playing on the stereo, or was the whole excitement of the holiday season a bit overwhelming and caused crying? Did he seem to be entranced by tree lights or was she old enough to try a little bit of a soft sugar cookie? Write it all down and protect those wonderful memories!

Answer Your Baby's Nonverbal Cues

Most parents wait with great anticipation for the day that their babies can speak to them. Just because the little tyke cannot yet talk does not mean that she is not telling you something every minute of every day. Learn to pick up on your little one's cues so that you know what he wants even before he can communicate.

The best way to determine what your baby wants is to watch him or her as much as possible. Get a good feel for how he moves and what he seems to be saying. Some gestures will become familiar to you. Your little one may grunt when he has a dirty diaper instead of crying. Learn to pick up on such cues, and you can help reduce the stress in your baby's life.

You should always respond to baby. There are schools of parenting that hold parents should not run to their children even when they are very young. Failure to respond to a nonverbal baby's cues, however, will teach him that you are unreliable. Once you have a crawler, your baby can come to you with hands out if she wants to be held. Help your baby with this communication by holding her. She needs to feel that there is a point in communicating with you.

When you do not know what your baby wants, make the same gestures yourself. You may find that by reacting like your baby, it will make sense to you what he wants. Move around. Look at the world from his perspective and the answer to his nonverbal puzzle may become obvious to you.

Just because your little one cannot speak to you doesn't mean that you can't speak to him. You should talk to your baby constantly. It helps babies pick up language skills to hear you use simple words and phrases repetitively. You also will show your baby the connection between language and his nonverbal messages. For example, saying "would you like some juice? Mommy will get you some juice. Here's your juice," will help your baby to understand that you are heeding his communication and that "juice" is the word for what he wants.

Talk to your partner or the baby's other caregivers. You may have picked up on something your wife hasn't and vice versa. Talking about what baby did during your care and what it meant can help the two of you to match your experiences and interpretations of the little one's messages. If your baby stays with a sitter, you may find that she picks up on the same cues that other children there use. By talking to your caregiver, you may get an idea of what that odd little hand gesture means.

Listening to your baby before he or she can talk will help you to understand your baby. Knowing what he or she wants now, before the talking begins, can make the transition easier when baby becomes a talker. You will be helping to establish a lifetime of good communication with your baby.
By Julia Mercer

Avoid The Baby Feeding Hassle

When you look at your baby, you think it must be an easy life. Your baby has someone to carry her, feed her, change her diaper, and run when she cries. Yet she resists you at every turn.

The opposite side of your baby having everything taken care of for him is that he has no control. Many babies, especially the ones born independent, this lack of control can be frustrating. It leads baby to control what he can, and eating is one of those areas. There are ways, however, that you can help ensure that you and your baby do not hassle over eating.

First, do not worry about how much your baby is eating. Yes, of course you should make sure baby is getting enough in the first few weeks. Once you start moving to solids, your little one will let you know if she isn't getting enough to eat. Stressing about the right ratio of milk to baby food will only make you and your baby worried about it. Your little one knows when he is hungry, so don't panic if you think he should be eating more unless there are medical or weight problems involved.

Be sure that you don't overfeed as a result of baby's crying. Many parents unintentionally give their children too much to eat because they assume that crying between feedings means that baby is not getting enough. Check other possible reasons: a dirty diaper, discomfort, and coldness, for example, for you feed.

Watch your hygiene. While you will be so tired that you will feel like you could sleep standing up during the first few weeks of babyhood, know that your baby has a weak system that cannot handle bacteria and other problems. Be sure to keep your baby's feeding supplies cleaned and sanitized.

Give your baby some time. Many parents get frustrated when they find that their babies are not interested in solid foods. These parents may give up, thinking that baby wants to wait. Do not let your baby discourage you, however. Remember that he has only eaten milk thus far, and moving to solids, even pureed baby foods, is an odd sensation for your baby. Try each new food five to six times before you give up on it. It is not necessary to give baby a whole jar in the beginning. Try a quarter jar or just a spoonful until both of you get the hang of it. Just remember that you must dip the food out before baby eat it because you cannot use the spoon in the jar and then re-use the jar later.

Be happy for your baby. Show excitement when your baby has her first bite of each new food. Talk up the experience to your little one. Using encouragement and smiling when your baby eats will help your little one to see that eating is a good experience. Let her know that you are excited about her progress. Being happy and encouraging instead of trying to force your baby to eat will make the experience a wonderful memory.

By Julia Mercer

Deciding on Childcare Arrangements

By Christina VanGinkel

You have waited and waited for baby to arrive, and once here, you have been telling yourself that there is no way you could go out to dinner, let alone back to work or some other activity that would require you to leave baby home with a sitter. Now, reality is setting in, bills need paying, and dinner out away from baby is actually starting to sound good. Problem now is how exactly you find a reliable caregiver or daycare center. To start, it will involve a lot of research and determination, but it can be done. Determining what type of facility or caregiver you want is the first step in discovering the ideal situation for both baby and you. Begin this all-important task by asking yourself the following questions, along with any others that you feel are important to your personal situation.

If you are you looking for a caregiver to come into your home on a part time or fulltime basis, consider if they will live-in, if so, is there adequate space in your home. Consider also the impact such an arrangement would have on your household in general.
Also, you will need to find out what state, local, or federal rules apply to such a situation, an do you intend for them to be solely caregivers to your child or children, or do you expect them to perform other duties, such as laundry and dishes?

If a daycare center is more along the lines of what you are looking for, consider things such as how many children per adult are there, and do not rely completely on the law, as a smaller ratio per teacher is always better. How far away the center is from your home and work should be considered, and what their rules are if your child becomes ill while in their care, or if they have accommodations for mildly sick children. This can be important if your job situation allows for very limited time off, except for the direst circumstances. Is the place clean? Is it too clean? By this, I mean is it so ordered that you wonder if they let the children play at all. Look beyond the space and examine the contents, such as if the toys are reasonably new and taken care of? If your workplace has daycare, be sure to check it out, and find out if your employer offers any bonuses where childcare is concerned, such as allowing infants in the workspace for the earliest months. You would be surprised at how many places of employment are becoming more agreeable to such situations, especially if your office is secluded from others.

Whether you decide on a caregiver in home, or at a daycare center, ask for, and check out references. Follow up on every one, and if you feel misgivings anywhere along the way, do not employ them. First impressions should carry weight, as much as second, third, and so on impressions. Even if you feel confident in an arrangement early on, then change your mind; do not hesitate to change caregivers or centers. There is n nothing more important than the care of your child.