Sunday, April 30, 2006

New Baby

We are considering having another baby. We had a scare a couple of months ago when we thought we may have gotten pregnant accidentally. As it turns out, we did not, but it got us thinking that maybe another baby right now would not be such a bad idea. Our little man is 15 months old now, and he is technically a toddler. With him growing up so quickly, it seems natural to want a baby to add to the family once again.

We are thinking that this summer will be the perfect time to start trying to add a new baby to the family. The baby would be born next spring, which would be a great time to have a new baby. I do not want to be pregnant in the hot and sticky summer months, particularly since we are planning to move to North Carolina next summer. There is no way I want to be pregnant and trying to move a family.

At any rate, I find that this time around, I have more trepidation than I did the first time. I think that is because things did not go as planned with my son. I had problems in labor that ended up in an emergency c-section and a baby who was not getting enough oxygen. I had complications from an accidental cut on one of my arteries, and I lost a fair amount of blood. With all of that, I am a little cautious this time around.

I have an appointment with my regular doctor this Friday. I am going to ask her opinion about any upcoming pregnancy to see if I get the go-ahead from her. I had blood pressure problems as well, and I would like to know how serious of a threat those problems will be if we try again. I am not willing to risk my own life to have another baby, so if it looks like the risk is too much, then we will go forward with adoption.

A new baby would be a big change for my little guy. He is the center of the universe right now, as all little ones should be. He believes that everything revolves around him. Well, in his world, it does. A new baby, though, would mean sharing the spotlight with someone who is less capable than he. A baby would need Mommy and Daddy to do everything for him or her, and we will have to prepare our toddler for that.

I have started by introducing him to life-like dolls. I thought that was a good way to get an idea of how he acts. I put a baby-sized doll in his arms yesterday while we were shopping. He was so precious! He smiled down at the baby and petted it the way he does our cats. I was so happy he seemed to take to the doll and really mother it. Of course, then he tried to poke its eyes, but we can work on that before the baby gets here.

I think it is important to prepare our toddler for the new addition before it gets here. I know that dolls will not do the trick by themselves, but I am hoping that we will be able to introduce our son slowly to the idea of nurturing another being.

We likely will opt for the big brother routine. You are the big brother, and you are such an excellent helper will be our mantra when the new baby comes. We want to work hard to make our toddler still feel important and loved even with a new baby. I have promised myself that we will make special time for him to have with Mommy and Daddy alone so that he still will feel loved and appreciated.

Having another baby brings up so many questions that we do not consider with only one child. How many of the toys are communal? How do you referee fights without picking sides? What is the best way to prepare for two college funds? We have those questions and more, but we are ready to begin thinking about them. I hope that we have success early in our quest for another little bundle.

By Julia Mercer

Car Temperatures and Kids do not Mix

By Christina VanGinkel

Every spring, with the heat of summer approaching, and days where temperatures are occasionally in the sixties, seventies, and even warmer, it is time to remember that children and vehicles do not go together. With a small child strapped securely into a seatbelt or child restraint, parents or caregivers may assume that it is ok to just pop into a store or some other errand just for a minute or two, and leave a child in the vehicle. After all, many of them will tell you, they are sleeping, or occupied, or restrained, so what can be hurt. A lot can be hurt, a child can become overheated, even die. Yet each year sadly, numerous parents and caregivers will make that decision and not think twice about it. Not that is, until it is the child in their own care that is injured, do they realize just how quick the damage can be done, and just how irreversible that damage is.

Some adults may mistakenly believe that if the inside of their car is a lighter color, or their exterior paint job is too, it will not become as hot as a car with a dark interior or exterior. They would be right to a degree, but not so much that it would make a difference in the life of the child left in that car. A car's interior will reach unbearable temperatures after just a short time, no matter what color the interior or exterior of a car is. Depending on an air conditioner is also not sufficient. Cars stop running for all different reasons, not to mention the danger factor separate from the heat, of leaving a child or children alone in a running vehicle. Leaving the window cracked an inch or two is also not sufficient. There are never enough reasons under which a child should be left unattended in a vehicle, ever. Add to that the heat of warm day, and the danger added is admittedly higher.

If you happen to see a child or several children in a vehicle, alone, without an adult right there, contact authorities immediately. Also, take note of the license plate number and make and model of the vehicle so that if an adult does come back and they leave, you can provide this information to the authorities if they did not already take this down when you first called to report it. Even if they come back, authorities will want to contact them to make sure that all of the children are ok, and that this scenario does not play out again. If a life is at immediate risk, notify another adult nearby to notify the authorities, and take whatever measures are needed.

Every parent is rushed for various reasons, but I honestly cannot think of a single time that it is ok for an adult to leave children alone, in a vehicle, for any length of time. You might think you are running into the grocery store for just a minute, but the lines could be longer than you imagined, or you might run into someone that you have not seen in a while, and before you know it, those two minutes are ten. In addition, in ten minutes, you can have a potentially life threatening occurrence.

What do you do if you accidentally lock a child in car during the heat of summer? Call for help immediately, and then take any measures necessary to gain entry into the vehicle without risking injury to the child. Also, be sure that you never leave an unlocked vehicle where a child who is not being properly supervised could climb in and become accidentally locked inside. Trunks and interiors can be hazardous to a child. When getting out of a vehicle, even after a quick trip to a store, always do a head count? Surprisingly, each year we hear horror stories of a harried parent who in haste forgot a child in a vehicle. Maybe the child was sleeping, and the parent was not normally the one to pick them up or drop them off at daycare or wherever, and in their rush, forgot they even had the child with them.

Cars can be hazardous to children, add in the heat of summer and their danger multiplies. Take care this summer with your kids and the potential risk that they combined with the family car can result in.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Turn a Scrapbook into a Baby Record Book

Contrary to popular belief, scrapbooks have more than one purpose. You don't have to fill them with photos; in fact, you don't have to add many photos at all. Let's say you're planning to buy a baby book. You might want to consider making one, since already-made books often include information that may be irrelevant to you. The idea is simple: combine the fun of choosing scrapbook papers, stickers and letters, but instead of making it a photo scrapbook entirely, try making your own baby book!

There are many ways you can start this project. You should probably have in mind what size of book you want. From tiny 6x6 albums to huge 12x12 albums and even larger, there is a wide selection (even though you will mostly find the more common 12x12 and 8x11 sizes in stores). Other sizes can be ordered online. If you intend to add greeting cards, birth announcements or certificates, you probably shouldn't choose a small size of album.

Want a great fixer-upper for that plain scrapbook you purchased? Try rub-ons. They're easy to do and look like they've been there all the time. You simply choose what images you want on the back or front of the book, press it against the book, and use a stick to transfer the picture. You can transfer pictures, letters and tiny decorative elements, and it makes an ordinary "blah" scrapbook look great. It also helps you personalize it with your very own style.

You might want to make a page with baby's first photo. Sometimes a simple background, a frame and a photo are all you need. Remember, since this album is serving as your "baby book," you may not want to go all out and be wild and colorful like you would in other scrapbooks. A page set aside for baby's birth certificate is a great idea as well. Do not glue the certificate in permanently, try sticking photo corners on the page and inserting the paper. If you ever need to remove it (and you will over the years!) it will slide out easily from the corners. Even though tape is often used in ordinary baby books, it's not a good idea if you have a scrapbook for this purpose. Acid-free glue should be used to secure items on your pages.

The great part about making your own baby book is that you can write down information that is relevant to *you* and make it more personal. Write down how baby's name was chosen, when he or she was born, birth weight, visitors, etc. Write down when your child's first teeth come in and if or when vaccinations were given. You can either write down this information by hand or type it up and print it out in any font you like. I recommend using plainer scrapbook paper backgrounds, inserting a pastel center paper, and writing your information at the proper places. Voila! You have the same information as would appear in a regular baby book, but you created the page yourself and added your own facts!

Some baby books have place for photos and journaling concerning the child's first birthday party. Invitations, photos of favorite gifts, anything goes. What else would you find in a ready-made baby book? There would probably be a space for the child's favorite foods and toys, when he or she learned to talk, walk, and when potty training was completed. Write out all these questions by hand, and answer them either in direct writing or by pasting printed text.

Remember that the theme of the book depends of your own personal style. If you want your "baby book" to be bright and colorful like other scrapbooks, go for it. If you want to retain the more serious look baby books often have, you might wish to use plain background papers, tame fonts, and old-fashioned ornamentation with a spot of color here and there.

Consider having a page just for signatures. Ask siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, and grandparents to sign. Perhaps you could ask them to add a little poem, insightful advice, or favorite memory as well. Have an extra lock of baby's hair? Make a page for that! Your baby book is a precious keepsake and anything you think you want to add, don't be afraid to do so. Do remember that some items will be too thick to place on a scrapbook page and would make the book difficult to close, however.

By Lacie R. Schaeffer

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Toddlers and Dogs

By Christina VanGinkel

Visiting with friends the other evening, I watched as their toddler ate her evening meal, all the while their family dog sat by her side waiting for any small piece of dropped food. Midway through the meal, when the toddler was obviously done eating, the remainder of her meal slowly made it piece by piece into the waiting dog's mouth fed to her by the toddler her self.

Growing up with dogs and the owner of four of them my self, I was not really bothered by this. I know though that it might have offended some, and alarmed others. The fact alone that the dog could have potentially bitten the toddler was one thought that crossed my mind, but just as quickly left. The dog had been with the family through all of their children's birth, and this toddler was number three. She was as mellow as a dog could be, and at the same time, she was the type that could be very protective of the family if needed. She was trained impeccably, and listened to both of the adults in the family without question. She had been through obedience training too. Still, a dog is a dog.

I decided to ask a few other friends what they thought of this practice, and if they had ever allowed something similar. What I heard actually frightened me, but the frightening part had nothing to do with my original friend's toddler feeding her dog.

As I talked to a few people, several friends responded that while they frowned upon feeding their dog at the table, either themselves feeding it, or one of their kids, they could often recall their dog sitting patiently nearby while a toddler or young child was eating, in hopes that some tidbit of food would be dropped. They said they never really were bothered by the fact, though would tell their dog to go lie down elsewhere if company was dining with them. I told them that it was not that part that bothered me at all, and thanked them for sharing their experiences.

Then, talking to a friend of a friend, as we had all met for coffee to discuss some other subject having nothing to do with toddlers and dogs, we nonetheless got on the subject. When this person told me that she would never have allowed it, that her dog would probably have bitten the toddler on the first piece of food being offered, it struck me what was so frightening. It was not the fact that my friend's young daughter had been feeding the family dog, it was that so many parents do not take the time to assimilate their pet when they bring a new baby home. Here this mother was telling me that she was fearful that if her child had fed the family dog, that the dog would have bitten him or her. What type of family dog is this?

If you have a dog, and then bring baby home, it is necessary to understand what your dog is feeling. The dog might have been ruler of the household for however long you have had them, and then all of a sudden, you bring home another member for the pack. This can cause problems, especially if the dog feels that they are the leader.

With my original friends who I had dinner with, there was not doubt in that dog's mind that the adults, my friend and her husband were the pack leaders, as silly as that might sound to some. Their dog listened without hesitation to them, and had always been treated with love and kindness by the family members. They never let any of the children pull on her, kick her, throw toys at her, etc. Sure, the occasional teething ring or pacifier had landed on her head as each child went through the infant stage, but they were quick to be taught never to be mean to the dog. She was an important a part of the family unit and deserved to be treated with respect. In return, they expected no less from the dog. With the dog in question fourteen years old, I think they had raised both her and their three children up with all the keys in the right locks if you know what I mean.

As to the acquaintance who would have been fearful of her dog biting her child, I cringe when I think how the dog might act if she is accidentally tripped on, or an ear were tugged even gently by an over zealous toddler.

If you plan to have both dogs and children, take the time to consider all the aspects of raising both, and raising both together. In addition, if there are any problems or issues that arise, remember that even if the dog was there first, your child takes preference.

When Pregnancy is Popular

By Christina VanGinkel

One of the headlines on my Internet's home page, under the news section, was an announcement about yet another celebrity pregnancy. The headline was announcing how hip it is these days to be pregnant. It reflected on the fact that because so many of the stars are all doing it, there must be something glamorous in it! Well, as far as I am concerned, there are glamorous aspects of being pregnant, but just because there are numerous celebrity pregnancies making the headlines lately, that has nothing to do with it.

Being pregnant is something to be excited about. Two lives have created a third, and at the end of a forty week waiting period, give or take a few days, a brand new life will arrive that will be tiny in stature but huge in demands, space, and most importantly love, both giving and taking it.

While that new life will not be able to announce that they love you, if you are the perceptive sort, it is not so hard to figure out. They will scream at the top of their lungs, and then snuggle into your arms when you pick them up. They might continue to scream for a while, for no reason other than a bit of gas, or because that is one of the things baby do best. Hang in there though, because a few months down the line, you will one day be rewarded with a big toothy grin, which somehow has the power to erase from your mind (at least for the moment) all the memories you have built up of sleepless nights and leaky diapers!

As to the celebrities suddenly having a rise in the pregnancy rate, and this somehow making it a popular pastime, I wonder if the average person considering becoming pregnant because it appears to be the hip thing to do, will remember that many celebrities, though not all of them, will have nannies and other paid help at their command. The average parent will be adding to their workload, not their staff.

Still, I understand somewhat the draw of all of these pregnant stars. In my mailbox yesterday was the latest copy of STAR magazine and on its cover was a plethora of pregnant celebs and their boyfriends and / or husbands. I could not wait to get back up to the house from my walk down our driveway so that I could fix myself a cup of tea and kick back for a few minutes and read the latest gossip on Brad and Angelina. Their cross the world travels to give birth to their new family member in some far away country, and their new fencing to keep out the press. I was not so impressed by the fact that Angelina was pregnant with Brad's baby, as I was that she could find the strength in her advanced stage of pregnancy to do even half of the things the press reported her as doing. I know when I was that far along, I was a bit cranky too. Add to the fact that she has two young children already, a new boyfriend, and press poking their cameras at her every chance they get, and I would be a bit cranky and possessive of everything and everyone around me too. Why I recall being in the last couple of months of my pregnancy and crying if my husband went to work, went fishing, went down the street! If he went anywhere, I was an emotional wreck. Did that make me a control freak? Nope, it meant that my hormones were racing as they often do in a pregnant woman.

If you are planning to become pregnant, consider the reasons on why you and your partner want to add to your family unit. Consider how an additional little often-squalling bundle of joy will change the dynamics of who you are. Do not let the influence of some headline prompt you into what will be one of the biggest decisions of your life. A celebrity's pregnancy and the ultimate raising of that baby will be a far stretch form the average couple who will have to figure out how to stretch an already tight budget to include things like diapers and car seats, daycare, and eventually college.

Monday, April 24, 2006

A Child's Imagination

By Christina VanGinkel

My grandson came for a visit this morning, and instead of doing the same old things we routinely do, I decided we would head to a park one town over from where we live. The park is located near a lake, and has docks to walk out on, a trail around the lake, and a small footbridge over a stream that runs into the lake. There is also a large playground that the community built several years ago, adjacent to the trail, and lake.

When we first arrived, we parked in the lot closest to the playground and entered there. My grandson, who is two, played on the swings, climbed a set of 'shakey' steps, and went down several slides. I made a note to myself that we would not visit the park with him again in the pants he was wearing today or any other pair in the same material. He came sliding down the one slide so fast that he flew off the end and landed on his back. He was okay, and was ready to go down again just a short while later, but only if he was sure that I was going to catch him each time.

After he played for about half an hour, I asked him if he would like to take a walk down the trail to one of the docks, with the temptation that we might see some fish off a dock if we were quiet. He was game, and we headed off down the trail. The trail is tree lined on both sides, and while the trail itself is paved, the sides are somewhat overgrown and very much in a natural state. At different times of the year, there is always an assortment of plants to see and small wildlife. We immediately spied a woodpecker working diligently on the hulk of a dead tree.

Midway down the first hill, we came to an area that had a tree tipped over. It was not in the trail, and appeared to have been there for some time. The roots of the tree were showing and the roots and bottom of the tree were on the large side, and dirt covered. My grandson came to a skidding halt and quickly told me that there was a dinosaur there, pointing to the roots of the tipped over tree. I responded that it was nothing to be afraid of, that it was just a tree. He looked at me as if I was the dumbest person on the face of the earth and told me that he knew that, he was just pretending. Then he gave me a quizzical look as if how could I not know that.

I responded with a surprised 'oh', and asked him if there were any other dinosaurs nearby. He pointed out several more and even a few pterodactyls as they flew overhead. To say that he ahs a vivid imagination would be correct. He often pretends about various things, with dinosaurs one of his favorite. I knew this, but was just a bit slow catching on his morning. We ended up walking all the way to the foot bridge which is about a quarter of a mile down the trail from where we started, at which point he also pointed out several sharks and whales that I in my old age did not see at first. (The whale was a log, and the shark was actually a car rim that someone not to intelligently tossed in. The stream was all of about two inches deep, what with the dry spring we have been having, so we decided to fish for the shark and deposit him into the nearest spaceship (a.k.a., garbage can) for a trip to the moon.

Overall, we ended up having a fun time on our walk, um I mean dinosaur expedition and shark fishing trip. I was once again reminded that the imagination is a wonderful thing that should be encouraged to the fullest in young children. I also managed to gather a few ideas for a children's story I am currently working on, and I could not think of a better way to spend some time with my grandson than naming pterodactyls as they flew overhead!

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Are you and your Spouse Ready for a Baby?

By Christina VanGinkel

Many women today embrace a lifestyle of being single, going to college, and entering a high paced job field. Some of these same women, maybe you even, then meet the man of their dreams and before they know it, they are still in the high-paced job field that they strived so hard to get to, but they might also be entertaining the fact of joining the high-paced job of mother. If this scenario describes you, even somewhat, then be sure to read on for a few thoughts that might help you make your decision about possible motherhood being added to the mix.

If you are already pregnant, the choice of becoming a mother might already be made. If you are just entertaining the idea though, there are aspects of combining the two, job and family, that you can consider beforehand, which can help you make the decision.

Financial security is an important issue. Sure, people of all economic brackets have kids, but the more financially stable the parents are, the easier it will be to provide for them. Go over your finances before making any decisions, and be sure that you and your spouse are at least somewhat on the same level of where you want to be now and in the future. Outfitting a nursery, diapers, formula, lost job time, cost of daycare, schooling, etc, should all be looked at with as much common sense as possible.

What options, as far as daycare centers and other forms of childcare, are there from which you can consider? Besides daycare centers, there are often nannies and private babysitters. Finding out which of these options is available to you can be a major make or break point in your decision. The suitability of each, such as how clean they are, how crowded, what the daily routines at each are like, and the cost, will all play a part in the decision process. Suitable baby care must be available, otherwise you may be left with the choice of having to leave a job that you do not want to, and maybe cannot even afford to consider leaving. The importance of two incomes and the benefits that certain jobs provide for a couple or family is more common these days than ever before, with the rising costs of everything from the mortgage payment, health insurance issues, to fuel costs.

Does your job or your spouse's have a positive outlook or maybe a program of some type in place for when a child is sick and a parent needs to miss a day or two of work? Even the best of babysitters or daycare centers will often want a parent to stay home when a child is sick, to avoid the ill child contaminating other children that are at the same center.

Check if your company has a program that allows a parent to bring along an infant for the first few months of life, when they are too young to be crawling around and getting into things, and offer a daycare center on site for when baby must be moved to a more traditional means of daycare. If the company that you work for offers such a program, count yourself lucky, but also consider how this might benefit your interaction with any child you might choose to have. You can often pop in on breaks, and eat lunch with the child on a somewhat regular basis.

Problems with delivery and the health of a newborn is not something many expectant parents want to think about, but they do happen. Be sure to consider what might happen in a worst-case scenario, even one that might be short term, but also issues that might be long term. Do you have family nearby that could offer a network of support, or will you be left to deal with the good and bad all on your own, just the two of you?

Are you emotionally prepared for a newborn, and how about your spouse. Are you ready to give up at least some of your fancy dinners out and last minute weekend getaways? Some people do manage to keep up the lifestyle they had before baby arrived, and others do a complete turn about. The majority seem to land somewhere between, still having a social life, but not to the degree that they had before baby.

Adding a baby to your life is a big decision. Take the time to think about it as realistically as you can, and you will at least know that you took the time to consider the different aspects of how your life might be altered before you make the big announcement that you are expecting!

Baby's First Birthday Ideas: A Barnyard Bash

Babies love barnyard animals, so if you are looking for a cute party theme for baby's first birthday, why not consider throwing a Barnyard Bash?

Invitations. You can either make or buy invitations that have pictures of barnyard animals, such as pigs, cows and sheep, on them. If you're not crafty, you can make invitations with simple cardstock and stickers of animals. Party supply sites like birthdayexpress.com also sell barnyard themed invitations and party wear. Make sure to tell your guests to come dressed for a country barnyard bash.

Decorations. It's easy to decorate your home for your barnyard bash. Use an inexpensive red vinyl tablecloth and white tape to make a barn door, which you can hang in an entry way in your home. If you're opting for an outdoor party, you can put out bales of hay as decoration. Have cutouts of various barnyard animals hung about the party area. Put snacks in wicker baskets that are lined with country looking red bandanas.

You can also put barnyard themed toys and books out. Some great barnyard books, which can all be found on amazon.com, include:

Barnyard dance by Sandra Boynton
Barnyard Banter by Denise Fleming
Barnyard Boogie by Jim Post
The Jolly Barnyard by Annie North Bedford

Your menu. It's easy to prepare a finger lickin' menu for your barnyard bash. Fried chicken is a great party entree to serve-- and you can either orders a few buckets from a fried chicken restaurant or make your own oven fried chicken. Supermarkets also carry ready-made fired chicken, which can just be heated in the oven and served.

Barbecued ribs can be cooked all day long in a slow cooker so that they are fall-off-the-bone- tender by the time the party starts. And hotdogs on the grill are a great item to have on hand for the kids-- just make sure the guest of honor (Baby) doesn't eat any hotdog unless it is cut up into very small pieces.

What else to serve? Country style potato salad, cole slaw and baked beans are great side dishes.

For dessert? Have a birthday cake for baby of course, with barnyard animals on it or a cake shaped like a pig, cow, etc. You can also have a plain cake and decorate it with plastic barnyard animal figurines from the dollar store. But you can also serve up some fresh country pies-- peach and blueberry are good choices. For the kids, ice cream cones are always a hit-- dip them in multicolored sprinkles for an added treat.

Games. Even though baby is too young to participate in most party games, you can still have fun games for the older party guests and children to play. Bingo is a wonderful country-fair style game to play. Have the players play to win fake money, which they can use later to "purchase" prizes with. You can purchase a country-fair style bingo set on sites like toysrus.com.

You can also have a chicken dance game, which is a great game for even the youngest party guests. Have each guest dance do their own version of the "Funky Chicken Dance" by dancing like a chicken. The kids will get to take turns doing their own version of a chicken dance and then they can ask someone else in the group to do their version. You can go around in a circle until everyone gets a turn. Reward the participants with barnyard eggs as a prize. You can fill plastic eggs with candy or coins as a prize. You can find several different versions of the song "The Chicken dance" on online music sites such as itunes.com or yahoomusic.com.

Suggested music. No barnyard bash is complete without some country style music. You can get real country-fair kitschy by having a karaoke machine for the kids to sing to. But if you're just looking for background music, dig out some country music and folk CDs. For some kid-friendly barnyard music, check out "The Barnyard Dance: American Folk Songs for Children" by Peter Feldman.

Goody bags. Give the young guests a treat to take home, with a sack full of animal crackers, animal stickers, and stuffed barnyard animals (check the dollar store for bargains on small stuffed animals). Bubbles and a few pieces of candy can round out your goody bags.

Your baby's first birthday is such a milestone, so make it an event to remember for all of your guests. Be sure to take lots of pictures so baby can look back one day to see what a great first birthday party bash you all had!

Friday, April 21, 2006

Memories of Becoming a Sibling

When I was only four-years-old, my little brother was born. I was so excited. For at least a year, I had been asking my mother and father to grant my wish of bringing a baby sister into the world. The entire time my mother was pregnant, I prayed fervently for the life and health of my soon-to-be baby sister. Imagine my four-year-old surprise when my father woke me up in the wee hours of the morning to tell me the good news that my baby brother had come safely into the world. What baby brother? I knew we were expecting a baby sister, but no one ever said anything about a baby brother. Not that anyone really knew; for some reason, my parents simply let me assume and go with the notion that the baby would be a girl.

Since it was the early 1970s, children were not allowed into the hospital room, or even on the hospital floor, where the mothers gave birth. The hospital was a tall building at least 20 floors, and my mother was on about the 5th or 6th floor. My father took me to the hospital and we stood down at street level while my mother waved from the window and held the bundle of blue-blanketed baby up for us to see. I told my father to have her throw the baby down so we could hold him and see him, and then he could take him back up to my mother; but he told me my mother wouldn't be able to open the window.

My mother came home about three days later and I was finally able to see my new little brother. He was almost as wonderful as I imagined a baby sister to be. He was small and pink, wrinkled and cute, and he had huge, blue eyes. He seemed to like looking at me and listening to me talk, so I decided that a little brother might just be ok. I asked my mother if we could put a pink dress and bonnet on him, so that I could just pretend he was a little girl for a while, and they agreed. So one evening, when my brother was about four-months-old and barely sitting up, we put one of my old baby dresses on him. It was pink with beautiful white lace and ruffles around the skirt. We even put tights and white shoes, and my best baby bonnet. He looked adorable with his big blue eyes and cute smile, and we all laughed very hard, especially my parents. Somehow, though, to me, he still looked like a boy, even if a boy in a dress. My parents took pictures of my brother in that dress and said words like blackmail when talking about it. I didn't know what they mean, but they were laughing a lot, so I assumed it was something funny. I asked if we could take my brother out for a walk with the dress on, but my mom said no, and after that, we put the dress away.

Two of the things I most wanted to do was to give my baby brother a bottle and to change his diaper. Again, by the time he was a few months old, my mother let me help do these things. I was allowed to sit on the sofa and hold him and give him his bottle. I loved doing this. I loved how he looked up into my eyes so trusting. I imagined that I was a mother sitting there with my own little baby. When I first was allowed to help change my brother's diaper, I was surprised to see that he had different private belongings than I did. I was very curious and inquisitive, so I asked my mother all about it. She gave me the technical names for his parts, but I made up names of my own. Peanut and under-behind were my private boy-part names. They made more sense and were easy to remember. My mom laughed and agreed.

The years went by quickly, and now my baby brother is a balding man who lives 3000 miles away from me. But I will always remember those heart-warming days of welcoming a new sibling into my life - even if he was a boy!

Make a Diaper Bag with Bling!

By Christina VanGinkel

While babies can be a lot of work, they can also be a lot of fun. Dressing them and their accessories up can be a great way to lighten the mood of everyone who comes into contact with you and them. Take for example the average diaper bag. It is normally utilitarian, maybe cutesy, but rarely are they something that could be referred to as a fashion accessory. The mega rich mommies do not let this be a problem though. They purchase custom created bags that look like something they paid mega dollars for (Which they probably did!), but you can have the same look, even if you are on a budget. Why, you can even have a diaper bag that shouts 'Bling, Bling' if you want it too!

To get started you will need to purchase a bag. Consider the inside of the bag as the important part. You are going to be altering the outside of it, so do not worry too much about the exterior, other than that it is made of a material that is going to hold up, because once you are finished altering it, you will not want to part with it for a long time to come. You will also want to avoid one in a color that you would not normally choose. If you like neutral colors, avoid neon colored bags, etc., as the color of the bag will still be prominent, though logos, emblems, patches, and such can be covered or removed, so do not worry about them.

As to the inside of the bag, look for one that has plenty of space for storing both your own and baby's things, and one that you feel will be able to grow with baby and their needs. This does not mean you have to find the biggest bag you can, just the opposite actually. I looked for the smallest one that I felt would be adequate, and relied on the layout of the bag more so than size. My favorite when my kids were small was one that had tons of little zippered and snap enclosures to keep things separated. This way, I did not have to go digging through the bag each time I needed to find something. I also used mine double duty as a purse for quite a while, so that I did not have to tote two bags with me all the time. I kept a small purse handy for those occasions that I was not toting one of the kids with, such as dinner out with my husband, but other than that, their diaper bag was my purse. For this reason alone, I liked to be able to find things quickly, such as my wallet at the store.

Once you have the bag home, sketch the shape of the bag on a piece of plain paper, and play around with the design. Consider what you could add to the exterior to make the bag more you. Rhinestones add sparkle and the bling, and can be added in large or small amounts, depending on your personal preference. You could also add beads; with glass ones in various sizes offering choices and class at the same time. Seed beaded designs, fringe, etc., would all look great on a bag of this type. Fabric is also a good choice, if the design is right. By using a pre-made bag, you have the majority of work completed, and can put your time and effort into transforming the exterior into something that you will not only want to use, but even show off.

Having a baby should be something you are proud of accomplishing. It does not have to mean that any style you possess has to be left by the side of the road until the kids are all grown. It can mean having fun with something as simple and utilitarian as the needed diaper bag. In addition, it will do double duty as the perfect way to rebel against all the designers who feel that new mothers should only be thinking of lamb, ducks, and teddy bears and such. Show off your flair for fashion, have some fun, and you might just attract the attention of some other new moms who will be soon asking you where you found a bag with so much style and bling!

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Getting a Fussy Toddler to Eat

By Christina VanGinkel

Some toddlers are always ready to eat just about anything you put in front of them, while getting other toddlers to eat can be a trial every single time you set food in front of them. Thinking back to when my youngest, now thirteen years old, was a toddler for example, I do not really recall getting him to eat ever being an issue, but with my now two-year-old grandson, it can be. My grandson seems to go in streaks, eating well for a few days, and then seemingly going on strike for the next couple of days. My daughter has noticed a few things that will get him to eat though, even on the days when he is not so aggressive towards his food. While these tips will not work for every reluctant toddler eater, they can be worth a try.

My daughter noticed that he likes many of his foods rolled. Therefore, when she is having a hard time getting him to eat, if a food can be rolled, she will roll it. This does not always work, but there is something tempting about the rolled food, that will often get him to try the food at least. I employed this tactic just this morning. My daughter had an appointment this morning, so her husband dropped my grandson off early to spend the day with me. I fixed him a breakfast of mini pancakes. They come frozen, but microwave up quick. I thought this would be both pleasing to him, as they are in mini form and quick for me, because they microwave in less than a minute. He wanted them until I placed them in front of them, where he then informed me that he was not hungry, even though two minutes before he had been. I remembered what my daughter told me about rolling his food, so I thought it was worth a try. I picked up one of the mini pancakes and rolled it up. He looked at it, took it from me, and bit it in half. In no time at all, he had cleared his plate of every single mini pancake, each one rolled up before he devoured them. If you notice that your child likes food in a certain shape, see if you can incorporate other foods in a similar way, much the same way my daughter has with the rolling up of the food.

Sometimes, toddlers are taken back by textures of foods. They are often willing to eat bland looking foods, such as mashed potatoes, but will refuse to eat the same potato baked for example. If you discover your toddler avoiding foods of certain textures, try to camouflage the texture before it ever reaches their plate. A baked potato can be quickly mashed on a plate, as can many other foods. Even meat can be cut small enough that texture is not such a big issue.

Wanting to be sure to include foods such as broccoli in his diet, my daughter made it in a soup first, instead of just piling up a big green mountain in front of him. Once he had eaten it a few times, she then told him the next time that she served broccoli as a side dish with a meal, that it is was same green pieces that he had in his soup, just lots of them stuck together. She then cut the pieces up smaller in front of him, to show him that it really was the same thing he has been devouring in his soup the last few weeks. This might not always work, but for her with the broccoli, it did. By allowing him to eat it first, then showing him that it was the same thing helped him accept the fact that it did taste good.

Some kids like to dip their foods and others do not. If your child is a dipper, do not discourage it; just try to offer dips that are healthy. My grandson loves ranch sauce. He also loves to dip fresh baby carrots into the sauce. By letting him dip away, he has developed a love of a very healthy snack food.

Some people might disagree with offering a toddler food other than those the rest of a family is eating, but I firmly believe that it is ok to offer your toddler something you know they will like if they are not eating what everyone else is. Their tastes will change, and as they grow older, they will most likely start to develop a taste for more of the everyday foods you feed the rest of the family, in the meantime, paying attention to your child's likes and dislikes can go a long way towards helping them develop healthy eating habits. My grandson still has days where it seems like he eats hardly a bite, but by knowing his food peculiarities, we are able to offer him some healthy alternatives on the days he might not otherwise eat.

Friday, April 14, 2006

The Perfect Baby Shower Gift

By Christina VanGinkel

The next time you are invited to a baby shower, give the mother-to-be the ultimate gift that any guest could bring, a scrapbook of baby's first year! While this will surely be one of her favorite gifts, if not the favorite overall, and will appear as if you spent large amounts of time assembling the book. It truth, it is one of the easiest and most economically priced gifts anyone could pull together, especially if scrapping is already a hobby that you enjoy, and you have many of the tools and supplies available.

Before you assemble it though, consider how much fun it will be for a friend who is about to enter motherhood for the first time. She may even have some idea of what sleepless nights and baby drool is all about, but at the same time, have some ideal picture in her head that life will be just as it was before that small wonder comes roaring into her life. This same friend might be a scrapper herself, or have mentioned to you that she would love to keep a detailed scrapbook of baby's first year, something more than your typical pre-manufactured baby book. By providing her, with a gift that will allow her to do just that, and chronicle all of baby's firsts in a handcrafted scrapbook (that she can still personalize with journaling), it will allow her to keep some of that idealism about how easy it is to care for baby!

Begin by creating a list of all of a baby's typical firsts. First picture, first trip home, first bath, first smile, first solid food, first haircut, first steps, etc. Also, list some other common additions that you could include pages for, such as going to visit the grandparents, meeting big brother, sister, cousins, and sleeping like an angel.

Assemble the book in a manner that the new mother will be able to simply add photographs of these milestone events. Also, add plenty of journaling options, but in ways that if the mother is so overwhelmed and short on time, that it will not look like she is leaving blank spaces. Consider matchbook style journaling, and small envelopes that tags can be stuck inside, anything that will allow the option to add journaling, but if it is not added, the pages will still look complete.

Include extra paper, tags, stickers, embellishments, and such for the new mom to make a few of her own pages from scratch too, on the chance that she does find a few spare minutes and wants to express her creativity. By providing all the basics, she will also be able to lend her own touch the pages you assembled for her if she so desires.

As a huge fan of scrapbooks in general, I am always looking for ways to include them in my gift giving, and this has become one of my favorite ways to both share my love of the hobby, and to give a gift that I truly believe will show a new mother or mom-to-be just how excited I am about their impending little bundle of joy. In addition, it is a gift that will continue to remind the recipient just how happy you were for them. Many gifts given at baby showers are outgrown quickly, or are duplicates of others that are exchanged or returned. In addition, while diapers and onesies are always welcome gifts for any new mom to receive, it is even more fun to receive a gift that is different from the crowd of other gifts. Giving a gift such as this is also tons of fun and will show just how much you care!

If you think this, might be the perfect gift, for you to give at the next baby shower you attend, choose a blank scrapbook, and start assembling it now. Almost all of the work can be completed before you even know who will be the lucky recipient. Just personalize right before giving, with details such as the mom and dad-to-be names, maybe a picture on the cover of the parents or of mom in her state of pregnancy. Wrap up with lots of ribbon and a big bow, and give with a healthy dose of love and wishes of future happiness!

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Starting a Baby on Solid Food

Recently I visited a good friend who has a nine-month-old baby boy. The mother is forty-three years old and this baby boy is her fourth child, her oldest being twelve. The mother obviously has experience in having babies and toddlers and is very comfortable with the newest member of her family. I was surprised, however, to discover that although the new little guy already has four teeth, with a fifth one just coming through, the mom has yet to introduce him to any food other than her breast milk. The baby is not lacking for nourishment. He is a hefty thirty pounds and looks larger than any other nine-month-old I had ever seen, yet the mother is tired and has health issues. It seems it would be time to introduce solid foods into the diet of this strapping young boy.

So while I was visiting, and as we discussed baby issues, the mother popped Junior into a high chair and handed him a fist-full of Cheerios; his first. She also decided to cut up an over-ripe banana and see how he fared with it. The little guy had already been learning how to use his fingers, although he still had some practicing to do in the area of dexterity, but he, like most babies, was curious and picked up the Cheerios just fine. Like any baby that age, as soon as he picked up the Cheerios, they went directly into his mouth. Once it was in his mouth, he lolled it around a bit and looked at his mother with a puzzled expression. He moved his mouth around awkwardly and ultimately swallowed it. The pieces of banana were quite a curiosity to him, as they were slimy and he did not quite know how to get them up off the high chair tray and into his little mouth, but his mom helped him a bit and he seemed to like them.

At this point, my friend and I began discussing the different ways of introducing solid food into the diet of young babies. When I had my first child at a very young age, my mother was nearby to give me all sorts of grandmotherly advice. Her first advice was to start the new baby on solid foods as soon as possible, which meant, in her vocabulary, at the age of three-weeks. Yes, three-weeks. She told me that as soon as I began giving the brand new baby a bit of cereal with his formula, he would start sleeping through the night. Well, she gave me a lot of false hope, because although I introduced that poor little baby to cereal when he was far too young, and baby food by five months of age, he did not sleep through the night until he was at least nine-months-old. It was a long first year for us both. By the time I had my second child, I had learned a bit by reading and talking to other young moms. I gave my baby formula and she slept through the night by the time she was about three-months-old. We did not introduce her to solid foods until she was well past six months of age. Our third child was on formula only for the first year of her life. We were moving around a lot with the military and she was well-fed and happy, so it did not occur to us to give her baby food. Finally, when she was about a year old, we were eating pizza one night, and we gave her a pizza crust to chew on. From there, she went straight to solid food, skipping the baby food phase altogether.

The point is that there is no one right way to introduce a new baby to solid foods. While the tender age of three-weeks was far too young, any time between about five and twelve months is fine. Some babies are hungry for solid food before they can crawl, while others are completely content with formula or breast milk for the entire first year. As I watched my friend's new baby enjoy his first try on solid foods, I commended her for not caving in to the nay-sayers who have been telling her for months that she needs to give him real food. He is happy, well-fed, well cared-for, and as round as a little butterball, and that's all that matters.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

When Children Suddenly Act Up

By Christina VanGinkel

If you work outside of the home, travel a lot for whatever reason, or just spend a lot of time each week at your mother's / sister's / friend's, etc., and because of this, your young children are either packed up and dropped off at a babysitter's house, daycare center, or even brought along, they may suddenly act out. First, let me say that I am not against a parent working, or a child being sent to a babysitter. This is a fact that many people have to deal with. Even heading out each day to a friend's or family member's house can just be routine, and your kids may be just as fine with that, until one day they decide to rebel.

This is shocking to many parents when it occurs, but what many parents overlook is that kids, even young ones, can become stressed with the act of having to get up day after day, and head out into the world. They may be just having a bad day, or they could be not feeling well. It might even be something as simple as they have a new toy at home and they would rather stay home and play with it. I know I myself sometimes just do not feeling like getting up and going somewhere I know I have to, so how is it any different for a child? Sometimes, staying home just sounds better than wherever else it is we are headed too. Kids do not have the luxury of making this decision too often though, so they act out; throw a tantrum, fuss, cry, etc.

Because the reasons your child is suddenly acting up is most likely one of these, having sympathy and understanding for your child is of utmost importance. If they are old enough, talk to them if they are suddenly throwing tantrums, crying, or sulking when it is time to head out, or upon picking them up. Discuss with them exactly why they have to follow the schedule they are, and why it is that you cannot just stay at home each day. Give them the opportunity to tell you how they are feeling, and if they have any suggestions on how to make the situation easier. You might be pleasantly surprised at what they can come up with.

If they are too young to be verbally able to tell you what the issues are, you may have to work it out on your own. Even if you cannot figure out why there is a sudden mood change, still be both alert to it, and sensitive.

If they are at a new sitter's or daycare center, be especially alert to any changes in their attitude. Also, be sure to take note if they are at the same location, but if there are any new employees, or new children, that they might be having differences. Even kids that parents feel would tell them if something were causing them distress, might not. You are the parent, so it is up to you to take note of any changes along these lines that might point to a serious problem.

If in the end, you discover the reason for the change to be something you feel is trivial, remind yourself that to your child, that 'inconsequential' thing is most likely very important on the scale your child uses to judge things of importance. Consider what you can do to fix the situation, to make it at least bearable. Can they bring that new toy they are missing with them for the day? Do they have to sit next to the new child in daycare, the one who spits at them every chance they get? Talk to the daycare provider and be upfront with them about why your child is suddenly kicking up a storm every time you try to drop them off for the day. If they are small and teething for example, could you possibly, take a personal day to just stay home and snuggle? Whatever the reason things are not going as planned, take heart, that every parent goes through similar situations, and most of the time they are easily resolved. Until then, be patient, be alert, and tell your children that you love them, even more times than you already do!

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

What Not to Buy for a Baby Shower Gift

One of the happiest times in life for a woman is when she is expecting a baby, and one of the most special things her friends and loved ones can do for her during this time, is to throw her a baby shower. Baby showers began many years ago as a way for family and friends to shower a young couple with gifts they needed for their new baby. Back when furniture, blankets, clothing, and most other items were made at home, a set of young parents might find it nearly impossible to make or afford all the necessary things for their new baby. Consequently, family and friends took part in the venture. One might make a crib and another, a dresser for baby. The women of the family made quilts, blankets, and little baby clothing. It was always a special time to shower gifts of love and necessity on a new mom or mom-to-be.

Today baby showers have become parties that are primarily for women, though in recent years, couple showers have become more common. These baby showers often include silly games, lots of good food, and plenty of gifts and gift certificates, many of which the mom-to-be picked out herself by making a list at her favorite store and passing the information on to the invited guests. But more often than not, the new mom does not make a specific list and while we know some of her needs, sometimes we are on our own when picking out a baby shower gift. While there are a plethora of stores and shops which cater to baby items, many a well-meaning friend or relative has made the mistake of choosing an inappropriate or unnecessary gift for a baby shower. Following are a few suggestions on what not to buy as a baby shower gift.

First, avoid gender specific clothing unless you have been told that the parents already know the gender of the new baby. This is a mistake often made by grandmothers or grandmothers-in-law who are understandably excited, but who mistakenly project their preferred gender on the baby-to-be. If you do not know the gender of the baby, either buy something other than clothing, or buy something in white, yellow, green, or lavender.

Second, avoid purchasing food for the baby. You may like the looks of the new line of baby food at your local health food store, or you may feel you are being helpful if you buy the parents a huge crate of formula, but the feeding of the baby can be a very personal thing. Most mothers breast feed their babies, and even those who do not often have their own favorite formula they use. Only buy food if you know there is something that has specifically been requested by the parents.

Third, avoid odd or unusual toys or playthings. Stuffed animals and teething rings are safe. Avoid toys that do not have safety ratings on them or that were bought in another country. Often in their excitement, relatives will buy future science projects, make-up kits, or other odd things for a new baby. Stick to regular baby toys.

Fourth, avoid giving picture books or parenting books that blatantly go against the beliefs of the parents or may hurt them in some way. Do not give a book about the importance of fathers to a single mom. Do not give a book on Bar Mitzvahs to a Christian family. Do not give a book on the ills of bottle feeding to a mother who is not able to nurse. You get the idea.

Lastly, never give a pet as a baby shower gift, even a fish. Yes, this has been done and it is usually a disaster. If the parents want their new baby to have a pet, they will decide when and which pet they choose. Most children are not ready to enjoy and take care of a pet until they are at least four or five-years-old, plus, having a new baby is responsibility enough for a new parent without the added responsibility of a new pet.

Now that you are armed with what not to do, enjoy your shopping excursion and have fun at the shower!

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Choosing a Gaelic Baby Name

It seems to be a major trend these days to take a "normal" name and spell it in cutsey, unique and outrageous ways. Madison, Cameron and Kylee are no longer perfectly acceptable spellings to many new parents; in an effort to appear more "feminine," they have become Madisyn, Kamrin, and Kyleigh. If you want a uniquely-spelled name with historical or family meaning but still want a normal sound, you may want to consider Gaelic (Scottish or Irish Celtic) names. Gaelic names often have normal name sounds like Shawn and Tiernan, but are spelled quite differently (Sean and Tighearnan).

The history of the Irish people is a long and vibrant one, dating from prehistoric times and consisting of a thousand different legends and mysteries. Irish names have been partially kept alive in America by the Irish immigrants who came to this country in the mid-19th century and established naming practices that are in some cases still used by their descendants. Some Irish names have become common in the American mainstream, such as Sean, Patrick and Alan.

Whether you are having a boy or a girl, there are plenty of names to choose from for either gender. Parents usually choose a name for one of three reasons: (1) After a family member or close friend (2) Because they like the sound of the name, or (3) because of the name's specific meaning. If you are not of Gaelic extraction and merely want your child to have an ethnic name, it will probably be one of the last two.

Some Irish Gaelic male names with desirable meanings are:

AINMIRE (pronounced AN-meir) is thought to mean "great lord." At least one of Ireland's countless kings was named Ainmire; he lived in the 500s A.D.

ARDGHAL (ARR-dal) takes the meaning of "high valor" and is a great choice for a baby boy's name. A similar name meaning "war" is CATHAOIR (KA-heere).

BRANDUBH (BRAN-da) means "black raven." You may want to consider this name for a child with dark features or just for the sense of the mysterious. Bran ("raven") was a famous legendary Irish king, a convert to Christianity. You may choose Bran as a nickname to connect your child to the great stories of Ireland's past.

FEARADHACH (FAR-a-thek) means "manly or masculine." This would be another great choice for an Irish baby or one whose parents looking for that special exotic name. It is interesting to know that one of the ways the name has been anglicized is "Ferdinand."

MAOLMORDHA (mahl-MORR-ee-ah) is thought to mean "majestic chief" and is a name so ancient that no one is sure when it was first used. You may want to consider Mori as a nickname.

Here are some choices for Gaelic female names:

AOIFE (EEF-ya) is thought to mean "beauty" and is a popular Irish girl's name. It can also be pronounced "EEF-ah." The name was used in Irish legend as a famous warrior woman. What a wonderful way to give a little girl self-esteem!

CATRIONA (kah-TREE-na) is a beautiful Gaelic form of Catherine, a name that means "pure or unsullied." If you want a more common Irish name for your baby, you may want to go the traditional route, choosing Kate or Kathleen. Caty, Cady or Katy are some fun nicknames that you might wish to consider.

MOINA (MOY-na) is a short form of MUADHNAIT (MOO-naught) and means "little noble one." It could also be pronounced in a more traditional way, like the American name Mona.

RIOGHNACH (ree-O-na) means "queen." It can be spelled Riona as well. You might consider Ria as a nickname. Rioghnach was a saint who lived in the 500s, sister of another saint called Finnian.

One possible problem with giving your child a Gaelic name is that once he or she starts school (and throughout life, actually), the spelling of the name may cause a hassle. Many Gaelic names are NOT pronounced as they are spelled, and this could be a problem with schoolwork, other children not knowing how to pronounce the name, and even your child having trouble learning to spell his or her name. You may want in this instance to use the anglicized form of the name, keeping the Irish meaning but making it easier to learn. Riona instead of Rioghnach, Katrina instead of Catriona, etc. Names that are very long or would need an extended knowledge of the Irish language to comprehend are a no-no.

Consider the Gaelic form of Cordelia: Creiryddlydd. Is this the sort of name you want to saddle your baby girl with? Many would not even be able to spell this name, let alone say it. That is the nature and the beauty of the beast with Gaelic names. They are beautiful if used properly, but a disaster for the American child if they are overused.

By Lacie Schaeffer

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

When Baby Won't Eat

After months of being only breastfed or bottle fed, most babies are quite excited to take their first taste of rice baby cereal. While they may be confused by the texture at first, after a few tries most babies gulp it down eagerly. But what do you do if your baby-- or toddler-- won't eat?

Is he or she sick? A baby with a normally good appetite may not feel like eating if he or she is sick. Check baby's temperature and see if he or she is feeling well. Also, if a baby is teething his or her appetite may dwindle. Don't be alarmed if your normally hungry baby isn't interested in food for a few days-- it will probably pass.

Try mixing it up. Perhaps baby is just tired of the same old foods. You should introduce new foods slowly, with a few days in between to see if the baby has any type of reaction or an allergy to it. But once your baby is in the clear with a particular food, you can offer it as often as you want. So don't insist that baby finish an entire jar of strained peas if he or she is getting bored with them. Offer him or her a half a jar or peas and maybe a half a jar of bananas or some other food. Just like adults, babies like to eat variety of foods at one sitting. If baby is only interested in the sweet stuff, however, keep encouraging him or her to eat vegetables. Otherwise, you may be setting your baby up for lifelong eating problems.

Nutrition drinks. There are several brands of nutrition drinks on the market for babies and older toddlers who just don't get enough nutrition from their regular diet. These nutrition drinks can be quite pricey, but they can also offer you piece of mind if your child is living on a diet of macaroni and chicken nuggets. Still, you don't want to rely on nutrition drinks as your child's sole means of nutrition. They are a good supplement, but always make sure that you offer your child three square meals a day in addition to several healthy snacks.

Vitamins. Even young babies scan benefit from a daily vitamin supplement. For little babies, try liquid multivitamin drops that contain vitamins A, D, C and iron like Tri-Vi-Sol drops. For babies and toddlers who are old enough to chew, you can try chewable multivitamins. Read the label carefully, though-- many over the counter multivitamins need to be cut in half for children under age 3 years of age. Always talk to your pediatrician about what brands of vitamins to use before you start giving them to your baby.

Sneak in some tricks to help get baby to eat. Making eating fun. Babies love it when you play games while feeding them. Pretend the spoon is a choo choo train and baby's mouth is a tunnel-- tell baby to open wide because "Here comes the choo choo train!"

Also, don't push self-feeding before baby is ready. At least if you are spoon feeding your baby, you can see how much food he or she is actually consuming. Once the self feeding starts, you can be rest assured that much of the food will end up on the high chair or the floor. Make sure that your baby is already a god eater before you let him or her take control of the spoon.

Use an older sibling to help show baby how fun it is to eat fruits and vegetables. Most babies try to emulate what their older siblings do, so if you're lucky enough to have an older child who is a good eater, have him or her tell baby how yummy everything tastes.

Try this trick to introduce an older baby to different foods: Fill the sections of an ice cube tray with different snacks, like raisins, cut up pieces of fruit, cheese nibbles, whole grain crackers, toasted oat cereal, small veggies like peas, and anything else you can think of. Your baby will have fun picking and choosing from his or her own little buffet tray.

Is baby drinking too much? If you are loading your baby up with a constant stream milk bottles, then no wonder he and she won't eat. A baby that ahs a tummy full of milk and formula will be too full to eat their regular food, so don't overload baby with too many bottles or sippy cups throughout the day.

Don't stress out if your baby doesn't eat a lot at every meal. The goal for most children is to assure that they get at least one good meal in throughout the course of the day. Babies need surprisingly few calories per day and your child is probably eating more than you think.

Choosing a Pediatrician for Your Baby

If you are expecting baby, you should look into choosing a pediatrician for your child while you are still pregnant. Why do you need to choose a pediatrician before your baby is born? There are many important reasons.

First of all, most pediatricians will want to check in with you and your baby when you're in the hospital after you give birth(unless of course, you delver your baby at a hospital that the doctor is not affiliated with). If you do not have a doctor selected, your baby will be examined by a doctor of the hospital's choosing, or whatever doctor happens to be on staff at the time. Also, all newborns need a well check within one week after birth. During that busy time, you will not be in the mood to start researching pediatricians. Thus, it is a good idea to have your pediatrician decided upon ahead of time.

So what are some important factors to look for when choosing a doctor for your baby?

Insurance. Obviously, your medical insurance plan may dictate which doctors you can select from. If your have a PPO plan and can select any doctor, do your research on all of the doctors in the area. Ask friends and family for recommendations and make an appointment to meet the doctor ahead of time. If you are in an HMO or POS plan, you may have to select from a smaller pool of in network doctors. Keep in mind that most large practices accept all kinds of insurance.

Location. Your dream doctor may be located an hour away from your home-- and that's okay for well check visits if the doctor is that wonderful. Think ahead, however, to what you will do if your baby gets sick. Will you want to travel that far away to see the doctor? It is best to find a doctor within 15 to 30 minutes from your home. Young babies have well check visits every month during the first year of life, so you definitely want to choose a doctor whose location is convenient.

Practice size. If your dream doctor is part of a large practice, keep in mind that you will want to fid out about the other doctors in the practice. While you can try to schedule well check visits with Dream Doctor, sick visits will be a whole different ballgame. You will most definitely end up seeing other doctors if it is a busy practice. Make sure that you like most, if not all, of the doctors in a large practice.

The nurses and office staff, the doctor's nurses and office staff are just as important as the doctor. These are the people that you and your child will see first-- and it will set the tone for your entire visit. Check out the waiting room-- is it always jam packed? Are the nurses and office staff friendly? A good doctor is only as good as his or her office staff is. Also, if the doctor keeps you waiting for an hour every time you have an appointment, then find another practice. While last minute emergency situations will come up for any doctor, if your appointment is pushed back every time you go in, then the doctor is not being courteous to you or his or her other patients.

Hospital Affiliation. Make sure that you are familiar with and like the hospital that the doctor is affiliated with. While most insurance plans will allow you to take your child to any hospital if the need arises, it is always easier to stay within your pediatrician's hospital network. There will be less red tape and miscommunication between the doctor's office and the hospital. Make sure the hospital admits children, as well.

Research. Researching doctors for your entire family is key. There are many online sites that offer reports on doctors, including any malpractice suits. Before you pay for such reports, however, see what you can find out about the doctor on your own. A Google search might be all you need to do to find reviews and other information about the doctors and practices that you are considering.

One final note: If you have a baby boy and are considering having him circumcised, find out who will be doing it. Surprisingly, in most cases, the mother's obstetrician will perform the circumcision, not the pediatrician. Still, if the pediatrician will be the one to do the procedure you will want to have a doctor selected ahead of time.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Benefits of Formula Feeding

When I became pregnant with my first child at the tender age of twenty, I knew very little about babies, other than what I had learned when I babysat for neighbors during high school. I had changed several diapers, bottle-fed many babies, and knew about the basics of discipline and keeping children safe, but I had never spent even one entire night with a baby, let alone, a newborn. So when I found out I was going to have a blessed little one, I spent nearly the entire nine months reading everything I could find about pregnancy, childbirth, and babies. This was before the internet, so I spent all my time in libraries and bookstores, soaking up the knowledge and the varying opinions about how to be a good parent and what is best for babies.

It was during this time that I learned about how grandmothers-to-be can add an interesting dimension to the mix. My mother, having had my brother and me in the 1960s, was completely drugged during both our births, and never even thought twice about feeding us with formula in bottles. In fact, I quite remember when my younger brother was born and I was privileged to be able to feed him some of his bottles. When I became pregnant in the 1980s, breast-feeding had made a comeback. Doctors and nutritional experts had done the research and found that science, in the end, could not beat nature; mother's milk was superior to man-made formula. I read all the statistics, talked to other young moms, and knew that my only option was to breast-feed my baby. But this did not go over well with my mother. My mother was shocked and horrified that I would abuse my body in this way. She told me about all the terrible things that would happen to my breasts if I were to nurse the baby, even for a short while. She scared me a bit, but I was more concerned about the health of my baby than the condition of my breasts.

Much to the chagrin of my mother, when my darling son was born, I gladly nursed him the natural way. It was slow-going at first, as many new moms will find. I struggled with getting him on a schedule and I did not like breast feeding in public places. After the first month, my son was nursing every two hours, 24-hours a day. Everyone told me that he would probably begin to sleep through the night after the first couple of months, and I was looking longingly toward that time. I functioned on auto-pilot, stumbling blindly through each day, finding myself nursing a lot. It took my son 30-45 minutes to nurse, and then we would start the whole process over again just over an hour later. I was concerned that perhaps my body was not producing what he needed, but the doctors assured me that all was well and that he was growing as he should. By the second month, our schedule had not changed in the least. He ate every two hours on the dot, all day and all night, and I was looking toward going back to school in the fall to take a few college classes.

When classes began, I only took three and attempted the breast pump for supplements while I was at school. After the first week, I was a basket case. I had no time to study, no time to eat, no time to sleep. I spent all my waking moments either nursing or pumping. I was beginning to think my mother was right - at this rate, my breasts felt like they were going to fall off! Finally, after a week of school, I knew I either had to drop out or consider switching to formula. I chose switching to formula. I knew my son had been given precious immunities by me in those first two months, and now he could switch to the formula on which I was raised (and I turned out ok). Within only a couple of days, my son was sleeping through the night. Was it coincidence? Would he have begun to sleep through the night had I continued to breast-feed him? Perhaps. But I truly believe that he simply was not getting satisfied by me. He needed more and the formula gave him more.

Today my son is nearly nineteen-years-old and is over six-feet tall. No wonder he needed more!