Posts Tagged ‘babies’

Managing Holiday Expectations

Wednesday, December 9th, 2015

Managing Holiday Expectations 1

There was that one Thanksgiving we stayed home, just the two of us. I was 9 months pregnant, so I had a great excuse for not traveling the solid six-hour round-trip drive that year. Several things make that such a warm holiday memory for me. First, it was our last Thanksgiving just the two of us. Second, it was quiet and relaxing and without expectation. Don’t get me wrong. We are those people who are friends with our families. We get along, vacation together, and look forward to seeing each other again in no more than a few weeks. Still, I will not lie about the sweet joy of bucking the system that one holiday.

Great expectations often boil up most clearly (and painfully) at the holidays. There are so many strong feelings, traditions, and schedules to balance. Somehow all those things seem tied to family dynamics growing up twenty years ago. You know, mom always understood younger brother’s unique living style; Dad always defaults to what big sister suggests. The holidays are a great reminder of all the ways we could use a little therapy. The way we’ve found to work through all this muddle is wrapped up in one word: expectations.

Managing Holiday Expectations 2The Negotiables

For us, when we really thought about it, most things turned out to be negotiable. Family and friends who married into the wonderful love of step-families negotiate a little differently than us. As a nuclear family we generally have all days available while some of our siblings have to balance sharing their children on certain days. As a SAHM I don’t have an office holiday party while some family and friends have two to attend. When we are invited to events, we take time to consider how participating will contribute to (and detract from) our holiday season. We don’t expect to have Christmas on a certain numerical day in the month. We also don’t expect to participate in everything to which we receive invitation.

Another example of negotiation involves the age of our children. This is our fourth December with children but our first time having Christmas morning on Christmas morning. We previously opted to celebrate it that Saturday morning of my family’s get-together the week before Christmas. As they get older this expectation may change, but we’ve spent some Christmas days traveling across the country because being with family ranks higher than celebrating Christmas on a particular day of December.

Gift-giving is another point of stress in the holiday season. With some family members we openly discuss this and set a dollar amount we are comfortable spending on each other’s families. We don’t buy for every single family member; one side of the family we always buy for parents while the other side of the family does a single-name-draw exchange that includes the parents. On the chance that we receive gifts unexpectedly from family or friends, we don’t stress about it because giving and receiving gifts are aspects of the holiday season. We see them as an opportunity to accept gifts with grace and without guilt.

The Non-negotiables

Typically we spend part of the holiday season (Thanksgiving to New Year’s) with each family, 1,600 miles apart. For ten years we’ve managed to balance this, though every year looks a little different. It means we don’t take family vacations to fancy locales other times of the year, but saving up to see both families during the holidays is typically non-negotiable. This year, this is not part of our expectations because I am too pregnant to travel cross-country. My doctor (and baby) turned this non-negotiable into a negotiable.

As our children grow, spending Christmas morning at home may turn to into a non-negotiable. Not traveling on Christmas day may become more important to remove stress from the season. For others there may be Christmas Eve pajamas, stockings, a church/synagogue service, or going to a particular family member’s home that is important.

I can’t gloss over the way this relaxed approach to the holidays relies on other people to balance their expectations of us. Sometimes family may or may not entirely understand. Some older family members may want to continue the old traditions even after the younger generations give birth to more. Some family may see every invitation as important, more important than balancing with family gatherings. Even the meaning of family and friend may blur as not every “family” is created with the same make-up. In all of these things, if you know what you are willing to negotiate or not then you can only handle the situation with grace and hope others will understand.

Lynette shares her life with her husband and two sons, ages 2 and 3 years. She has cloth diapered both since birth and enjoys all things eco-friendly and mindful living.

When Your Baby Won’t Eat

Tuesday, July 14th, 2015

When Your Baby Won't EatAt some point in baby’s young eating life (between 8 months and 2 years generally), a regression, “pickiness,” or outright refusal of food may temporarily take place.

One innocent reason behind the recent strike your kiddo has placed on food may involve his or her growing independence. Why sit still to eat when you can crawl, toddle, or walk about and discover the world around you?! As baby becomes more independent in these ways, he or she may find security in the old days of just the breast or bottle. Food becomes yet another new thing in a quickly expanding world and the safe nuzzle in your arms to eat may be what your child seeks.

First, rule out underlying issues that might be causing food aversion symptoms. Visit your pediatrician if you have concerns.  Your doctor may want to know information like how often does child eat, how much, and what? Are there particular things your child does or does not like or is it all food? What have you noticed about your child’s digestive system? Are there also instances of spitting up, vomiting, gas, or constipation? Is this new or consistent with baby’s food and digestive history? These sorts of observations can help a doctor determine a young one is just “going through a phase” or has an underlying issue that needs further evaluation.

Also ensure your baby is ready for food. Baby-led weaning encourages letting baby set the pace on the introduction of solid foods. If baby is younger than or close to six months, it may not be food refusal—he or she simply may not be ready yet. If you’re kiddo struggles with food refusal, consider a few options you may have:

  • When you do offer food, make it the most bang for baby’s buck. Filler foods have their place sometimes, but nutrient-dense fruits, veggies, and eggs/dairy (if age-appropriate) offer big bites of nutrition, even in small portions. Continue to offer milk or formula if baby is willing. Breast milk, formula, and milk in and of themselves offer a variety of nutrients to sustain baby.
  • Try new foods or old foods in a new way. Depending on your babe’s age and feeding abilities, maybe that smooshed banana or avocado can now be offered in small solid slivers. Add new flavors as you are able to give a variety of options. Perhaps baby wants to eat, but the same old peas and carrots just aren’t jiving with him or her anymore.
  • On the other hand, try going back to basics. Again, with all those changes in the world around him or her, a new texture or taste of food may be too much. Go back to old favorites or add a side of something new along with the tried and true. Refrain from using favorite foods as a reward for eating things they don’t like. This quickly adds stress to the eating experience for you both, among other things. Respecting baby’s food preferences, fears, and aversions during this age of food discovery will help build a bridge of trust between baby and both you and food.
  • Give it time, meal time that is. This phase may be quickly or slowly outgrown, but even in the midst of it time is important. Offer plenty of time for your child to eat. Rushing a baby to eat can create pressure to preform, even increased risk of choking. Perhaps your young one needs to touch and even play with food to feel comfortable with eating it at first. This also offers babe a sense of agency, whether he or she decides to eat or not.
  • Eat together. This may mean separate plates but with your babe on your lap; you may prefer to just share a plate and fork. Sometimes baby doesn’t want something until he or she sees you want it too. You are your child’s guide and inspiration often times, so take it as a compliment and share in your meal together. This doesn’t have to become a habit of every meal or every day—I know sometimes my meal is the only thing that feels like mine during my day with young ones around! This practice can help create a secure environment for baby to explore new tastes though.
  • Consider other behavior modifications. Evaluate how the whole eating process happens in your home. Is the TV on? Are you tense, with raised voice and high demands? Is everyone else sitting or moving around while your child is attempting to eat? Perhaps sitting together or going into a quiet room, just you and babe, can offer a more soothing and inviting atmosphere for your child to eat.

Lynette Moran shares her life with her husband and two sons, ages 1 and 3 years. She has cloth diapered both since birth and enjoys all things eco-friendly and mindful living.

Summer Play Dates for Baby

Wednesday, June 17th, 2015

IMG_0202There’s something about summer. The sunshine, warm air, and beauty of nature seem to make everything better. For me, motherhood becomes even more enjoyable. I love to be outside. Sunshine just makes me happy, and it seems to have the same effect on my little ones. Here are some great ideas for summer play dates for you and baby.

Imaginative Play at Home

Invite a friend and her little ones over and enjoy imaginative play. Take an outdoor blanket and sit outside with your babies and have a play picnic. Bring out the play food and have a tea party. Cozy coupe cars are fun for older babies, too. Pretend your little one is going to the store or ice cream shop and integrate more toys. If you are still playing with a younger baby, break out some balls and let them experience different sizes and textures. Bubbles are also a fun thing to play with in the summer. My 8-month-old son loves bubbles already, and they are inexpensive at any local store.

Water Fun

Depending on where you live, there are several different ways you can have fun in the water with your little one. In my area, splash pads are at most parks. These fun water attractions are an easy way to beat the heat. Even before my daughter could walk, sitting on the sidewalk by the sprinklers was a hit for us.

Local pools are also a great way to enjoy the water with babies. Mommy-and-me swim lessons are offered at most community pools and YMCA centers. The bonus is you can learn about water safety and get your baby used to being in the water. Plus, you get to enjoy the time together.

Water tables are a fun toy to play with at home, as well, as baby gets older and can walk. Older siblings would enjoy the hours of entertainment a water table can bring. You can always be simple and just invest in a small sprinkler or baby pool that you can enjoy at home. Then, you have a go-to for fun play dates at home all summer long.

Fun Around Town

Get together with other moms and decide on a local place to meet up. Here in my area, we have a children’s zoo. Bring the stroller or wagon or babywear in your favorite carrier. (I would be using my Tula!) Zoos usually have season memberships where you can stay as long or little as you want and then head home for the day. No worries about tantrums or cranky babies that way.

Many cities have aquatic centers or intriguing parks for little ones. Babies are not too small to enjoy the sights and sounds of nature and outdoor activities.

One of my favorite things to do on summer play dates with my baby is just meet up with a few friends at a local coffee shop, grab a drink, and head out on a stroller walk. We walk to a playground where the baby swings are or simply just walk around town. Babies love the interaction and fresh air. The bonus is the fresh air usually wears them out, so you can expect a good nap later!

Whatever you do this summer, get outside! Make new friends and invite the ones you have on fun play dates. Don’t stress about making them fancy, just enjoy your baby and the beautiful weather.

Karyn Meyerhoff lives, writes, and goes on play dates in Northeast Indiana. She can’t wait to break in her new double jogging stroller this summer.

Sun Protection for Babies

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2015

Messy outdoor funI’m a redhead, which has its benefits but also comes with some liabilities. Sun sensitivity tops that list for me. Between my super sensitive skin and my husband’s prior skin cancer diagnosis, sun protection is always a consideration for our family, and was definitely something I thought about after I had a baby.

My first plan was to slather every square inch of my baby’s exposed skin with sunscreen whenever I was going to be outdoors. I was wrong; turns out sunscreen isn’t recommended for babies under six months old. Instead, my pediatrician said to avoid direct sun and keep my son covered in breathable clothing and a big hat.

I’ve realized since moving to the sub-tropics that this advice is really good for everyone over 6 months as well. Densely woven fabrics are more effective than any sunscreen, and they won’t sweat off or run into eyes like sunblock can. I’ve also found that my kids did a lot better wearing a hat and sunglasses regularly when I began using them as infants. They don’t argue over wearing a rash guard, hat, and sunglasses at the beach now because that’s what they’ve done since they were tiny.

When you’re ready to venture out with your baby this summer, whether to the park or the beach, here’s a checklist of things you will want to keep your child safe in the sun.

  • Densely woven, loose fitting clothing. For babies under six months, long sleeves and pants or a lightweight blanket to cover sensitive skin is a must. Rash guards can be purchased relatively inexpensively and are perfect for water play. Not only do they come with built-in UPF, they also reduce the amount of (squirmy) skin you have to apply sunscreen to.
  • A floppy hat, and if your child will tolerate them, sunglasses.
  • For babies six months and older, sunscreen for all exposed skin. Even waterproof varieties require reapplication after swimming, so don’t forget to reapply!
  • Shade. A portable shade tent is terrific if you are going to be someplace that doesn’t have shade already. If your child is in a stroller, use the sun shade and watch for any exposed skin (little thighs can get more sun than you intend if they’re wearing shorts). If you’re babywearing, watch for exposed ankles if their pants ride up being in the carrier.
  • Extra water. UV exposure isn’t the only hot-weather concern for babies. Infants can overheat easily and are prone to heat rash, especially chubbier babies. Monitor your child closely for signs of dehydration and if they’re prone to heat rash, you can try putting a little non-talc powder on their skin before dressing them.

Meaghan Howard is a mom to two little boys, ages 3 and 6. She’s currently enjoying the expat life in Japan.


When Good Toddlers Go Bad

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014

When Good Toddlers Go BadI’m kidding. All toddlers are good. But sometimes, even the Perfect Baby has an off day. I would know, because our third child is a Perfect Baby and right now she is upstairs throwing an Exorcist-worthy fit that made me start thinking about tantrums and what having three very different toddlers has taught me about them over the years.

Tantrums or meltdowns generally begin occurring around 18 months. Your toddler is gaining a sense of autonomy, and is haphazard about when to use it. They are also discovering language. On top of that, they are developing emotions and learning how to deal with them. Plus, babies in general are always running little experiments to test the world around them: What happens when I drop my cup from the stroller? Refuse to eat carrots? Say “no”? Take someone’s toy? Sometimes, all these discoveries collide, and they end up in a meltdown. Growth spurts, fatigue and overstimulation can also play a part.

During a meltdown, your toddler’s emotions get ahead of their ability to communicate or understand what’s happening, and they lose it. No amount of bribing or reasoning can get them out of it. You have to go back to square one—nonverbal communication.

Here are the tools we have used to get through the toddler years with our girls:

  • Hugging, swaying and shushing. Some of the 5 S’s still work at this age. I wouldn’t try to swaddle a toddler in mid-tantrum, but swaying and shushing while you hold them close can be reassuring and help bring them back to a state of calm. I tend to shush or say, “I’m here, It’s OK,” over and over. I personally don’t like it when people say, “Don’t cry!” or “Calm down,” to toddlers. When I’m upset the last thing I want is someone bossing me around, and babies absolutely understand everything you say.
  • Teething/Colic tabs. I love Hyland’s because they are homeopathic. Remember, toddlers are still getting molars, and they hurt the most before you can see them. I even used Hyland’s when my oldest was having night terrors and would wake up inconsolable. They helped her calm down enough so that she could talk to me and tell me what was wrong. If you don’t have any, just brew some chamomile tea and mix it with juice or milk.
  • Going outside/Going for a walk. It doesn’t matter if it’s day or night, the fresh, outdoor air can calm a baby really fast. I never quit being amazed at how sometimes, the moment we stepped outside, the crying stopped.
  • Playing a favorite song. Each of my children had distinctly different songs that made them stop crying immediately. Right now, Clara is upstairs with Galactic’s “Hey Na Na” on repeat. Alice liked ‘90s alternative. Maisie would stop crying every time she heard “Clap Your Hands” by Britpop singer Sia. Whatever works.

It’s possible that if your toddler had colicky or fussy periods as a baby, you may experience a little flashback to that desperation and frustration you felt when your newborn baby cried for hours on end. Toddlers are stronger than babies and can accidentally hurt you during a tantrum, and it’s easy to feel like they did it on purpose, especially if it really hurt or if you feel like the whole day has been a struggle.

If you feel yourself getting angry or you stop feeling sorry for your crying baby, put her somewhere safe, like a crib or pack n play, and walk away for a few minutes to compose yourself. Ask your spouse to take over for a bit. Call a friend, neighbor, grandma, or resident baby whisperer for back up if you’re home alone. These feelings will subside, but they can be scary at the time.

The tantrum phase doesn’t last. Your toddler will learn to use words, deal with emotions, and transition from activities with ease, and you’ll feel like a capable parent again. For now, turn up the music, grab some wine and go to Reasons My Son is Crying for a cathartic laugh.

Erin Burt is a freelance writer and mother of three who survived two toddler phases and is patiently waiting on her Purple Heart to arrive in the mail. She lives and writes in Queensbury, New York.