Friday, November 9, 2012

Spaghetti play

This looked like it could be fun and definitely a sensory treat! There are other idea links at the bottom of this article. The picture is with the article.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

A firework, a story of Autism

Check out this video about Jodi and her family and how far she has come since she was diagnosed with Autism at age 2.

Repost: Early Cues to Autism

Because we know that early intervention can help decrease the symptoms of Autism and can help parents interact with their children in ways that improve the child's communication and social behavior, researchers have been looking for early signs that may indicate Autism. Autism does run in families so the siblings of Autistic children have been studied in comparison to children from families without an autistic child. One early indication is that most children respond to their name (or nickname) by the age of 12 months. Children who later are diagnosed with autism do not. Now new research indicates that there are difference in non-verbal communication from as early as 8 months of age. I am posting the link to an article regarding the study. This article will link you to the full study. The important thing is to communicate with your baby and to respond to his or her communication to you. Here is the link:

Saturday, October 20, 2012

No screen time. Why?

I have noticed that if I am on the computer after 8 or 9 pm, I do not sleep well during the night. I mentioned this to someone who told me that research has shown that late screen time affects the quality of sleep. In addition to being a distraction that keeps you awake, an open screen actually affects the release of the hormone, Melatonin , which helps you sleep. This hormone is released as it becomes dark and the light of the screen, especially the “blue light” of the new screens, does not encourage the hormone release, making it physically more difficult to sleep. This is a reason that all people should monitor their screen use and try to avoid screens at least an hour before sleeping. It is even more critical for infants because their sleep rhythms are not fully developed and most of the day is within 2 hours of a sleep period in young infants.  Screens include television, computer screens, cell phone and i-pad screens and, yes, even e-readers.  Any lighted screen that projects visual images is considered a “screen”.  The closer to you the screen is, the more impact it will have. You usually sit some distance from the tv but much closer to the computer and actually hold the pads and phones up to your eyes.
Sleep is not the only thing that is affected by screen time.  Screen time has been associated with slower language development. Babies and toddlers who spend a lot of time in front of a screen are actually slower to speak. This is also true if babies are in rooms where the tv is on, even when they are not actually sitting in front of it. It is suggested that the indistinct noise that comes from the tv makes it harder for a baby to recognize and learn language.
There are conflicting studies with regard to cognitive development so it is not clear what impact screen time has. However, it is well known that children do not learn anything from passive input and television is the ultimate in passive input. If your child is watching Sesame Street, for example, all by herself she will get very little from the program. If an adult is sitting with her and commenting on the activities or using them for interactive games, your child will learn much more. The interaction with the adult is far more instructive without the television program.  One concern about screen time, and television in particular, is that each minute your child is watching is a minute less that she spends interacting with people or objects in the world. Those interactions are where real learning takes place.
What about those “Learning DVDs” especially for babies? The indication is that they do not educate babies. As mentioned above, without interaction, babies do not learn. Passively watching a DVD, no matter how “educational” the content, does not impress babies in the way they are supposed to.  While the founder of the Baby Einstein company has questioned at least one study that indicated that passive DVDlearning does nothing for babies, her protest was mainly concerned with her difficulty in getting the actual data of a study done at the University of Washington.
Another area of concern is that media use is that the quick pace causes attention span problems.  A first grade teacher I knew once told me that all the kids expect school to be like Sesame Street, with short active interludes involving cute animals and then jumping on to another subject. She said it was difficult for a teacher to be as entertaining. In addition, the children did not stay focused long enough to learn the material.
The content of programs is also of concern. Most programs for children are written for adults. Often children do not really understand the point of the program. One study of a program that was supposed to teach tolerance to 3-5 year olds actually had the opposite effect. The program focused on the difference that was to be tolerated for more time than it did on the group interaction. The children who watched it were more impressed by the fact that there was a difference then by the idea that they should be tolerant of differences,
Many people think that young children and babies will not understand the content of adult programs so will not be affected if they are in the room but that may not be so. In one study, children who were in the room when a scary program was played to  adults, had a more difficult time sleeping even though they did not seem to be watching. Another study of 6 year olds showed that after viewing a violent cartoon act, children became more violent but after viewing a live act of violence (a man punching another man after a brief argument) they became subdued. This study was done more than 30 years ago.
Because of the concerns about screen time and the possible effects, Pediatric groups all over the world are recommending that babies under 24 months are exposed to ZERO screen time. That does not mean that if you pass a store window with a TV on display that you are going to ruin your child. That means that you should not put your baby in the same room where people are watching  TV and should not set them at computers even with baby computer games. After 2, the recommendation is that toddlers are exposed to less than one hour a day of screen time and that the time they are in front of a screen (TV or computer) is shared with an adult who interacts with them.
The best thing for a baby’s development is to be able to explore and interact with real objects  and people in his world. Screen activities are not real.  Below are several websites and links to articles about screen time.  The first is to an activist group that is called “Commercial Free Childhood” and is concerned about the effects of advertising on children.  The second outlines the recommendation of pediatricians  regarding screen time for infants. The third is a link to a blog  called Baby Unplugged, which talks about the research on screen time as well as about what you can do with your time that you are not on screens. The 4th is the article mentioned above from the founder of Baby Einstien.

Friday, October 5, 2012

How to and not to introduce a cup.

This link is to a recommended article about cup drinking from one of my favorite writer-mothers at Down wit Dat. I have never met her in person but follow her blog about raising 3 children including twins, one of whom has Down Syndrome. As I worked as an occupational therapist in an early intervention program, I love that she appreciates what we try to do in a lot of her posts. But she is also a nurse and and very informed about Down Syndrome as well as an entertaining writer. Even if you do not know anyone with Down Syndrome, you can appreciate her descriptions of life in the Logan home. This one includes the recommended "ideal" for cup training and the real life truth. The picture is from her blog.
As to cup drinking, I have noticed that there is very little choice in cups these days. If you want a cup that does not leak or spill dramatically, you have to get a spouted sippy cup. There are many brands of these and the spouts vary from soft to hard and in size. I have never liked sippy cups and my children did not either. Neither of them used a bottle on a regular basis and so they were not used to the bottle nipple style of drinking. Sippy cups are not really that different than drinking from a bottle.
The cup I used was by Tupperware. It had a heavy bottom so it stood upright if dropped and two handles for baby to hold onto. The real treasure of the cup was that it had a fitted indented lid with 3 small holes on each side. This held the liquid in but released it when the cup was tipped into the mouth. The children drank in the same way that we all drink out of a cup but did not have to deal with a flood of liquid and I did not have to deal with liquid everywhere. Milk, water and juice could be drunk from the cup in a reasonable time, like a mealtime. I looked for this cup on the market recently and did not find it but am happy to see the cup pictured above. It works on a similar principle though the cap looks a little more complicated that the old Tupperware ones I had.
As pointed out in the original article, it is not the cup (nor even the bottle) that causes tooth decay. It is the contents. Since no spill cups don't spill, it is easy to give it to baby and let him walk around with his cup. It that cup contains anything but plain water, he is bathing his teeth in sugar (even from milk) all day long and that is what decays the teeth. The cups may be related to displacement of the teeth which may require braces down the line especially those with firmer spouts. This would be the case if the cup is used extensively and for a long period of time. The idea is to move to regular cups as soon as your child is able to. Not all 2 year olds can handle drinking from a regular cup and may need some control.

Developing Independence with confidence for Baby and Frustration for MOM

All of a sudden one day, your sweet baby becomes clingy and whiny. After checking that she is not sick and that no one is bothering her, you wonder what is going on. This goes on for days.  The fact of the matter is that during times of great development children become difficult and clingy.  It has to do with needing your support in order to explore away from you. This explains quite a bit and may make it easier for you, as a parent, to get through these times.
What have we here?!?
Children of all ages need a secure base (you) to explore the world from. They need to feel safe so that they can be brave. The world is a big place and infants are curious about it but it is an unknown. From the start, adults play a big role in the development of confidence. A very new baby needs to know that someone will respond to his cries and that someone will see that his needs are met. Armed with that knowledge, he can think about the rest of the world. Your role, then, is to assure him that you “have his back” by answering his cries and by providing for his basic needs.
Another factor in confidence is having success. Children need to succeed in the tasks they have to do. However, these tasks need to be challenging as well. You do not get a sense of accomplishment at succeeding at something you have done a hundred times easily.  At the same time, you don’t get a feeling of accomplishment if you fail at a task that is too difficult. Your role as a parent is to provide activities that are challenging but not too difficult to be completed with a little help. The psychologist Vygotsky suggested the term “The Zone of Proximal Development” to describe the level that a child needs to be working at. I have always liked this term. It means that you work at the level just above the one that is securely accomplished. These are things the child cannot actually do himself but can do with a little guidance.  A parent can help the child “learn” to do these things using a process called “Scaffolding”. You see what your child can do and offer something just a little more difficult. Help with the parts that are too difficult to have a successful experience. Decrease help and the child’s ability increases. This last step is very important. Nothing erodes confidence more than having someone else do everything for you as if you are not capable. There are many lists of activity ideas connected to developmental levels around the internet, including those on the pages in this blog where suggested activities are listed after milestones by month for the first year.
Providing security and success is an ongoing process. However,  there are certain times in a child’s life when they seem to be generally very “testy”. They can be both clingy and contrary. They leave you wondering what you are supposed to do. These times are times when major jumps in independence are taking place. They are difficult to get through but it should help to know that your child will be a stronger individual after each one of these periods. Some of the major periods of this behavior are the famous “terrible twos” and the ‘teen years”.  They are noted because they are especially difficult but these times are major steps forward in independence. If you think about it, your child’s job is to become an independent, productive adult and this is a scary thing. Their behavior seems unreasonable but it is simply testing their safety net and their ability to cope with the next level. Both levels are accompanied by rapid physical changes and major changes in social expectations.  There are many other periods (of increasing length as the child gets older) where you have this phenomenon in a milder form. Three are in infancy and will be discussed below.
The first occurs when the lenses of the eyes clear (around 4 months of age).  A baby’s world suddenly becomes much bigger.  At this time, your baby may seem distracted during routine tasks, e.g. feeding and diaper changing. There may be changes in sleep patterns including less nap time. Baby may seem a little clingy to you at this time. As the world expands, she needs to know that you are there to support her as she discovers the rest of the world out there. She may express fear at new things or fast moving animals or people. This phase usually passes quickly as baby recognizes and catalogues her “new” environment and routines get back on track.
The next period like this occurs when mobility begins. This is a bigger step and the response is bigger. In fact, it has been called “Stranger Anxiety”. Babies cling to their parents and seem afraid of people they do not know.  Babies at this age will move away from their parent but will continually check to see that the parent is there. If they lose sight of their familiar people the panic. They can be very brave if they trust that their support will be there. They will even approach unfamiliar people in a short time if you are present and the “stranger” does not approach them and they see that you are alright with the person.
Walking provides a third period of great expansion of a baby’s world and a period where baby may express insecurity. At about the time they begin to walk, babies revert to clinginess again. In addition, babies may try to do things that they know you do not want them to do, such as climbing up stairs or playing with electric outlets. They will do this in front of you while checking for a reaction from you because they want to insure that you are there, watching out for them.
Handling these early periods by being supportive and firm, especially while keeping him safe, (for security) while encouraging your little one to explore his expanding world will help him trust you to guide him through those later, bigger moves towards independence that you will both face as he grows into a confident, productive adult.
A few of the article used for this post:

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Pacifiers revisited, New Research

Photo: Baby with pacifier

New research from the University of Wisconsin indicates that pacifier use may interfere with the ability to mimic facial expressions related to emotions, which in turn leads to more difficulty in understanding and reading emotions later in life. This seems to affect boys more than girls. The article suggests that use of pacifiers to sleep does not have any relationship to this but having a paci in the mouth during most of the waking hours, especially during times of social play, will impact a boys ability to read other people later in life. The research was triggered because it was noted that older people who used botox were unable to move their faces to express their emotions and, subsequently, indicated that they did not feel emotions as strongly. The researcher thought about what this might mean if you always had something in your mouth that did not allow you to make facial expressions during critical growth times in infancy. Their research seems to show an effect of heavy pacifier use during waking hours in infant boys. Another thing to consider for your infant. There are some benefits to controlled use of pacifiers but the key is limit the use for the maximum benefit and the least damage. There is a previous post in this blog about pacifier use that discusses the issue as well. The link below leads to one article on the subject. The research is published in The Journal of Basic and Applied Social Psychology this month. The picture is from the Wisconsin news article sited below.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Repost- favorite playthings.

This is an article by a mother who noticed that her daughter prefers to play with common household items rather than her (expensive) toys. Check out what her baby plays with and see if they are the same things your baby prefers. Some will be familiar. The one that was missing from this list was mom's cell phone, always a favorite.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Repost about cutting baby's fingernails.

baby nails 300x300 7 Ways to Make Cutting Your Babys Nails EasierHere is an article from a mom who has tried everything. Tips on cutting your babies fingernails. Read them all and you will find something that works for you.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

How Is Hannah!

I recently wrote a general article about childhood cancer because my sister's granddaughter was in the process of being diagnosed with cancer at the age of three. At the time we did not know what type of cancer she had or much of anything else. Boy have we all learned a lot in a short month.
Hannah finally got a diagnosis of Rhabdomyosarcoma. This is a type of cancer that affects the soft tissue around the bones, mostly the muscles. It involves a fast growing tumor which is usually the first sign. It is most commonly located in the arms or legs, the pubic area or near the eye but can be located near any bones. It accounts for about 5 percent of all childhood cancers and the prognosis varies depending on the location and the stage.
In Hannah's case, the starting point was in the chest and by the time she was diagnosed it had spread to her lymph nodes. The treatment of choice for Hannah is very strong Chemotherapy over the next year. She has already started the treatments and responded very well the the first dose of the treatment and was able to go home for a week in between. A chance to see her sister. She is not out of the woods yet but everybody is hopeful at this point.
She and her father shaved their heads together. Her hair had just started to fall out but shaving your head is a fashion statement not a sign of illness. There are three intrepid Canadians (two men and one women) who plan to shave their heads as part of a fundraiser for Hannah.
In fact, I have to say that all of Canada seems to have rallied to support the family. Of course, Hannah's mother has stopped working and her father has missed a lot of time ( his company has been very supportive, so far), so the efforts are very much appreciated. I have said it before but I will say it again, I have always liked the Canadian attitude and never more so than now. We have all seen the news stories of families hit by such traumatic events but never thought it would be our family. Now that it is my family, I appreciate the efforts people put into each other. I will include a link to one of the facebook groups that is supporting Hannah and her family (there are three or four) but with no obligation. They do include photos and descriptions of the many events that are taking place on Hannah's behalf. This one is called Hannah updates. Hannah is just doing the best she can at this time.!/groups/345556032195563/

A New How to Get Baby to Sleep Study.

This is an article leading describing another study in the long running battle about how to get baby to sleep through the night. Recent studies expressed concern at the "cry it out" technique that has been suggested for at least the last 30 years. This Australian study is not exactly about crying it out but about gradually withdrawing the support with two techniques, Controlled comforting  and Camping (further) Out. In both techniques parents slowly withdraw from the babies room until baby sleeps without needing then there. Further information is available at the first site below which is the video of the news story on MSNBC and the second which is a article in a parenting blog on the same subject. The picture goes with the second link. The third link is the original study as published in the journal "Pediatrics" online September 10 and in Print in the October issue.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Great Parent Lecture Series.

The following is a link about a free online lecture series called How to Be a Great Parent. Check it out if you are interested. One featured speaker will be Dr. Laura Markham from Aha Parenting.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

All About Infant Hearing Tests

The following article is written by a nurse, who happens to be a mother of three, one of whom has Down Syndrome. I have referred to this blog before and do so again because she has written a very descriptive article about infant hearing tests. She explains how they are done and what they test and describes some risk factors for hearing problems in infants, aside from Down Syndrome. I refer you to the article for the information.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Repost- curbing biting during breastfeeding 
I used these ideas back when I was breast feeding and had little trouble with biting, after the first time, of course. These simple ideas work and the pictures are cute. Check out this article if you are wondering about breastfeeding beyond teeth.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

About Toys and Gender

This link refers to an article about gender neutral toy stores. Please read and take note of the conclusions that it is not the toy but how you, as parents, use the toy that impacts gender. Also note the sidebar regarding the effects of some material that are used in toys. The picture is from the article.

Friday, August 10, 2012


This week, my sister’s granddaughter celebrated her 3rd birthday in the hospital. The hospital sent some clowns to perform and gave her a birthday cake, but they also gave her parents the news that she has cancer. She is still being tested to determine the extent and type of her cancer and the treatment that will be used. Whatever it is, it will be a difficult year for Hannah and her parents and her whole family. Hannah’s family will become very familiar with the hospital environment and may start to feel strange away from it. They will spend time being depressed, then hopeful, then depressed again and not necessarily in unison.  Because they live in Canada, they will not have the burden of the medical bills that people from some countries would have but Hannah’s parents will have to spend much time away from work which will add to the stress. The rest of life goes on and the other bills still come in but cancer takes priority over all. Cancer is no longer the death sentence that it once was, though it is still a very difficult disease to get through. It is difficult to see your child so ill and to authorize treatments that will make them sick while making them better. Small children are not able to look at the outcome as a reason for the discomfort. Family and friends need to gather around and offer as much support, both physical and spiritual, as they can because it is needed.

Statistics on childhood cancer are hard to find for places outside the United States and Canada but it is said to vary little by region and to be about 1 to 2 children per 100,000 that will get cancer. Only 1 percent of all cancers are in children. Nonetheless, it is the 2nd greatest cause of death, after accidents, during childhood. There has been a steady increase in the survival rate and, now, over 80% of children diagnosed with any form of childhood cancer survive for more than 5 years. Most grow up to lead relatively normal lives. Childhood cancer is defined as cancer diagnosed before 15 years of age but over half of childhood cancers are diagnosed before 5 years of age.  Lymphoma is rare before 3 years of age but Wilm’s tumors are rare after 6. In children under 1 year of age, neuroblastoma is the most common type of cancer, though it is far less common in older children.

Childhood cancer and adult cancer are very different. Firstly, most types of adult cancer have a hard tumor, such as breast cancer, lung cancer or pancreatic cancer, but by far most childhood cancers do not.  The most common type of childhood cancer is leukemia, a cancer of the white blood cells, followed by lymphoma (which affects both children and adults), a cancer of the lymph system. The third most common type of childhood cancer is of the brain and nervous system and which does start with a tumor. Wilm’s tumors, which is a type of kidney cancer, is also seen in children and not in adults. Bone cancers are also more common in children and are seen more often in older children.

Another difference in childhood cancers is the causes. While they are not clearly understood, they are thought to be genetic, in the form of a mutation which is thought not to be inherited but to occur after conception. Environment plays a much smaller role in childhood cancers than it plays in adult cancers.  This is not to say that children are not affected by exposure to know carcinogens, such as dioxin and passive smoke, they are and you see increased incidence of cancers at all ages when there has been exposure. This is to say that most childhood cancers develop in the absence of such exposure.  Children with certain genetic disorders, such as Down Syndrome, Neurofibromatosis or Von Hipple syndrome, are at greater risk of developing cancer in childhood than is the general population. As a result, there seem to be few preventative measures that can be taken. Eating a high fiber, low junk food diet and avoiding known chemical carcinogens is useful for everyone, children included, but may not prevent childhood cancers.

Childhood cancers progress much faster than most adult forms. Symptoms of childhood cancers are very similar to symptoms of other childhood diseases and ones first thought does not go to cancer. For this reason, many cancers are not diagnosed immediately. In Hannah’s case, her main symptom was that her tummy started to swell. Her mother was first told that it was just her posture. When mom insisted that it was something else, she was told constipation (though there did not seem to be a problem in that area). After three weeks of persistent concern, the doctor did a sonogram and immediately sent her to the children’s oncology ward. The truth is that most times a swollen tummy is related to constipation.

Finally, Children are not adults. They are still growing themselves. Their systems respond differently to many things including cancer treatment. On the one hand, Children are more sensitive to Chemotherapy and Radiation therapy so do not need as much as adults do to have an effect. On the other hand, children are more sensitive to Chemotherapy and Radiation (yes, that is what I said above), so there are more “late effects”. In other words, children who have been treated for cancer may suffer other problems later in life, including being more susceptible to other cancers as adults. A child who has had cancer will need to follow their health closely all of their life but the chances are good that they will have a rest of their life.

for more information, the following articles were used to write this piece:
1.  Childhood Cancer Epidemiology
2.  Canadian Cancer Statistics, Cancer in Children
3.  American Cancer Society, Learn About Cancer
4. American Society of Clinical Oncology, Cancer in Children
5.  Medline Plus, Cancer Information
6.  Cancer Among Infants, a study.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

COLIC, please help.

Colic- even the word scares up traumatic visions in new mothers and from the memory of experienced mothers. Colic is not a pleasant experience for anyone.  Understanding what it is and what it isn’t may help you cope with it.   There are many reasons why babies cry and not all of them are clear but not all of them are colic. Colic crying tends to occur at around the same time of day and true colic is defined as a baby who cries for more than 3 hours, more than 3 days for more than 3 weeks. Of course, during the first hour or day or week of crying, when you do not have a diagnosis, that is of little comfort.  Colic is a short term, self limiting problem. It may start in the first few weeks and rarely last past the 5th month. This may be some comfort during the crying spells. Fully one-fourth of babies experience some degree of colic so you are not alone. Hopefully, that will help some, if you can remember that when the baby is crying.
All babies have fussy periods for many reasons but if it is short lived or a one-time thing, it is not colic. Also, intense pain crying can be a symptom of a problem so if it is accompanied by changes in babies eating or sleeping pattern or if your baby has experienced a fall or injury, even if it seemed minor, before the crying starts, you should contact your doctor. If the baby is healthy, fed and regular, you may get a diagnosis of colic.
The major symptom is crying, which does not seem to have any reason. The cry is high pitched and very intense and baby is very difficult to console.
The crying usually occurs at the same time every day, often in the early evening.  It is not helpful that this is a tense time in the house in general, with dinner preparation and everybody coming in from work and school.
It often occurs after a feeding and the baby will pass gas or have a bowel movement towards the end of the session, however treatment for gas or digestive disorders have not proven effective in stopping colic.
The baby will appear tense.  He may have tightly fisted hands, try to curl up and have a hard tight stomach.
Because of the pattern of crying and the connection to feeding and gas, it has long been thought that colic was a result of digestive problems, allergies or food triggers. Research does not bear this out. However, gas producing foods and over feeding may worsen the problem rather than help.
Tension in the house has been related to colic because the crying usually begins at a tense time in the house but again, that is not always the case. The crying increases the tension in the house and the increase in tension does increase the crying.
There may be a familial relationship. Babies whose parents had colic are slightly more likely to have colic as well.
Mother’s who smoke during pregnancy and after the baby is born are more likely to have colicky babies but, again, all colicky babies do not have mothers who smoke.
The latest research in the preliminary stages indicates that a type of bacteria, helicobactor pylori, may be responsible for colic. It is present in the stomach but apparently some baby’s immune systems are not strong enough to counteract it. These babies are the ones that demonstrate colic.
The truth is that the exact causes of colic are unknown.  I am sure that this doesn’t give you much comfort. Because there are no clear causes, there is not test for colic. What your doctor will do is rule out other causes of crying. If nothing is found, the doctor may tell you the baby has colic.
Colic generally occurs in healthy, big babies.  It leaves no permanent effects for the baby.  This should be some comfort. Colicky babies do well in all other areas of their lives.  Colic may start at 2 or 3 weeks of age and always decreases by 3 months and disappears by 5 months of age. Such a short time, that may give you some help.  Remember that strategies that help you cope with colic will be useful throughout your baby’s childhood. You can learn what comforts your baby and how to keep yourself calm in difficult situations. I know this is not as comforting as if the baby did not have colic but it is something.
The first and most important thing to do is not to take it personally. It has nothing to do with your parenting skills at all. This is very important because you need to keep your calm in a difficult time and if you are feeling that it is something you are doing that is difficult. (This is a good skill to learn now because it will be helpful when your child is two and contrary and a teenager and trying to establish independence. It will be easier to deal with if you do not take it personally.)
Secondly, avoid smoking and do not let anyone smoke near the baby. There are many reasons for this and colic is one.
Thirdly, you can try carrying your baby around in a wrap or pouch so the legs are flexed and pressure is off the belly.  Placing baby over your legs on his tummy and gently massaging his back may help relieve gas.
Fourth, each baby is different and your baby may respond to white noise (a solid humming sound such as the vacuum cleaner makes), soothing music, gentle massage of the tummy or back or feet (check reflexology techniques), or rocking movements. You will need to see if any of these have an effect on your baby. Some of the techniques in this and point three may work one time and not the next. Keep them in your bag of tricks. At the very least, it will give you a feeling that you are trying something.
Fifth, recent research with probiotics (such as in some yoghurts) is promising but not conclusive. It is suggested that probiotics help the developing  immune system to fight the H. Pylori bacteria mentioned above.
Babies of the age that is affected by colic should be exclusively taking breast milk or formula.  There has been no evidence that changing formula helps at all. It is recommended that breast feeding mothers avoid gas producing foods but this has also not proven to completely solve the problem. Gas release medications have NOT been shown to help and may have side effects so are best avoided.
Sixth, always remember that this will be over by a few months and you will have a healthy, happy baby after that. Try to enjoy the time of day when your baby is not crying and keep those memories in your mind during the crying episodes.
Seventh, do what it takes to keep you calm. If that is pacing or listening to music (ok smoking and drinking are out), do it. Share the experience with your partner (literally taking turns, not just talking about the issue) and find other parents of colicky babies and talk to them.
Finally, and most important, HIRE A BABYSITTER OR GET GRANDMA OVER and get out of the house for a break every three of four episodes (I would go for a pedicure).  I do not say this sarcastically. Tension in the parents has been associated with worsening colic episodes so it is important to take care of yourself.  If someone can relieve you for an episode here and there, you will be better able to handle the other times. Be sure your relief is fully aware of what the situation is and what you have found to help. I can hear the call right now “Hello, could babysit for about an hour and a half tonight at 4. Be aware that baby will probably start crying and won’t stop no matter what you do so you will have to give all your attention to her and maybe bring earplugs to lessen the sound!!” If it isn’t grandma, maybe a little hazard pay will help.
I hope that this is some help.
Rather than a picture of a crying baby, I thought this image might be calming
I hope it helps.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

World Breastfeeding Week. August1-7 2012  Happy World Breastfeeding Week.  I wish it were such a normal thing that a "week" was not needed but, as the article points out, only 32% of infants are breast fed until 6 months. Although breastfeeding is natural, it is not always easy so it is not always possible to continue until 6 months. It is especially difficult for mothers who need to have paid employment as most companies do not give much leave or are not willing to make convenient arrangements to encourage mothers to continue to breastfeed, such as being able to have your baby nearby and having breaks that coincide with feeding times.  Other women really cannot, for whatever reason, breastfeed but, aside from breastmilk, breastfeeding requires a mother to hold her baby close when she feeds and sets the baby in a position exactly right to look in mother's face. This is important for baby's security and social development. Those conditions can ALWAYS be duplicated when feeding with a bottle (although it could be father or grandma or grandpa instead of mother) and that will provide some of what babies get during breastfeeding. It is easier to prop the bottle and leave baby in the crib than to prop the breast but it should not be done. Happy feeding for your baby however you must do it.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Autism research

Among the blogs I follow is autismspeaks. This article from that blog points to research regarding the risk factor of pesticide poisoning. While it is not a clear cause of autism, there is some evidence that pesticide exposure, coupled with a genetic predispositon, may play a role is the autism epidemic that is present today. The article provides links to other research on risk factors. The article is clear and easy to understand and points to some interesting possibilities.

Sunglasses. Not just a cute accessory!

Here is a link about eye care and the sun which should begin in infancy. It is recommended that infants under the age of 6 months not be out in direct sunlight at all. However, it is important to protect the eyes even when in indirect sunlight. When children over 6 months are in the sun, they need to be slathered in sun cream to protect their skin but they also need to wear sunglasses that are reliably protective against uva and uvb rays. Exposure to the suns radiation in childhood can cause a build up of damage to the eyes which is seen later in life, just as it does to the skin.

It is important to be sure that sunglasses are reliable. There are many street vendors here who sell sunglasses but it is not certain that they are more than just tinted glass. Buy glasses for your children at a reliable eye wear shop, especially if you live in a country that does not have reliable consumer protection standards.

 There are some suggestions as to how to keep sunglasses on small babies. One thing is that if you start putting them on before your child is 6 months old, he/she may not find it so important to take them off when he/she is able to. It will be a part of the routine of being outside. The following article discusses the reasons in more depth and a few tactics to help your child adjust to wearing sunglasses. The picture is also theirs.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

An interesting blog to check out.

The following link is to a blog that I follow and very much enjoy. The writer, Jen Logan, is a nurse and the mother of three, one of whom happens to have Down Syndrome. I worked in early intervention and had the pleasure of working with many families with infants who were deemed to have developmental delays, some of whom also had Down Syndrome. As Jen points out in this article, the dynamics of these families and the capabilities of their children were as varied as the number of families. It is not scary or sad nor is it heartwarming. It is a part of life. This blog, as a whole, focuses on her youngest son but covers family life and includes some great information on Down Syndrome as well as on normal family life. If you know someone with Down Syndrome, you may want to check out the blog but if you do not know anyone with Down Syndrome, you should check out her blog. You will understand a lot. By the way, I do not know Jen Logan. I found her blog through another blog but have been following if for a few months now.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Baby Food Storage And Preparation

Baby food storage and preparation
Baby food storage and preparation - Preparation methods

Especially in this hot weather, there are safety concerns you may have about preparing and storing homemade baby food. All you need to know at Homemade Baby Food Recipes. Site includes tips on feeding, weaning and preparing baby food as well as keeping up with all recalls of baby products. Hope the link will get you to the site.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Repost from Dr. Laura. I have mentioned some of these things and especially about not taking things personally. 10 excellent things to keep in mind and if you keep the second one, it really helps with the others! click on the link to read the article.
"Dr. Laura...What are the most important rules to raise good kids?" - Karen

"Love your neighbor as yourself...The rest is commentary." - Hillel
Research shows that the kids who act most ethically come from families with strong values, lots of discussion, and -- surprise! -- fewer rules!  That's because when kids just get used to following rules, they aren't thinking. If, instead, parents role model behavior that expresses their values, children come to value those things -- and they act accordingly, as long as they feel close to their parents.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Bone Development Now, Prevent Problems Later

You may ask, “Why is she writing about osteoporosis in a blog about babies? Isn’t that the disease that old ladies get when their bones break easily?”  Well, you are partially correct. The symptoms of osteoporosis are that the bones become fragile and break easily. It is most common in women though men can suffer from it as well and the symptoms most commonly show up in post-menopausal women. But osteoporosis is a disease that is a result of factors in childhood. For this reason it is a good idea to understand what causes osteoporosis because it is easier to prevent than to cure.
In general, what happens is that the body builds bone density until a person is roughly 30 years old. After that bone density slowly decreases. If bones are not dense enough at 30, they will not have enough density to lose in the 30 years until you are 60 and they will be osteoporotic at that time. There are many factors that go into how dense your bones become by 30 and how quickly they lose density before you are 60.
Genetics may play a role but it is not so clear cut as if your mother had osteoporosis so will you.  Nor, on the other hand, are you safe if your mother did not have it. More importantly, you need to look at what it takes to build bone density.
Calcium is one of the important building blocks for bones and young children need to get enough calcium. The best sources of calcium are dairy products, milk, cheese and yoghurt. Not only are they high in calcium but the calcium is also readily available to be used by the body. This is not true of some of the other high calcium foods. However, many people are allergic to dairy products and others choose not to include dairy in their diets. Other calcium rich foods need to be included in adequate quantities to guarantee enough calcium . These include dark green leafy vegetables including (in order of amount of calcium) turnip greens, bok choy, spinach and collard greens. Other foods with high calcium values include:  almonds, molasses, white navy beans, broccoli and brussel sprouts and salmon or sardines. There are also calcium enriched foods, often cereals, which will provide calcium to the diet. Keep in mind that calcium impedes the absorption of iron so iron rich foods and calcium rich foods should not be served at the same meal to get the full benefit. This may be the rationale behind to old maxim that fish should not be served with cheese.
Vitamin D is important to the absorption and use of calcium by the body. Vitamin D deficiency is the primary cause of Ricketts, a disease that leads to fragile easily broken bones. It has also been linked to other diseases, including heart disease. The major source of vitamin D is the sun. Of course, now we know that the sun is also a cause of skin cancer so many people keeping their children out of the sun. In fact, it is recommended that infants under 6 months not be exposed to direct sunlight at all. There has been an increase in Vitamin D deficiency due to this.  Most milk products are fortified with Vitamin D as are some infant formulas. Breast fed babies may need to have a vitamin D supplement, even if the mother has sufficient vitamin D in her system, as it does not pass through the breast milk in large doses. Vitamin D is a fat soluable vitamin, which means that the body stores the vitamin in fat and it is possible to have too much vitamin D (As with vitamins A, E, and K) in the body which produces effects similar to a deficiency. This is a link to a Canadian Health Department discussion of vitamin D. Although Canada is concerned about the limited sun exposure because of its northern latitude, there is a good description of the needs of breast fed babies in this article.
Simply put, this means walking and running and jumping. These days more and more children are involved in sedentary activities, such as television or computer games or, even,  after school lessons in academic subjects for many hours. They are not taking the opportunity to have the physical activity that they need. This is so important in building bone density. There has been a lot of discussion about overweight children needing exercise but, in terms of bone density, the smaller lighter child needs even more weight bearing activity because they are putting less weight on their bones.
Your infant under 6 months old needs only about 200 mg of calcium a day and between 7 and 12 months about 260 but their need jumps up to 700 mg. at around the first birthday, about the time they start walking. During the first year, you baby will easily have enough calcium and does not need weight bearing, though there may be a need for vitamin D. It is during the childhood and teen years that you will need to be sure to encourage your child to eat calcium rich foods and to go outside and run around.

Friday, June 29, 2012

A Piece of Equipment I Will Never Recommend

Parents seem eager to get their babies up and walking. So much so that there is a whole market in devices designed to do just that. Baby walkers have gained in popularity and many families use them instead of a playpen or baby yard. But baby walkers have more drawbacks than benefits.
Baby walkers are dangerous. Both in themselves and because they give baby access to things they should not be able to reach. Around 15,000 (yes thousand) babies go to hospital related to using a baby walker and a few have died. Some have fallen downstairs or caught themselves on the walker. Others have pulled down cups of coffee or pulled on electric cords.  Babies who cannot walk are not mentally ready to walk and should not be in that position. The American Academy of Pediatrics has issued a warning against walkers and Canada has banned them.
Contrary to what you would think, being in a walker does not help a typical baby walk sooner.  First of all, the walker holds them upright and they do not improve their balance while in a walker. Secondly, the foot pattern for moving the walker is different from that for walking. Some studies have demonstrated that babies who spend time in walkers are, on average, 3 weeks behind those who are not. In my practice, I have seen several babies qualify for services because they were delayed in motor skills. When the walker was removed, they quickly picked up the skills. Babies need to spend time moving around on the floor by themselves and standing at the furniture by themselves to develop the skills needed for walking. While walkers do not prevent typical development, for many babies they do slow it down.
Baby walkers are big pieces of equipment. Even the manufacturers suggest that a baby not use a walker until they can stand at furniture by themselves. It is recommended that babies spend no more than 15 minutes at a time and no more than 2 sessions a day in a walker. This is a costly and space consuming piece of equipment for such short use. By the time a baby stands at the furniture, it won’t be long before she is walking independently and the walker will be of no use anyway.
Bouncers and stationary standers do not move around and many of the safety issues can be avoided. These do have activities to keep baby entertained while mom is cooking, without letting baby move around.  Play yards have the advantage of allowing the baby to move independently and to have the activities changed by changing the available toys.  Play yards (Play pens) take up more space than standers. Babies should not spend extended amounts of time in any of these pieces of equipment but there are times when you need a safe place to keep baby entertained for a few minutes. Walkers are not the answer.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Traveling with baby or babies!


 Summer! time for vacation! Travel with baby!?! It can be done. It takes a little planning. My children's grandparents lived  16 hours flying time from each other so we did lots of travelling when our children were little. With a little planning, it was easier with infants than with young children because they did not need much entertaining. I was also grateful that I was breastfeeding. I had the food and comfort packed and ready with no suitcase, no refrigeration needed. Still, of the 4 allowed suitcases, one was for my husband and me and the other three were for baby. The baby also dominated the carry on luggage. I tried to minimize the carry-on (again thanks to breastfeeding) to the very necessary supply of diapers, clothes, clean wipers and some toys. For over one year olds, you could order a kids meal that they could eat ( I am not sure if that is still an option but it was useful).
People recommend that you book the bulkhead seats when you travel with children but I did not find that convenient. When mine were very young, the bassinet seat was convenient but I usually had to sit away from my husband and the bassinet was sometime above my head which made me uneasy. When they could walk, the bulkhead seats were in the middle and we could not block both ends. You also cannot place your luggage under the seat in front of you because there isn't one so the luggage is in the overhead and harder to get to, or after take off, all over the floor taking up your foot room. I always preferred the seats on the side. When the baby is over 2 they get an assigned seat and you can sit on the aisle with the baby inside. And the diaper bag was convenient. But that was me. Others swear by the bulkhead seats.

If you are using baby foods, you will need a supply and need to check with airlines on what you can carry on with you as they have new rules about how much of what texture you can have with you. You usually can not take water through the security check but can buy a bottle or refill an empty bottle on the inside of the check and take that on the plane.

The experience is tiring for all concerned and when you add time zone changes, you are going to face disruptions in your schedules. A long car trip or a long plane ride is not the time to try to regulate sleeping and eating hours. You do have to be flexible. One tip, Landing and taking off in a plane will cause your ears to pop. The same thing happens to baby and it is uncomfortable to say the least. Just as chewing gum will help your ears, sucking on something will help baby's. I always tried to breastfeed during both take off and landing but a pacifier will help if your baby uses one, or letting him suck on your finger will serve as well.

Just before travelling with baby is not the time to introduce major life changes such as toilet training. ending the paci or weaning. If you plan to travel with baby, wait until you are back home to begin these things. In addition to the problem of working with the new skill you will probably lose ground anyway with all the changes involved in travel. The slight delay will just mean that baby is more ready when you start.
Below are links to articles about travel with baby (from blogs I follow) that offer a wealth of advice and suggestions.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Notes on Parent Infant Sharing of Knowledge

Last night I attended a presentation entitled “Listening to Children’s Wisdom”. The presenter is a Buddhist nun, Didi Ananda Uttama.  The general message of the presentation was that parents are not the only ones who bring something to the parent-child relationship. The child also has a significant contribution. Her belief is that the child is still more in tune with its spiritual nature and, because of this, willingly offers unconditional love to the parent. By recognizing and accepting that love, parents can relearn its meaning in their lives. It is the parent who needs to find that understanding and build on that connection in forming a relationship with the child. The infant offers it openly and freely. She went on to suggest that children submerge that spirituality as they grow older (hence, why parents need to relearn it).  As a result, conscious effort needs to be given to maintaining that open, loving connection that is present in the infant and the parents in the first months throughout the relationship.

Didi went on to say that in her belief system, the child chooses to be born to the particular parents. The match is made, again, by both and not just the parents. Therefore, the child is where it is supposed to be and the parent does what he or she is supposed to do. This is to say that some of the choices you think you make, such as the type of birth experience you have and if you breastfeed or not, are somehow guided by the needs of your child as well as of you. She is collecting stories of mother’s experiences where their children gave them a sign or taught them spiritual lessons. I hope I got the gist of her message. The attendees were mostly young mothers and proceeded to give her stories about their children at that point.

I have to agree that the infant contributes to the infant parent relationship. Each child is born with a unique personality and a unique set of sensitivities. Whether these are genetic or from the experiences during the 9 months in the uterus or, as in many eastern spiritual ideas, the result of previous life experiences is not for me to say. It is true that from day 1, possibly before, the baby brings its own personality to the relationship. Babies are NOT blobs of clay to be molded in the image the parent chooses. As parents, we must reconcile our image of what we expect to be with the real (and certainly more beautiful) infant that we meet after birth. Babies do give us unconditional love but we also need to make the adjustments to our personalities to meet the new person halfway. Most of us do this through our daily interactions in caring for the physical needs of the baby, feeding, cleaning, calming and entertaining. We are constantly learning from our baby and adjusting ourselves if we are listening to them, Babies are constantly learning from us as well. It is a give and take relationship throughout life and one we must nurture.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Coping with breastfeeding a newborn while entertaining a toddler

Breastfeeding the second time around was SO much easier. Probably because I had the confidence. I breastfed my first for 2 years, so I ‘knew’ I could do it again. I just felt way more comfortable, and I knew the early pain was normal and would get better in a few days. It’s been tough because my toddler still needs attention, but the baby needs to eat! So we’re working on it and figuring it out together. But overall, it has been way easier and more comfortable the second time around.”

This is the start of an article from Bay Area Breastfeeding and Education. Full of encouragement and practical suggestions for breastfeeding mothers. One of my favorite sites.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

What do milestones really mean?

We look for new skills in our babies to see if they are developing well. We check the lists of “milestones” and match our baby’s skills to it. There are some things we need to keep in mind.  Obviously, I believe in the sequence of development. Obviously, I am contributing to the “milestone mania” by printing the lists of milestones on the pages above but I want to caution you to use them carefully.
A first and important issue is that milestone lists are based on average. This means that half of babies will meet the milestone before and half will meet the milestone a little later. Milestone lists can either be at the time after most children will achieve the skill or most common time. No baby is common so it will be a rare baby who hits all the milestones when they are listed. My favorite developmental screening tool (photo and more on testing later) actually lists the skills on a bar that crosses several age zones and starts when 1% of infants show a skill, has marks for when 25% and 50% demonstrate the skill and finishes when 90% of infants demonstrate the skill. If your child is anywhere on the bar when the skill begins it is within normal limits.
An example of The Denver Developmental Screening Test.
A second factor is that development is not a smooth, even process. It occurs in fits and starts. Some babies will be at the same level for a period of time and then will jump in all areas. Others will make huge steps in one area of development while others rest. Most mothers notice and mention that there is a slowdown in speech when babies start walking. What this means is if you check your baby just before a development spurt he may seem behind but a week or two later just after a spurt, he may seem ahead.

You have heard the old expression, “you can’t walk, until you crawl.” Well, technically that is not true. Roughly 12% of typically developing babies never crawl and go on to learn to walk at a typical age. They do tend to find a way to move forward, most by hitching while sitting, but not on their hands and knees. We go back and get these children to crawl after they have walked to get the benefit of crawling for their hands and arms and senses but it shows that crawling is not absolutely essential to motor development. The same applies in all areas of development. Your baby may skip a step or two here and there before achieving a higher skill and may go back later or may never pass some stages.
Many of the items used to test milestones are based on cultural practices. For example, self feeding is often used as a measure of social development or of fine motor development. In some cultures, babies are not allowed to feed themselves at an early age and would have no experience with this.   Even children from other cultures, who have not been allowed to feed themselves perhaps because it is messy, would not be demonstrating this skill. Children may start to scribble on paper by about 15 months, but an infant who has never seen crayons or watched her mother or siblings color, is just as likely to put the crayon in her mouth as to mark paper without a demonstration. Some degree of experience is assumed in setting milestones as the majority of infants will have had it but not all.

In order to understand this, we must remember that development starts at conception. A baby born at 40 weeks has been developing for 40 weeks but one born at 25 weeks has only had 25 weeks of development and still needs the extra 15. This means that, if your baby was more than 3 weeks early, you need to count that time for intrauterine development. When checking milestones, you need to use the due date and not the actual birthdate.  Most professionals will do this until your baby is 2 years old. It isn’t that he has suddenly gained that extra couple of weeks at 2. It is just that, by 2, there is so much variation in normal development that we no longer measure in months but in 3 to 6 month increments. I worked with children up to 3 years of age and I kept in mind any prematurity until then, when testing.
Most infant testing is looking at development based on milestones. They tend to look at 5 areas of development, Gross motor, Fine motor (hand skills), Cognitive, Language and Social development.  The results of testing are impacted by all of the above.  More importantly, most infant testing has very poor predictive validity. This means that infant test tell you what your baby is like today. This is useful for doctors and people working with children and you for choosing suitable activities for your child but it is not useful to say anything about your baby’s future develoment. One reason for this is that infant brains are still forming and can change with the proper stimulation. There are several types of testing and most milestone charts fall into the category of screenings. These tests may suggest that there may be a delay but a more complete test would be needed to confirm that. Further testing is much more involved and needs to be done by a specialist. Some delays are due to environmental issues. Babies cannot learn to crawl if they are not on the ground, for example. These can usually be corrected with changes to the environment. Others have their roots in physical causes and may be life-long but all infants can make some progress with early intervention.

According to the Denver Development Screening Test, you should not be worried until you baby has not demonstrated 3 or more of the skill bars that are fully completed below her age range or, for premature babies, adjusted age.  This means that your baby may not show one or two of the skills at age level on a milestones list but that should not cause concern. If your baby is not demonstrating most skills that are 2 months behind his age in any area, you may want to consult your doctor. In any case, never be afraid to bring up your concerns to your pediatrician. You live with the baby. The pediatrician only sees the baby for a few minutes every few months, and usually the baby is distressed simply by being handled by the doctor. They can tell a lot from the weight and height and medical measurements but need your input on daily development issues under normal circumstances. Bringing up your concerns will, at the very least, give you some relief as the pediatrician can reassure you or refer you for help, whichever is needed.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Teeth part 2- Teething


Sometime between birth and 3, your child will cut about 20 teeth. Exactly when and in which order varies from child to child. On average, the first tooth appears at around 6 months. I have known children who were born with teeth and others who did not get one tooth until they were a year old. Some children get two at a time, first the bottom front then a week later, the upper front and so on (as is the suggested schedule). Others get one tooth then nothing for a month or more and some babies will get one tooth after another for a period of time. Any milestones for teething have to be very general.

Teeth that are present at birth (called “natal teeth”) are generally extra teeth and the doctor may recommend that they be removed.  If not, they should be taken care of and cleaned.


During teething, babies may not feel good. Some may run a fever and some may lose their appetite. Diarrhea is not uncommon during teething. You might see increased drooling, swollen gums and even a rash around the cheek area. Your baby may seem irritable and may be restless. You might even see the baby pulling on an ear.  One problem is that these are all also signs of other illnesses. It is easy to blame everything on teething but it may not be. I was guilty of this. My daughter had cut two teeth when she exhibited a fever and was cranky. I said “teething” but three days later she broke out with a rash so I took her to the doctor. She had Roseola, a childhood illness like measles, which was contagious. She did not get any more teeth for another month.

What to do

It is called “cutting teeth” because the teeth are literally cutting through the gums. This is often not a pleasant experience for baby and therefore not a pleasant experience for anyone who lives with him. There are some things that may help. Chewing on soft things, cold and massaging the gums may help. Cold, clean (but not frozen) teething rings may help. Allowing the baby to suck on a cold wet cloth may help for a while. Massaging the gum with your finger may help but be careful because those teeth are sharp when they start to poke through.  Remember that tooth decay is caused by bacteria so be sure everything that goes in the mouth (and that may be everything that goes into baby’s hand) should be clean.

What not to do

Teething biscuits are NOT recommended because they stick to the teeth and promote tooth decay. Frozen teethers could damage your baby’s gums so cold is good, frozen is not. There are a number of numbing gels and creams that provide some relief but care should be taken when using these and you should consult your pediatrician regarding the latest guidelines on their use.  There are some concerns about one of the main ingredients in these gels (benzocaine) so be careful about using these. 

Note that this post follows the post on care of the teeth. That is because care of the teeth should begin before the teeth start coming in. Below is a rough timeline of teething courtesy of Health Link BC.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Clean Birth Kits for Safe Births

A mother's day gift idea for many mothers at the same time from the Mommyhood Memos. This is directly from Adriel Booker's blog explaining the concept. See her blog for further details.
 Clean birth kits can save lives
Did you know that a simple clean birth kit can help save a mom’s life? Did you know that for around $2-3 you can assemble one? Did you know that everything you need to make one can be found easily and quickly at your local hardware store and pharmacy?
Look how simple these clean birth kits are…
clean birth kit contents bloggers for birth kits
And yet, even in their simplicity, they can mark the difference between life and death for a woman unable to get to a regional clinic for birthing her baby.


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Mom's need love too. I want to share this article which contains specific suggestions of how you can help and support a breastfeeding mother. It is attached to a website and blog dedicted to providing information on breastfeeding. I hope to learn how to share links better and hope this gets you to the article. Thank you Miranda, for passing this on.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Teeth part 1





Healthy teeth are important for your appearance but also for your health. Recent studies have shown that children miss as much school for tooth problems as for Asthma. Anybody who has had a toothache knows that it is not a pleasant experience. And those of you who have never had a cavity are either very lucky or know how to take care of your teeth.  Tooth health has been connected to other health issues as well, including heart trouble. 

Baby teeth

Tooth care should begin before the first tooth appears. Many people think that “milk teeth” are not important because they will come out eventually. This is not true. “Milk teeth” are important. Baby teeth are used to learn to chew and process food. Much of a child’s growth occurs in the first five years which includes much of the structure of the face and jaw. Missing teeth will impact that growth.  They play a role in learning how to speak both because they are used in speaking and they are important in face development.  Perhaps, most important, baby teeth hold space open for the permanent teeth when they come in. If baby teeth are missing, the mouth may not have room for permanent teeth. 

Another issue is that decay in baby teeth, especially if severe, can cause decay in permanent teeth. First of all, the decay can actually go up to the growing teeth and children with severe bottle mouth have had already decayed teeth grow in. Secondly, It is thought that tooth decay is caused by bacteria, which will be present in the mouth when the permanent teeth grow in, so one must take care of baby teeth.

Cleaning the mouth and teeth

When do you start cleaning your baby’s teeth.  You should start before the first tooth comes in.  Aside from keeping your baby’s mouth clean, starting early makes caring for teeth an easy routine. If you try to start cleaning the mouth of an 18 month old you will find resistance.  From the start clean your baby’s gums twice a day, after the morning feeding and before bedtime at night. Here is how.

1.      Lay baby on your lap with head towards you, face up.

2.      Use a soft wash cloth

3.      Use only water, no toothpaste of any kind

4.      Place wet cloth over your finger and gently rub the inside and outside of the upper and lower gums. Some theories recommend that you start at the outside and rub to the center on one side then go to the outside of the other side and rub towards the center. Do the outside then on the inside of the upper before going to the lower gum.

When the first teeth appear (usually between 5 and 7 months) it may be time to start using a small soft toothbrush specifically made for infants. The toothbrush should be replaced every 2 months (as should yours). The pediatric dental association recommends that NO fluoride be used until a child is over 2 years old. It is not necessary to use toothpaste at all until then (plain water will clean the teeth) but if you want to introduce toothpaste be sure to get one especially made for infants.

Bottle mouth

In addition to cleaning the teeth, there are other preventative measures that you should take. Most people have heard of “bottle mouth”. This is decay in the front teeth due to extended sucking on a bottle containing milk or juice.  This is particularly a danger when babies take a bottle to bed. Breast fed babies do not get bottle mouth from breast feeding because it is a rare mother who will let baby “nibble” on the breast for long enough to cause the problem but it is not impossible. Use the bottle only for feeding and remove it when feeding is over. Do not let the baby keep the bottle in the mouth when sleeping. Remove it from the crib. The worst offender is juice bottles but milk also contains sugars and will decay teeth. It is recommended that only water be given in bottles after the evening feeding.  Some dentists recommend that juice never be given in a bottle. Introduce the cup at about 8 months and there is no need to offer juice until it can be taken by cup.

Other causes of decay

In that vein, avoiding sugary foods as much as possible is helpful. For the teeth, continuous contact with these foods is the problem so definitely avoid letting your little ones walk around the house with snacks all day or chew on sweet biscuits for hours at a time.

Bacteria is the main cause of tooth decay and this bacteria can spread from mouth to mouth. If the whole family has healthy teeth there is less chance that baby will have tooth decay. In any case you should not put toothbrushes, spoons or pacifiers from your mouth to the baby’s. Toys and pacifiers should be kept clean and the latter should be replaced frequently. To avoid problems of misshapen teeth, it is recommended that pacifiers be discontinued by about 15 months of age.

The dentist

The first dentist visit should be early if only to help the child become accustomed to going to the dentist. Some pediatric dentists recommend the first visit take place soon after the first tooth comes in. Others  recommend sometime between the first tooth and the first twenty, which means between 8 months and about 2 years. Around the first birthday is a good target for the first dentist visit. If you have older children, it is easy to bring the baby to a visit for one of the older children. The first visit rarely takes more that about 5 minutes unless you have concerns but it helps baby become comfortable about going and gives the dentist a chance to head off any tooth or mouth problems that may occur.

It is important to take the care of your baby’s mouth and teeth very seriously to lay a foundation for healthy habits and healthy teeth throughout life.