Benefits of Probiotics Found in Breastmilk

There’s been a lot of talk over the past few years about the importance of probiotics, and specifically the probiotics found in breastmilk. But what exactly are they, and what benefit do they serve us and our children?

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What are probiotics?

Probiotics are live bacteria that live in our gut and benefit us in various ways. Humans carry around about ten times as many bacterial cells as there are actual cells in our bodies, and most of them live in the digestive tract. They help digest food, absorb minerals and other nutrients, and help with synthesizing vitamins. Probiotic therapy is being used to treat a range disorders including irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease, yeast infections, asthma, allergies, and other inflammatory responses.

According to the Harvard website: “An estimated 100 trillion microorganisms representing more than 500 different species inhabit every normal, healthy bowel. These microorganisms (or microflora) generally don’t make us sick; most are helpful. Gut-dwelling bacteria keep pathogens (harmful microorganisms) in check, aid digestion and nutrient absorption, and contribute to immune function.”

Where do they come from?

Babies are actually not born with any of this beneficial bacteria in their intestines, but they quickly become colonized with exposure. Babies born via vaginal delivery tend to have more beneficial bacteria (which they get from their mother as they travel through the  birth canal), and so do babies that are breastfed. Probiotics are found in breast milk, and due to the growing body of research showing their benefits, they are also being added to infant formula.

You can also get your probiotics in supplement form or better yet, by eating fermented foods like yogurt, fermented cabbage and fermented soy products. Certain foods called prebiotics are also helpful in rejuvenating your body’s colony of flourishing intestinal flora, by feeding the probiotics that live inside you. These foods include oats, bananas, berries, greens such as kale, chard, leeks, asparagus, whole grains, almonds, flax, onions, and honey.

How probiotics benefit your baby

Breastmilk contains the probiotic lactobacillus reuteri (l. reuteri) which is passed from mother to baby.  Studies have show that the consumption of probiotics by children and infants may:

  • shorten bouts of diarrhea and acute viral gastroenteritis
  • lessen side effects of antibiotics
  • reduce the severity of symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux (GERD)
  • significantly reduce colic in newborns
  • promote oral health by killing streptoccocus mutants which cause tooth decay
  • avoid skin problems such as eczema
  • avoid or delay the onset of asthma
  • contribute to the development and functioning of baby’s immune system
  • lessen doctor visits, fewer sick days, and better overall health

A  nursing mother who consumes probiotics and prebiotics is not only benefiting herself, she is also passing along the beneficial bacteria to her baby.

Is Baby Oil Safe for Your Little One?

I never gave a second thought to the safety of baby oil… after all, if it’s called “baby oil” it must be fine to use on babies… right? Not quite.  Baby oil is generally just straight mineral oil, plus some fragrance. And mineral oil is made from refined petroleum (as in, the stuff you put in your car). Instead of soothing and moisturizing baby’s sensitive skin, it will actually dry out skin and clog pores. And that’s just the beginning of the potential hazards.

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Watch what you put on your skin!

Remember, whatever you put on your skin is absorbed and circulated throughout your body. Infants, whose brains and nervous systems are not fully developed, are particularly vulnerable to substances absorbed by the skin. Dr. Mercola is fond of saying, “Don’t put anything on your body that you wouldn’t eat if you had to…”  When we eat something harmful, at least there are enzymes in our saliva and digestive systems to break it down and flush it out. But when something harmful permeates our skin, there is not much to stop it from entering the bloodstream and accumulating in delicate organs.

To make mineral oil, crude petroleum is heated in order to remove the gasoline and kerosene. Then hydrocarbons are removed by using sulfuric acid, applying absorbents, and washing with solvents.

It doesn’t sound pretty, but is it really that bad to dab a bit on after the bath?

The problems with Baby Oil (Mineral Oil)

  • Mineral oils can can cause sensitivity reactions over time, in the form of headaches, arthritis and diabetes.
  • Mineral oils interferes with the absorption of nutrients in your body.
  • Mineral oil dissolves the skin’s natural oils, thereby increasing water loss (dehydration) from the skin.
  • Mineral oil may increase the skin’s sensitivity to sunlight and has been linked to an increased risk of skin cancer.

There was even a segment on Oprah about a baby who died from ingesting baby oil. He inhaled some of it, which became trapped in his lungs, killing him. (Note to caretakers: Even seemingly harmless toiletry items can be dangerous. Keep everything out of children’s reach!)

So what should I use instead?

Safe alternatives to baby oil would be: all natural, edible, unscented, unflavored fruit or vegetable oils that you’d cook or bake with. Some great all-natural moisturizers are pure emu oil, and pure coconut oil, grapeseed oil, and safflower oil. You can also find many organic skin oils and lotions these days.

Moisturize from the inside out by staying hydrated. Drinking lots of plain old water is a great way to keep your skin soft and supple. Baby’s skin usually doesn’t need that must moisturizing in the first place. If his skin seems dry or irritated, check into the soaps, detergents, creams, and diapers you are using first– he may be having a reaction to something else.

Be careful what YOU use, too!

Many body oils, cosmetics, and moisturizers that adults use are based on mineral oils as well. Be aware of what you put on your breasts, which can pass through your breastmilk to your baby.

Read more here.

Postpartum Depression for Dads

Lots of attention has been given to postpartum depression, which happens to moms soon after birth. But many are surprised to learn that fathers can and do experience postpartum depression as well! A study by the University of  Michigan, published in the March 2011 issue of Pediatrics, found that a significant number of fathers with babies under a year old (about 7%) were clinically depressed. Fathers with infants 3 months to 6 months old were most likely to be depressed; in this category one in four dads was found to be depressed.

The results of this study are aimed at making doctors aware that just as they screen new mothers for depression, fathers should be screened for Paternal Postnatal Depression (PPND) as well.

Depression in dads is not something new, it has just been swept under the rug. Men’s hormones actually change too when their wife has a baby!  A new father may feel resentment at the arrival of a new baby, or irritated by the many changes in his life as a father. He may be short tempered, snappy, and feel like smacking that little bundle of joy that won’t stop crying.

Yet many men never admit that they are depressed, and never seek the help deserve. They are taught to hide their personal issues and be strong. And the signs of depression in men are different than in women (anger and aggression rather than tears and helplessness), and many never realize that what they are feeling is really depression.

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But like any medical issue, depression is not something to be ignored. Children need a stable, positive father for healthy development and well-being. Women need a supportive husband who can be a partner in raising the kids. And men need to feel inner peace which enable them to live happy, productive, enriching lives.

Symptoms of Men’s Depression:

  • Becoming irritable, angry, or confrontational
  • Feeling stressed and discouraged
  • Withdrawal from friends and family
  • Violent behavior
  • Working or studying obsessively
  • Increased use of alcohol or drugs
  • Impulsive or risky behavior, such as reckless driving and extramarital affairs
  • Physical ailments: Headaches, digestive problems, pain
  • Lack of concentration, lack of interest in work, hobbies, sex
  • Thoughts of suicide

Who is at risk:

Any man can be at risk for PPND, but there are some factors that make it more likely:

  • Family history of depression
  • Preexisting marital discord
  • Lack of sleep
  • Unemployment significantly ups the incidence of PPND
  • Men who’s wives suffer from postpartum depression are more likely to have it as well.

A man who’s depressed may experience only a few of the symptoms, or many. How bad they are may vary too, or get worse over time. It is important to remember that admitting you are depressed is a sign of strength and hope, not weakness! Depression is a treatable condition and should not be suffered in silence. Ignoring it will not make it go away, in fact if left untreated it tends to get worse. After all, if you had a broken ankle you wouldn’t just ignore the pain and keep walking around on it! Counseling and regular exercise can be very helpful, and sometimes medications will be prescribed.  Look for a qualified therapist who has experience in treating men with depression.

Every family deserves a happy, loving father, and every man deserves to feel worthy and capable of handling life’s day-to-day ups and downs with confidence. Don’t suffer alone. There are many resources online, or through your doctor. Get help today!

Checklist: What you need to Buy for Baby’s Arrival

Layette (baby clothes, for those who need translation!)

  • 8-10 bodysuits or onesies (like little undershirts that snap at the crotch)
  • 4-6 one-piece PJ’s
  • 2 blanket sleepers for winter nights (these are like little wearable sleeping bags, very handy for drafty daytimes, too)
  • 1-3 rompers or other “dressy” outfits
  • 4 pairs of socks, or booties (I find that socks often fall off and get lost. You’re better off with footsie pajamas if it’s cold weather)
  • 2-3 hats (sun-hats with brims for summer baby, warm  hats that cover ears for winter baby)
  • Bunting bag or fleece suit for winter outing

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Nursery

You can skip some of this for a while if you plan on keeping baby nearby (which is best in my personal opinion), either in a bedside bassinetter or in your own bed.

  • Crib, cradle or bassinet (follow safety guidelines)
  • Firm, flat mattress that fits snugly into crib
  • 2 washable mattress pads
  • 2-4 fitted sheets
  • 4 soft, light receiving blankets
  • 1-2 heavier blankets for winter
  • Comfy chair for nursing, or pillows to prop yourself up in bed
  • Baby monitor, if you will out of hearing range of baby’s room
  • Nightlight (this is for you, to make nighttime feeding and changing easier)
  • Dresser for storing baby clothes and paraphernalia
  • Swing or bouncy chair

Diapering station

It’s nice to have a changing station where you have everything handy for changing your baby. But you can always improvise by putting a changing pad down on your bed or on top of a dresser (never leave baby alone there, of course).

  • Changing table or cushioned changing pad
  • Changing table pad cover
  • Diaper pail and liners (optional but handy)
  • Diaper cream
  • Unscented baby wipes (these are supposed to cause less irritation, although simply rinsing baby’s bottom in the sink is even better!)
  • Disposable newborn-size diapers, or 6-10 dozen cloth diapers and 6-8 diaper covers

Bath

Again, you can improvise when baby is small by plugging up a  bathroom sink,  lining it with a towel (to keep baby from slipping around) and filling it with warm water.

  • Baby bathtub
  • Baby shampoo (can use for hair and body)
  • 2-4 soft towels/hooded baby towels
  • 2-4 soft washcloths

Feeding

For nursing moms:

  • 1-3 nursing bras (Start with one size larger than your maternity bra, as breasts swell right after birth. After a couple weeks you can purchase additional bras.)
  • Nursing pads (bra inserts that protect you if you leak)
  • Nipple cream (alleviates soreness for beginner breast feeders)
  • Nursing pillow (props baby up so you don’t hurt your back by curling up over him)
  • Pump and milk storage bags (in case you ever need to leave baby for an extended amount of time)

For bottle feeding mothers:

  • 10-16 bottles and nipples, both four and eight ounce
  • Liners, for disposable bottles
  • Bottle warmer (cuts down on nighttime trips to and from the kitchen)
  • Bottle sterilizer (some dishwashers have one)
  • Bottle brush
  • Formula (if not nursing)
  • 4-8 bibs
  • Burp cloths/cloth diapers
  • High chair (not necessary until baby can sit up on his own)
  • 2-4 pacifiers

Medicine Cabinet

  • Baby nail clippers
  • Cotton balls (to clean baby’s nose, ears, umbilical cord)
  • Baby thermometer
  • Bulb syringe/nasal aspirator
  • Infant acetaminophen (Tylenol) and medicine dropper
  • Antibiotic cream and sterile gauze (for circumcision care)

Travel

  • Infant or convertible car seat
  • Stroller (reclining for infants)
  • Diaper bag
  • Changing pad
  • Baby carrier/sling

If you can check off most of the things on these lists, then  you are probably ready for for the stork’s special delivery. Congratulations!!

Do you REALLY want to know what’s in your baby’s formula?

Oils, sugars, genetically modified organisms, aluminum, silicone, cadmium, MSG, Bisphenol-A… are you slightly horrified yet? What Everyone Needs To Know About Infant Formula Ingredients states, “This information is not readily available unless you work hard to seek it out, but I think that once you know it’s important to share it so others may benefit. I chose to write this for any parent who may be unaware of the full implications of formula feeding. Education is power and everyone deserves the ability to make an informed choice.”

Instant baby formula has saved lives. But to say that it is “just as good as” breast milk is very misleading. As scientist try to replicate breast milk as closely as possible, they are creating a substance that is increasingly more complex and questionable.  Because baby formula is categorized as “food” and not under “pharmaceuticals,” the FDA does not monitor the so-called “safe” ingredients that are added to it.

Some of these questionable ingredients include lactose, fructose, glucose, maltodextrose, carbohydrate (corn maltodextrin, modified corn starch ,corn syrup solids), protein (whey, casein, soy protein isolate), fat (soy oil, coconut oil, corn oil, sunflower oil, palm or olein oil) which are usually sourced from GMO’s (genetically modified organisms). Lots of sugar– in order to modify cow milk the protein and mineral content must be reduced and the carbohydrate content must be increased, which is done by adding sugars.

More unappetizing stuff: The DHA in infant formula is extracted from fermented microalgae, Cryptecoiunium cohnii, and ARA is extracted from soil fungus, Mortierelle alpina. These are new to the food chain,l therefor the long term effects of these ingredients are not known. The way they get this stuff (using hexane, a petroleum-refining by-product- a known neurotoxin and air pollutant) is concerning, too.

You might also find a mix of aluminum, silicone, cadmium, MSG, phytoestrogens, GMO soybeans, phosphate, phthalates and Bisphenol-A in your baby’s formula. And even the water used as the base can pose a hazard- even in developed countries.  Chlorine by-products, arsenic, solvents, insecticides and weed killers are common. Formula-fed babies are up to 25 times more likely to die of  diarrhea than breast-fed babies.

You can read more about this at Breastfeeding Moms Unite.

Also of interest is Dr. Mercola’s statement: Soy formula is FAR worse than conventional formula. He says that the estrogens in soy can irreversibly harm your baby’s sexual development and reproductive health. Infants fed soy formula receive a level of estrogen equivalent to five birth control pills every day! In addition, soy formula has up to 80 times higher manganese than is found in human breast milk, which can lead to brain damage in infants, and altered behaviors in adolescence.  So please, do not ever feed your baby soy formula, and warn others who are pregnant or who you know are considering using formula over breastfeeding. The next best alternative to breast milk is to make a healthy homemade infant formula. There may be others, but here is one recipe for homemade formula created by the Weston Price Foundation, which I believe is sound.

The Benefits of Extended Breastfeeding

Nursing your baby provides many opportunities for bonding, and the benefits for mom and baby extend into the toddler years. But how can you silence the critics who exclaim, “You’re still nursing?”

Q. I’m still nursing my two-year-old daughter. We both love the bond created by breastfeeding, and neither of us is ready to give it up. However, most of my friends and family strongly think it’s time to wean her. How can I cope with the disapproval?

Dr. William Sears answers this question on Parenting.com. In spite of today’s health-conscious, natural-is-better attitude, people still find it odd to breastfeed a baby beyond the “infant” stage.  But Dr. Sears is on this mom’s side, saying, “If it’s working for you and your child, and your mothering instinct tells you it’s right  — it’s right! In my opinion, you’re a health-savvy, modern mom, and it seems that your friends and relatives are old-fashioned and misinformed. As a pediatrician and parent, it grieves me to hear well-meaning critics ask a breastfeeding mother, “You’re still nursing?”

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photo: Breastfeeding Moms Unite

Extended breastfeeding is indeed a wise, long-term investment in your child’s future. Here are a few things to remember when discussing this issue:

Science backs Breastfeeding. Many medical journals carry articles proving the long-term health benefits of breastfeeding. The incidence of many illnesses, both childhood and adult, are lowered by breastfeeding, including diabetes, heart disease, and central nervous system degenerative disorders (such as multiple sclerosis). The most fascinating studies show that the longer and more frequently a mom nurses her baby, the smarter her child is likely to become. The brain grows more during the first two years of life than any other time, nearly tripling in size from birth to two years of age. During this crucial time of brain development, the “smart fats” unique to mom’s breast milk (namely, omega-3 fatty acid, also known as DHA) seem to provide an intellectual advantage for breastfed babies.

Babies who breastfeed for extended periods of time are healthier overall.  These other health benefits include:

  • Leaner bodies with less risk of obesity.
  • Improved vision, since the eye is similar to the brain in regards to nervous tissue.
  • Better hearing due to a lower incidence of ear infections.
  • Their dental health is generally good, since the natural sucking action of the breastfed infant helps incoming teeth align properly.
  • Intestinal health is also much better than those of non-breastfed babies, as breast milk is easier to digest, reducing spit-up, reflux, and constipation.
  • A toddler’s immune system functions much better since breastmilk contains an immunoglobulin (IGA) which coats the lining of the intestines, which helps prevent germs from penetrating through.
  • Even the skin of these babies is smoother and more supple.

World opinion is on your side. The World Health Organization (WHO) officially recommends mothers breastfeed until three years of age. (Yes, you did read that right!) Even the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends mothers should breastfeed “at least until one year of age and then as long as baby and mother mutually want to.”

It’s better for Mom’s health. Extended breastfeeding reduces the risk of uterine, ovarian, and breast cancers. Breastfeeding women also have a lower incidence of osteoporosis later in life.

It’s better for your toddler’s behavior. Dr. Sears has observed many extended breastfeeders in his pediatric practice, and knows that breastfed toddlers are easier to discipline. Breastfeeding is an exercise in baby reading, which enables a mother to more easily read her baby’s cues and intervene before a discipline situation gets out of hand. Nursing is also a wonderful calming tool for both Mom and baby.

Blame it on your doctor. One of the easiest ways to silence critics is the phrase: “My doctor advised me to.” You can go on to explain that your doctor (yes, Dr. Sears counts!) told you about all the recent research extolling the benefits of extended breastfeeding.

Let your child silence the critics. Once your friends and relatives see the benefits of your breastfeeding bond, your growth as a mother, and the emotional, intellectual and physical health of your child, they will serve as convincing testimonies to the value of extended breastfeeding.

Read more at Parenting.com and Ask Dr. Sears

Tips on Taking Baby Pictures by Anne Geddes

I’m sure you’ve seen photos by world-renowned Anne Geddes before, even if you’re not aware of who was behind the camera. They’re everywhere– on calendars, gift cards, your pediatrician’s walls!  Her images of babies and nature are created after hours of preparation, under careful controls in her studio, supported by a team of talented professionals. But that doesn’t mean you can’t learn a thing or two about taking great baby photos!  Baby Center asked her for some tips and tricks can help you capture memories that will last a lifetime.

Always be prepared

Keep your camera handy at all times.  This way you’ll always be ready to capture those special spontaneous moments.  Plus, the more familiar your baby is with a camera, the less he’ll be distracted when you whip it out, and you’ll be able to take more natural looking pictures.

You don’t need an expensive camera to take a great photograph, just a good eye and a magical moment.

Getting Ready

The logical way to start out is by ensuring that your baby is well fed, happy, and comfortable. (Tired, cranky babies do not make good models!) Keep your background simple (like a white sheet or a dark colored carpet) to let your baby take “center stage.”  For a more personal point of view, get down to your baby’s eye level.

Lighting your photo

Anne loves using natural light. Soft, directional light coming from a window is always more flattering than the flash on a camera. If you are photographing outside, take advantage of the early morning or late afternoon light. The mid-day sun doesn’t bring out the best in anyone, not even your perfect baby!

Candid camera

The loveliest shots of your baby will most likely be candid ones.  You can forget the flower pots and teddy bears, and let it just be about your beautiful baby. If you can, take pictures in settings that is meaningful for you; this will give them an even deeper resonance.  On a special occasion, try for a sense of place, so you will always remember that day or the story behind the image.

Show proportion

Your newborn is tiny for such a short time. Even as they grow, each stage passes faster than you want it to. You might not believe it now, but you will forget how small your baby was in the beginning, so try to show your baby’s size in relation to the surroundings. A picture of your baby cradeled in daddy’s hands is so poignant because it captures that sense of scale.

Don’t forget to include yourself!

If you are usually the one behind the camera, don’t forget to include yourself in as many photographs with your family as possible!  Your children will want to know what you looked like “way back then” and will thank you for it later!

Save and organize

Try to download your pictures from your camera on a regular basis, saving them to files grouped by months when your baby is young. Save your images by naming them, which will make it easier to loacte them later on. Instead of “Amy Summer,” try “Amy 6mos in hat. Always back up your digital images, which are valuable and irreplaceable. Use digital photo websites where to can share albums with family, scroll through smaller “thumbnail” images to find favorites, play and share slide shows, tag and favor photos, comment on them, and much more.

Use the video

Try out the short video feature on your digital camera. Those spontaneous moments will be beloved, and your kids will enjoy seeing themselves “live” as babies.

Read more: 20 tips from Anne Geddes for taking great photos

View Ann Geddes most amazing baby pictures of the year

View 50 Amazing newborn photos by real moms

Why More American Women Want to Give Birth at Home

When a pregnant woman decides that she wants a home birth, family and friends are usually shocked, and the first questions are often, “Is that safe? What if something goes wrong?”

In today’s age of medicine, pregnancy and childbirth are often as a disease or a problem that has to be “fixed” rather than the completely natural process it actually is, says Dr. Mercola.  For the 75 percent of women who have normal pregnancies, a knowledgeable and experienced midwife may be more qualified to attend birth than an obstetrician.  For some women, giving birth at home is preferable and possibly safer than doing so in a hospital.

“Safer than a hospital?” you may be asking suspiciously. The fact is thatobstetricians are trained to use surgical interventions that are often unnecessary in a normal pregnancy and delivery, and can cause more harm than good when used inappropriately. If you take a look at some statistics, you may start to see things differently.

99 percent of all U.S. births occur in a hospital, yet the United States has one of the highest infant mortality rates of any developed country (6.3 deaths per 1,000 babies born). In the Netherlands, one-third of deliveries occur in the home with the assistance of midwives, yet the infant death rate is  only 4.73 deaths per 1,000.

In terms of your own safety, maternal mortality rates rose more than 54 percent from 2000 to 2005 in the United States, while decreasing in other developed countries. One reason suggested for this scary fact may be the incredibly high rate of C-section in the United States, which accounts for nearly one-third of all births. It is actually the most commonly performed surgery in the US!

The World Health Organization states that no country is justified in having a cesarean rate greater than 15 percent, but the rate in the United States is nearly 32 percent, which even worries The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

A C-section should be used only as a last resort.  One study found that a woman’s risk of death during delivery is three to five times higher during cesarean than a natural delivery, her risk of hysterectomy four times higher, and her risk of being admitted to intensive care is two times higher.

Obviously, C-section rates are lower among home births, as well as midwife-attended births. Women who delivered at home also have fewer interventions and greater freedom in choosing their birthing style. As long as you have experienced a healthy pregnancy, a qualified midwife is a very safest birth attendant, and your home may very well be the best place for you to deliver.

If you are planning a home birth, it may be challenging to find a birth attendant you feel comfortable with. It is rare to find an obstetrician that will agree to a home birth in the United States. Certified nurse midwives (CNMs) can legally attend home births in any state, but most choose to practice in hospitals instead.  Only 27 states currently license or regulate direct-entry midwives– or certified professional midwives (CPMs)– who have undergone training and met national standards to attend homebirths. (Find the legal status of CPMs in your state here.)

In the other 23, midwife-attended births are illegal.  A campaign is currently underway to expand state licensing of CPMs so that women who want a home birth can choose from a qualified pool of applicants, but until that happens you have a few legal options for homebirth:

  • Find a certified nurse midwife (CNM) who attends homebirths in your state or in a nearby state (then travel to that state to give birth)
  • Find a CPM who is either licensed by your state or in a nearby state (then travel to that state to give birth)
  • Use a CNM but give birth in a hospital or birth center (a compromise)

To find a midwife in your area, try:

  • Midwives Alliance of North America
  • Mothers Naturally
  • American College of Nurse-Midwives
  • Midwifery Today
  • BirthLink (Chicago area)

For more information: Should American Women Learn to Give Birth at Home?

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Getting Kids Excited about a New Baby

Younger toddlers won’t have a clue about a baby “growing in your tummy.” Because they can’t see it, they won’t be able to understand much of the explanation. Even when you are in your ninth month, big as a house, your older baby won’t take much notice of the bulge, except to realize that it is harder for her to sit on your lap.

Being pregnant with young children in tow can be both challenging and exhausting. Involving your kids in your pregnancy makes things a bit easier and is often fun. Here are some ways to involve everyone in the “family pregnancy” and prepare them for life with a newborn.

Arrange Baby Time

Make to be around very young babies. This lets your children see what they look like, hear how they sound, observe you holding one now and then, notice that they need comforting, and learn about nursing.

Baby Talk

Small kids: Once your belly is really big, eight months maybe, talk about the new baby. Your toddler will feel more secure if you refer to it as “Suzy’s new baby.” Let her feel kicks, help her talk or sing to baby, and stroke your belly.

Bigger kids: Tell older toddlers and preschoolers about the baby early on in the pregnancy. The older the child, the sooner you can tell him; very young children may be confused or disappointed when the baby fails to arrive the next day. With an older toddler or preschooler, try all of the toddler suggestions above, and in addition, use the diagrams in books on birth to talk about how the baby is growing, month by month. You’ll be surprised by questions like “What part did baby grow today, mom?”

Read Books about Babies

Show her simple children’s books about new babies. Show pictures of when she was a tiny baby and tell her about all the things you did for her. Say things like “Mommies hold tiny babies a lot because they need that.”

Explain Your  Moods

Depending on the age and level of understanding, tell your child why you are feeling so tired, grouchy, short-fused, impatient, and whatever else you feel while pregnant: You might say, “Baby needs a lot of energy to grow, and that’s why mom is tired and sleeps a lot…” Or, “The hormones baby needs to grow make mommy feel funny…”

Talk about the  Future

For example, let them know babies cry (some cry a lot) and they like it when you talk to them and make funny faces. Explain to them “You can help me change the diaper, bathe baby and dress baby. Babies can’t do anything for themselves for a long time, and they can’t play games until they grow bigger. They need to be held a whole lot, just like I held you when you were little.”

Hands on Demo

Usually by the fifth or sixth month, older children can feel their baby brother or sister move. During the time of the day when your baby moves the most, sit down and invite your children to feel the show. Let them guess which body part they are feeling.

Stock photo

image: The Johns Hopkins Gazette

Baby Bonding

Invite your children to talk to and about the baby. If you already know the gender and have chosen a name, you can encourage them to use it when referring to the baby. Or you can welcome the baby nicknames your child invents. Babies can hear around 23 weeks of age, so this is a good time for the kids to start talking to the baby so he or she will get to know them. After about three months of this, their voices will be very familiar to the baby still in utero, and bonding will already be under way. Studies show that babies tend to turn toward voices they recognize right after birth.

Little Helping Hands

Realize that it’s impossible to give other family members the same degree of attention they are used to while you’re pregnant. Sooner or later the children will realize that they must share mom with another tiny taker in the family. Fortunately, pregnancy provides you with plenty of time to prepare your older children for what life will be like after the baby arrives. Getting them used to helping you while baby brother or sister is still inside is actually another good tool for bonding. The children will have invested their time and energy already even before baby comes, and the baby will have more personal value to them.

Adapted from 10 WAYS TO INVOLVE CHILDREN WITH YOUR PREGNANCY

feature image: The Johns Hopkins Gazette

What You Can Do to Prevent SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome)

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is a scary thing for parents of babies to think about. The  name itself points to the reason it’s so frighting–  for some time it’s been a great mystery that no one knew the real answer to. SIDS is the leading cause of death in infants between one month and one year of age. In the United States, around 3,000 babies die from SIDS each year.  These infants are generally healthy babies, who showed no signs of suffering, abuse, or illness. They seem to just die “peacefully” in their sleep.

What You Can Do to Prevent SIDS

Despite the widespread believe that SIDS is a baffling and unpredictable tragedy, there are ways you can significantly protect your baby. One thing that has been proven is that babies who sleep on their backs are less likely to die of SIDS than babies who sleep on their stomachs.  And so the “Back to Sleep” program was born in 1992, when the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) began warning parents of babies under 1 year old never to let their infants sleep on their stomachs. Since then, the rate of SIDS has dropped by over 50%.  In addition to this, Dr. Sears explains that there is a combination of many factors that lead to death: immature development of cardio-respiratory control mechanisms, defective arousability from sleep in response to breathing difficulties, medical conditions that compromise breathing, and unsafe sleeping practices.

The main risk factors for SIDS are:

  • Prematurity or low birth-weight
  • Smoking or taking illegal drugs during pregnancy
  • Smoking around baby after birth
  • Putting baby to sleep on their stomach
  • Infants who are not breastfeeding
  • Having little or no prenatal care
  • Unsafe sleeping environment
  • Overheating from excessive sleepwear and bedding
  • There is no correlation between immunizations and SIDS.

Therefore, parents should follow the AAP recommendations for reducing the risk of SIDS:

  • Place your baby on a firm mattress to sleep.
  • Do not put your baby to sleep on a pillow, waterbed, sheepskin, couch, chair, or other soft surface.
  • To prevent rebreathing (where the baby inhales the same air he just exhaled), do not put blankets, comforters, stuffed toys, or pillows near the baby.
  • Make sure your baby does not get too warm while sleeping. A good temperature is one where an adult would be comfortable in a short-sleeve shirt. Do not over-bundle or over-swaddle your baby.
  • Do not smoke, drink, or use drugs while pregnant and do not expose your baby to secondhand smoke. Exposure to secondhand smoke doubles a baby’s risk of SIDS, while a mother who smoked during pregnancy triples the risk.
  • Receive early and regular prenatal care.
  • Make sure your baby has well-baby checkups regularly.
  • Breastfeed, if possible. There is some evidence that breastfeeding may help decrease the incidence of SIDS.
  • If your baby has GERD (reflux), be sure to follow your doctor’s guidelines on feeding and sleep positions.
  • Put your baby to sleep with a pacifier during the first year of life. If your baby rejects the pacifier, don’t force it. Pacifiers have been linked with lower risk of SIDS.

Attachment Parenting

Dr. Sears also advocates a style of caretaking called Attachment Parenting. In addition to many benefits for you and your baby, Attachment Parenting greatly reduces the odds of your baby succumbing to SIDS. For more information, read these worthwhile articles:

When Stomach Sleeping is OK

Having said all that, for some babies, it is actually recommended that they sleep on their stomachs.

Premature babies or babies with breathing difficulties are put to sleep on their tummies, since the still partially collapsed lungs of some prematures tend to expand better when front-sleeping.

If an infant has gastroesophageal reflux, it is also recommended that he sleep tummy down, at least for two hours after a feeding.  Some babies sleeping on their tummies also seemed to settle better and spit- up less after feeding.

Listen to Your Baby: If your baby is just not content to sleep on his back, is it OK to put him to sleep on his stomach?  Well, because of the new research it is best to try to get baby accustomed to sleeping on her back or side. Newborn babies tend to get in the habit of sleeping the way they are first put down.  Nevertheless, Dr. Sears says that unless advised to the contrary by your doctor, it is best to let your baby sleep in a position she prefers. This means that if your baby doesn’t settle down, or stay asleep on her back or side, front sleeping is fine.  Newborn babies DO tend to prefer their tummies. “If a baby repeatedly doesn’t settle in a certain sleeping position, this may be a clue that this position may not be the safest for this individual baby. This is just one example of how babies often try to tell us what is in their best interest. Parents should not be afraid to listen.”

Just be sure to follow all the safety precautions listed above, such as placing baby on a firm mattress, not overheating the room, etc.

Another Possible Cause of SIDS

Sleep position may be important, but there is some evidence that SIDS may be related to the fire retardants in the baby’s mattress.  The reason this may be a culprit in SIDS is that an ordinarily harmless fungus (Scopulariopsis brevicaulis) consumes the chemicals used in the plasticized mattress cover. Baby’s drool, vomit, urine, and perspiration, combined with body heat, enable the fungus to grow rapidly.  When this occurs, neurotoxic gases are emitted. If baby breathes a significant amount of these odorless gases for a prolonged time, the central nervous system can shut down, causing death.

Using a mattress pad that is NOT made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC) would eliminate this tragedy.  For more information, read Is sleep position really important in SIDS? Also, read about mattress wrapping, which means wrapping baby’s mattress in a polyethylene cover, to prevent your infant from breathing the gases. You can also look into an organic crib mattress, made from all-natural fibers which have not be treated with flame-retarding chemicals.

Feature image from Delio: Organic Bedding for Baby

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