Posted September 18, 2014
One third - One third - One third
How does a baby spend it's day?
One-third of a baby's day will be spent being fed, dressed, bathed, changed and sleeping.
One-third of a baby's day can be spent in close contact with a beloved person, gazing at each other, exploring things together, playing, singing, talking.
The last third of your baby's day can be spent in "alone time." This refers to time on the floor with some interesting items around or time in a baby chair watching the world go by. Allowing a baby to have time alone, periodically, during the first few months and beyond, gives her a head start in growing up... able to enjoy her own company.
This is how babies do their best work. Sleeping, eating, hanging out with a beloved person and hanging out with her/himself. it's this last one, however (hanging out on one's own) that trips up many parents. There's that feeling that if your baby is awake you should be playing with her, making her laugh, entertaining her somehow. If you are always entertaining, however, two things will happen. One, you are going to tire out. Two, your baby won't ever let you leave or stop or quit carrying or entertaining. The easier "solution" is to head out of the house. The park, the car, a friend's house. Those activities are all OK occasionally, but they don't meet your baby's need to learn to enjoy his own company.
My suggestion is to devote part of yours and your baby's week to being at home, following the 1/3, 1/3, 1/3 framework described above. Then know that there will be at least one day when you can be out and about, doing what brings you pleasure and company and just know that naps will likely be missed or happen in the carseat, but that's OK. It's your day! (If you have family in town, perhaps one will offer to be 'at home' with your baby so you can really feel free.)
Slowing down is good for babies and i'ts good for parents.
Filed under: Daily Routines
Posted September 6, 2014
I'm often asked "How much sleep does my baby need?" (or toddler or preschooler). I respond with the guidelines I use in my sleep counseling with parents: Aim for an 11-hour night from birth to six months (including night feeds); thereafter, move toward a 12-hour night. While children may not actually sleep for 12 full hours every night, this allows them to, at times when they need it. If theydon't need that much sleep on some nights, this gives them time to talk or play on the way to sleep or in the morning before 7 am.
Also, I sugges parents aim for an appropriate number of 2- hour (approx) naps through the day, depending on age.
Like parents I speak with, I wish there were universally agreed upon guidelines, based on firm research. The following abstract from a yet-unpublished article in the Sleep Medicine Journal tells why this definitive research on children's sleep needs - is hard to come by.
The complexities of defining optimal sleep: Empirical and theoretical considerations with a special emphasis on children
"The main aim of this paper is to consider relevant theoretical and empirical factors defining optimal sleep, and assess the relative importance of each in developing a working definition for, or guidelines about, optimal sleep, particularly in children. We consider whether optimal sleep is an issue of sleep quantity or of sleep quality. Sleep quantity is discussed in terms of duration, timing, variability and dose–response relationships. Sleep quality is explored in relation to continuity, sleepiness, sleep architecture and daytime behaviour. Potential limitations of sleep research in children are discussed, specifically the loss of research precision inherent in sleep deprivation protocols involving children. We discuss which outcomes are the most important to measure. We consider the notion that insufficient sleep may be a totally subjective finding, is impacted by the age of the reporter, driven by socio-cultural patterns and sleep-wake habits, and that, in some individuals, the driver for insufficient sleep can be viewed in terms of a cost–benefit relationship, curtailing sleep in order to perform better while awake. We conclude that defining optimal sleep is complex. The only method of capturing this elusive concept may be by somnotypology, taking into account duration, quality, age, gender, race, culture, the task at hand, and an individual's position in both sleep–alert and morningness–eveningness continuums. At the experimental level, a unified approach by researchers to establish standardized protocols to evaluate optimal sleep across paediatric age groups is required."
Filed under: Sleep and sleep training
Posted September 2, 2014
Did you even know you were in a honeymoon phase before your baby became a toddler? Well, according to Registered Dietition, Nutritionist and Family Therapist Ellyn Satter, parents should be laid back about introducing a baby to solid food. It's a time for "fun and games," she says. Some babies enjoy every spoonfull and others may be insulted by the very idea. Still, she assures us that every baby is learning - regardless of whether much food goes in. Then, however comes the toddler stage!
In fact, any time from about nine months on, your child may insist emphatically on doing this herself. She grabs the spoon, tosses it on the floor, closes her mouth and turns her head away! Most parents still try - against all odds - with the spoon, afraid the child won't get enough to eat.
This is the time to turn things over to the little person who will ultimately be in charge of what goes into her body. Start putting bits of food on the high chair tray and look away, get busy somewhere else in the kitchen. Ignore the food on the floor. Cheerios, grated cheese, grated peeled apple, bits of toast with butter, a piece of banana, and the tiniest, cooked broccoli tree you can pick off - are all good things to put on her tray, from time to time, and then remember to turn away. Watching or focusing on a child this age doesn't tend to go well and can lead to behavior issues.
Don't be put off by gagging. Lumpy food often causes sensitive eaters to gag at first. This is not choking, it's only gagging and unless you react, she'll gag less and less as she tries new foods. (If you do react with panic her gagging can become an attention-getting habit.) Choking, on the other hand, requires a chokable object such as a whole grape, hard candy, a chunk of raw carrot, the stump end of a teething biscuit, etc.
Now I want you to read, in Ellyn Satter's own words, how to handle the pitfalls of early eating, up through preschool. Newsletter
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Filed under: Feeding and Eating
Posted August 21, 2014
A mother wrote me recently for advice on whether I thought a part-time return to work might be easier for her and her baby, than full-time. My first thought was that she was lucky to have that choice. These days, a family's financial dependence on dual incomes is well documented as is each individual's dedication to a career that may have been many years in the making. A majority of women return to their original job status (full-time) at the end of one year. Employment After Childbirth.
My second thought was about the increased level of emotional balance that working part-time might afford her and her family. Having a parent at home part of the time, whether it be dad or mom, relieves the child of being awakened early for daycare timing or ending the day already tired from a late pick-up. It also affords the family a kind of buffer against the times when events or obligations spiral out of control - the person at home part-time during a particularly hectic week can pick up that slack, temporarily. A family member being sick or the start of the school year are two examples that come to mind.
My third thought was that the occasional complications that may come with a full-time nanny living in, could be avoided. I know that many families love having a caregiver living in but I hear from many families who do not. Issues like who is really in charge or what to do when the child reaches for mom when the nanny is there, or the nanny rocks the child to sleep in spite of parents' request not to? A part-time nanny or caregiving system may leave parents feeling more 'in charge' of the household - which increases the comfort level for everyone.
My fourth thought was one parent will be there more often to see developmental milestones and interpret these magic moments intimately, to the other parent. He or she will also be there during the worst tantrums and may be able to 'see through' the behavior and rearrange circumstances through that understanding, as sometimes only a parent can.
From my own experience, I believe this is one of the hardest decisions a family makes. Tag-team parenting is a complicated choice but one many families swear by. Shift work parenting is another option families make use of but it too comes with some major complications. Each family does their absolute best toward providing good care for their babies, toddlers, preschoolers, grade schoolers and middle schoolers. (Yes, it goes on and on...) Having someone home 'keeping the lights on' was taken for granted in the 1950's but that didn't always equate to the woman (majority of cases) feeling content in her role.
When both parents need to or choose to return to full time work and for single parent families, I know much care and effort goes into finding the best possible caregiving arrangement available. Parents do their utmost to make these sometimes fragile arrangements work. It helps enormously when grandparents or other family members are available to pinch-hit to lessen the strain.
I'm not sure what decision the woman who wrote to me made, in the end, or if I was even of help to her. Maybe you will write your comments on our facebook page, expressing what arrangements and decisions are working best for you and what your struggles are. No family should be made to feel defensive about their choices. We don't walk in each other's shoes. We are all working to do our best for our children and for ourselves.
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