Parenting Tips

Here are some posts about approaches to baby, toddler and pre-schooler care that Sabine (the website founder) or I have found useful.

BABY MASSAGE

One of the most wonderful things to do when baby is still quite small, is baby massage. It was one of the first parent & baby activities I went to and I remember very well the relaxing effect it had not only on my baby, but on me, too. I calmed down the moment we sat on the mats, warming up the massage oil in our hands – a much welcome side effect.
It doesn’t take much science and research to understand that a loving touch can have healing powers, but research has shown that it actually helps relieve colic, gas and constipation. It helps to bond with the baby and has been found to have ‘tangible benefits even after a few sessions’ for mums suffering with postnatal depression – a simple method to improve the relationship between a depressed mum and her baby. (See links 1 and 2)

Dr Tiffany Field, Director of the Touch Research Institute: “Our research shows that babies benefit medically and emotionally from regular massage.” (See link 3) Furthermore, new research from the University of Warwick says that massage may help babies of under six months to sleep better, cry less and be less stressed. (See link 4)

The Touch Research Institute has found that “infants who experienced massage therapy compared to infants in the rocking control group spent more time in active alert and active awake states, cried less, and had lower cortisol levels, suggesting lower stress. Over the 6-week period, the massage-therapy infants gained more weight, showed greater improvement on emotionality, sociability, and soothability temperament dimensions, and had greater decreases in stress neurotransmitters/hormones (norepinephrine, epinephrine, and cortisol)”. (See link 5)
In my experience, it is best to go to a class when the baby is still very small and learn the moves first hand from a trained teacher. Being a new mum was pretty overwhelming and I think it would have been unlikely for me to do the massage on my own at home. I was lucky that we had a really good class in the neighbourhood and I went almost every week until he became too mobile and wriggly for any attempts of coordinated stroking. But after reading up on all these benefits, I think I’ll try to include a little bit of massage into his bedtime routine – and he can wriggle all he wants.
KANGAROO CARE
Kangaroo care is a method of holding a baby that involves skin-to-skin contact. The baby, who is naked except for a nappy and a piece of cloth covering his or her back (either a receiving blanket or the parent’s clothing), is placed in an upright position against a parent’s bare chest. This snuggling of the infant inside the pouch of their parent’s shirt, much like a kangaroo’s pouch, led to the creation of the term “kangaroo care.”
What are the benefits of kangaroo care? The benefits of kangaroo care to the baby include: Stabilization of the baby’s heart rate, Improved (more regular) breathing pattern, Improved oxygen saturation levels (an indicator of how well oxygen is being delivered to all the infants organs and tissues), Gain in sleep time, More rapid weight gain, Decreased crying, More successful breastfeeding episodes, Earlier hospital discharge.
The benefits of kangaroo care to the parents include: Improved bonding, feelings of closeness with their babies, Increased breast milk supply, Increased confidence in ability to care for their babies, Increased confidence that their babies are well cared for, Increased sense of control.
SLEEP

Shifting Schedules:  When to Change from Two Naps to One Nap 

By Elizabeth Pantley, author of The No-Cry Nap Solution

During the early years of life, nap schedules are in a continuous state of change. After a newborn period of all-day napping, babies eventually settle into a regular two-nap-a-day routine. Most children switch from these two daily naps to one nap sometime between the ages of 12 and 24 months. However, that year of difference is a very long span of time. This shows that age alone is not the only factor to consider when changing your baby’s nap routine.

Changing your baby from two daily naps to one nap isn’t about what your child thinks he wants, nor is it about the schedule you’d like to have. It’s about the biological need for two naps versus one. Naps at different times of the day serve different purposes in mind and body development at different ages. For example, morning naps have more dreaming, or REM sleep, which makes them important for young babies who require it for early brain development. You don’t want to rush the process if your child is still benefiting from this important sleep time.

There is another consideration when deciding to make a schedule change: The length of time that your child is awake from one sleep period to the next has an effect on his mood and behavior. No matter how well your baby sleeps at night naps are still very important. The older your child is, the longer he can go between sleep breaks without getting cranky. The biology behind this reason dictates that young babies need to divide their day up with two naps, but older babies can handle a full day with only one nap.

Since there is a wide range of what’s normal it’s important to study each child’s behaviour to see when he is ready to transition to one nap a day. Use the following lists as a guide.

Signs That your Child Needs TWO NAPS Daily.

  • Your child is under 12 months old
  • When you put your child down for a nap he plays, resists, or fusses for a while but always ends up sleeping for an hour or more
  • When you take your child for car rides during the day he usually falls asleep
  • If your child misses a nap he is fussy or acts tired until the next nap or bedtime
  • Your child is dealing with a change in his life (such as a new sibling, sickness, or starting daycare) that disrupts his nap schedule
  • Your child misses naps when you’re on the go, but when you are at home he takes two good naps

Signs That Your Child Is Ready to Change to ONE DAILY NAP 

  • When you put your child down for a nap he plays or fusses before falling asleep, and then takes only a short nap, or never falls asleep at all
  • Your child can go for car rides early in the day and not fall asleep in the car
  • When your child misses a nap he is cheerful and energetic until the next nap or bedtime
  • Your child naps well for one of his naps, but totally resists the other nap

How to Make the Transition When Signs Point to Change

Instead of thinking in terms of dropping a nap it’s better to think in terms of a schedule change. The change from two naps to one nap is rarely a one-day occurrence. Most often there will be a transition period of several months when your child clearly needs two naps on some days, but one nap on others. You have a number of options during this complicated transition time:

Watch for your child’s sleepy signs, and put your child down for a nap when indications first appear.

Keep two naps, but don’t require that your child sleep at both times, allow quiet resting instead.

Choose a single naptime that is later than the usual morning nap, but not as late as the afternoon nap. Keep your child active (and outside if possible) until about 30 minutes before the time you have chosen.

On days when a nap occurs early in the day, move bedtime earlier by 30 minutes to an hour to minimize the length of time between nap and bedtime.

The Danger of Dropping a Nap Too Soon

It’s my belief that the reputation that toddlers have which is known as the Terrible Twos, is very likely caused by inappropriate napping schedules. There are a great number of toddlers who switch from two naps a day to one nap, or “ heaven forbid! “ drop naps altogether, many months before they are biologically ready. This can result in a devastating effect on their mood and behaviour: the dreaded and horrible Terrible Twos.

For those parents whose children suffer the Trying Threes or the Fearsome Fours, it’s likely your child is misbehaving for the same reason: an inappropriate nap schedule may be the culprit. The good news is that a modification of your child’s napping routine can make a wonderful and dramatic difference in his day and yours.

From The No-Cry Nap Solution: Guaranteed Gentle Ways to Solve All Your Naptime Problems by Elizabeth Pantley (McGraw-Hill, January 2009). Here is the link for information and more excerpts: http://www.pantley.com/elizabeth/

 

EIGHT SLEEP TIPS FOR EVERY CHILD

By Elizabeth Pantley, author of The No-Cry Sleep Solution

Up to 70% of children under age five have sleep problems. Sleep issues are complicated and have many causes. They’re hard to deal with because when children are not sleeping, parents are not sleeping, and that lack of sleep affects every minute of  every day  for every person in the family because lack of sleep isn’t just about being tired. Sleep has a role in everything — dawdling, temper tantrums, hyperactivity, growth, health, and even learning to tie shoes and recite the alphabets. Sleep affects everything.

The following ideas are of value to almost any sleeper, of any age. These tips can bring improvement not only in your child’s sleep, but also in her daytime mood and last, but not least improvements in your own sleep and outlook as well.

1.   Maintain a consistent bedtime and awaking time

Your child’s biological clock has a strong influence on her wakefulness and sleepiness. When you establish a set time for bedtime and wake up time you are setting your child’s clock so that it functions smoothly.

Aim for an early bedtime. Young children respond best with a bedtime between 6:30 and 7:30 P.M. Most children will sleep better and longer when they go to bed early.

2.   Encourage regular daily naps

Daily naps are important. An energetic child can find it difficult to go through the day without a rest break. A nap-less child will often wake up cheerful and become progressively fussier or hyper-alert as the day goes on. Also, the length and quality of naps affects night sleep: good naps equal better night sleep.

 3.  Set your child’s biological clock

Take advantage of your child’s biology so that they are actually tired  when bedtime arrives. Darkness causes an increase in the release of the body’s sleep hormone. You can align your child’s sleepiness with bedtime by dimming the lights during the hour before bedtime.

Exposing your child to morning light is pushing the a button in her brain one that says, time to wake up and be active. So keep your mornings bright!

4.  Develop a consistent bedtime routine

Routines create security. A consistent, peaceful bedtime routine allows your child to transition from the motion of the day to the tranquil state of sleep.

An organized routine helps you coordinate the specifics: bath, pajamas, tooth-brushing. It helps you to function on auto-pilot at the time when you are most tired and least creative.

5.   Create a cozy sleep environment

Where your child sleeps can be a key to quality sleep. Make certain the mattress is comfortable, the blankets are warm, the room temperature is right, pajamas are comfy, and the bedroom is welcoming.

 6.  Provide the right nutrition

Foods can affect energy level and sleepiness. Carbohydrates can have a calming effect on the body, while foods high in protein or sugar generate alertness, particularly when eaten alone. A few ideas for pre-bed snacks are: whole wheat toast and cheese, bagel and peanut butter, oatmeal with bananas, or yogurt and low-sugar granola.

Vitamin deficiencies due to unhealthy food choices can affect a child’s sleep. Provide your child with a daily assortment of healthy foods.

7.  Help your child to be healthy and fit

Many children don’t get enough daily physical activity. Too much TV watching and a lack of activity prevents good sleep. Children who get ample daily exercise fall asleep more quickly, sleep better, stay asleep longer, and wake up feeling refreshed.

Avoid activity in the hour before bedtime though, since exercise is stimulating they’ll be jumping on the bed instead of sleeping in it!

8. Teach your child how to relax

Many children get in bed but aren’t sure what to do when they get there! It can help to follow a soothing pre-bed routine that creates sleepiness. A good pre-bed ritual is story time. A child who is listening to a parent read a book or tell a tale will tend to lie still and listen. This quiet stillness allows him to become sleepy.

Work with these eight ideas and you’ll see improvements in your child’s sleep, and yours too.

Excerpted with permission by McGraw-Hill Publishing from The No-Cry Sleep Solution for Toddlers & Preschoolers (McGraw-Hill 2005) http://www.pantley.com/elizabeth

POTTY TRAINING

Quick Facts About Potty Training By Elizabeth Pantley, Author of The No-Cry Potty Training Solution

  • Potty training can be natural, easy, and peaceful. The first step is to know the facts. The perfect age to begin potty training is different for every child. Your child’s best starting age could be anywhere from eighteen to thirty-two months. Pre-potty training preparation can begin when a child is as young as ten months.
  • Teaching your child how to use the toilet can, and should, be as natural as teaching him to build a block tower or use a spoon.
  • No matter the age that toilet training begins, most children become physically capable of independent toileting between ages two and a half and four.
  • It takes three to twelve months from the start of training to daytime toilet independence. The more readiness skills that a child possesses, the quicker the process will be.
  • The age that a child masters toileting has absolutely no correlation to future abilities or intelligence.
  • There isn’t only one right way to potty train. Any approach you use can work – if you are pleasant, positive and patient.
  • Nighttime dryness is achieved only when a child’s physiology supports this – you can’t rush it.
  • A parent’s readiness to train is just as important as a child’s readiness to learn.
  • Potty training need not be expensive. A potty chair, a dozen pairs of training pants and a relaxed and pleasant attitude are all that you really need. Anything else is truly optional.
  • Most toddlers urinate four to eight times each day, usually about every two hours or so.
  • Most toddlers have one or two bowel movements each day, some have three, and others skip a day or two in between movements. In general, each child has a regular pattern.
  • More than 80 percent of children experience setbacks in toilet training. This means that what we call set back,  are really just the usual path to mastery of toileting.
  • Ninety-eight percent of children are completely daytime independent by age four.

This article is an excerpt from The No-Cry Potty Training Solution: Gentle Ways to Help Your Child Say Good-Bye to Diapers by Elizabeth Pantley. (McGraw-Hill, 2006)

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