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Wednesday
Apr182012

{Bamboo Baby} Beyond Love: Ideas to Help You During Your Baby’s First Year 

by Sarah Werthan Buttenwieser 

andrea smith of andrea renee photography

What do babies need from you most? You know it—your love. That part’s easy; you’re besotted. And you’re sleep-deprived. So, what’s next? Babies, as Anne Lamott famously lamented, do not come with operating instructions.

Visits to the pediatrician monitor health and growth. Beyond that, are there things you should be doing—or not doing? We’re not talking Baby Einstein—what follows are some suggestions from professionals who work with infants. Their expertise is in areas that pediatricians may be less focused upon.

photo: tricia krefetzBegin with swaddling. Lenore Grubinger, movement therapist, certified teacher of Body-Mind Centering and Cranial Sacral Therapy, explains, “Swaddling is misunderstood and underutilized. Particularly in the first couple of months, without this ‘container’ many babies are at the mercy of reflexes causing random almost exercise-like movements especially when on their backs, and although it looks cute, this is exhausting for baby! Being wrapped up in a nice swaddle allows baby to rest. There are wraps that do almost all of the swaddling work for you.” She suggests that a stack of six for every new parent is a must. “Put them right beside the diapers,” she says, adding, “You can pass them on to the next family as your baby outgrows each size.”

Make tummy time happen lots of the time. For my youngest two kids, there was a radiant floor off the kitchen. This is where we spent a great deal of the first year: baby, siblings, warm floor, and adults. Tummy time wasn’t like a little exercise time; it was more like our way of life for months and the floor was our hangout spot. Grubinger encourages exactly this, saying, “You need room for one or two adults to comfortably hang out with baby. The tummy time place can’t be as small as a changing pad! Having a pillow around for the adults is a good idea; you want tummy time to be recuperative and enjoyable rather than adding to adult body aches.” She suggests that if you live in a small place, remove your coffee table for a year. She says, “Without this space mom will be holding baby over one shoulder and trying to throw out a blanket or towel down with the other arm. You need tummy time to be effortless to practice and in a central spot.” Spending time on the tummy is the one critical precursor to crawling.

photo: www.cgindy.comBabies don’t have sleep patterns right away. “As far as schedule goes, because babies do not develop mature sleep patterns in their brains until 17-20 weeks of age, there should be no attempt to put a baby on a schedule prior to that time,” Beth Haxby, an educator with a consultation practice on sleep and other parenting issues, explains. “The parents’ role is to follow their babies' patterns during those first months of life.” She notes that some babies' sleep become mature earlier than others. Because sleep researchers have discovered babies and children vary widely in their sleep needs, the best indicator of whether a baby is getting enough sleep after the age four to six months is behavior. Does the baby fall asleep fairly easily and sleep fairly well? Does the baby get through waking hours on a fairly even keel? If so, that baby is probably getting enough sleep. If a baby struggles with sleep, doesn’t settle easily, exhibits a lot of cranky behavior and isn’t learning to sustain sleep for a longer nighttime stretch, that baby may well be overtired and need to be helped to get more sleep.

 

photo: sabrina helas

The infant bucket car seat should only be for the car. Pediatric physical therapist, Diane Droescher, explains why this simple action is so critical. She says, “The best thing a parent can do is take infants out of the car seat if they are not in the car. Pediatric therapists call the overuse of the infant car seat bucket-baby syndrome. It's so easy to leave a baby strapped in, to carry the baby to the car in the seat and then set the seat in the grocery cart, and again back to the car, and then, if the baby is napping, to leave the baby in while sleeping. The infant car seat is meant to be a safety device for in the car, but it has become a parent convenience—a kid with a handle.” Babies aren’t meant to have handles, she reasons. “Given all this time in the bucket seat, “Babies are not on the floor enough. They are not developing core strength or upper body strength. They are not moving enough,” she cautions. She is serious about the repercussions: “This is where the epidemic weakness and tendency towards childhood obesity starts. We are seeing SO many more kids who have underdeveloped vestibular systems. The vestibular system affects core muscles, balance, and eye movements.”

Avoid the upright exersaucer or walker, too. These devices hamper your baby’s development, Grubinger says. She is as emphatic about this as Droescher is about the overuse of the baby bucket seat. Grubinger counsels finding another way to grab a shower! She explains, “These contraptions do not aid a baby’s development in any way. As tempting as it is to have what feels like a safe spot to place your baby, this isn’t the one.”

Regardless of what the pediatrician says if you are concerned about your baby’s development ask for a screening. Eliza D’Agostino, a speech therapist for young children, encourages parents to follow their instincts, their “common sense.” She says, “Don’t be afraid if you think something isn’t quite right. Babies are so malleable and open to learning it’s a great time to work with them.” She emphasizes, “Getting help early is more effective than waiting.” She adds, “Early intervention programs screen children up to age three free of charge.” She believes pediatricians should support parents in seeking additional support.

photo: sara pineEngagement—otherwise known as shared intention—is key. D’Agostino counsels parents to focus less upon the skills of language during the first year than to be aware of whether a baby is engaging with you. She explains, “What you are looking for is shared intention. It’s not a question of simply whether a baby’s responding to you, although that’s important. Shared intention is when the baby is aware that we—the baby and the adult caregiver—are having fun together. It’s especially important to pay attention to whether very quiet, calm babies are able to engage.”

You’ve got to have friends. Family therapist Hilary Callan works with new moms, individually and in groups. She stresses that friendships are important for moms—and that moms’ friendships benefit babies. “Both moms and babies require social contact outside of the dyad. Feelings of isolation and overwhelm are inevitable because the experience of those first months parenting are so intense,” she says. “Regular contact with friends provides routine reminders that she is not alone in this experience.” She continues, “One thing a mom does is to introduce baby to the world beyond their dyad. Making that a safe, easily accessible entry is important.”  

Finally, take a deep breath (and, if you can, a nap). “There’s so much for parents to know. Regardless of income or education, no one really knows how to parent,” D’Agostino offers. Rest assured that while parenting is an impossible task, it’s one that we seem to survive, and miraculously, we get to witness our children thrive.

Sarah Werthan Buttenwieser is a graduate of Hampshire College and the MFA for Writers Program at Warren Wilson College. Along with a personal blog Standing in the Shadows, she writes for such publications as Babble, Huffington Post, Brain Child magazine, Literary Mama, and Preview Massachusetts magazine. As a writer and mama to four, she is pretty constantly busy. http://standshadows.tumblr.com/


 

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Reader Comments (3)

Car seats are need to be properly made for the groups or people of different ages. Kids are very soft and particularly the babies. For babies, car seats are differently designed and that to protect the babies while the car is running. Whenever you are going for a long drive with your family and if you have small babies, then you need use the special seats for them and for their safety.
Nov 9, 2013 at 5:33 AM | Unregistered CommenterMathew Horne
All we know that babies express their feelings by crying and laughing as they can’t say or do anything. They are very sensitive and can easily feel anything. Many parents are unknown about baby crying types and reasons behind this. When we go for a travel with our baby, it is very essential to give a view for a comfortable journey for our baby. For this we use several products. With this we use safety car seat or other car accessories for a luxurious journey. Baby products have a great impact on baby's health and life. So parents always choose the good one.
Aug 28, 2014 at 3:39 AM | Unregistered CommenterWilliam
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Jul 13, 2015 at 5:15 AM | Unregistered CommenterRick Davidson

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