Tag Archive for Babies

Your Baby Can’t Read

Okay, perhaps YOUR baby can. It is possible. Stranger things have happened. But most likely your baby cannot read. Anyone telling you that your baby can is selling snake oil. Expensive snake oil.

What your baby can begin to do is recognize that certain signs or symbols represent certain objects. And that is pretty neat. But you do not need to spend hours training your baby to do this or buy expensive systems to accomplish this.

Once your child is a little older, he will begin to recognize that those black squiggly lines are letters. And letters make up words and words stand for certain things or ideas. But memorization of sight words, while important, is not “reading.”

My ten month old knows that squeezing his hand represents milk. This does not make him bilingual or fluent in sign language.

When my daughter was not yet two, my husband taught her to respond that two plus two equals “four.” But that doesn’t mean she was performing mathematical operations or understood addition as a concept.

Memorization plays an important role in learning, but it must have its proper place within a framework of other skills and concepts. First you learn what quantities and numbers are, then the idea of multiplication, and then you memorize the times tables.

Now, no harm is done by showing your baby the word “Mom” and teaching him to point to mom. It is cute, certainly.

And if you want to buy books or CDs or flashcards with suggestions for games, that’s great. As parents today we can be very isolated and sometimes we need these ideas for playing with our babies. Check out your local library and you will find tons of books with ideas for playing with infants, toddlers, and preschoolers.

However, I take issue with expensive systems that claim that rote memorization of images is learning to read.

Even worse if the website for the expensive system asks that you show a three month old videos an hour a day every day. And counsels you in tips to focus the baby’s attention on these videos if he does not wish to watch them.

Now, I do not think television is evil. However, studies I have read about how television affects the brain wiring under age two gives me pause about any “educational” program that insists on television viewing for young infants. School-aged children, especially at-risk school aged children, do learn from television. And I doubt that occasional viewing will harm a healthy baby. However, I do not believe television is the best or even a good way to set your infant on a path to a lifelong love of reading.

Please, take that time to playt with and read to your baby instead. If you do not speak the dominant language in your current residence, that’s fine–read in whatever language you can. And if you are not literate in any language, there are great free programs both for babies and for adults at many local libraries.

If library or other comunity programs are not an option, you can borrow or purchase books on tape and show baby the book while reading the tape. You can also buy a LeapFrog TAG system at a fraction of the cost of these expensive systems. If you really want video, there are free ones available on the web and most of them are just 5-10 minutes long.

Pre-literacy skills are important building blocks. Letter and sound recognition are steps on the road to reading. And a child who has some of these skills before entering school will be more confident and more likely to self-identify as a successful “reader” and “learner.” To extrapolate from that and conclude that a 10 month old “reading” (but not really reading) will have long-term benefits is simply not supported by current evidence.

The NYT is Good for Something, Or Why I Got Roses Just Because

Newsflash: The New York Times still serves a valuable purpose in the lives of ordinary Americans.

My husband came home one day this week and presented me with a lovely bouquet of flowers. Why? Just because…

He explained he was reading this article about how children increase marital tensions and he just wanted to let me know that he appreciates me and all I do for our family.

The articles discusses how children bring happiness, but they can also bring stress into your relationship with your spouse.

My husband and I love each other, and we adore our children. Sometimes all of the juggling of doctor’s appointments, and household chores, and daily routines on top of our careers can become overwhelming. It is definitely important to have a reminder now and then that we need to set aside quality time for each other.

How about you? Do children bring couples closer together? Or did you have more time and energy for your mate before the babies?

We’re so Breastfeeding-Friendly, We Do Everything Except Let You Nurse Your Baby

Basking in the joy of the birth of my new, giant baby boy, I wanted to stay positive.

Still, I’d like to share my experience breastfeeding in the hospital in case it helps anyone.

Part of the reason I chose our hospital is because it is more open to a more natural birthing experience than other hospitals in the area. And, although I think this is probably true, that is unfortunately a sad commentary.

My baby and I are breastfeeding well and everyone is doing great–but I fear that if I had not already successfully breastfed my first or if I were less informed or less assertive, our breastfeeding would have been sabotaged.

Immediately following birth, barring any urgent medical needs, my baby was supposed to be placed immediately on me. Since he was so large and stuck during part of the labor, they wanted pediatrics to check him out (which I fully understand–although I suspect this could have been done with him on me, as was done with my first child). However, after they verified he had not been harmed at all during the labor, they continued with the routine, non-urgent procedures.

I kept telling them, “I want my baby! Give me my baby!” but they did not hand him over until they were done. Although in the grand scheme of it all, this is minor, I was sad that I missed that magical feeling I had with the first when she was exactly the same temperature as me and stepped her way to the breast.

After they handed him to me, I had a short time to breastfeed before they took me to repair the tear. I got him to latch on one side and just as he finished, I was placing him to the other breast when the nurse (not the Certified Nurse Midwife) came in an said, “I have to weigh him.”

I told her was breastfeeding and it could wait.

She replied that I was getting “crazy” with the breastfeeding (huh?).

I stood my ground and responded calmly (really, I swear) that he had just finished one side and I was going to feed him on the other and then she could take as many measurements as she liked.

She got very snotty and said that she was going to have to go tell the doctor that I was not allowing her to do her job.

That says a lot right there about her perception of her role and the hospital’s role in birthing babies.

Of course, she’s just one person, and my husband overheard some other nurses speaking of her in a negative way, but at the very least some retraining needs to be done.

Following the repair, I was placed in temporary Operating Room Recovery until the epidural wore off (they had given me more medication during the repair). As they wheeled me in, I saw my husband. I called out, “Why aren’t you with our son?” Perhaps not the most pleasant greeting, but I was starting to lose a bit of trust in the hospital.

“They want to give him a bottle,” he told me.

“What for?” Now I was starting to get a little nuts, “Is he okay?”

“Yes,” he reassured me, “But they said his blood sugar will start dropping because he is so big, so they want to give him a bottle. And they said if they wait too long, breastmilk won’t do it”

“But I’m breastfeeding! Bring him to me! And I’ll feed him!” I was in full on mother bear mode and unfortunately they had sent my husband and there was no target for my protective rage. My poor husband kept going back and forth to tell me the baby’s blood sugar level and to try to negotiate with the doctors to allow my son to come to me.

They first lied and told us he was under the warming lights (he wasn’t and he was perfectly healthy so there was no reason to hold him there) and then admitted they just “did not have the personnel” to bring him to me from the nursery. Now this is not a huge hospital. It takes two minutes to walk from the nursery to where I was. And post-op had no problem with me feeding him in recovery. The staff in the nursery was creating a situation where they would need to give him a bottle because they would not let me breastfeed.

And there was no reason for him to be in the nursery, anyway, as I was rooming in with him and would be in the room as soon as the maternity ward would accept me–as soon as the medication wore off. The post-op staff again was very helpful. I asked them, “How mobile? Like walking or just some approximation thereof?” They told me that maternity liked people walking but they would start releasing me as soon as I could bend both knees. I had one leg already moving and was trying to get the other one working. Eventually they took pity on me and pretended not to notice as I grabbed one of my legs with my hand and said, “Look, it is moving!”

Finally, we were in maternity recovery and they brought me my son! With the delay, it took time and patience to get him to latch. Of course, as soon as he fed his blood sugar was fine and he was healthy and wonderful.

But they had one more curve ball to throw at me–the next day they came without any notice to take him for his circumcision. They said I could not feed him even though he was due right then for another feeding. I was concerned, but they assured me it would just be an hour and then he’d be back. Three hours later…it was now six hours since my son had fed and the poor thing had just been circumcised. He was upset and had difficulty latching.

Then they started harassing me because he had not urinated since the circumcision…again they wanted to give him formula. I told them to go away and leave us alone. Of course, once he fed a few times, he was fine.

The kicker was that the day we were checking out, after all this was over, the lactation consultant comes by, sees me nursing, says “good latch,” quizzes me (how do you know if the baby is getting enough?), and then leaves. Gee, that’s helpful.

While I’m complaining, on a completely unrelated note, I got the demonically possessed hospital bed. The bed is for patients who cannot move and it automatically adjusts as you move. So when I shifted my weight in my sleep, the bed moved, waking me. If I lowered it so I could get out to use the bathroom, it raised. And of course it was noisy, too.

As you can imagine, I could not wait to break out of that place!

To add one last final insult, they insisted I be pushed out in a wheelchair by a staff member. I would have protested, but I just wanted to leave.

I think if I have a third birth, I’m going to just make the absurdly long drive to the nearest birthing center or do it at home.

All of this is not to say you cannot breastfeed if medical need requires your child to have a bottle early on, nor is it to criticize those who choose to formula feed–but just to show how hospital policies that are not always rooted in actual medical need, can create problems during the crucial early stage of breastfeeding. This is why we need to promote breastfeeding and support nursing mamas!

Okay… end rant. Back to enjoying motherhood!

Ugh…That’s in Poor Taste

Dlisted has shots of Larry Birkhead parading DanniHope around the street where celebrities go when they want to be photographed shopping. (warning, site is not “family friendly”)

Michael K mocks him for being an attention hog, D-lister, but do you notice the t-shirt she’s wearing? “Who’s Your Daddy?” After a long, public paternity battle? Ick.

Colic: New Science, Old Nonsense

When the latest New Yorker arrived, I showed baby the cartoons and noticed an article on colic. I could hardly wait until baby’s nap to check it out, hoping to see some exciting new information about how parents can ease babies’ transitions and help themselves cope better with challenges.

The article is not available in its entirety online, yet, but here’s an abstract of The Colic Conundrum. I’ll save you the cover price: the main researcher with whom the author spoke advocates letting the baby cry, alone.

I’m not going to dispute the research itself. I’m no scientist and it actually seems more or less sound. However the conclusions drawn and the actions advocated just do not logically follow.

Researchers found that even in traditional societies, where crying is seen 50% less than with Western babies, colic is still found.

Barry Lester, the researcher, has found that many colicky children (about 75% in a limited study) end up having behavioral problems. He speculates that these children are overly sensitive.

He then goes on to argue that part of the problem is that while colic may not cause irreparable harm to the child, it can harm the family relationship, leading to problems down the road.

He goes on to say, “…the child doesn’t learn behavioral regulation and develops problems with impulse control…It starts out with crying, and then, when the child is older, he doesn’t control his emotions very well.”

So, his advice in all of this? Let the baby “learn” to “self-soothe” by leaving him to cry for five to ten minutes.

Like a colicky baby will stop after five to ten minutes? Haven’t we been here before? Didn’t Ferber even admit he had gone too far in his recommendations?

Now, one good thing the article examines is that crying can stress out the family, particularly the primary care giving parent, noting that many “shaken babies” were crying. This is pretty obvious stuff. Even Dr. Sears advises that it is better when overwhelmed to put the baby down for a few minutes in a safe place, rather than to act rashly (a fact not mentioned in this article that seems to almost sneer at him and the idea of attachment parenting in general).

However, allowing a baby to cry regularly, without comfort, as a matter of policy, is absurd.

Let’s start with the whole concept of colic.

Colic is pediatricianese for “I don’t know what’s wrong and I can’t help you.” Colic isn’t a diagnosis. It is a description of a symptom. Colic is defined by a rule of three. More than three hours, more than three days a week, for more than three weeks. Then it is called colic, but no cause is known and no advice is given. Imagine if a doctor diagnosed adult ailments that way! He’d be laughed off as a quack.

A doctor is supposed to help track down the cause of the problem and offer possible ways to solve the problem or alleviate the suffering if possible. Not offer meaningless words and send you on your way.

Now lets move onto the !Kung observation

The !Kung study is cited to show 50% less crying. Even if colic still exists in these societies, that still means that most babies would cry less if raised like !Kung babies: carried close to the body and nursed on demand.

So, right there, that should show that, while Lester is right in putting down expensive gadgets, it actually does make sense to try that sling and some attachment parenting before moving on.

My darling baby was colicky. Although I had planned to practice attachment parenting, anyway, I discovered I did not have a choice. Due to her heart condition, I had to keep her calm.

I am not saying it is easy to soothe a baby who is sensitive to the stimulation of her new world–but with this life and death motivation, I managed to do it.

Add that to the fact that SOME cases MAY have medical roots, such as reflux, and you can probably bring relief to a few more families.

We got most of the way there with swaddling and nursing and shushing and lots of babywearing…and then I got someone to believe me about the reflux. Once she was on Zantac, nursing became a huge comfort to her again and we did great.

I am still angry, though, when I think of that doctor who would repeat nothing but, “She has colic, there’s nothing you can do.” Her confidence in her “diagnosis” meant that it was another month before I was able to relive more of my baby’s discomfort and my stress.

So now we’re left with a handful of genuine “colic” cases…what to do?

I would guess one could still reduce the stress on colic babies, and therefore on their parents, with some attachment parenting measures. However, some babies will still be criers, despite the most attentive parents and most diligent doctors.

Lester’s idea is that leaving the baby to cry teaches him the skill of self-soothing. I suppose when his sixteen year old wants to learn to drive he’ll just hand over the keys and say have at it? Since when does a total beginner, let alone a four week old baby, learn to do something without any help?

“Lester concedes that most people who suffered from colic as infants and from temper tantrums as toddlers do not exhibit behavioral problems as adults, regardless of how their parents responded to their cries.”

He also says, “Because colic is ‘the first bump in the road for many parents, it will influence how you deal with the second, the third, and so on…”

True…so which “template” would you rather use? You have a problem, kid, so you’re on your own? Or, here, let’s solve this together?

Attachment isn’t doing things for your child, it is showing your baby how to calm himself–all the while reassuring him that this is what learning will be. Baby and parents working together through things.

So, you, like hate this guy, right?

Well, not exactly.

While I am concerned that he is sending the wrong message to an audience that is way too broad, I do think he has good intentions.

The article notes that some doctors used to suggest that “nervous” mothers caused colic in their babies. (When the aforementioned doctor suggested this to me and I almost clocked her.)

Recent studies have shown this is not the case. However, colic can worsen depression and anxiety in the mother.

Lester is trying to find ways to minimize colic’s impact on the family.

So, what’s the answer?

I think that better suggestions may be found, within the article itself. You just have to look in the right place:

Lester, observing a rare crying baby in a traditional non-Western village. This was unusual, he explains, and so, he describes: “Everyone in the village would stop what they were doing to see what was wrong.”

I think a huge part of the issue is that we have moved so far from our support systems and isolated ourselves to the extent that the only help a parent usually has is the help that parent can afford. And if you can’t afford any help, you are often out of luck.

Most babies, even those who do not cry very much, will have the peak of their crying around the same time. Most will also see a reduction of crying around the same time.

So, given that even easy babies have some difficulty in their new environment, it makes sense to do the free and inexpensive things that make babies feel safe and help avoid overstimulating them–babywearing, swaddling, nursing if mom is able, etc.

Given that even with these efforts, some babies will still cry…a lot, the best thing is to develop support systems and to help one another out.

Believe me, I know it is tough. My husband was deployed while my baby was born and for most of her first three months of life. My family lived halfway across the country. My friends were afraid of getting my baby sick with colds and flus, given her condition.

Still, looking back on the experience, I needed to work those support systems more and ask for help where it was needed.

The article is also framed with a mama who was blessed with twins who were colicky and we learn that the twins eventually outgrew their difficulty adjusting to their world and mom is now giving advice over the Internet to another mom coping with colic:

“I urged her to get someone to spell her.”

Amen, sister.

Super Dad’s Up To His Tricks

Super Dad has some cool tricks…what I guess you could call parent hacks.

Baby Diva hates when we try to clean her face (hey, why mess with perfection…even if it is covered in sweet potatoes and pears?). So, Super Dad touches his own face on the spot he plans to clean and names it (“cheek, cheek, cheek”) and then wipes that part of her face. I don’t know if she gets distracted, is amused, or curious…but it works long enough for us to get her cleaning with a minimum of fuss.

When we first introduced finger foods, Baby Diva would grab the food, but would squish it in her hands and drop it before she ever got it to her mouth. So, Super Dad would pretend to feed the morsel to her…and then quickly pull it away a little. Baby Diva would usually try to lean in twice or three times and then would get fed up, grab the bite, and immediately stuff it in her mouth. After a week or two of this, we don’t even need the trick any more.

Anyone need these tricks or have tricks up their own sleeves?

Explorers Journal

Dear Readers,

I do not know if I shall survive. I have been in darkness so long.

Underground stream

Whoosh

One they call “Mommy”

Fattening me for some sort of ritual slaughter

Already beginning to lose knowledge of my native language and identify with my captors