Air Pollution and your Baby

Getting out for some fresh air may be one of your baby’s favorite activities. The sights and sounds of your neighborhood, parks, your city or wherever else you spend time outdoors can be good for the heart and soul. Spending some time outdoors is excellent for your baby but watch out for the negative effects of air pollution. Today we’re examining air pollution and your baby to help keep your little one safe while still enjoying the great outdoors.

Air Pollution and your BabyAir pollution comes from a variety of sources including vehicle exhaust, factories, power plants, mines, dry cleaners and construction sites. The release of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, black carbons and particulate matter can be dangerous to any human body but the consequences are even more severe for babies whose organs continue to develop throughout infancy. Exposure to air pollution starting during the prenatal period throughout childhood can have serious health side-effects.

Studies have shown the negative effects of air pollution for respiration and the cardiovascular system. Air pollution is now linked to developmental delays in the brain as well including less cognitive potential and behavioral disorders. Additionally, air pollution can cause a burning sensation in the eyes, coughing and temporary tightness in the chest. Air pollution is particularly bad for children with airway blockages or asthma.

While fresh air and outdoor exercise are good for babies and children, you should take some precautions before heading out:

  • Check the daily status of the air quality in your area before spending too much time outdoors. If there is a warning or advisory about the air quality, limit time outside.
  • When air quality is poor, spend a short amount of time outside in the mornings or evenings when air pollution is less harsh.
  • Children who are exercising or rigorously playing outdoors will be breathing deeply and are more exposed to toxic particulates. Have your child take breaks to catch their breath during high respiratory outdoor play.
  • Days when the air is still and warm are worst for air pollution and your baby.
  • Avoid highly toxic areas near power plants, factories and dry cleaners.
  • Cities are not the only places with air pollution; rural areas can have air pollution too. Everyone should take caution.
  • Keep tabs on good indoor play spaces that will give your baby and older children time for physical activity without the dangers of air pollution. Strolling in the mall or visiting a baby gym are great for little ones, and indoor playgrounds or gyms are fun for older kids.
  • Play your part in reducing your family’s carbon footprint by using energy efficient products, buying less packaged goods and recycling.

When considering air pollution and your baby keep these tips in mind so your little love stays safe and healthy!

Sources: US News and World Report, LA Times and the March of Dimes

8 Reasons to Stop Comparing your Baby

Comparing your baby to others may feel like human nature when you become a mom.  After all, developmental milestones come with a timeline and when your baby doesn’t hit the mark right on time, you may feel worried and disappointed.  However, before you stress out about keeping up with the Jones’ baby, there are so many reasons to stop comparing your baby.  We’re sharing eight of them today.

1 – All Babies are Different

You’ve heard this time and time again, and there is a good reason why.  It’s true!  Your baby’s abilities are just as unique as the way she looks yet somehow it is easier to accept the expression of eye-color genes than those that determine when your baby will hit a particular milestone.

2 – Reaching Milestones Sooner has Little Effect on the Future

If you believe that early walkers are better athletes or early talkers become famous authors, think again.  This misconception is not true for the most part.  As long as your baby learns skills steadily within a normal range according to your pediatrician, her potential will not be limited by when she checked off the developmental milestone boxes in her first year.

8 Reasons to Stop Comparing your Baby3 – Your Baby May be Focused Elsewhere

Babies tend to focus on one new skill at a time.  If your baby is learning to roll or grasp objects, she may not babble as much.  Or if your baby is working on understanding your words, she may pause on learning to crawl.  Then all of the sudden, many new skills emerge and your comparisons (and worries) were for nothing.

4 – You’re Missing what is Special about your Baby

When you spend your time comparing your baby to others or fretting over the milestones chart, you’re going to miss out on what is special about your baby.  Learning to celebrate your child for who she is will be an important parenting lesson for you.

5 – Restricts Bonding with your Baby

Recognizing and championing your baby’s unique character will help you form a lifelong bond.  When you are hyper critical, it can get in the way of feeling close to your baby.  While you may think you’re hiding your feelings, your baby might pick up on your subtle neuroses.

6 – You Don’t Live with other Babies so your Comparisons are Unfounded Anyways

What you see of other babies is probably not how they act all the time.  Some babies are very calm in public but cranky at home.  Some babies feel uninhibited to show off their talents anywhere while others are shy outside the comfort of their own play space.  It’s silly to compare without even having all the facts, which would be impossible anyways so just don’t do it!

7 – Sets the Stage for Stress and Low Self Esteem

Comparing your 3-month old now could turn into 18 years of comparing your child in the future.  Surely your child will pick up on it at some point, which can damage her psychologically through stress and lower her self esteem.  Instead, boost your baby’s self esteem by being proud of who she really is.

8 – Your Baby’s Temperament and Skills aren’t a Reflection of You, but Comparing Is

As a parent your job is to provide opportunity for success throughout your child’s youth.  If you are meeting your baby’s basic and developmental needs, her developmental patterns, sleep style and behavior are mostly out of your control.  Comparing your baby and blaming her or yourself is fruitless and a poor reflection of you.  You will come across as caddy, self-centered and unkind rather than the loving parent you are trying to be.

We hope you take these reasons to stop comparing your baby to heart so you can celebrate all that is special about your precious child.

Baby Bodybuilding Part 2: How to Help Your Baby Develop Muscles

Earlier this week we discussed the development of your baby’s gross motor skills and the importance of strong muscles to achieve these milestones.  Now that you have an understanding of how your baby’s muscles emerge, we’re moving on to some practical skills training for how to help your baby develop muscles.

First, we like to call it “baby bodybuilding” because it reminds us that we’re strengthening our babies and getting them ready to physically explore the world around them.  Lifting the head, moving the eyes, scooting around, bringing things to the mouth and all of the other amazing things your baby is learning to do helps her discover her surroundings and make deeper brain connections.  Much like adult bodybuilding, it’s actually pretty hard work for your little buddle of joy.  She may let you know that with a grunt or cry once in awhile.  Be sure to give lots of encouragement and love along the way.  Extra praise and cuddles are most definitely in order during strength building activities.  And certainly that fantastic breast milk of yours will give her the nutrients needed for her “workouts.”

Here are some of the best activities for how to help your baby develop muscles:

Freedom:  Beware of trapping and strapping your baby down too often.  Babies need the opportunity to explore and move about as they choose.  This freedom from strollers, cribs, swings and bouncy chairs will be your baby’s first gym floor.  Even if she cannot move very much or very far yet, she’ll feel the freedom and encouragement to do so when she’s ready.

Baby Bodybuilding Part 2:  How to Help Your Baby Develop MusclesTummy Time:  Babies now sleep on their backs (the safest way for babies to sleep) and spend less time on their stomachs where they have to learn to lift their head to view their environment.  Therefore, it’s your job as a parent to carve out tummy time where your little one can build neck, abdominal and back strength.  This is how she will learn to hold up her head on her own and eventually roll over.  Tummy time can be done in a variety of ways including on a play mat, yoga mat, your bed, a pillow or on your chest.  You can stimulate your baby by getting on the floor with her and enticing her with exciting toys of vibrant colors, textures and sounds.  Tummy time also helps your baby avoid having a flat head.

Baby Workout:  Take time each day, or several times a day, to move your baby’s body around for her.  Help her kick her legs up, open and in a bicycle motion.  Stretch her arms above her head and to the side.  Crunch her little body up for some mini sit-ups.  Clap her hands and feet together.  Make up a dance with multiple movements.  Bounce her on your legs.  This fun routine will help strengthen her muscles and you’ll probably get a few giggles too.  Try getting in a “workout” on the changing table each time you change a diaper.

Help Her Try New Things:  Some babies dive in to new adventures head first – literally!  Others are a little more cautious.  Hold your baby’s hand or give her a push when she’s trying a new activity to show her that she can indeed do it.  Sometimes this boost is all the confidence she needs to try it on her own.

Baby Massage:  Just like every good athlete, a soothing massage is in order after a workout.  Babies love massages and it can trigger some strong muscle development too.  Additionally, massages are comforting and relaxing to babies and make them feel warm and loved, which of course they are.  Try a baby massage before bedtime to get your baby in a calm state for sleep.

Tasting the World:  It may make germaphobic parents across the globe cringe but babies explore with their mouths.  And the act of bringing something to the mouth is great for their gross motor skills.  Scooting, crawling or walking to find something to put in their mouths is even better yet.  Ensure your baby has plenty of safe and sanitary items to put in her mouth and that she doesn’t miss the opportunity by always sucking on a pacifier.

Be Physically Active:  Kids need to be active.  Encouraging physical activity from a young age is one of the best ways to keep kids healthy and to avoid the epidemic of obesity.  Health professionals recommend at least one hour of physical activity per day for children.  Start the habit now for your baby’s strong and healthy future.

Baby Bodybuilding Part 1: The Development of Gross Motor Skills

You probably love the tender, softness of your marshmellowy baby.  She’s undeniably hard to resist.  However, muscle development is an essential part of reaching physical milestones.  Babies are born with no muscle strength or control but they develop these vital skills over time.  The major muscle coordinating activities are known as gross motor skills and your pediatrician will be looking out for them at each checkup during your baby’s first few years.  Today we’re discussing the importance of helping your baby develop muscles to perform gross motor skills.

Baby Bodybuilding Part 1:  The Development of Gross Motor SkillsAt birth, babies can only rely on reflexes, like that of suckling and swallowing during breastfeeding.  During the first few months of life, babies are strong enough to hold up their own heads using neck strength, and follow objects with their eyes, which require optical muscle coordination.  From there, babies start to gain more control over their arms and legs that were once flailing without rhyme or reason.  They can reach for objects, begin putting food (and other objects) in their mouth and kick things intentionally with their feet.  They begin to roll over from their stomach to their back and eventually from their back to their stomach again.

Around the midpoint of the first year, babies begin working on advanced skills such as sitting upright, slithering, crawling, baring weight on their legs and pulling up on objects.  Usually around the first year – although sometimes earlier and sometimes later – babies’ muscles are strong enough to start walking.  Most start off teetering or toddling, hence the name toddler.  But in no time, your budding walker will surely be sprinting around faster than you can keep up with her.

While these gross motor skills develop differently for each child, there are developmental milestones set forth as guidelines to ensure your baby is on target.  If your baby is not meeting milestones, you should talk to your pediatrician.  You may just have a late bloomer or these may be signs of developmental problems.

A somewhat common issue is hypotonia, which is simply low muscle tone.  Babies with hypotonia may feel limp or floppy, sort of like a rag doll.  This type of muscle weakness can cause delayed gross motor skills and lack of coordination.  Usually children grow out of hypotonia however they may always lag behind in physical activities.  Some parents opt for physical therapy to help babies and young children strengthen their muscles.  This still may not make them a star athlete but it can help them gain some skills to keep up with their peers.  More severe, long-term hypotonia may be related to serious conditions such as muscular dystrophy, Tay-Sachs, cerebral palsy, Prader-Willi syndrome or other genetic disorders.  Major concerns should be addressed with your pediatrician immediately.

The best thing you can do to help strengthen your baby’s muscles is to give her every opportunity to use them in ways that are age appropriate.  Later this week we’ll be sharing some activities and baby “bodybuilding exercises” you can do with your baby.  Don’t worry, your baby won’t break a sweat or need a protein shake afterwards…well, except for maybe that great protein-packed breast milk you provide.

Stay tuned for more on how to help your baby develop those much-needed muscles and gross motor skills.

Developmental Milestones

Before we dive in, what exactly are developmental milestones?

Developmental milestones are age-specific tasks that the majority of children can achieve within that particular age group.  However, while each milestone has been assigned a general stage, the actual age children accomplish each task may differ. Just remember that every child is an individual that will develop at their own rate, and you should always remain positive, excited and encouraging!

We have collected a few examples of developmental milestones that can be realistically expected from 2-18 months of age:

Developmental Milestones

In 2-5 months of age, you can expect to see your child smiling, laughing, grasping onto a rattle or a similarly shaped object, and becoming startled by sudden noises.

In 6-9 months of age, your child may begin rolling over, crawling, adorably babbling, turning and shifting to locate sources of sounds, and performing vowel consonant combinations, such as “dada”.

Developmental Milestones

 

In 10-12 months of age, your little one will probably be cruising (shuffled walking) across the room with support from an adult or the furniture, finding mobile ways to reach desired objects across the room, pointing at specific objects and people, using their thumb and fingers to pick up small objects, and physically and visually exploring their toys!

In 13-18 months of age, your child will be walking by themselves, walking up and down stairs with one hand held by an adult, easily throwing lightweight objects such as a ball, using a small vocabulary of about four to ten words, following simple directions, and acknowledging and responding to his or her name.

It is important to remember that your little one may experience these stages at different times. In fact, they may take an entirely different course! But don’t worry, it’s their uniqueness that truly makes them shine!

 

If you are concerned about your child’s development, make sure to set up an appointment with their Doctor.

Baby’s First Birthday: Happy Birthday Taylor!

Danah and Taylor_Taylor Turns 1If you’re like me, many emotions surface as your baby’s first birthday approaches.

While you are working on the party plans, invitations and picking the right outfit (for yourself and baby!) for baby’s first birthday, you are still also working on perfecting parenthood too.  You wonder where the year has gone and start questioning yourself.  Did I take enough pictures?  Have we been involved in enough activities at each monumental stage of development?  Am I doing all that I can to make her life great?

Then you stop and look at your one-year-old and realize that she is as perfect as perfect can be.  You know she feels your love when her eyes brighten and you see her beaming smile as you walk into a room.  In addition to providing her basic human needs of nutrients (which you’ve provided in the best possible way through breast milk), clothing and shelter, love is the most important element we can fulfill for our children.  Love makes a difference in their first year of life, and well beyond.  The bond you’ve developed with your child will last forever, and the love she’s learning from you will spill over into every aspect of her future.

I’ve learned to cherish the “loving moments” in each and every day with Taylor.  I hope you are doing the same with your little ones as well.

Sippy Cups vs. Straw Cups: The Art of Drinking from a Straw

Danah and TaylorSippy cups and straw cups take up entire aisles at baby stores, as I’m sure you’ve noticed.  There are a seemingly endless number of choices made for babies and children of all different ages and with a variety of spouts.

At an early age, we encouraged Taylor to drink from a straw.  Research shows that drinking from a straw helps develop babies’ mouth muscles, which prepares them for speech.  A straw cup strengthens and positions the tongue correctly for successful speech.   Luckily, those aisles full of sippy cups and straw cups also come in spill-proof versions!

Taylor finally mastered the art of drinking from a straw at nine months and loves doing it!  Go Taylor, Go!

Danah Bordner
New Mom, LPGA Professional Golfer and Loving Moments Spokesmom

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