Questions From You

Parenting questions submitted by our community members and answered by a YOU Program facilitator.
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Socializing Your Baby

April 4, 2017

By Jessica Vician

Socializing Your Baby | Just as you are your child’s first teacher, you are your child’s first friend. Taking his or her social cues from you, your child will slowly learn which faces and noises elicit reactions and how to mimic your facial expressions. | A dad smiles with his daughter.

Just as you are your child’s first teacher, you are your child’s first friend. Taking his or her social cues from you, your child will slowly learn which faces and noises elicit reactions and how to mimic your facial expressions. Eventually, he or she will start interacting more frequently by babbling, smiling, and crying around you to communicate. Those early communication skills are your child’s first steps toward socialization.

Since so many of your baby’s social skills are the result of interacting with you, it’s important to communicate often with him or her. In the first month, you can encourage these skills by making exaggerated facial expressions—raising your eyebrows, opening your eyes and mouth wide, sticking out your tongue—while speaking to your baby.

As he or she grows, keep talking to your baby as much as you can. Talk through your chores, as you change diapers and dress your baby, even as you prepare meals. These verbal cues slowly help your baby learn to talk and build the bond between you.

This Baby Center article details the monthly social developmental milestones for babies, which can help you know what to look for as your baby grows.

Every baby is different, and every parent has different expectations and needs for their child. The socialization skills and activities outlined above are easy to do at home, but what if you want to get out and expose you and your baby to other youngsters and parents?

There are plenty of options, from play dates with friends and their babies to classes at socialization centers like Gymboree. This mom, Brittany, wrote about her experience taking her eight month-old to a class, saying it helped her daughter interact with other youngsters and improve her motor skills. As your baby gets older, he or she will start taking an interest in other babies and you can begin nurturing those social skills, too.

While your baby is young, enjoy the bonding time as you teach him or her to socialize through interactions with parents, grandparents, siblings, and close friends. The parental bond will be the strongest social bond in the first year, so enjoy it!

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Easy Ways to Clean Your Child's Toys

February 7, 2017

By Jessica Vician

Easy Ways to Clean Your Child's Toys | A young girl plays with soft, plastic blocks on the floor.

If you're a parent and you're online, you've seen the news about Sophie the Giraffe. Yes, Sophie can develop mold on the inside if your teething child drools into the air hole, or if you ignore the manufacturer's cleaning tips and immerse it in water (even if that water is soapy or part bleach).

This news has sparked a bit of panic in parents—and rightfully so—as many people are allergic to mold and we want our kids to be healthy.

So how can you best keep those toys clean and prevent green fuzzy spores from forming on and inside them? These tips will get you started.

Good, Old Fashioned Cleaning Solutions
Use a clean sponge or cloth soaked in hot water and soap to wipe down the surfaces of your child's toys and play areas.

If they need a stronger scrubbing, make a paste out of baking soda and water to scrub, and add vinegar for extra power.

You can even create a mild bleach solution. To be safe, confirm the proper ratio of bleach to water with your pediatrician. I have read that one tablespoon of bleach per gallon of water should be fine, as long as you allow the solution to dry before giving the toy back to your child.

Let The Machines Do The Work
Plastic or rubber toys that don't have an air hole can usually go in the dishwasher on the top rack. If the toys are smaller, put them in a mesh bag first and tie it up tight so they won't get loose.

The mesh bag method also works in the washing machine, especially with Legos and other smaller toys. Instead of wiping each block down by hand, you can clean them at once one load.

Follow The Instructions
When in doubt, look at the manufacturer's cleaning tips on the box or online to see what they recommend. Some fabric toys can be tossed in the washing machine, but some should be spot-treated. Wood toys should be wiped down but not put in the dishwasher, as the heat may dry out or splinter the wood.

In the case of Sophie the Giraffe, the manufacturer recommends wiping her off, but not soaking her in water. Since Sophie has an air hole, water can get trapped inside and turn to mold. Keep that in mind when washing any toy and make sure you drain and dry it properly.

Do you have any toys that you've found tough to clean? Tell us in the comments below or email us at info@youparent.com and we'll help you find a safe way to clean them.

Tags :  healthbabyinfanttoddlersafety
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Parent Engagement in the Early Years

November 15, 2016

By Jessica Vician

Parent Engagement in the Early Years | Several examples of how you can practice parent engagement throughout the early years—from day one through kindergarten. | A father reads with his young children.

When raising a child, it’s hard to know when parent engagement begins. With a baby, you’re doing your best to meet the baby’s needs and fit in sleep when you can. Once the baby becomes a toddler, you’re working on small things, like motor skills and reading. But when should you start actively being an engaged parent?

The answer is at the very beginning, but the shape of parent engagement changes as your child grows. Here are several examples of how you can practice parent engagement throughout the early years—from day one through kindergarten.

Infancy and Stress
Raising a healthy and secure child starts in infancy as you hold, soothe, and interact with your baby. That nurturing helps the child develop a healthy sense of self that will allow him or her to better cope with stress when he or she gets older.

In addition to that nurturing, you can further help your baby by keeping your stress away from him or her. When you are stressed, your body produces toxins that affect your major systems. Babies and children can sense your stress as well, so keep the stress away by taking deep breaths, practicing yoga and/or meditation, and seeking therapy if necessary.

Toddlers and Vocabulary
Help your child develop his or her vocabulary by experiencing new things together.

For example, if you live in the city, take a day trip to the country. Your child will see new things and ask about them. If you see a silo on a farm, explain that it is used to store grain. Once your child seems to understand, point to the silo and ask what it is. Help your toddler continue to learn these vocabulary words by taking pictures and looking through them at home, asking him or her to name the things seen during the trip.

Early Childhood and Preschool
When your child is around three years old, you might consider sending him or her to preschool to start the formal learning process and prepare your child for kindergarten. Attending preschool can provide your child with many benefits, such as:

  • Learning concepts and skills, like colors, shapes, numbers, and letters.
  • Learning to play, share, and cooperate with others.
  • Learning to talk and listen to others, along with new words and proper grammar.

Starting Kindergarten
When entering kindergarten, it’s important that your child starts making his or her own choices. You can encourage making smart choices by giving your child healthy options. For example, ask your child if he or she wants yogurt or an apple as a snack. Does he or she want to play t-ball or basketball today? These options allow your child to eat healthy and exercise regardless of the choice, while it also empowers your child to have control over something in his or her life.

It’s not difficult to practice parent engagement. It’s as easy as nurturing your child, encouraging him or her to learn new things and meet new people, and slowly helping him or her learn to be independent.

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How can I stop my mother-in-law from telling me how to parent?

October 18, 2016

By YOU Program Facilitator

How can I stop my mother-in-law from telling me how to parent? | A new dad sits in bed with his wife while his mother argues with them while holding the baby.

Question: I just had my first baby and my mother-in-law is driving me crazy! She’s telling me how to do everything, even breastfeed! She has an opinion about formula, diapers, swaddling, how to hold the baby—the list goes on and on. I’m about to lose my mind—how can I stop her from telling me how to be a parent?

Answer: We’ve all been there. As soon as the pregnancy or adoption announcement goes out, the unsolicited parenting advice rolls in. It seems unstoppable. You start by politely smiling and nodding, agreeing even when you don’t. But once the baby comes, there is neither time nor patience for being polite. And of course, the advice that hits the biggest nerve is from your mother-in-law.

This is one of the most common questions we receive from friends and YOU Program workshop attendees and the answer isn’t simple. It depends on your and your parenting partner’s relationship with your in-law. It depends on the advice they’re offering. It depends on a lot of factors.

There are two key starting points:

  1. Take a breath and remember that it comes from a good place.
    Your mother-in-law loves her grandchild and wants to pass along advice that helped her raise your partner. But she might not understand that parenting trends come and go, safety expectations change, and most people only want advice when they ask for it.
  2. Assess the advice.
    If it’s a clear safety violation to follow her advice, then stop her right away and explain the current safety rules or laws. For example, if Grandma says it’s okay for a two-year-old to ride in the front seat of the car, you need to stop her immediately and explain why that’s unsafe and where your two-year-old should be sitting instead (in a strapped in car seat in the back seat).

From there, here are some ways to deal with common issues.

Giving Birth
If your parenting partner and you would like privacy during the birth or right afterward, communicate that to close family and friends as soon as you have decided. Be proactive about announcing this decision so everyone knows your expectations. Let them know you’d like some privacy as a family before they come to visit the baby.

First Visits at Home
If parents or parents-in-law want to stay with you after the birth of your child and you’re comfortable with it, be proactive about asking for help.

Think of things you need help with that won’t interfere with what you need to do with your new baby: laundry, dishes, grocery shopping, cooking, etc. By giving them something to do, they can be helpful while you take care of the baby’s immediate needs.

If your in-law seems to take too much of a hands-on role with your baby, you or your parenting partner need to quickly explain that you are now in the parent role and your in-law is now in the grandparent role. Explain the differences, like the new parents needing to establish a routine for the baby with them, and the exception to the routine is with the grandparents. The grandparents need to respect your rules for your baby, not the other way around.

Parenting Advice
If your mother-in-law is persistently offering opinions that you disagree with, you and your parenting partner should discuss them privately to ensure you’re on the same page. Then, figure out who should talk to Grandma.

Some people are more comfortable with the child directly addressing the issue with their parent. For example, if Dad’s mother is critical of the way Mom is feeding the baby, Dad can gently tell his mother that her criticism is hurtful to both him and you and that you are following your doctor’s advice.

If Dad’s mother is with Mom alone a lot, it might be better for Mom to address the opinions directly. Again, be gentle but firm. “I really appreciate your advice and you did a great job with Dad, but this is something I want to figure out for myself. If I’m having trouble, I’ll be sure to ask you for help and advice.”

Remember those starting points and that your mother-in-law means well. At the same time, it’s a good opportunity for you to start setting boundaries for your new family. Hopefully, everyone in the family will soon settle into a routine with your baby and you can get the help you need but not the advice you don’t.

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Want to Make Your Own Baby Food? Read These 7 Tips First

January 12, 2016

By Jessica Vician

Want to Make Your Own Baby Food? Read These 7 Tips First | Making baby food is pretty easy; after all, most of it consists of steamed and puréed vegetables or mashed-up fruits. Before you give it a try, read through these seven considerations to ensure you take proper precautions. | A baby looks at her food before eating it.

Before having a baby, many parents idealize what life will be like with the baby. From all-natural births to cloth diapers and organic creams, expectant parents fill their registries with products that suggest that we can do it all ourselves.

Then the baby comes and we realize that we’ll do anything to make raising our child easier and less painful. But one of those idealized visions can remain a reality: making your own baby food.

Not only is making baby food more economical than store-bought food, you can also control the nutrients and eliminate added chemicals and preservatives in your baby’s diet. And it gets the baby used to eating the same foods as the adults, which will make your transition to solid foods easier.

Making baby food is pretty simple; after all, most of it consists of steamed and puréed vegetables or mashed-up fruits. Before you give it a try, read through these seven considerations to ensure you take proper precautions.

1. Wait until your baby is 3-6 months old.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends waiting until your baby is six months old to introduce finger and puréed food. If you follow proper sanitary guidelines, they say you can introduce baby food along with breast milk or formula as early as three months old.

Check with your pediatrician before changing your baby’s diet at any point, and talk to him or her about potential food allergies in advance.

2. Get the right equipment.
For the basics, you’ll just need a steamer and a food processor (or blender). If you want to splurge, there are plenty of all-in-one products that can aid in the whole process from peeling to steaming to blending.

This article breaks down the types of equipment you can use to make baby food.

3. Wash. Wash. Wash.
Wash everything that will come into contact with the food. Wash your hands and the surfaces you’re using to chop, dice, mash, etc. Wash the equipment and the food, even if you’re going to peel it. Keep everything clean to prevent the spread of bacteria to your baby.

4. Limit nitrates in the food.
Nitrates are found in plants, soil, and well water. If your baby is exposed to too many nitrates, he or she could develop a type of anemia known as “blue baby syndrome.”

To limit the amount of nitrates your baby ingests from homemade baby food, do the following:

  1. Consume or freeze baby food immediately. Nitrates develop in food the longer it sits, so if you’re not going to cook fruits or vegetables right away, use frozen versions. If you’re not going to use all of the prepared baby food within a few days, freeze extra portions the day you make it. You can defrost it later in the week or anytime in the next three months.
  2. If you have well water, test it for nitrates. If the levels are more than 10mg per liter, use purified or bottled water for all baby food (including formula).

5. Never sweeten baby food.
Babies don’t need extra sweetener. They get all they need from naturally occurring sugars in fruits and vegetables. It is especially dangerous to add honey to baby food, as it can cause botulism in babies under a year old.

6. Avoid any unpasteurized dairy products.
Raw or unpasteurized milk can contain dangerous bacteria that can cause illness, so just as you avoided it during pregnancy, you should avoid it when making baby food.

7. Have fun!
While it’s important to be diligent and cautious when making your own baby food, have fun experimenting with different flavors and textures to see what your baby likes. This website has great recommendations for starter fruits and vegetables, like peas, mangoes, squash, and more.

Do you make your own baby food? Share your favorite recipes in the comments below!

Tags :  early childhoodbabyphysicalhealthbudget
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