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Parenting Around the World

January 14, 2015

By Nikki Cecala

Parenting Around the World | Three children smile for the camera in front of fields in Vietnam.

As a parent, have you ever done something and later thought, I wonder if other parents do this? If so, you are certainly not alone. I am an avid Google user, especially now that I’m a parent (who isn’t, right?). I’m constantly searching for insights, opinions, myths, experiences, etc. regarding parenting. When I struggled with getting my 19-month-old son to sleep in his crib, I searched everything from bedtime routines to letting the baby cry it out. He would hyperventilate so badly—to the point of throwing up—until I picked him up.

After three weeks, I decided to end the torture for the both of us. But it got me thinking, why is co-sleeping frowned upon in America? Can it really be that bad for the child? I searched the affects it had on children into adulthood and found that some countries recommend co-sleeping. For example, Swedish parents believe that children should have access to their parents’ bodies for comfort and should be allowed to sleep in their parents’ beds. It is similar in India, as children sleep with their parents until they are six or seven years old.

I felt a little better knowing I wasn’t the only mother in the world who co-slept, and took my research further to see how other countries around the world parent differently from us in the U.S.

Potty Training
I was impressed by this one. Vietnamese parents have their children potty trained by nine months! In America, three years old is average. Their secret? They use the sound of a whistle. When the parents recognize that their child is urinating, they make a whistling sound so the baby can associate the whistle with peeing. Can you imagine being diaper-free before the age of one? Please hold while I daydream for a moment of a potty-trained baby.

Independence
Japanese parents encourage independence by letting their children venture around the neighborhood, and some even take public transportation by themselves. It is common to let children as young as four years old run errands for their parents and take the trains or buses while doing so.

Food
In France, children aren’t given special baby foods. Rather, they eat just as adults do. There is also no snacking, as mealtimes are enforced.

Bedtime
Spanish families let their children stay up late in order to foster their social skills and engage with family throughout the evening. If there’s a family party, the kiddies are staying up with the adults!

Daycare
Norwegians believe in daycare or barnehage (children’s garden) as early as one year old. Why? Because they strongly believe that fresh air is good for the children and it encourages parents to go back to work.

What do you think about these parenting styles? Are you inspired to bring a few of these into your household? Tell me in the comments below. And next month, I will talk about American parenting styles that impress other countries.

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Tips for Traveling with an Infant

December 18, 2014

By Ana Vela

Tips for Traveling with an Infant | The author and her daughter, in a Baby Bjorn, pose for the camera in front of the TSA line.

With all my family living in a different state, I travel frequently to visit them. And now with a six month old, it is especially important to stay connected with family. Although I consider myself a bit of a travel pro, I admittedly was nervous about traveling with my infant for the first time. With our first plane trip together, I spent a lot of time researching to prepare, including talking to other mothers who travel with their infants. Here are some of my best tips to offer fellow traveling parents:

Planning Your Trip
There’s a lot to consider when planning your trip.

Do you plan to have your infant sit on your lap (free up to two years old) or will you purchase a reduced fare seat for your infant?
Having your infant sit on your lap is a great way to save money. Just be aware that you will need extra time to check in at the airport, as you will need to get a special boarding pass for your infant. Purchasing a seat for your child may be an expense, but it allows you the option to keep your infant in his or her car seat. On a long ride, that comfort can be critical for you and baby.

Will you have access to baby gear, such as a crib, car seat, stroller, etc. when you arrive at your destination?
Traveling as light as possible is a rule you still want to follow. Try to store baby gear basics at places you frequently travel. My family keeps a play yard, activity gym, baby bathtub, and stroller for my baby so I don’t have to travel with those things. These are used items from other babies in my family, so ask relatives for donations to help when you travel. There are also companies such as BabysAway.com that offer baby gear to rent when you are traveling. This too can be a great option to help you carry less.

Does your destination have convenient locations to purchase baby essentials such as formula, diapers, medicine, etc. or will it be easier to pack them in your luggage?
Baby essentials can quickly fill up your luggage and may not be worth it. If it’s quick and easy to stop by a store to purchase these at your destination, then I highly recommend it. For a new destination, a quick Internet search can show you what’s available. If you are visiting friends or family, ask them to purchase these items ahead of time so they are ready when you arrive.

Pack enough of these items to have on hand in case you can’t make it to the store right away. Of course, if your destination does not make it convenient, make sure you pack everything your baby would need, even in an emergency (first aid kit, medicine, etc.).

Tips for Traveling with an Infant | The author sits on the plane with her infant in her lap.

Packing Your Luggage
If you have never packed luggage for a baby (yes, a baby will have his or her OWN luggage!), you will quickly see how much you have to take with you. Make a checklist of items you will need. I created essential categories to help me think through everything: feeding, changing, clothing, bathing, transportation, and playtime.

Consider Routines
Routines are everything for a baby. Think of items that may help maintain some of your baby’s routines and can recreate the environment he or she has grown accustomed to at home. For example, if your baby likes to listen to music to fall asleep, then pack a small sound machine. Take your baby’s favorite toy and book.

Checked Bags + Carry-ons
Whenever possible, check your luggage. The last thing you want to do is haul luggage AND a baby. There may be a fee associated with it, but having your hands available to attend to your infant is so crucial. I also recommend that any luggage have wheels for easy transportation.

You will need to have one carry-on bag, and what you decide to pack in it will be critical for your traveling experience. Pack your carry-on bag in preparation for any unexpected delays, like a five-hour or overnight flight delay. Make sure your carry-on has enough food, diapers, bottles, etc. to last a full day at the airport. Anticipate your child’s needs by packing a small toy to entertain a fussy baby and a backup outfit in case he or she has an accident.

Airlines may differ a bit, but almost all of them allow you two carry-on items. When traveling with an infant, you can additionally check a car seat and stroller at the gate. Place them inside a bag to prevent getting dirty, wet, or scratched during storage.

Tips for Traveling with an Infant | Mariana sleeps in an extra seat on the flight.

Traveling Day
Traveling with an infant will require extra time—both in getting ready to leave your house and to get to your gate at the airport.

Identification
A birth certificate is required when traveling with an infant. Make sure you have it on hand when checking in. A lap-traveling infant requires his or her own boarding pass that must be printed out at the airport, so make time for that.

Security Checkpoints
According to TSA, infants must be taken out of their baby carriers before going through the X-ray machine. Strollers and carriers go through the x-ray machine if you did not check them.

When carrying water for formula and/or breast milk, prepare for additional inspection at security. There are no specific limits on how many ounces of liquid you can carry, but security may check to verify that it is a reasonable amount based on your travel days. Security may also run the liquids through a test to confirm it is safe.

Tips for Traveling with an Infant | Mariana chews on a book on the flight.

On the Plane
One of the best tips I received from another traveling mom was to choose a seat (if that is an option for you) next to a fellow parent. Your baby may get fussy and cry during the flight, and the attitude of the person sitting next to you can make a big difference in getting through those challenges.

The change in air pressure during take off and landing can be unpleasant for a child. It is recommended to have him or her sucking on a pacifier, bottle, or nursing during that time to ease any discomfort. I set aside some milk to bottle feed my baby during these times and it worked just fine.

Keep your baby entertained and feeling secure! I had a handful of small toys that my baby enjoys playing with. I also had a couple of blankets to spread on a seat for her to sit and lay down on (I was lucky that there was an empty seat next to me). Reading to her also helped to keep her calm. I made sure I attended to all her needs and even rocked her in my arms to fall asleep. Patience to any challenges helped to keep everything under control.

Traveling with an infant can be stressful, but with good planning can be quite enjoyable. My first experience with my baby went so well that I’m excited for visiting family again during the holidays. Mariana was the star of the flight because of her good behavior and I can see her becoming a traveling pro herself in no time!

What tips do you have for traveling with an infant? Share them in the comments below.

Tags :  infantbabyphysical
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Couple Chat: Parenting Expectations Vs. Reality

October 23, 2014

By Mario and Ana Vela

Couple Chat: Parenting Expectations Vs. Reality | Ana and Mario Vela kiss their baby daughter.

In the Couple Chat series, we pose one or two topical questions to a couple and ask each person to answer privately. Each person then reads the other’s response and the couple discusses their thoughts on the topic. They share their discussion together in the reflection.

For today’s Couple Chat, we asked new parents Ana and Mario Vela about parenting expectations versus reality. Here’s what they said.

Before you had your baby, what did you think your biggest challenge would be as a parent? What did you think would come easiest to you?

Ana: Before having our baby, I thought the biggest challenge as a parent would be feeling overwhelmed and lonely. Having all our family 1200 miles away. I kept imagining that I would be holding a crying baby, not knowing what to do, with no one close by to help. The thought of wanting to take a break from the baby, but not having family around to help really scared me. Fortunately, my mother stayed with us for three months after our daughter, Mariana, was born, and taught me how to care for her. My confidence increased. After my mother left, I didn’t feel scared anymore. I know advice is a phone call away.

On the other hand, I thought the easiest thing would be returning to work after maternity leave. For some reason, I always imagined easily managing having a baby and a career without any feelings of guilt for working.

Mario: I thought the biggest challenge would simply be being a father. I don’t have a traditional father figure, and I relied on a collection of influences to help me define the person I am. I truly questioned my ability to be a father for my child, and questioned the value I could offer a child.

I felt comfortable providing the basic care Mariana would require, as I’m the oldest in my family. I cared for my younger siblings and relied on my experience in caring for them including feedings, diaper changes, etc. I even showed Ana how to change a diaper. However, both Ana and my mother-in-law have specific ways of caring for Mariana, and don’t always agree with how I handle her. I don’t let that discourage me, as I know we all want what is best for her. I just have a different way of caring for her.

Now that you’re parents to a 4-month-old, what is your current biggest challenge as a parent? What is the easiest thing about being a parent?

Ana: My biggest challenge so far has been maintaining a work/life balance. What I thought before would be easiest is really the most difficult. I feel guilty when I am away from Mariana, or when I’m not paying attention to her because I am working at home. It gets more challenging when both my husband and I need to put in extra hours at the same time—whose work is more important? One of us has to take care of the baby. We’ve even had to compromise how many work events and late nights we can put in a month to make things fair between us. It has definitely caused some friction, and I anticipate it will continue to.

The easiest thing about being a parent is loving her. Everyday I am amazed at the love that flows out of me for this little person. Before, I really thought I would want to constantly take breaks from her, but I’ve been surprised at how easy and enjoyable it is to spend time with her. Sometimes I just stare at her, and even cry because she makes me so happy.

Mario: Now the biggest challenge is my fear that something might happen to her. I never wanted to be overprotective, but now that I hold her in my arms and see her potential, I’m afraid that something might happen to her. All her care now is our responsibility, and I want to make the best decisions for her, but I feel that these decisions shouldn’t be based out of fear. I need to learn to manage and understand it, and let go when appropriate.

I was nervous if I was capable of offering a father’s love. But from the first moment I saw her and experienced that I was responsible for her, I realized that all those questions I had didn’t matter. I had to move on from all the hesitation I felt, which I did immediately when she was born. I understand now that I will make every effort to make the best decisions for her and our family.

Reflection
Ana: I am surprised that Mario said he was so comfortable with the thought of caring for Mariana. I know he helped take care of his younger siblings, but I still thought he would be nervous with our baby. I hadn’t taken care of babies—and yes, I didn’t even know how to change a diaper! I realize now that I shouldn’t have been so scared to not have my family close by when Mario was perfectly capable of helping me out.

Now that he’s putting it out there, I feel guilty about criticizing how Mario cares for Mariana. Although I may not always agree with how he handles her, I am happy that he likes spending time with her and will always make sure she is safe.

Mario and I had always planned to put Mariana in a daycare. Seeing the quality of care my mother provided her made him realize that he didn’t want to expose her to anything other than one-on-one care. Accommodating this change in plan for Mario has completely changed our plans, which was very stressful. My mother-in-law has decided to move in with us and care for Mariana. It was very interesting to see how differently Mario and I felt about her care.

We both agree that Mariana has completely changed our lives. We are both so in love with her. We talk about her all the time and enjoy seeing how she develops every day.

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Old Wives’ Tales in Parenting

October 9, 2014

By Ana Vela

Old Wives' Tales in Parenting | Baby Mariana has a red thread on her forehead to stop the hiccups.

I recently had my first baby, and I must admit I didn’t know what I was getting into. Fortunately, my mother flew in from out of state to help me care for my baby for the first three months. I was so desperate and grateful for her help that I pretty much believed and followed anything she said. I mean, she had three kids of her own and has helped raise my two nieces. Why wouldn’t I?

I started sharing some of my mom’s guidance with friends. They questioned, and even laughed, at some of the things I shared with them. That’s when I started to realize that they might just be parenting old wives’ tales. Perhaps my vulnerability as a new parent caused me to believe anything she said at the time.

Out of curiosity, I posted some of these on my Facebook page and asked people if they believed in any of them. I was amazed with the feedback I received. Many people grew up with these same stories and believe in them. Of course, there were many who were skeptical, regardless of the fact that their own family members follow them. There were even people correcting each other in how the tales go.

These are a couple of parenting old wives’ tales that I have encountered since becoming a parent. I’ve since learned that these are prominent in the Latino culture.

Ojo or Evil Eye
My mother was very serious when she sat me down and talked me through how to cure “ojo,” because my baby was sure to experience it one day soon. Ojo is sort of like the evil eye. The story varies, but generally it occurs when someone really admires and/or is envious of your baby. If they don’t touch your baby then the baby will develop a fever and will cry uncontrollably when you get home. It could last for days if you do not perform the cure, which involves rubbing an egg on your baby, reciting prayers, and cracking the egg open to release the ojo.

My mom even said I constantly contracted ojo as a baby (apparently I was quite adorable), and at some point she would avoid taking me out in public to not deal with it anymore. I later learned that there is a special bracelet you can have your baby wear that will block them from ever getting ojo. Sounds crazy, I know. And yet, I grew up with family and friends swearing that their babies had ojo and that the cure worked.

Curing Hiccups
This one came from my husband. Our baby had hiccups that wouldn’t go away. He asked me in a serious manner if I had tried using red thread to cure her hiccups. I had no idea what he was talking about. My mom overheard jumped in, agreeing that red thread cures hiccups. She couldn’t believe she had forgotten about it. My husband found red thread in our drawer, cut a piece, placed it in his mouth to wet it with his saliva, then stuck it onto our daughter Mariana’s forehead. And then we waited. After what seemed to me like a very long time, the hiccups went away. My husband proudly claimed that the red thread cured the hiccups. Sounds crazy, I know. And yet, several of my friends swear it works, too.

Others
And there were more! Do not have the baby roll her eyes back at me or she will become cross-eyed. Do not eat eggs, beans, or pork while breastfeeding for the first month or else my baby will get sick and become colicky. Don’t let the baby see my dogs poop or pee because she will get red eyes.

For the most part, these old wives’ tales are harmless. They were likely pure coincidences that were then declared factual, and were passed down from generation to generation. As crazy as some of these old wives’ tales sound, when you are a parent, following these tales can make you feel like you are helping and protecting your child. As long as we are not risking harm, whatever makes us feel at ease is worth following. So although I don’t believe in these tales, you won’t find me ignoring an opportunity to help my baby by using any of these!

What old wives’ tales have your heard from your family and friends? Tell me in the comments below or start a thread in the forum. 

 

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Best Practices for Infant Care From a New Dad

September 26, 2014

By Mario Vela

Best Practices for Infant Care From a New Dad | Author Mario Vela looks at his newborn daughter, Mariana, as he holds her.

Photo courtesy of Jennifer Shaffer Photography

As a father of a seven-week-old child, I’ve learned a new love that I wasn’t aware I was capable of feeling. My priorities have shifted and caring for my daughter Mariana has replaced any previous priorities I had. In moments when I typically used to be sleeping, I am now rewarded by watching Mariana’s development.

I’ve learned so much about my baby in such a short amount of time, just as many new parents before me have. Here are some of the best practices I’ve found help as a new parent. I hope they help you, too.

Anticipate Needs. My understanding of Mariana’s needs has improved with experience and patience. I have learned to anticipate some needed care to avoid crying or frustration. Types of care include feedings, carrying, soothing, and learning when to burp her.

Smart Buys. Before our daughter was born, my wife, Ana, purchased a few items whose value and effectiveness I didn’t initially understand, but now I highly recommend them.

  • A Boppie pillow is very versatile for feedings and naps.
  • A swing soothes a baby.
  • Bassinets help a child sleep.
  • Rocking chairs help during feedings and to put a baby to sleep.
  • A camera with a motion sensor helps you feel comfortable when your child is in a different room. Fair warning: the motion sensor may startle you in the beginning. I jumped out of bed the first time I heard the noise.

Zippers Are Easy. When changing Mariana’s diapers, onesies with zippers are much more convenient and easier to use than onesies with buttons, especially when there is limited light in middle of the night and you’re really tired.

Sing. Music, singing, and humming help soothe Mariana.

Move Around. Walking up and down the stairs helps Mariana to relax and puts her sleep.

Learn Your Baby’s Routine. I’ve learned a great routine to help Mariana sleep several hours at night that includes:

  • Dimming the lights.
  • Turning on music.
  • Diaper change.
  • Feeding.
  • Burping.
  • Walking the stairs.

Accept Help. My mother-in-law has been very helpful. She’s been staying with us since a few weeks prior to Ana’s delivery, and has helped a lot. I recommend accepting any help you are offered by family or friends.

Even though so much has changed since Mariana was born, I’m so glad that I was able to quickly learn these best practices. What are your best practices with your babies? Tell me in the comments below.

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