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Archive for December 2015

Mum, Baby & Toddler Interview

Listen to a 10 minute radio interview with Jan Murray and Stu Taylor; well known radio host in the USA.

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Photo supplied by www.venitawilsonphotography.com

Jan talks to Stu about babies and toddlers. What Jan shares gives you an idea of her knowledge and background on the controversial topic of parenting young children.

Listen to the INTERVIEW HERE

Points covered in the interview:

  • sleep
  • weight gain
  • routines
  • temperament
  • routines.

BUY Mum, Baby & Toddler online

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This article was brought to you by Jan Murray, Private Child Health Consultant who is an internationally renowned expert in her field. Jan encourages parents in the area of infant sleep, nutrition, activities and family balance. Jan publishes regular ezine and blog articles to provide free parenting tips, tools and resources to educate and support those caring for young babies and children.

Nappy Rash

napkin-thrush-s

By Jan Murray

Leaving a nappy on your baby for long periods of time is a common cause of nappy rash but not the only cause. Some babies get nappy rash no matter how well they are cared for, while others do not get nappy rash at all. Your baby may get nappy rash when he has a cold, when he is teething or when he is suffering from an illnesses or food intolerance. Signs of nappy rash include:

  • Inflamed skin: the skin around the genital area and anus looks red and moist
  • Blistering: the skin may blister and peel, leaving raw patches that can develop into ulcers
  • Spreading: the rash can spread onto the tummy and further onto the buttocks
  • Ulcers: small ulcers can sometimes form on healthy skin near the area of the rash.

A secondary bacterial or fungal infection is commonly the cause of nappy rash that spreads or fails to heal by airing, bathing and applying barrier creams or ointments. The damaged skin is often uncomfortable, itchy or sore. When your baby has nappy rash he may have unsettled sleep due to pain and irritation.

Some causes of nappy rash include:

  • Chemicals in urine become ammonia and burn the skin when in direct contact for too long
  • Thrush (Candida) – grows in a warm, moist environment. This type of nappy rash spreads in red patches and does not go away with barrier creams
  • Chemicals in nappy soaking solutions, laundry detergents, fabric softeners, cleansing wipes, scented soaps and lotions and certain brands of disposable nappies can irritate baby’s skin
  • Anti-fungal medicated creams applied too thick can burn
  • Plastic pants keep your baby’s clothes clean and dry, but most prevent airflow. Clothes do not get wet and your baby is often left in a wet or dirty nappy for long periods. The skin remains wet and urine changes into ammonia that burns. The area becomes warm leaving it susceptible to thrush
  • Rough nappies, sand or dirt can rub and chafe baby’s sensitive skin
  • Bowel movements are more acidic when your baby is teething – burning delicate skin
  • Certain foods eaten or ingested through breast milk can burn such as hot curry
  • When your baby has frequent diarrhoea
  • If your baby has little nappy-free time and lots of soiled nappies
  • If your baby has started solids and is not tolerating certain foods – commonly dairy or wheat.

For more information Mum, Baby & Toddler – together we learn

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This article was brought to you by Jan Murray, Private Child Health Consultant who is an internationally renowned expert in her field. Jan encourages parents in the area of infant sleep, nutrition, activities and family balance. Jan publishes regular ezine and blog articles to provide free parenting tips, tools and resources to educate and support those caring for young babies and children.

A ‘Helicopter Parent’ Hovers – is it Healthy?

By Jan Murray

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Your baby (or babies) begin life totally dependent on you for their physical, emotional and intellectual needs.

As babies grow, feeling a sense of belonging and being able to attach to other children and adults is significant in them becoming successful, socially appropriate and secure adults. It is important for parents to be mindful not to smother their children with too much attention, which can inhibit natural self reliant development.

A self-assured independent child or a child who feels entitled to preferential treatment (self-entitled) is made not born.

Parental support is gradually eased off as babies grow and develop. This allows for the natural progression of self reliance and independence. The term ‘helicopter parent’ is a buzz phrase used to describe parents that hover constantly or who are “physically hyper-present but somehow psychologically M.I.A.” In this situation parents are not allowing their babies or children enough space to develop emotional self-regulation.

Even if your child is an only child that receives a lot of attention, it can be healthy attention, which is calm, supportive and encouraging.

Play is how children learn about life and how and where they fit in. Allow children space for open ended play, leaving room to observe, mimic, try and keep trying. Providing such an environment reduces the chance of children always looking to adults for help as they grow up in an imperfect world. It helps them develop imagination and the ability to solve problems on their own which adds to their self esteem.

My book Mum, Baby & Toddler available here

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This article was brought to you by Jan Murray, Private Child Health Consultant who is an internationally renowned expert in her field. Jan encourages parents in the area of infant sleep, nutrition, activities and family balance. Jan publishes regular ezine and blog articles to provide free parenting tips, tools and resources to educate and support those caring for young babies and children.

^ Warner, Judith (July 27, 2012). “How to Raise a Child”. The New York Times Book Review. Retrieved July 31, 2012.

Is it Really Teething?

By Jan Murray

By the time your baby turns two years old she’ll have a mouthful of beautiful pearly white teeth. For some infants these eruptions arrive with considerable discomfort while for others they appear without any give-away signs or symptoms at all. There is no way of telling who will suffer specific symptoms and who won’t. However, there seems to be a genetic link of ear infections with teething, largely due to the shape and slope of the Eustachian tube.

Most baby teeth break through at around 6 to 10months of age. However, it is not unusual to see first teeth appear as early as 4months of age. Very occasionally, babies are born with a tooth but these are generally loosely embedded and need removing.

While it is obvious that teeth appear at different ages, there is inconsistency between health professionals as to what signs and symptoms are directly associated with teething and what comforting remedies are safe and useful to use. Over the years of working with many babies and first-hand experience of raising five of my own children, I have definitely seen teething related signs and symptoms but whether these have been due to other causes has not always been clear.

For this reason, each episode of suspected teething symptoms should be given individual attention with the diagnoses of ‘teething’ as only one of many possibilities.

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It is very common to hear parents use excessive gnawing and drooling as a sign that their baby is teething. However, this increased drooling and oral exploration naturally occurs as part of infant development around 4months of age and lasts until about 9 to 10months of age; the period in which teeth tend to erupt.

Increased saliva (drool) is produced to aid digestion but babies’ mechanical process of swallowing is not sufficiently developed resulting in the overflow of excess drool. Babies’ increased oral motor ability improves by 9months and drooling is consequently reduced. But whether drool is part of teething or not, saliva does have properties that cool and lubricate the gums bringing comfort for many babies who are teething. Moisturising the face with suitable non-fragrant creams can prevent cheek, chin and neck rashes developing from exposure to excess saliva. Gnawing and biting down on anything gives counter-pressure and pain relief to erupting teeth so make sure you provide cold washers and hard toys to bite on.

Large amounts of saliva contain increased amounts of enzymes necessary for digestion, which may upset your baby’s digestive system. This can cause her bowel actions to be loose and offensive, and she’ll often refuse to eat. Her poo can be quite acidic making her bottom sore and red, which can turn fungal if not given regular nappy free time and her skin not protected with a natural barrier cream.

With a disrupted digestive system, ear aches and painful gums just before teeth erupt, your baby can feel miserable, irritable, and insecure making her clingy. Giving her extra cuddles during this time can go a long way in providing the comfort and reassurance she needs. Cuddle comforts should come before using any of the increasing varieties of natural and pharmaceutical remedies on the market for teething relief. However, if you do choose to use teething remedies, use only with professional instruction and avoid using any on a long term basis.

Your baby’s unsettled days often lead to unsettled nights but rarely is teething the cause of poor sleep if your baby is happy and content during the day. Teething pain is generally not causing night waking but it can prevent him from going back to sleep after waking for other reasons. Hunger or the reliance on props such as dummies, feeding, and rocking to settle to sleep are common reasons for night waking from 6months.

A clear nasal discharge is another common symptom often associated with cutting teeth. Nevertheless, it is also important to consider other possible childhood illnesses because from 6months of age the maternal antibodies provided from birth have reduced in your baby’s system, lowering her immune levels, leaving her more susceptible to illness in general.

When teething, gums can be inflamed and swollen or bluish from an underlying haematoma. Hence, a low grade fever is not uncommon with teething as fever is the body’s reaction to all inflammation. Fever lasts about 24 hours and occurs just as teeth push through the gum. A higher fever (above 40°C) or a lower fever lasting for longer than three days requires further professional assessment. Suspected teething or not, always be alert to any deterioration in behaviour, low urine output and lethargy, and seek medical assistance immediately.

Teething often gets the blame for disruptive behaviours but don’t use teething as an excuse and forget to consider other causes for night waking, fever, digestive issues, biting, and irritable behaviour. Seek advice from your child health professional if any ‘teething symptoms’ persist for weeks with no teeth to show for the abnormal symptoms and irritable behaviour.

References:

http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/128/3/471.full.pdf+html

http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/105/4/747

http://smartpediatricadvice.com/teething

http://www.moderndentistrymedia.com/sept_oct2010/tsang.pdf

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This article was brought to you by Jan Murray, Private Child Health Consultant who is an internationally renowned expert in her field. Jan encourages parents in the area of infant sleep, nutrition, activities and family balance. Jan publishes regular ezine and blog articles to provide free parenting tips, tools and resources to educate and support those caring for young babies and children.

Baby Wearing

By Jan Murray

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Wearing a baby in a sling or another form of carrier is an ancient art used to transport babies and has been practiced around the world since the beginning of mankind. However, it is thought that the invention of wheeled baby carriages in America in the 1830s decreased the need for carrying babies in the western world. In 1992 Dr William Sears coined the phrase ‘attachment parenting’ suggesting babies stayed close to their carer at all times. This parenting strategy brought back the practice of baby wearing that continues to be a growing trend in Australia today.

There are several ways to wear your baby. These can be on the front, back, or hip; either in the form of a sling, which goes over one shoulder or a carrier, which goes over two shoulders. Whatever method you choose your child can be worn for as long as it is mutually enjoyable and safe.There are several ways to wear your baby. These can be on the front, back, or hip; either in the form of a sling, which goes over one shoulder or a carrier, which goes over two shoulders. Whatever method you choose your child can be worn for as long as it is mutually enjoyable and safe.

Slings are made of a variety of materials and are secured with rings, buckles, ties or knots. Slings form a pouch that little ones lie in or older ones sit in. Carriers include fabric wraps, soft padded and framed varieties. Some designs have neck and hip-to-knee support, which are suitable for newborns. Other carriers are better suited to older babies that can weight-bare and sit unsupported such as the back frame.

It is important to choose a sling or carrier carefully. It needs to be comfortable for you to wear and suitable and safe to use for your child’s age and weight. It is also important for you to be able to put the device on yourself and to be able to place your baby safely inside. Carefully consider carriers that position your baby facing outward as a baby in this position is unable to rest her head when she is tired, escape from overstimulation, and her hips are pinned in a poor position for normal development.

Like any skill, baby-wearing takes practice to master and your baby takes time to feel comfortable. However, baby-wearing is not always the answer. When babies have reflux, slings that keep the body in a curled position puts pressure on the tummy, which increases reflux discomfort but the same curled position can bring relief to babies with wind pain. Babies diagnosed with true colic probably won’t calm with baby-wearing but wearing these unsettled babies and going for a walk or getting chores done may reduce anxiety for their carer. It’s important NOT to swaddle your baby before placing her in a sling or carrier as she can overheat.

When babies are carried around continually during the day they frequently feed on demand and can develop short napping habits, which becomes tiresome and frustrating for many parents. Baby wearing can also produce poor self-settling patterns and increase night waking because parents are needed to settle babies back to sleep. Prolonged night feeding patterns can also increase the risk of ongoing dental caries in your baby.

If baby wearing is not something you want to practice constantly it can be done intermittently. This is especially handy if your baby was born premature and needs more contact time, is unsettled and won’t sleep in a cot, bassinette or stroller or you have other children who need your attention.

Intermittent baby-wearing can be beneficial in two ways. It includes close contact and reduces crying and your baby gains neurological and muscle development along with independence by spending time on the floor with stimulating play activities rather than always being carried.  Baby-wearing is great for dads or other carers who have limited time with babies as close physical contact can produce quicker bonding.

Baby-wearing like co-sleeping is a personal choice and it is important to remember that whatever method of caring for your baby you choose it does not make you a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ parent, it is what works for you and your baby that’s important. However, there are disadvantages and advantages for both carer and child and it is important to consider your own situation and the safety and comfort of you and your baby when making your choice.

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This article was brought to you by Jan Murray, Private Child Health Consultant who is an internationally renowned expert in her field. Jan encourages parents in the area of infant sleep, nutrition, activities and family balance. Jan publishes regular ezine and blog articles to provide free parenting tips, tools and resources to educate and support those caring for young babies and children.

References:

http://www.parentingscience.com/infant-crying.html

  1. Solkoff, N, et al. (1969). Effects of handling on the subsequent development of premature infants. Developmental Psychology, 1(6). 765-768.

https://www.isisonline.org.uk/about/

Infant Misshapen Head

By Jan Murray

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No doubt you have noticed uneven head shapes on babies. But while their head shape is largely genetic, how you position your baby when she is sleeping, resting or laying around during the early weeks and months can have an effect. This is because infant heads have several bones with pliable connections that expand as the brain grows. Couple this mouldable softness with the fact that she spends a lot of time laying on her back and it leaves her at risk of developing plagiocephalie.

Flat spots can occur in various parts of the head depending on the area baby tends to favour, which is why you may hear it called ‘positional’ plagiocephalie. A flat head shape will not interfere with brain growth but if severe enough and left untreated it may result in uneven skull growth and other associated problems such as orthodontic and visual issues later in life.

To reduce long term effects of misshapen heads it is a good idea to have your baby checked regularly by a child health professional, particularly during the first three months when heads are easily flattened from external pressure but are also easily managed back into the correct shape. Early corrective and preventative measures are best, as between 6 and 12 months of age treatment is much more difficult and after 12 months the opportunity for correction is minimal.

Your little one can sometimes find moving their head into certain positions difficult. This may be due to pain or discomfort as a result of a forceps assisted birth or from torticollis—a congenital shortening and tightening of muscles on one side of the neck. Both these conditions will improve with time but during the healing process bub risks a flat area developing on the head. In either of these conditions your baby may also be unsettled with neck pain when she stretches out her neck during tummy time or when she positions herself to feed from a particular breast.

Occasionally, an asymmetrical head shape is caused by the early closure of cranial sutures, the area that allows the skull to expand. This is an uncommon condition known as craniosynostosis, which requires corrective surgery and is picked up at regular child health checks.

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Being aware of how flat areas form is important for knowing how to prevent or correct a flat head. For example, your baby may adopt the same position every time she is put down because her eyes are drawn to a stream of light coming through a crack in the door or through the curtains. She will also stretch her head in the direction where she can see you, the television or other siblings playing. If your baby is always placed in the same side of a side-by-side stroller or fed from the same side when feeding from a bottle this may also lead to the formation of a flattened area. Even constantly having her propped up in a rocker or bouncer in an attempt to alleviate uncomfortable symptoms of gastro-oesophageal reflux can result in the skull becoming flattened at the back.

Once an area on the head begins to flatten it becomes a comfortable spot to naturally rest her head but there are some things that you can do to help prevent this happening.

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Start soon after birth by placing your baby at alternative ends of the cot or bassinette to sleep, while still placing her feet close to the end. Make supervised tummy time a regular part of each wake period during the day. Increase the length of time on her tummy as she and gets older and gains neck strength. Side lying is also good while bub is awake and being watched. Don’t always cradle her the same way. Instead, while safe in your arms, let her see the world from different angles (using a sling can be helpful here too). Be conscious of her feeding positions. If you are feeding from only one breast, a mix of under-arm feeds (also known as football hold) and across-your-lap feeds is a good idea. If you are bottle feeding change the arm you feed from each feed.

Some additional devices or a rolled cloth can be helpful in some situations to restrict her head turning to the flat spot. In severe cases of flat head syndrome in an older baby (usually 5 – 8 months old), a customised corrective helmet may be required. This is a decision made by your child health professional. But rest assured, even if a helmet is necessary it is only temporary. Your baby may not like it at first but as a teenager with a beautiful head shape and no orthodontic issues—she will thank you.

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References:

Deformational_Plagiocephaly.pdf

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This article was brought to you by Jan Murray, Private Child Health Consultant who is an internationally renowned expert in her field. Jan encourages parents in the area of infant sleep, nutrition, activities and family balance. Jan publishes regular ezine and blog articles to provide free parenting tips, tools and resources to educate and support those caring for young babies and children.

Baby Tummy Pain

By Jan Murray

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Crying and fussing is a normal part of infant development but it can be a significant source of stress for many parents. In fact, it is estimated that one in six families with children consult a health professional seeking answers to their infants crying.[i] Emotional and physical chaos within families’ often results from parents trying to work out what bubs discomfort is caused from and what will give them relief. Parents desperate[ii] to soothe distressed infants try many things but it makes it easier to narrow down the cause of unsettled behaviour before trying to fix it. In some cases, inconsolable crying results in Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS)[iii] from the overwhelming feelings of desperation, anxiety, guilt, and helplessness, which can happen quicker than you think so seek professional help early.

Tummy pain is often the first thing parents think of when trying to work out why their baby is crying. However, the stomach (tummy) is only one of three main areas of the digestive tract. The others are the oesophagus (swallowing tube) and the small and large intestine (bowel), and when you recognise what symptoms are in what part it can help you work out what your baby’s problem is. Also, taking notice of when the pain and discomfort occurs in relation to her feeding can also help narrow down the cause.

Colic is a common term used to label unexplainable uncontrollable crying in an otherwise healthy and thriving infant. Crying usually lasts a couple of hours and the legs alternate between curling up and stiffening out with back arching. It’s normal for your baby less than eight weeks of age to experience a few hours of this type of crying every day. True colic is quite rare as there is usually an explainable cause—some common causes are overfeeding, trapped air and gas, intolerance to foods in breast milk or elements in infant formula, over-stimulation, intolerance to foods, and constipation. More rare causes are gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD), bacterial infections, obstruction or poisoning.

It is common for stomach contents to rise and escape through an immature valve at the top of the stomach but not all vomit produces pain. Your baby may experience burning pain in the oesophagus from regurgitated stomach contents containing gastric acid. Pain in this area can also result from inflammation caused by food intolerances and allergies. Babies with oesophageal pain are usually unsettled during the day, not wanting to lie flat, look sad and puzzled, and make swallowing attempts even when not being fed. These babies may experience pain at or after feed times. It is important to seek professional assessment for these symptoms as reflux pain can be complex.

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Pain occurring further down in the tummy can be caused from trapped pockets of air or gas. Poor feeding techniques can lead to gulping in air that may cause abdominal bloating—a hard drum-like distended stomach. Gas is a natural by-product of food digestion but it can also get trapped and cause bloating. In some cases an immature gut, over-tiredness and over-stimulation prevents gases escaping and results in tummy discomfort.[iv] The tenser your baby becomes the harder it is for her to expel air either by burping or popping-off. Birth trauma can also cause tummy pain due to disturbed nerve connections as outlined by chiropractor Eric Slead[v], “shoulder subluxations often interfere with normal function of the Vagus nerve. One main function is the regulation of chemical levels and interference causes stomach pains and nutrient imbalance”.

As babies get older, introducing new foods or foods they unable to digest may cause tummy pain. Like oesophageal pain, tummy pain from food occurs soon after feeds but some food intolerances take time to accumulate and pain is delayed. Even if the act of breastfeeding is comforting for babies with tummy pain, overfeeding can cause ongoing discomfort, especially if milk is the cause of discomfort.

The bowel’s peristaltic action causes bowel pain to come in intermittent waves. Therefore, bowel pain often occurs at random times and just before a pop-off of wind. After the wind escapes, the crying stops as suddenly as it started. Constipation (dry, hard pellets) can also cause tummy pain. As well as the hard mass causing discomfort in the bowel, a natural gas by-product is produced, which can cause pain if it becomes trapped. Pain can also occur while trying to pass the hard mass. Breastfed babies very rarely get constipated until they start solid food so introduce cooled boiled water at the same time as solids.

Appropriate medications may give your baby relief when she is suffering reflux pain, wind or gas pain, or constipation but only when the medication targets the correct area. For this reason it is important to seek professional guidance before you give your baby off-the-shelf medications for suspected tummy pain. Natural soothing measures such as warm baths, regular massages, upright burping positions, tummy time, calm environment, correct feeding positions, and slow teats are best to try first.

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This article was brought to you by Jan Murray, Private Child Health Consultant who is an internationally renowned expert in her field. Jan encourages parents in the area of infant sleep, nutrition, activities and family balance. Jan publishes regular ezine and blog articles to provide free parenting tips, tools and resources to educate and support those caring for young babies and children.

Lucas, A. & St James–Roberts, I (1998). Crying, fussing and colic behaviour in breast- and bottle-fed infants. Early Human Development, 53(1), 9-18. doi: 10.1016/S0378-3782(98)00032-2

[ii] http://www.researchgate.net/publication/23497880 Getting the word out advice on crying and colic in popular parenting magazines

[iii] http://synapse.org.au/get-the-facts/shaken-baby-syndrome-fact-sheet.aspx

[iv] http://tummycalm.com/infant-gas.html

[v] http://www.premierchiropractic.com.au

Spring is in the Air

By Guest blogger Kylie Lannan

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Spring has arrived and with it comes some terrific opportunities for your child’s development as well as expanding their experience of the outdoors.

It is my favorite time of year here in Brisbane. It is a great time to get out and about; exploring parks, beaches and many places in between. However, often with this outdoor fun come some hazards that we as parents must be diligent about. In particular we must be constantly alert near water around the home and in public places. Babies and young children are inquisitive by nature and this can put them in danger or result in a tragic accident.

On the flip side I feel that this need for alert puts fear in parents, which at times drives us to be overprotective of our children. How expectations on parents have changed when comparing to the way my parents allowed me to play and explore as a young child. I remember playing with friends down at the local creek, going to visit the horses in a local orchard and playing hide and seek around the neighborhood. Very different to suburban living in 2014 where there are so many more dangers both real and perceived. It is such a balancing act for parents today to find that middle ground which allows their children to explore and keep them safe at the same time.

Spring also means children’s tender skin is exposed to the harsh Australian sun. On one hand we need sunlight for good health however sunburn is painful and harmful to children’s delicate skin. Research has linked childhood sun exposure to developing skin cancer later in life so precautions must be taken to minimize skin exposure. A safe environment requires that parents be diligent and to follow the Cancer Council of Australia’s message of “Slip, Slop, Slap, Seek and Slide.” Hat, sunscreen, shirt, shade and slide on sunglasses are the actions we need to take to protect our skin from the harsh sun.

An enormous amount of development both physical and emotional occurs when children can “run free” outside. By allowing children to play independently allows them to take safe risks. Children need to be allowed and in fact encouraged to take educated or safe risks such as climbing a tree. It is important for their development and confidence however it does go against a parent’s instinct to protect their child. As long as children are taking these risks in a safe environment they will feel well supported if it doesn’t work out. It will help them get back up and have another go but of course it usually means there will be some scrapes along the way. By always helping and protecting our children we are inhibiting their ability to gaining resilience. This is what helps all of us get up and have another go when things don’t work out the first time. This is a vital life skill that we all need.

The outdoors can be an overwhelming place for some children and they may need the help of parents to navigate their way. However try not to “do” for them just guide them; let them climb trees, jump from rocks or dig in the dirt. It is all part of their learning and developing. Have fun with them and enjoy being outdoors this spring.

Happy Parenting

Kylie (Settle Petal consultant – Brisbane)

This article was endorsed by Jan Murray, Private Child Health Consultant who is an internationally renowned expert in her field. Jan encourages parents in the area of infant sleep, nutrition, activities and family balance. Jan publishes regular ezine and blog articles to provide free parenting tips, tools and resources to educate and support those caring for young babies and children.

Follow Jan on facebook, twitter, linkedin and youtube

Play Ideas in the First 12 Months

By Jan Murray

Play helps children learn and develop. During the early years infants use all their senses to explore the environment. They intently look, smell, taste, hear and feel everything they can in order to make sense of their world. Children’s’ genetic makeup combined with opportunities to explore, shapes who they become.

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Physical development begins at the head and works downwards. Infants first gain strength and control of their head and neck, followed by the hands and arms. Then the spine and trunk strengthen in order to assist them to sit and swivel. Next, the legs strengthen, which helps them crawl, stand and eventually walk. Exposing infants to games and toys that match their physical abilities and mental alertness encourages mastery of one area in readiness for the next.

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An infant’s first year can be divided into five developmental stages:

  1. For the first six weeks there is no need for toys. Infants are more concerned with who is caring for them. Newborns delight in familiar voices and heartbeats so cuddle up close, read and sing to them. Newborns are comforted by touch and rhythmical movements so carry, sway, rock, give tummy time on your chest, across your lap or on a soft mat on the floor. Newborn vision is limited to about 20cm so get close to get their attention.
  2. From six weeks to four months you’ll notice infants looking at you intently. They often have a puzzled frown as they closely observe objects and faces. Black and white patterns and hanging mobiles hold their attention and they grip thin toys when placed in their grasp but won’t have very good control so may drop objects or hit them self in the head. Their refection in the mirror is fascinating. Tummy time continues to be important but is not always enjoyed so use various distractions and persevere.
  3. From four to six months most infants are not mobile although many have mastered rolling over. They reach out for and hold toys with better coordination and enjoy feeling textured fabrics and surfaces with their hands and feet. Many infants are nearly sitting but avoid leaving them in ‘sitting aids’ for too long as their spine and hips are not developed enough for this until they can sit naturally. Mimicking sounds and ‘talking’ to your baby is a game they love and so is exploring the taste of different foods.
  4. From six to nine months infants are rolling over and have mastered sitting up. Seeing the world from this angle provides more ‘play’ opportunities. Stacking blocks and cups make colourful fun. Sit them in the highchair while you cook and hand them safe kitchen implements and foods to explore. Sit them on a rug, in a washing basket or in a stroller while you hang the washing on the line. Hand them some wet washing and coloured pegs to examine. Infants begin to understand ‘object permanence’, where just because they can’t see something doesn’t mean it isn’t there. For this reason, introduce games like ‘peek–a–boo’ and hiding objects under something nearby and encouraging them to look for it.
  5. From nine to twelve months life starts to get even more interesting. Most infants are now on the move, crawling, cruising around furniture or walking. Introduce toys they can stand at. Tables with nobs to push twist and pop are entertaining. Discovering finger food is a great game but be prepared for mess before manners. Hazards are a big problem at this stage because they are very quick and very inquisitive. If you have older children, be aware of very small bits on their toys. If they are walking they love pushing things around. Pulling and throwing objects are also popular.

To be able to coordinate and learn well infants need adequate sleep.

Play is exciting and it’s how children learn about their world. Help them get involved and provide consistent boundaries to show them how far they can go. Keep them safe and stimulated to foster their inquisitive spirit and enjoy their limitless enthusiasm.

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This article was brought to you by Jan Murray, Private Child Health Consultant who is an internationally renowned expert in her field. Jan encourages parents in the area of infant sleep, nutrition, activities and family balance. 

Managing Twins in the Early Months

By Jan Murray

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Finding out you are having more than one baby at the same time creates all sorts of emotions, questions and physical changes for both you and your partner. But take heart, many parents have enjoyed the journey and have thrived amidst the chaos.

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Once you are all home from hospital, there is no one way to do things when parenting multiples. Every baby, every parent and every family environment is individual and you do what is best for your family at the time. However, there are some basic tips and techniques that can help with the unique challenges you face. For example, if your babies are different weights or one has a health concern and the other doesn’t, you would usually need to feed them at different times or in different ways for a while. If your babies have different temperaments that require different settling techniques, you will learn what technique works best. Managing these issues in the early days is easier with an extra pair of hands but if you don’t have anyone to help, make it easy for yourself by using gadgets such as swings, a light stroller for moving the babies around in the house, dummies and rockers. Carry slings are a wonderful investment, even with twins. Wear an unsettled twin or when two adults are available, use two slings and go for a walk.

Low birth-weight babies (as multiples often are) may have difficulty regulating their temperature and have minimal subcutaneous fat layers to keep them warm. Therefore, ensure rooms are warm (around 24°C) and that you have plenty of suits and bedding made of natural fibres. Synthetic materials trap in heat and can cause overheating.

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Buy plenty of nappies! Your babies will need nappy changes every two to five hours. You could be looking at a hundred to a hundred and twenty nappies per week or 5,000-6,000 per year. In fact, why not put in a request for packs of nappies or reusable nappy pants and liners (in a variety of sizes) for your baby shower?

Large swaddling wraps of 100 per cent cotton are an excellent tool for establishing good sleeping patterns during the early months. Your babies will generally be happy sleeping together in the same cot or ‘co-sleeper attachment’ until around four months old but you can have them in separate bassinettes from day one if you choose. Have them sleep in your bedroom, or close by, in the early months as you will be up several times feeding overnight. Avoid the babies developing cranial flat spots by changing what side of each other they sleep on or sit on when in the stroller.

When breastfeeding, you may need to support and position babies on a pillow while they are small. A pillow will also take the strain off your wrists, arms, back, and shoulders. It is usually easier to master the art of breastfeeding one baby at a time before trying tandem feeding, which is where both babies feed at the same time. A couch, bed or floor provides the most space for this type of feeding. Some babies swap breasts and some stay on the same side. With multiples it is best to seek professional lactation advice during the early days of feeding as good attachment and feeding comfort is vital for the ongoing success of breastfeeding.

Bathing twins in the same bath is impossible to perform safely on your own. If you are bathing them alone, the easiest and safest spot would be on the floor or a large dining room table or kitchen bench (before they can roll),and have all the bathing items at your fingertips. You could bath babies one after the other at the same time each day or every few days. You could also bath one baby at a time after different feeds each day or on alternate days. Your personal hygiene is also important but some days you may not get a shower and actually end up staying in your pj’s all day! Other days you’ll get organised and grab a shower before your partner goes to work or during the babies’ first morning sleep.

You are your babies’ first and most important teacher but don’t worry if you feel you don’t have time. Attending to their needs with your gentle touch, warm smile and soothing voice says a lot but if it all becomes too difficult, seek professional advice from your GP. Your babies need you to be healthy.

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The first months home from hospital are going to be tough. Parenting multiples can be an overwhelming responsibility so there will probably be crying from you as well as your babies. Join the local Multiple Birth Association for support and accept any offers of help. Don’t just say thanks for the offer. Pin offers of help down to a time and action something straight away. Employ help if you can and give yourself time to adapt.

For more information ‘Twins & More’

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This article was brought to you by Jan Murray, Private Child Health Consultant who is an internationally renowned expert in her field. Jan encourages parents in the area of infant sleep, nutrition, activities and family balance. Jan publishes regular ezine and blog articles to provide free parenting tips, tools and resources to educate and support those caring for young babies and children.