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Archive for Growth and Development

Gagging is not Choking

It is important for parents to understand the difference between a baby gagging on food and choking on food… gagging is normal infant development whereas choking can be harmful.

Learning from the mouth

During the first year of life babies learn many things through the mouth such as texture, temperature and taste. Until four to six months of age (after this age food can be introduced) babies only swallow liquid. Apart from the temperature and different tastes in milk nothing much changes. Swallowing becomes totally different when food is involved. There are different tastes, textures and temperatures to explore and become familiar with. Some babies are sensitive to these changes while others are not.

Swallowing

Soft, pureed or chewed food passes over the tongue touching the gag reflex at the back of the throat on its way down to the stomach. Suitably prepared food, softened and mushed (mechanically or in the mouth) slides down the oesophagus into the stomach and intestines for further digestion.

This process of swallowing often involves gagging when the food is new. Choking occurs when food items are too hard or large. Gagging is not the same as choking.

Choking

Choking occurs when a substance gets lodged in the small oesophageal tube and pushes into into the trachea (airway) lying alongside it.

Food matter can partially obstruct the trachea or completely obstruct the tube. This depends on the size and firmness of the lodged substance. Sitting upright helps food matter slide down.

Clearly, you never offer babies food that could get lodged in this tube such as peanuts, raw carrot, apple, and hard biscuits that don’t soften with saliva.

Gagging

Gagging is when babies are getting use to different textures. Once food starts to descend down the oesophagus babies may regurgitate it up from the back of their throat but often swallow it again. It is important for babies to be in an upright position to aid this process. Gagging is necessary for babies to understand how to chew and swallow different textures. Giving babies soft foods that are age appropriate will usually not cause choking but often causes gagging during the chewing and swallowing process.

Always sit with babies when offering them solid food. Avoid showing panic reactions in front of them if they do gag. Instead, smile and be encouraging, knowing that they are capable of regurgitating and re-swallowing. A shock reaction from you can cause babies to panic and suddenly inhale the food they have in their mouth.

Enjoy the experience of eating 

Help babies enjoy the experience of eating in a non-rushed, non-distracted atmosphere. Sit in front of them face-to-face with an encouraging smile and keep a ‘sippy cup’ of water handy.

Staying on mush

Many parents hold off moving their infants onto textured food. This can lead to fussy eating and slowed speech development. Parents may fear choking or only use processed foods from jars, squeeze packets and tins (kept soft for legal reasons).

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.

Separation Anxiety

Ever had a ‘Velcro baby’ where she’d hold tight and not let you go? You’d step away and she’d cry and reach out for you in a desperate attempt to go with you. Even going to the bathroom or having a shower proved difficult without your baby dissolving into a flood of distressed tears. You probably found that these acts of insecurity were heightened when she was unwell, teething, tired or hungry.

It’s normal behaviour at certain ages

But don’t panic—it’s a normal stage of developmental that occurs around seven to nine months of age. It’s a time when most babies start to crawl.

Handling a new stage of development

Your baby is developing ‘object permanence’ where just because something is out of sight and out of hearing doesn’t mean it no longer exists. Coupled with the new skill of crawling she takes herself away from her place of security, her primary carer (usually mum).

The passion to explore, plus her leap in brain development, makes her feel unsure whether she can get back to mum or that mum will come back to her. How you handle this period of separation anxiety will have a strong influence on how well your baby learns to separate.

Help baby adjust

To help your baby adjust, don’t always rescue her and pick her up and take her with you. Instead, help her feel comfortable with separating. Come back to her and play for a few more minutes before going again. As you leave the room, let her see that you feel confident saying goodbye. Talk to her in an upbeat tone as you leave, assuring her that she’s ok and that you’ll be coming back to her. This is the same when leaving her at day care or grandmas. Give her time to feel comfortable in the company of a new carer before you leave. It will help her to separate with a minimum of distress. Avoid sneaking away, always say goodbye otherwise an unexpected disappearance can leave your baby wondering when and if you will return, which builds mistrust and feelings of insecurity.

Baby’s temperament

Temperament has a major impact on how she copes with this stage of her development. You may have already noticed one of the three temperaments[i] (easy, difficult, and slow-to-warm) in babies that you know, and recognised the different ways they handle change.

Home environment

The harmony of the home environment and whether dad works away for extended periods, also impacts on her ability to separate

Separation anxiety returns

‘Object permanence’ isn’t completely established until two years old, which means your toddler may go through this stage of separation anxiety again at around 15 to 18 months old. At this age your toddler’s inquisitive nature and spirit reaches a new level that often causes the clingy behaviour and distress of separating from significant carers to reoccur. This is because her brain development has taken another leap and her understanding of the world has changed. At this age your toddler has an amazing grasp of language and can understand what you say, even if she can’t say it back yet. For this reason, talk to her, tell her what is happening, where you are going, and when you will be back. Wave goodbye and eventually she’ll associate going away with coming back.[ii]

Keep her life stable and help her through this period of insecurity and uncertainly. Have a regular routine, feed her healthy food and encourage good day and night sleep patterns. Stay calm yourself knowing this time will pass.

Bub can also experience separation anxiety at bedtime, as this is a period of long separation. Avoid cry-it-out strategies to encourage sleep during these times as this will only cause more distress. ‘Putting them to Sleep[iii] eBook has alternative bedtime strategies for you to try. Again, temperament and the family environment are factors that interfere with her ability to manage separating, leaving her to cling for longer.

While separation anxiety can prove difficult for you and your child, try to accept that it’s a normal stage of brain maturity and infant development, and remain patient, encouraging and reassuring. Be sensitive to individual temperament and needs.

Push away or hold on tight

Try not to push her away too soon or hold on too tight for too long, as this can hinder the developmental process of independence and self-assurance. Avoid comparing your baby with others of the same age as every child and every environment is different and as always seek professional help if you feel that separation is an ongoing problem.

References:

[i] Peterson, 2004 referred to in (Burton, 2011, Psychology)

[ii] http://www.cyh.com/HealthTopics/HealthTopicDetails.aspx?p=114&np=141&id=1848

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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.

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.

enc-personal-talents

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.

sit

An infant’s first year can be divided into five developmental stages. Within these stages, some master body movement and skills later than others but this is not usually a concern unless they are lagging well behind others of the same age. In which case, seek professional advice.

Vision is limited to about 20cm during the early weeks, which means you need to be close to get their attention. For the first six weeks there is no need for toys. Infants are more concerned with who is going to care for them. They want to hear familiar voices and heartbeats so cuddle up close, read and sing to them. They are comforted by touch and rhythmical movements – carry, sway and rock. Give them tummy time on your chest, across your lap or on a soft mat on the floor as this is important ‘play’ from early on.

From six weeks to four months you’ll notice infants looking at you differently. They are more intent and may have a puzzled frown. They can now distinguish objects and faces better. Black and white patterns and hanging mobiles hold their attention as well as your face. They’ll 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. They find their refection in the mirror fascinating. Tummy time continues to be important but is not always enjoyed so use various distractions and persevere.

From four to six months most infants are not mobile although many have mastered rolling over. They reach out for and hold onto 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 bub is a great game. Many littlies will also be exploring the taste of different foods.

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 are now beginning 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.

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 is 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.

Follow on facebook, twitter, linkedin and youtube

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.

Growth Spurts in a Young Baby

My husband and I thought we were doing well in our role of new parents as I had learnt how to successfully breast feed every 3 hours (from the start of one feed to the start of the next) and settle my baby to sleep about an hour and a quarter after every feed during the day. At about 2- 3 weeks everything went pear shape. Ben started to cry a lot and he wanted to feed constantly. I felt terrible and that it was my fault that I could not stop him crying or even work out why he was crying. I wondered if I was doing something wrong and whether my milk had dried up or perhaps he was sick or constipated. I now know that he was experiencing a growth spurt.

During a growth spurt a baby will display unsettled, hungry, windy, wakeful behaviour and they may not poo as often as they have been. If you give your baby extra breastfeeds or make up an extra amount in each bottle (if you are already bottle feeding) and use extra settling techniques when they are awake and be patient, this behaviour will usually settle in 1-2 days.

Growth spurts in a young baby are expected to occur at 3days, 7days, 2-3 weeks, 6 weeks, 3 months and 6 months of age.

During these unsettled times try not to cram too many outings or visitors into your day. Expect to be breast feeding more frequently and use a variety of methods to try and settle your baby. These may include a warm bath, walk outside in a carry sling or stroller, extra feed and cuddle. You will not spoil them! This period will pass in about 24 – 48 hours. You will know it has passed as your baby will appear more alert and responsive as well as sleeping for longer stretches. However, if this is not the case and their unsettled behaviour continues, have your baby checked by your General Practitioner or Child Health Nurse for other causes.

The eBook on ‘Putting them to Sleep’ will hold some relevant information for you if you are struggling in the area of sleep with your baby or toddler.

If you have found this information useful you will love ‘Mum, Baby & Toddler – together we learn’

Jan Murray has studied and worked as a Registered Nurse, Midwife and Child Health Nurse for over 25 years. Jan is a mother of 5 and co-founder and director of Settle Petal – About Author Through her business Jan provides information and support for parents to develop their knowledge, understandings, skills and attitudes needed to maintain and enhance personal health and physical development of all members of their family.

Ways to Bond With Your Baby

By Jan Murray

The strong bonds of attachment between you and your baby don’t just happen because you physically care for your baby.  Bonding is more than providing care; it’s the unspoken connection that develops and grows between you and your baby as you regularly change his nappy, give him a bath, feed him, and play with him. It’s the emotional connection that develops between you that helps him feel understood, safe, and secure and not alone, insecure, and scared. When your baby can touch and feel you, hear you, or see you he feels secure and this beautiful connection is what helps him learn to trust. Trusting in you and the people who are closest to him helps your little one feel secure to explore more of his world.

 

Many parents think they will fall-in-love and have an instant connection with their baby the moment their baby is born but bonding doesn’t always happen that way. In fact, sometimes falling-in-love and feeling connected with your newborn takes hours, day, weeks, or even months to develop.

If your baby was born premature and spent periods of time away from you in the special care unit or you had a traumatic birth or were suffering from extreme exhaustion after a long labour, bonding with your baby can be difficult. Often there is no physical reason that makes bonding difficult but there could be family conflicts and challenges. Sometimes there is no explainable reason for the delay in bonding, it’s just the way it is but as you spend time together, you and your baby will bond and grow closer. However, if you feel you are not connecting with your newborn it’s important to seek professional help as the early bonds of attachment are vital for your little one’s future development so it’s best not to wait too long before you get advice and support.

From the moment she is born your little one is eager to learn and so making a connection with various senses in the early days helps her feel secure. You can focus on engaging her senses separately or you can combine a few at the same time but don’t overdo it as her nervous system is immature and sensitive and she can become overwhelmed and unsettled.

The sense of smell is strong even at birth and draws your little one towards the sweet smell of breast milk. Giving your little one cuddles and skin-to-skin contact allows her become familiar with your personal scent.

Touch is your newborn’s first language so make the most of connecting with each other through touch. Your touch speaks confidence and security to her as you bathe her, change her nappy, feed her, massage her, and cuddle up close, or when you wear her in a sling. She is also calmed by the sense of movement and will be soothed by gentle swaying, rocking or bouncing.

The sense of hearing is another way you can bond with your baby. Infants are calmed by the rhythmical patterns of your voice as you read, sing or talk to her. However, be understanding and sensitive to your baby’s needs. If she is overtired she may not be soothed with singing and bright light at the same time as a bath or massage. It’s often too much stimulation in her already overloaded nervous system.

Although the sense of sight is slower to develop in your baby than the other senses, she can still connect and bond with you through her eyes. In the early weeks she will be able to focus on your face at about arms distance so look into her eyes and make eye contact while you hold or feed her—it will help her feel comforted and reassured. Your newborn will start to smile at you at around 5weeks of age so be sure to smile back as a smile releases feel-good chemicals for both you and your baby. The facial expressions that you make towards your baby are very important as they confirm and clarify feelings about other people and situations. After 6weeks of age try dimming the lights at sleep time as this helps your littlie feel calm and secure when she needs to sleep. Understanding how to satisfy your little ones developmental needs is an important part of bonding so as she gets older provide more activity time with varieties of colours, shapes, and activities.

The emotional connection between you and your baby is strong, which means your baby can often be unsettled if you are feeling anxious or stressed. So while you are learning to connect and bond with your baby try not to aim for perfection. Instead, aim to balance the needs of your baby while looking after yourself. Accept support from friends and family and if you are struggling seek professional help early as the bonds you create with your little one influence the way she will live and cope in the future.

References:

http://www.helpguide.org/articles/secure-attachment/how-to-build-a-secure-attachment-bond-with-your-baby.htm

http://raisingchildren.net.au/articles/connecting_with_your_newborn.html/context/280

Effects of Watching TV on Babies and Children?

Jan Murray

Television is my pet hate – just ask my kids”. I have been a television Nazi since day one because it is a serious issue in a child’s development. In my opinion when it comes to television, turn it off, pretend it is broken, whatever; just be in control of it while you can and while your children are forming behaviour habits. It is not just my opinion there is much research around in all areas of development to justify my hate.

Brain research suggests that watching television under two years old is pushing your child into tasks the brain is not developmentally ready to take on. (John Medina – developmental biologist) Television is an all-pervasive and highly influential element in the lives of most Australian babies and children today. Children of different ages watch and understand television in different ways, depending on the length of their attention span, the ways in which they process information, the amount of mental effort they invest, their own life experiences and parental input.

There are a variety of studies that show television viewing before the age of three may have adverse effects on subsequent cognitive development and neural programming for the future. In fact, 90% of the brain’s neural pathways are laid down by three years old. After this, they are added to and built on.

Babies discover the ways of their mother from listening and intuitively picking up on her specific movements and sounds. Having the constant background noise and flashes of the television may inhibit this vital connection.

Learn more about your toddler

Under two years old television is a negative influence in a variety of ways. This is seen regularly in babies and toddlers with eating and sleeping issues. Some situations that occur with regular television watching include:

  • the inability to settle and sleep
  • a low energy output
  • their lack of muscle strength
  • the flattened head shape of a baby who is propped regularly in front of the television
  • their lack of enjoyment and involvement in the developing process of eating
  • the reduced eye contact and interaction that parents have with their babies

Encourage no television watching for children under two years old; instead focus on interacting with them and helping them to discover life skills that stay with them into the future.

Preschoolers (three to five year olds), actively search for meaning in television content but are also attracted to vivid production features, such as rapid character movement, rapid changes of scenery and intense or unexpected sights and sounds. With this preference for cartoons, preschoolers are being exposed to a large number of violent acts in their viewing day leading to the increased risk of violent behaviour and poor sleeping patterns. Aim to limit preschool television to no more than one hour of non violent or educational shows per day.

Up until seven years old children are active participants, initiators and experimenters of what life has to offer. In other words, they learn through play. The cognitive growth and formulation of answers to their many questions occur as they interact using all their senses (sight, touch, taste, hearing and smell) with the world around them. Babies and children need to be given opportunities to participate, initiate and experiment with a variety of materials to enhance this growth. If they are watching television be mindful of what is shown on the screen as children do not understand the difference between fact and fantasy until they are seven years old. Logical reasoning does not develop until later. Three to seven year olds think in images and pictures therefore characters may come alive in their vivid imagination during the quiet of the night. Turning the television off two hours prior to bed and encouraging happy and relaxing books and play as a family, can help reduce the incidence of nightmares and night terrors.

There is increasing evidence to support television viewing is associated with obesity (effecting one in four children) in the areas of:

  • snacking on poor nutritive foods
  • decreased awareness of the amount of food consumed
  • demands of poor food choices from advertising
  • lack of physical activity
  • unmotivated energies

It is also associated with anger, nightmares and increasing brain wave activity, making it difficult for babies and children to settle and sleep well. Poor sleep then produces overtiredness and further behaviour challenges.

Suggested television viewing for optimum growth and development of babies and children:

  • no television viewing under two years old (even in the background)
  • half an hour of television viewing for toddlers (12 months to three years)
  • limit viewing to a maximum of an hour a day for preschoolers (three to five years)
  • no snacking while watching television
  • no watching television while eating meals
  • discuss the shows that are watched and suggest role play ideas and activities

This article may seem tough but your child’s future depends on it.