I’m currently reading Dr. Penelope Leach‘s book on child raising called “Your Baby and Child“ which covers ages birth to 5 years. So far it’s an amazing read and I recommend it to parents, especially first time parents. The book gives detailed and practical advice on handling your newborn, toddler and preschooler. What I like most is that Penelope Leach has based this book on scientific research which I find adds credibility. As well as having the experience of raising her own two children which makes her more attuned to the practicalities of motherhood and parenting.
A common debate among parents is letting your baby cry, also known as “controlled crying” or “ferberization“. A lot of parents face this problem specifically at bedtime and resort (in despair mostly) to letting the baby cry herself to sleep.
Here’s what Dr. Leach has to say about this topic and how your baby interprets your behavior.
You can read more about the first year in Leach’s book “The Essential First Year”
Photo by phaendin
Bonding with your baby can help you form a secure attachment that will last a life time. Attachment is a deep bond that is formed between the baby and his caregiver in the early years. This attachment can greatly affect your child’s physical, emotional, social and cognitive development. Babies who form a secure bond with their parent have a better chance of being trusting and supportive adults themselves later in life.
An attachment bond is formed based on your (or other primary caregiver’s) patterns of interaction with your infant. Your baby learns that she can depend on you when she experiences a pattern of consistently responsive and attentive behavior from you that fulfills her need for food, security, warmth or comfort. Your baby is then able to form a secure bond with you (or other primary caregivers that show the same behavior) and uses you as a secure base from which to confidently explore the world. A common example is taking your child to a new setting: initially your child may seem shy to explore. However, given time and positive support by the parent he eventually begins to wander and explore his surroundings, all the while returning to his parent and venturing out again. Repeating this cycle and increasing his zone of exploration every time as he remains confident that his parent will still be there and respond if any trouble occurs.
Some parents are worried about spoiling their child if they are responsive to their every demand. However, there’s a big difference between being responsive to your child’s needs and your child’s material wants. Giving your child love, warmth and responding to her cries helps establish a secure relationship by letting her know you will be there when she needs support. This is completely different from answering your child’s needs by giving toys, presents or other material objects. Children with secure attachment tend to be more independent, not less.
Secure children have been found to have better peer relations, handle conflict better, develop faster than insecure children, show less behavior problems and have more positive romantic relationships as adults. A child’s attachment bond is related to different factors but most importantly is how sensitive his parents (and other main caregivers) are to his needs. It’s important to know that children form different attachment bonds with different people depending on the adult’s behavior.
What You Can Do
- Try to learn your baby’s cues and expressions. Be responsive to your infants cries for warmth, food, comfort or reassurance.
- Pay attention and encourage positive signals from your baby as well. Like smiling, laughing and other happy baby noises. Notice the touches, sounds and expressions that your baby enjoys.
- Support your toddler positively. Give him the space needed to explore new activities and places while being there to support if things get too tough.
- Don’t be over intrusive with your child’s initiatives. Avoid taking over your child’s activity and being over involved. This will just push your child away.
- Try to find a balance between giving your child independence and support. Your child needs to know you will be there when she needs help.
- Communicate with your child and explain things. Why you will leave him at daycare? Where will you go? When will you return?. Make sure to stick to what you say!
- Be positive when correcting your child’s misbehavior or when offering your child help. This helps give your child a sense of confidence and positive self esteem.
Taking Care of You
- Make sure to get enough rest to have the energy to be responsive to your child. Ask friends or family to help you out from time to time.
- If you’re dealing with feelings of postpartum depression, make sure to get professional help or talk to your partner about your feelings. Depression can lead to frustration and other behaviors that can affect your bond with your baby. By taking care of yourself you’re putting your family’s health first as well.
- You don’t have to give up your job and stay home for your baby to have a secure attachment to you. What’s important is the quality and responsiveness you shown when you are with your baby. Make sure other caregivers in your baby’s life are on the same page with your parenting ideas to give your child a consistent experience.
- Remember to have fun! Laugh, talk and play with your baby every chance you get!
- Work on your marital relationship. Studies have found that parents who have a supportive spouse are more able to be responsive to their child’s needs and provide higher quality of care resulting in more security.
- Everything in this post is directed to fathers just as it is to mothers. Research has shown that fathers play a crucial role in their children’s development and that the father-child bond is an important factor in your child’s life.
- Working fathers may feel they aren’t spending enough time with their children. Try to engage your baby in any opportunity that presents itself. Bottle-feeding, changing diapers, and putting your baby to bed can all be great times to bond.
- Read, talk and sing to your baby and let her hear your voice. Take time to play and participate in your older child’s interests as well.
- Remember to be positive when correcting or redirecting your child. Research has shown that positive parenting is very effective in correcting unwanted behavior while maintaining your child’s positive self esteem and secure bond.
Read More On..
- Tips for Bonding with your Baby, by the U.S Department for Health and Human Services.
- More information on attachment and what more you can do to promote the bond here.
- More great practical tips on what you can do today to bond with your baby here.
Photo from salwa4ct
I know a lot of parents wonder how to “play” with their baby. Most parents are mainly concerned with getting the feeding, sleeping and changing routine down and making sure their baby is happy. I hear a lot of parents say “Oh i can’t wait till she’s a little bit older so I can play with her!” The good news is you can play with your baby now and odds are she will enjoy it and so will you!
Your baby is already communicating and playing with you in her own way, she also needs all sorts of stimulation. When she coos and makes noises, she’s starting a “conversation” and her journey to language development. Laying her down for some tummy time is the first step to strengthening her muscles and upper body which she will need to start crawling and later to be able to sit at a desk properly.
I’ve collected some fun and creative baby activities from my favourite blogs and books to help you have fun with your baby!
Photo by www.mariamelmofty.com
Your Baby 0-3 Months
At this stage your baby needs to experience your touch, smell and lots of love. The first 3 months are especially hard on parents since you are still getting to know your baby; her temperament and needs as well as getting her to sleep through the night. You can still make the most of everyday routine activities!
When your baby is alert, fed and has a clean diaper that’s a great opportunity to just sit with her! Take time to listen, look, touch, hold, stroke, cuddle and talk to your baby. Giving your newborn face-to-face time is important. Research has shown that newborns, 2-5 days old, prefer to look at faces that engage them with direct contact rather than faces with an averted gaze. Your face is conveying information about your emotional state; Is Daddy happy? What’s mommy looking at now? Eye contact with your baby is important.
Include your baby while changing her diaper by talking about what you are doing. Mention what is going on, the parts of the body and what you will do next. Your baby may not understand you now but will eventually learn to pick up on your cues, when you say “Almost done” or “I’m putting your clean diaper on” she knows what’s going on. Talking to your baby during diaper time also tells her what diaper time is about! This may be obvious but some parents can go through the whole process merely saying “hold on”,”just a sec”,”don’t cry” without explaining what’s happening. You may ask why this is important. You can totally change the experience your child has about diaper changing by telling her what’s happening early on. As your child gets older and begins to make sense of your words the experience will be less of a struggle and actually a pretty smooth experience with your child understanding the purpose and process of diaper time.
You can also keep your baby entertained by singing to her or placing a secure mirror along or above the changing table so she can have a good view when being changed. Try having your baby experience different textures like a feather or soft cloth on her tummy. Remember to tell her what you are doing.
Whether you are bottle feeding or breast-feeding, these are precious times to be physically close to your baby. Use this time to talk with your baby, hold her unoccupied hand or massage her feet. If you are bottle feeding it is recommended that you “switch sides” as a breast-feeding mother would. The reason for this is that research shows there may be more advantages to breast-feeding than nutrition. With bottle feeding babies, parents usually hold their baby on a preferred side which usually stimulates one side of your baby. However, when you switch sides during breast-feeding, both sides (left and right) of your baby are stimulated as you hold her hand, massage her foot and she shifts her eye gaze. When you naturally let your child cross her midline (an invisible line down the center of the body) you are helping build a part in her brain called the corpus callosum which connects the right and left sides together and helps them communicate. You can also stimulate crossing the midline by playing with a rattle at other times.
Other research has suggested that children who are breast-fed may have higher IQs because their mothers tend to communicate and be more verbal than bottle-feeding parents. Feeding time is a great time to bond and just get to know each other. Leave your TV, cellphone or other distractions and spend this time alone with your baby and remember to talk to her.
Scientists previously (and wrongly) thought that newborns lacked the ability to imitate and that this ability wasn’t developed until babies were 8-12 months old. However, latest research has shown that a newborn as young as 12-21 days can imitate facial expressions like opening her mouth. Imitation is important to people because that’s how we learn how to interact with others. Knowing that babies are capable of mimicking actions may mean they are capable of social learning. When your baby sees you do something and attempts to imitate it or is thinking about it, she does this by using special cells called mirror neurons. Scientists believe these cells are responsible for learning through observation; how children learn to kick a ball, hold a cup or why we yawn when someone else yawns. So when your baby is watching she is also learning!
When your baby is in a happy and alert state play around with her by changing your facial expression. Bring your face close to your baby and stick out your tongue or open your mouth and hold this for a while, your baby may imitate your expression! You can also encourage her communication by saying “oooooooh. Can you say Oooooh?” wait and see if she imitates you. Try different sounds with your baby.
Remember that children develop skills at different times so remember not to alarmed if your baby isn’t mimicking every thing you do or doesn’t seem engaged by your face. Give her time and revisit these ideas later.
We usually place babies on their backs, but it’s important to give them some tummy time as well. Tummy time helps develop your baby’s physical skills, she gets to practice raising her head which develops her neck muscles, she also puts some weight on her arms and upper body getting ready for crawling, she gets to kick and move her feet more freely than if she’s in a chair.
Place your baby on a soft surface and lie down next to her so that she is facing you. Keep her entertained by talking to her, singing to her, playing with your facial expressions and encouraging her attempts at movement. Do this for a few minutes several times a day till your baby becomes more comfortable in this position. Once she starts raising her head a bit you can add a mat with a mirror (usually found at toy stores) so she can look at herself and place a few toys just out of her reach to give her a chance to reach out and grab them and keep her entertained . Try to notice when your baby is most comfortable with this activity; after nap, after a diaper change,etc.. Once your baby is a bit older and starts raising her head you can also place her on your stomach and watch her crawl over and investigate your face.
Always closely monitor your baby while she is on her tummy on the floor as some babies may rest their face right on the floor which could restrict breathing!
An all time favorite, babies love to play Peek-a-Boo! Playing Peek-a-boo teaches your baby that just because something isn’t there doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, this is known as object permanence. This is a the first stage to mental representation which is a step in functions requiring memory.
When your baby is facing you, hide your face with your hands or with a cloth then remove the cloth and say “Boo!” and smile. In the beginning your baby will be surprised, as you continue she will learn to expect your smiling face and smile back at you.
I hope this post gave you some practical and useful ideas on things to do with your newborn 🙂
This post was inspired by Bright from the start by Jill Stamm and 365 Games Smart Babies Play by Sheila Ellison & Susan Ferdinandi.
This article was featured on Mother & Child Magazine in English and Arabic
Every parent has been in this position where you are tired, hungry, just came home from work and need to shower, make dinner or just take a break! Problem: Your baby is asking for entertainment. Solution: the TV!
A little amount of TV never hurt anyone. However, television has become the “virtual nanny” for many parents. Children eat, play or read while the TV is on. Often resulting in hours of television viewing,
What's the Problem?
The problem is that television viewing takes away from human interaction, which is how your baby is designed to learn and develop. Actually the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no TV exposure for children under 2!. A recent study showed that every hour of TV that a child under 3 watches per day increases the chance of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) diagnosis by 10%.This is most likely because of the fact that in those early years your child’s brain is still developing. The frontal lobes which are important for working memory and keeping things in mind are not yet fully developed, TV programs with changing scenes or those interrupted by commercials may seem like separate scenes with no coherent link to your child.
Remember the huge Baby Einstein and “educational videos” craze? Well, in reality there is no scientific research to back up that these videos benefited children at all! On the contrary research has shown that exposure to such “baby videos” among infants 8-16 months was strongly associated with lower scores on standard language development test. While on toddlers ages 17-24 months no significant effects, either positive or negative, were noticeable.
It’s worth mentioning that in 2009 the Walt Disney Company offered refunds to parents for all those “Baby Einstein” videos that didn’t make their children smarter!
However, reading to your child daily and storytelling were found to be associated with somewhat higher language scores for toddlers. Young children need human interaction for learning. This coincides with Dr. Kuhl’s findings on language development in a very interesting experiment showing that babies lean language sounds from a person not a video recording of a person. In the experiment she exposed babies to a person reading a story in Mandarin or the baby would listen to a tape recording of a person reading the books. A third option was watching a video of a person reading a story in Mandarin.
The results? The babies only learned the Mandarin sounds from the live person!
So,What Can You Do?
- Read stories and sing songs with your baby. This well help develop your child’s language and attention span. As well as being a first step to literacy.
- Use an activity center with your infant. Exploring, pushing buttons, grasping and pulling objects will help develop your baby’s cognitive skills, fine and gross motor skills, understand cause and effect and just have fun.
- If your child is a fussy eater, try feeding her during meal time. Seeing Mom and Dad sitting and eating at the table may influence her eating habits.
- Have your toddler play with some Tupperware while you are in the kitchen. This activity helps foster spatial visualization ability by placing objects inside each other and fine and gross motor skills when grasping objects and putting the lid on and off.
- Involve your toddler or preschooler in everyday household activities. While cooking your child can peel an onion for you or help you pour. If you are going shopping he can help point out where items on the list are on the shelves. There are so many options! Remember that what you do in a few minutes can be endlessly entertaining and a fun learning experience for your child.
I have to say that not all TV watching is bad. There are wonderful shows that do have an educational aspect to them.
How to Choose an Appropriate TV Show?
- First, monitor what your child is exposed to. Avoid shows with violence or upsetting scenes. Research has shown that children who are exposed to TV violence may become numb to it and gradually accept it as a way to solve problems.
- For very young children below 3, choose shows that don’t have too many changing scenes or a cluttered background. A show were there is a static background and a main character talking directly to your child about objects that pop out onto the screen clearly is a good option. This format helps your child stay focused on the character and can understand clearly that when she hears the word “banana” and sees a picture of a banana on the screen that these two are related.
How to Watch TV with Your Child?
- Television watching can be an active experience not just a passive one. Watch programs together and encourage your child to sing and dance along with the characters on the show.
- Ask your child about what’s going on ? what does he thinks will happen next? point out new objects. This well help turn TV watching into a shared activity and is an opportunity for your child to learn new words.
- Use new and funny words that you learnt while watching TV. “Supercalafragalisticexpialadoshus” from the movie Mary Poppins comes to mind 🙂
- After television, come up with activities like drawing or outings around things seen in the show.
I hope this gives a new perspective to the use of television with your children 🙂