Over the last 2 years I’ve joined several mommy groups on social media. They’re a great place for moms to share experiences and ask for advice. Recently I’ve noticed similar questions being asked especially by new moms about how to start life with baby. I was inspired by Simone of the Montessori Notebook and decided to create a Link Pack just for new mommies with all the links you may need to start your journey into motherhood. I’ll try to cover some of the basic topics like sleeping, feeding, care, play and positive parenting of course 🙂
Feeding & Sleeping
Development & Milestones
Becoming a Parent & Self Care
There are lots of great resources out there. I personally found these to be very helpful. Make sure to check back as I’ll keep adding more links whenever I come across something relevant.
This is a new series of Opinion entries which will be different from the research based articles I usually post.
When my son turned 6 months like all parent we began looking into how to introduce solid foods to him. Like most people I knew about starting with fruit and vegetable purees and had already bought a couple ( OK maybe more than a couple) baby cookbooks with all these puree combinations and meal plans. We were ready to start!
Then I came across Baby Lead Weaning (BLW). I had come across the (misleading) title before and ignored it because we had no plans to wean our baby any time soon. On further inspection it has nothing to do with weaning per say and everything to do with introducing solids in a very interesting way.
BLW (a term attributed to Gill Rapley ) is basically about allowing your child to self feed and skipping purees altogether and going for appropriate finger food. You can read all the details and guidelines about BLW here on their official website.
Going through the process with my own son it made me realize how much BLW supports the philosophies we try to follow in Positive Parenting:
- Choosing an age appropriate activity for your child:
One of the first guidelines of BLW is waiting till your child shows signs of readiness. Is he sitting up independently? is he reaching for objects and interested in putting them in his mouth?
- Supporting your child’s development:
Children at that age naturally place things in their mouths. Self feeding is a natural extension to this instinct as well as exercise fine motor skills and eye-hand coordination.
- Helping your child develop positive eating habits:
Feeding himself allows your child to regulate how much food he eats when he’s hungry and stop when he’s full on his own. He also gets to practice his independence by choosing what to eat and what not to eat. There is no “last spoon” to finish off, just his own self monitoring.
- Avoiding feeding power struggles:
Mealtimes can turn into real struggles as parents negotiate with their kids to finish their food, eat one more bite or threaten no dessert. Practicing BLW helps you learn to trust your child and his food intake. He may eat very little for breakfast but have a good dinner or he may have a lousy day eating but eat double his portions the next day. An article I read once on baby and toddler eating had very good advice; it said it’s always best to look at how much your child is eating within the week. That is a fairer estimate than judging day-to-day eating.
- Avoiding raising a picky eater:
Children are people like the rest of us, they like and dislike different things, and sometimes they change their minds! By placing diverse and healthy choices in front of your child you are teaching them how to value food and decide for themselves what they want to eat. Don’t be discouraged! Reintroduce rejected foods over and over again, you’ll be pleasantly surprised when your child starts eating them!
- Eating together as a family and creating a positive habit:
Often times I see families experience this scenario; parents eat separately then baby is fed alone either before or after parents. Sometimes it can last an hour feeding the child and it can feel like a chore! Other times parents let their children roam feed. But at a certain point and age you are going to start requesting that your child “grow up” and sit at the table and eat “properly”. So why wait to introduce this? Babies and toddlers learn instinctively through imitation. When you model eating and proper dinner behavior they’ll pick up on it and be encouraged. That’s not to say they won’t fling food or throw their spoons. These are all natural behaviors that children do as they explore the world and their limits.
Finally, I have to say starting off with BLW sometimes isn’t always easy. On our first day of feeding I found myself wanting my son to have more of the spoon instead of just a taste as he’s supposed to. Parents are told that suddenly children should be consuming several spoonfuls of food 1-3 times a day and that can put a lot of pressure. I believe the biggest issue to overcome is the parent’s own emotional one of letting go and trusting your child and the process. That being said, sometimes BLW doesn’t match your child or your family’s needs and may not be for you. Sometimes a blend of spoon feeding and BLW is what works. I spoon feed my child when he gets lazy or is tired as well. These are all natural. The important point at the essence of positive parenting is to keep a flexible mind about things; some days baby will eat well and others not, sometimes he’ll self feed and others need help, he may love carrots today but hate them tomorrow for no apparent reason. In all cases there is no need to feel pressured or stressed, ask yourself these questions:
- At the end of the week; did my child eat well?
- Did he have a diverse selection of healthy choices?
- Was mealtime a pleasant and stress-free experience for everyone?
- What can be changed for next time?
It’s an ongoing process. Here area a list of references I’ve found useful on young children and eating.
This month we’ll be exploring a series on playing and learning with young children. You may be wondering what play has to do with learning. Can a baby even learn? YES! Children start learning from the moment they are born. It’s not just about learning letters and number. It’s about understanding how things work and how they relate to one another. The point of learning isn’t just to know a piece of information it’s about the learning process that enables us to reach and understand that information. If you consider learning to be a process then you can realize how young children learn from every day experiences. Since play is every child’s natural behavior that’s where children learn the most!
Babies are no different. All over the world babies exhibit the same behavior; they try to touch everything and try to put it in their mouths. In this stage babies are learning through their senses. They love to touch, feel and taste objects. They turn their heads when they hear a familiar or new sound. Starting around two months babies love interacting with other people. At this age play is different than older children’s play and is mainly about back and forth interaction between your baby and you!
What and how is your baby learning?
In the first year everything is new for your baby. This phase is all about exploration. By 9 months your baby should understand about cause and effect and that objects still exist when she can’t see them which is called object permanence.
- When you move a rattle back and forth for your baby she follows it with her eyes, this is called tracking. While this may seem simple enough your baby is learning in the process and it’s the first step in building your baby’s visual skills.
- Once you hand your baby the rattle she imitates you and shakes it herself. Observation and imitation is one of the ways children learn to use new things. Your baby starts learning about cause and effect when she shakes the rattle (cause) and the sound is produced (effect).
- Your baby is also developing her hand-eye coordination skills (which is a skill needed later for drawing, writing and eating) when she sees the rattle and tries to reach for it. When your baby moved the rattle from one hand to the other this helps the connections between her right and left brain as well!
- If you hold two rattles and alternate shaking them while pausing in between this allows your baby to shift her gaze between one object and the other which helps her attention skills.
- As you and your baby interact in this simple game she’s learning about conversation as you talk to her and wait for her to answer you with a coo or laugh then respond to her. She’s also setting the foundation for language as she listens to you talk.
- Most of all she’s learning about the object! Without realizing she’s gone through a whole learning process of observing you, imitating and understanding how this rattle works!
What toys can a baby play with?
You can use easy to find objects to play with your baby. In the first three months babies enjoy toys with high color contrast. Choose a rattle that’s black and white for example. Between 3-6 months your baby is starting to reach and grab things and is more attracted to bright colors and toys that make sounds when moved. She’ll also start reaching out to grab your hair and clothes. Here are some more toys and how you can use them.
Important to remember to follow your child’s lead during play so that it’s a fun experience for both of you. Once your child starts looking away, pushing or whimpering these are signs that your baby has had enough of that toy and would like something different or maybe it’s time to relax altogether.
- Mirrors are great for tummy-time. Find a baby-friendly mirror and place your baby on the floor in front of it. Your baby will be more eager to mover her neck upwards to look at herself and might even crawl forward! It’s a fun way for your baby to spend time on her tummy!
You can also place the mirror in front of your sitting baby and let her point to herself and watch her own interaction with the toys around her.
- Exploring textures is wonderful for kids to learn. You can start by buying a couple of board books with textures in them that are rough, smooth and soft. You can also fill an old tissue box with different pieces of fabric and watch as your baby pulls them out one by one and explores them. You can talk about how they feel and their colors as well. Make sure the pieces are big so baby doesn’t eat them.
- Rolling is important for hand-eye coordination and physical development. It’s also fun! Your baby can usually start rolling a ball between 8 – 18 months. You can roll big or small balls with your baby. You can also fill an empty water bottle with colored water, shells or anything interesting for your baby to roll back and forth. Your older baby will probably crawl after it as well while your younger one will communicate with you to roll it back!
- Music is great for all kids. Listening to music has been associated with increased spatial reasoning. You don’t have to still to kids’ music, try music with drums and a catchy tune. You can give your baby a rattle or show him how to clap or bang on an empty box.
- You are your baby’s most important tool in learning! You can provide your baby with all the stimulation and interaction he needs. Talking and singing helps his language, emotion, social and cognitive development. Your face is an endless screen of expressions that teaches him how social interaction works. Your actions are a perfect model to how baby should act and behave. Most of all you know your baby more than anyone and can give him what he needs at the right time
Always make sure the toys you use are baby safe. Offer your baby only a few toys at a time and rotate a few items every few weeks to keep your baby interested. I hope this article has given you an idea on how and what your baby learns in her first year.
Why is personal interaction with babies important? Studies on children in institutional care who were getting all the necessary basic care such as feeding, cleaning and sleep but were not getting any social interaction from their caregivers showed that these children were more delayed in their development than other children who were in a family context and received attentive care. Children experience delays in language, cognitive abilities and even growth. These studies showed us just how important social interaction is to a person’s development from a very young age!
Image from FreeDigitalPhotos
Developing young children’s emotional security is a process that starts at birth. Even before we think they can realize their surroundings or have an opinion, babies are already learning about what they can expect from the world from the experiences they have. Babies learn to feel either secure or insecure in the world based on the relationships they have with the people who care for them. Babies who know they have an adult they can rely on for comfort and care are more likely to be secure unlike those who experience inconsistent or unresponsive care.
Why is it important to care about a child’s emotional security? Children’s social emotional state is connected to other important aspects of their lives, such as their ability to explore and learn. It also involves their ability to make friends, play and face difficult situation later in life.
What you can do:
Children who experience a pattern of responsive and consistent care from their parents and caregivers are more likely to develop a positive sense of self, of others and the world around them. They are then more likely to have self-confidence, trust others and explore and learn new situations. On the other hand, children who experience unresponsive treatment from parents and caregivers are likely to have behavior problems, act out and have feelings of mistrust and low self-esteem.
Here are some ways to help your child develop a positive feeling of emotional security.
Contrary to popular belief you can’t spoil a child by being responsive. It’s how you respond that makes a difference. Your baby is sending you signals and cues all the time. Take time to observe your baby and find out what she wants. Let your child know you see her cues for help and attention. Just by giving her attention that you know she needs something is a great first step. Next it’s important to respond appropriately to what she needs. Is she pointing to a toy to play with you? Is she hungry? Does she need to sleep? Does she need a hug?
Remember that no good comes from leaving a baby or young child “cry it out”. All young children have difficulty controlling their emotions your baby needs your help to calm down. Not responding to a cry sends a signal to your baby that she can’t count on the adults and caregivers around her. On the other hand when children feel understood and responded to they learn to develop trusting relationships and good self-esteem.
- Support your child’s development
Almost everything young children experience is new for them. That’s important to keep in mind when your little one is struggling to put on his jacket or spills while pouring his juice. These and many more are skills your little one needs to learn and learning never happens without mistakes. What’s important is that these mistakes are met with encouragement, positivity and a solution. Not criticism and punishment.
- 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. Give him the space needed to explore new activities and places while letting him know you are there to support if things get too tough.
- Try not to 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 from exploring new things.
- Letting your child do things on his own and learn through trial an error can help him feel more independent, self-reliant and confident in approaching new or tough situations.
- Communicate with your child
Communication is extremely important even with young children who can’t form full sentences of their own yet. While your child might not be able to fully express himself verbally, he can understand you very well. Let your child know what to expect to increase his feeling of security by communicating with your child and explaining things. Tell him why you will leave him at daycare? Mommy has to go to work. Where will you go? Mommy will go to work. When will you return? I’ll pick you up after snack time. Make sure to put your words in terms your child can understand and to stick to what you say! With repetition your child will develop a sense of trust and confidence.
- Mistakes are opportunities to learn
Remember that your child is experiencing things for the first time and has not yet mastered basic skills. How you respond is important to how your child views himself and his abilities. Mastering a skill can only come by practice. Give your child opportunities to do things on his own and be positive when correcting your child’s misbehavior or when offering your child help. This helps give your child a sense of confidence, positive self-esteem and encourages him to try again. The same applies when resolving conflict. Give your child a chance to explain, propose a solution and try it out. If it doesn’t work out then discuss why he thinks things went wrong and what he could do instead. It can be quite surprising the smart answers 3 and 4-year-old come up with once given a chance.
These are just a few ideas to help your child feel confident and emotionally secure. I hope they help you out in making your parenting experience as happy as can be.
Image from onemorephoto/flickr
Here is a list of fun ideas you can do with your baby with materials that are around the house or are easily accessible
This fun activity from The Imagination Tree is great for your baby’s fine motor skills, eye-hand coordination and sensory skills.Check out more Baby Play ideas on their site.
Also featured on The Imagination Tree. Playing with mirrors is great for exploring the self, textures and environment. Different mirror materials can be used, like toy mirrors, story box mirrors and other safe reflective surfaces.
Your baby can usually start rolling a ball between 8 – 18 months. Most children are capable of this when they are around a year old. It’s a great activity for developing eye-hand coordination, which is a skill needed later for drawing, writing and eating. Ball rolling is also great for physical gross and fine motor development. You can use small or big balls to keep your baby entertained and depending on her ability and age. Remember don’t force your baby into the activity, just giving her the opportunity is enough, she’ll participate when she’s ready.
Listening to music has been associated with increased spatial reasoning. Music and dance can have numerous positive effects on your baby; putting her in a good mood, helping her relax and just plain having fun. Dancing is an activity that can foster physical development as well as emotional and cognitive abilities. I’ve had experience with babies as young as 6 months moving their feet to the beat! Don’t be shy to give your baby some shakers or instruments to help her express herself and how she feels with the music.
Babies usually love water! Although they might find it stressful to take a bath in the first few weeks, most babies grow to love it and start crying when you take them out of the bath! Let your baby have some extra bath time and surround him with some rubber duckies and other safe play material. Some areas also offer swimming time for parents and their infants in groups. If you have access to a garden or beach, give your little one the chance to experience the wet mud and sand. It might be a hassle to clean up but you’re giving him a great experience in feeling textures and exploration which is great for his brain development. Remember never leave a baby in water unsupervised as it is extremely dangerous since babies can easily drown in a few inches of water.
Of course the most irreplaceable source of joy is you! Mom and Dad! You can provide your baby with all the stimulation and interaction he needs. Talking and singing helps his language, emotion, social and cognitive development. Your face is an endless screen of expressions that teaches him how social interaction works. Your actions are a perfect model to how baby should act and behave. Most of all you know your baby more than anyone and can give him what he needs at the right time 🙂
Check out more great activities to do with your newborn and baby on the Imagination Tree’s site and The Bub Hub
Cover Photo by Mariam El Mofty