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Speaking to Your Baby – Preparing them for Life

Today, I’m welcoming a guest post from Rachel Tomas, a writer at www.babysitting.net.

Enjoy 🙂

From the very moment I found out that I was pregnant I began talking with my child. We talked about everything I was doing or thinking. I also sang to them and read out loud when I was reading and I also prayed with them and for them. I knew that they could hear everything, I really did not think about how much they understood, but I wanted them to know everything. Even when my hormones began to wreck havoc on me and I would cry I made sure I told them that it had nothing to do with them, and that I loved them very much.

There has been a lot of research about how much babies actually understand and learn. Some of the research is astounding but since we do not know for absolute sure I am of the school of thought that we should give it all we have got.

My first child was a girl and when she began to talk (more than just a word or two here and there) around nine months or so she seemed to understand so many things we had already discussed. She was so compassionate and sensitive and when I would sing to her it relaxed her so much and when we prayed she got still and quiet. She also loved to sit and listen to anyone read. You could read her the dictionary or a child’s book; it made no difference to her. Her memory was brilliant, after reading her a children’s book she could turn the pages and say it word for word as if she was reading. She turned the pages at exactly the right time and people who would see her would be shocked, thinking that she was actually reading at nine months!

I also talked to them when they were stretching in the womb. My daughter’s feet would come out one side clearly and her head on the other. I would pat her and tell her she was pushing too hard and she would stop. My son was a wiggle worm and he moved most of the night (of course) and we would have long talks about him settling down! I knew he was going to be a handful when he came out. And I was right because he is older now and he can never sit still. He has had a hard time getting his body to settle down all his life. I sang to him quite a bit in the womb and when he was born I sang to him to get him to settle down at night.

Whether it is understanding or just familiarity to the sound of singing I do not know but I do know that it does help after they are born. The get to know the sound of your voice, and even if you can not sing (like me) the sound of your singing can comfort them when they are out of the safety of the womb.

After my children were born we continued to talk about everything. As we rode along in the car I talked to them about driving rules and regulations, car safety, and how important it was that they stayed in their car seats. When we went grocery shopping I talked to them about the selections I was making and why, the prices and how you determine the best deal, and what we were making for dinner that night.

Whatever I was doing with my child I was talking to them. They seemed to love to hear me talk and as they grew they loved it when I made up stories to tell them at story time or bedtime. It was so cute to watch each of my children relate to stories. My daughter loved hand puppets and talked to them as though they were alive, even though she assured me she knew they were not; she has an amazing imagination. My son on the other hand is a practical soul and does not really like to play make believe. He is a factual kind of guy. He hated the hand puppets and emphatically told me that he knew it was me talking! We had to switch over to stuffed animals and do an animated story which made them both happy. We had a black and white cow who loved to smell the flowers in the meadow but seemed to always get close to a bee hive and get stung on the behind. This made my son extremely happy and my daughter too; I can not tell you how many times I have told that story. They still remember it today.

When out walking we talked about the different trees, leaves, and flowers we would see. We talked about the different colors we would come across as well. Everything you do is a learning experience if you talk to your children as you go along. We talked about people running, riding their bikes, skateboarding, swinging, etc. and they listened.

I guess I learned this from my mother even though I do not believe she was consciously doing it. Mom sat me on the counter in the kitchen when she was cooking and told me everything she was doing. She taught me how to make a pie from scratch when I was not old enough to see over the counter. She did that wherever we went; she talked and told us what she knew. And as I watched her when she was at home with us she was talking to my children about everything she was doing just like she did with me.

When my children spent time with Grandma they always came home having experienced some new adventure. She taught them all about nature, fishing, cooking, and inventing. Mom was the queen of invention. She could take ordinary household items and make something really exciting and fun. My son could play for over an hour with canned goods. She helped them make tracks for marbles out of wrapping paper rolls connected together. She put up a zip line in the back yard that they zipped on for years. She taught them to invent fun no matter what they had on hand. This kind of information is something they will use for the rest of their lives. And communication is the conduit that brings it all together, just telling them what you are doing and why and showing them how as you go along.

From before the time children are born they are empty vessels waiting to be filled. When they are in the womb or after they are born and are completely reliant on you is a perfect opportunity to talk uninterrupted! And then when they are old enough to communicate you can share interests with them as you go. So many times with a toddler it is so much easier to stop them from a tantrum by talking to them and changing the subject with something new and interesting than it is to dispel the tantrum.

Once when my daughter was about three and my nephew was visiting who was two I watched an interaction they had in amazement. He was the type of child who wanted anything that you had and tried to grab it away. I saw him take my daughter’s toy and then watched as she let him and quietly walked away. She picked up another toy and became delighted with it and he came running over, abandoning the first toy. She again let him have her toy and then walked over and discretely picked up her original toy and sat down with her back to him to play. At the time I was not sure if this was a good idea, manipulation at its finest, but then I realized that is what I had been doing. Perfect case scenario proving that they do understand and they do learn from us at a very early age. It made me a lot more sensitive to the things I was saying and doing after watching my daughter at work!

Children need the stimulation of communication and information very early on. Most of us learn by repetition, by hearing, seeing, or doing something over and over again. Our children are the same but they do not have to re-learn like we do, they are empty slates on which we can write so we as parents need to make sure we are utilizing the times when we can teach. And the fact that our voices, our talking, our teaching gives them security and comfort is a plus. Because a happy child, a secure child, can soak up knowledge and retain it and excel.

Author Bio:

 Rachel is an ex-babysitting pro as well as a professional writer and blogger. She is a graduate from Iowa State University and currently writes for www.babysitting.net. She welcomes questions/comments which can be sent to rachelthomas.author @ gmail.com.

Breastfeeding Your Baby After Surgery

I’m so very lucky to have this little gem to publish. It’s written by the fabulously entertaining Trae from Where’s My Glow and is a wonderful post about her experience of breastfeeding her baby after some pretty major surgery along with some good tips. The baby in this post (aka Tricky) is going to become a big brother any day now 🙂 Best wishes for the journey ahead and thanks for sharing your story.

xx Julie

Breastfeeding your baby after surgery By Trae Flett ( aka Glowless of wheresmyglow.com

Baby before surgery
Baby Tricky before surgery

The very first time I held my son he was just seconds old, laying on my chest and hollering before rooting around for his first breastfeed. In bewildered awe I stared at his 3.8kg body and his whopping head and said a silent prayer for my future pelvic floor strength. I realized this not-so tiny human was mine and we were now a family. It was perfect… he was perfect.

Eleven weeks of long nights later, when we were finally getting in to the swing of breastfeeding, we discovered that actually, he wasn’t so perfect after all. He was diagnosed with sagittal craniosynostosis, a premature fusing of the plates of the skull, characterized by an elongated head, protruding forehead (known as scaphocephaly – literally translated to “boathead”) and closed fontanel. He had a pretty funky noggin to say the least and was starting to resemble a Sherrin football, albeit an incredibly cute one.

However the main issue with craniosynostosis isn’t aesthetic. The brain’s growth is impacted and in some cases, without surgical intervention, can lead to an increase in intracranial pressure which in turn can cause all sorts of problems including learning disabilities and vision problems.

Only three weeks later he had his first surgery and I discovered that breastfeeding a child after they’ve had surgery is a very steep learning curve and feels just like having a newborn again.

Breastfeeding after surgery.
Tricky after surgery

When he came out of surgery with his head bandaged and his eyes swollen half shut he looked like he’d just done ten rounds in the ring. He was connected to what seemed like half a dozen machines and crying like I’d never heard before, but he fed immediately and calmed down… until the anaesthetic started to wear off a few minutes later. My previously “good feeder” and renowned comfort sucker swung between being in intense pain and being completely drugged up both of which meant he was unable to feed.

Once his morphine levels were adjusted and he was in as little pain as possible but alert enough to latch on, our breastfeeding journey was able to continue, albeit still connected to machines that constantly beeped every time he fed (his oxygen levels would drop a little – I’m told that’s quite normal).

Figuring out how to hold him without touching his swollen head or feeling like I was about to pull out a cannula was difficult and required a lot of help from the nurses and family visitors. It was just like learning how to breastfeed all over again.

breastfeeding-after-surgery-2
Breastfeeding after surgery

It was a traumatic time but now, at three years of age, two and a half years of breastfeeding, and with two successful surgeries under his belt, my son is a robust kid with a dare devil streak… and a lovely round head!

My top tips for breastfeeding after your child’s surgery:

  • Ask someone to help you position the baby – with all those tubes, having a nurse or family member place the baby in to your arms after you’ve positioned yourself helps enormously and also reduces the fear of pulling out the wires.
  • Take a breast pump & storage bags – if your baby is in pain, heavily medicated, or even being kept sedated in ICU, he may not be able to feed as regularly as usual and this can lead to discomfort and a supply drop in some cases. Label the milk with the date, your name and your child’s name and ask a nurse to put it in the fridge/freezer.
  • Feed, feed, feed! – being nestled in close and breastfeeding is so comforting to a sick child, and it’s also comforting to mum, too, after such an emotional experience.

Trae is a slightly crunchy mama, a champion procrastinator, wannabe geek and sometime writer. She blogs about life, breastfeeding, recipes and much more at wheresmyglow.com with tongue very firmly in cheek.

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Too Much Vitamin D During Pregnancy Can Cause Food Allergies

Results of a  study carried out by the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research and the Martin Luther University in Halle-Wittenberg in Germany indicate a link between high vitamin D levels in expectant mothers and increased infant allergy risks. These results were published in the February issue of the medical journal Allergy.

The conclusion drawn from the study states that pregnant women should avoid taking vitamin D supplements because this appears to raise the risk of children developing a food allergy after birth until their 2nd birthday.

A total of  622 mothers and their 629 children were included in the long-term study “Lifestyle and environmental factors and their impact on the newborn allergy risk” says  Dr. Irina Lehmann who headed the study.

Vitamin D is one of those nutrients that always had a good reputation for supplementation. Many mothers are found to be vitamin D deficient when they enter pregnancy and it is becoming increasingly popular for pregnant mothers to be told to take a vitamin D supplement. However, recent scientific investigations are increasingly questioning the positive aspect of the  vitamin D supplementation. At the end of the 1990’s, for the first time people’s attention was drawn to a link between high vitamin D levels and the development of allergies.

This study aimed to find out if  there is a correlation between the concentration of vitamin D in the blood of expectant mothers and in cord blood of the babies as well as the association between vitamin D levels during pregnancy and at birth, the immune status and the incidence of allergic diseases of the children later in life.

Vitamin D in Pregnancy. A good source is the sunshine.

In short… They found that yes, the baby’s vitamin D levels are similar to the mothers at birth, and that babies with excess levels of vitamin D have fewer regulatory T-cells which stop the immune system from overreacting to allergens. Fewer regulatory T cells  results in a higher chance of developing one or more allergies.

The final recommendation of the study was a little puzzling to me. This recommendation is to avoid vitamin D supplementation in pregnancy. I fore-see a future where this is translated as “vitamin D is dangerous to take in pregnancy” as has happened with vitamin A ( a whole ‘nother kettle of fish and a topic for some other time). The  major problem I see with this blanket recommendation is that it seems to ignore the fact that vitamin D deficiency is more common than an excess of vitamin D and the problems with this are just as troubling. In pregnancy, vitamin D helps to develop baby’s bones. A vitamin D deficiency can affect the amount of calcium the baby has in their bones and in severe deficiency this can cause a bone deformity called rickets. Since the baby is getting it’s vitamin D from mum, mum has in increased need for it for her own bone health and a mother deficient in vitamin D is more likely to suffer post natal depression.

I do agree that routine vitamin D supplementation should be avoided during pregnancy. Routine vitamin D supplementation should be avoided for ALL people. Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin so your body doesn’t just pee it out like some others. It’s stored in fat cells and it’s hard to get rid of it if you go overboard. We’ve known for a long time that it’s toxic in high doses.

It’s a simple enough procedure to test a mother’s vitamin D status and make recommendations according to her results. For many women, diet and lifestyle modifications alone can boost her vitamin D to optimal levels. For others, this might not be enough and a vitamin D supplement might be necessary. A simple blood test will tell what’s required for each individual.

So how do you ensure you have enough vitamin D without getting too much?

1. Get some sunshine 

It depends on where you live as to how much sunlight you need each day to keep your vitamin D levels up. Your body will never make too much from sunlight alone.

It’s obviously important to get enough sunlight to produce vitamin D without increasing your risk of skin cancer. In summer, many fair skinned people make enough vitamin D from having their hands, arms and face (or equivalent area of skin) in the sun for a few minutes each day during normal day to day outdoor activities. This is without the slip, slop, slap. Sunscreen, hats and layers of clothing will reduce your body’s ability to make vitamin D, so you need to make sure that you get some direct sunshine to your skin without sunscreen and protective clothing. You should choose your timing sensibly. Don’t go get your vitamin D fix at the beach in the middle of summer at midday for example.

In most of Australia, in winter, you will need two to three hours of sunlight each week. In Summer, 5-15 mins a day should do it.

People with darker skin need more sunlight and those with very black skin may need three to six times as much sunlight as fair skinned people.

2. From your diet

While there is vitamin D in some foods, there is not enough to give you what you need, you still need sunlight. Vitamin D is present in a small number of foods, for the average person food will  supply about 10% of the amount they need. You can up that to around 90% if you try hard enough with your diet. Vitamin D is present in oily fish such as mackerel, tuna, salmon and sardines. Other great sources are eggs, shitaake mushrooms, button and field mushrooms the mushrooms make vitamin D2 which is a little harder for your body to use than the animal sourced vitamin D3, but they are still helpful).

3. If you do need to take a supplement, choose carefully

Have your levels rechecked after a maximum of 3 months of supplementation to see if it’s still required.

Vitamin D supplements come in two forms:

  1. Ergocalciferol (vitamin D2) a synthetic version made by irradiating fungus and plant matter—this would be the form of vitamin D suitable for a vegan lifestyle. This is not as well absorbed or utilised by your body as vitamin D3. This is the most common type available. Always check the label to see what type you are buying.
  2. Cholecalciferol (vitamin D3) the same type of D vitamin created in your body when you expose your skin to sunlight. This is  87 percent more potent in raising and maintaining vitamin D concentrations and produces 2- to 3-fold greater storage of vitamin D than does D2. It is only produced by vertebrate animals and is not available in plant based supplements.

Sources:

The study cited in this post:

http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/all.12081

The press release that alerted me to this study:

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130227085838.htm