Monthly Archives: May 2012

Growing Up Alongside Playtime

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Toddlers and young children play effortlessly and easily, with no stress or inhibitions to limit their explorations. Their imagination is their only limit. Every attachment parent knows how important hands-on imaginative play is. Through play, children develop their personalities, their creativity, and their relationships. Through play, children express their emotions, their needs, and their desires. Playtime is a way for a child to express himself in ways he may not be able to verbally or psychologically. A parent who plays with their child is able to connect on a deeper, more intimate level with their child. 

As children grow, playtime grows as well. It is important for parents to remain hands on and guide their children through the stages of their play. For parents, relating to a school aged child can be much more difficult than it was to communicate with a toddler. When your child grows too old for wrestling, tickle fights, and general silliness, then it is time for the playtime to grow and mature as well.

The following are several ways in which a parent can support and encourage healthy parent-child relationships through the maturation of playtime. 

Physical Play

As children age, their style of physical play changes, but their enjoyment of it does not. Physical play becomes more about organization and tests of skill and strength, and less about wrestling and running aimlessly. The logical, more developed brains of older children enjoy organized activities such as sports, physical games, or activities. By participating in these activities with your children, you can connect to them on a “feel good” level, sharing your experiences and strengthening your bond. Interactive play provides strong emotional connections between parents and children. 

Verbal Play

As a child grows, his brain and language skills become more developed and mature. Verbal play is a great way for families to stay connected. Word games are great, but consider telling jokes as well. A funny joke can activate many areas of the brain, as well as releasing endorphins in the body. I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, laughter is the best medicine! Share jokes or funny stories around the dinner table or after school. 

Individual Play

Besides finding activities, games, and sports that the whole family can participate in, it’s also important for parents to spend individual time with each child. Individual play allows children to become more emotionally invested in the lives of their parents. Child development specialists recommend finding an activity that is pleasurable to the child, first and foremost. Joining your child in an activity they already love, whether it be playing with Legos or making music, can strengthen the feelings of closeness between parents and children. 

Playtime Is A Listening Tool

Playtime is some of the most important time of day for a child. It not only allows them to express their own individuality and creativity, but it brings them together with their parents and siblings. Besides this, playtime is an ideal time for parents to listen to their kids. As children get comfortable in their playtime activities with their parents, their conversations may become deeper, giving parents and opportunity to listen to their child’s unexpressed needs, desires, fears, or troubles. 

Regardless of whether or not a parent shares a child’s particular interest, getting involved in that interest or activity will inevitably bring the parent and the child closer. 

 

Your children are growing and changing. Is your playtime growing with them? Stay involved in your children’s lives– remember, parenting lasts a lifetime, but childhood is short. 

 

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Homemade Formula: A Healthier Alternative To Infant Formula

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It remains unchallenged that breastfeeding is the best nutrition for baby, but sometimes circumstances arrive which do not allow a woman to breastfeed. Whether the infant has allergies, the mother has IGT or another disorder, or is psychologically unable to breastfeed, there are situations when breastfeeding is impossible. In these cases, most women would turn to formula to nourish their infant. Unfortunately, formula feeding is beyond subpar nutrition. It is dangerous. 

If you are unconvinced that formula feeding is dangerous, please refer to this post for more information. 

So what about the moms who can’t breastfeed? Fortunately, there is another, safer alternative to mass marketed infant formula. You can make your own formula at home! While this may be more time consuming and require more effort than buying a can of pre-mixed powdered formula, making your own infant formula will ensure that you are in complete control of the ingredients going into your baby’s food. You don’t have to worry about contamination and chemicals- you made it yourself! Here is a recipe for homemade infant formula: 

Ingredients for Homemade Baby Formula

Homemade Baby Formula

Makes 36 ounces

Equipment Needed

– Blender or whisk and bowl

– Glass bottles, or BPA free plastic bottles

Ingredients

For Liquid Formula: 

2 cups whole milk, preferably raw from pasture fed cows

1 7/8 cups filtered water

Homemade liquid whey

2TBS good quality cream, preferably raw, but NOT ultrapasturized

2TSP coconut oil

1/2TSP cod liver oil

1TSP expeller pressed sunflower oil

1TSP extra virgin olive oil

For Powdered Formula: 

4TBSP Lactose powder
2TSP nutritional yeast flakes

2TSP gelatin

1/4 TSP Natren bifidobacterium infantis

1/4 TSP Acerola powder

Instructions: 

Mix all ingredients in a blender. For liquid formula, scoop out the clumps that form at the top of the formula, scoop it into the bottles, and pour the rest of the formula into the bottles. This keeps the clumps from getting caught in the bottom of the blender. 

For powdered formula, mix ingredients and store in an airtight can. 

These recipes have been formulated by nutritionists, and can also be found listed here, along with information on where to purchase some of the “stranger” ingredients. 

The Horrors of Formula Feeding

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Let me start by saying I am not against formula feeding. My first child was formula fed after 2 months of pumped breast milk. Having said that, the amount of formula recalls in the past several years is more than alarming, it’s downright horrifying. 

The Lactivist says: 

“Pick up a can of formula and read the ingredients to see that it is quite inferior to breastmilk. It is mainly made up of sugar and oils and a protein such as cow’s milk, soy or whey. It does not contain antibodies, digestive enzymes, or immunoglobulin. Babies that are fed formula are 14 times more likely to be hospitalized in their first year. These babies are more prone to respiratory illnesses, ear infections and diarrhea. Babies that are fed formula instead of breastmilk miss out on the intense physical bond that allows them to develop a sense of trust in the world. Giving your baby formula is not the same as breastfeeding. Formula is not an equal substitute for breastmilk.”

The fact that breastfeeding is much better than formula feeding is old news. But besides the numerous benefits of breast milk, what’s even more concerning is the dangerous nature of infant formula. The produce that you trust to nourish and feed your baby could actually do much more harm than good, resulting in allergies, illness, and even death. Here’s why: 

Powdered infant formula is not sterile. Unlike bottled, ready-to-serve liquid formulas, powdered formula has not been heated, which makes it a breeding ground for bacteria. And bacteria is what makes your baby sick! According to www.foodsafety.gov, infant formula is not even regulated by the FDA. While the FDA monitors the contents of infant formula, they do not check, test, or regulate the formula before it hits shelves. 

As of 2008, several international government agencies considered formula feeding to be so risky that UNICEF even asked donors to stop sending canned infant formula to people living in disaster areas. Their reasoning? Formula could potentially lead to even more deaths in the area. 

The World Health Organization (WHO) outlines 14 risks every mother is taking by formula feeding her infant. The following is a list of the risks of formula feeding: 

  • Higher risk of lung infections
  • Risk of lower intelligence
  • Higher risk of environmental poisoning
  • Higher risk of ear infections
  • Risk of infection from contaminated formula
  • Higher risk of chronic diseases
  • Higher risk of allergy
  • Higher risk of asthma
  • Higher risk of obesity 
  • Higher risk of childhood cancers
  • Risk of diarrhea
  • Risk of heart disease
  • Higher risk of death from diseases
  • Higher risk of diabetes

In addition to the risks that every mother faces when choosing to give her infant normal formula, there is also the additional risk of contamination. In the past several years, infant formula has been recalled many times due to chemical contamination of the products. Here are some of the things that infant formula has been contaminated with recently: 

  • Salmonella
  • Beetles
  • Beetle larvae
  • Arsenic
  • Cyanide
  • Aluminum
  • BPA
  • Veterinary Drugs
  • Industrial Chemicals

The list goes on. What does the FDA have to say about this? 

“We think it’s safe,” Dr. Rauch says. “But the bottom line is that we don’t really know…” 

“…about 90 percent of all infant formulas produced in the U.S. are made by the three companies whose products tested positive for contaminants.”

I don’t know about you, but I think that’s pretty darned scary. 

The Journey To Beauty

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Have you ever typed “beauty” into Google search? Just that one word. The results that come up are, surprisingly, not exactly diverse. As a society, we put such a huge emphasis on beauty and physical perfection. On sex. On having a knock ’em dead body and an attitude to match. But is this really what we should be teaching our kids?? The answer is no! 

Beauty goes far beyond the skin. 

 

“We are beautiful, in every single way, and words can’t keep us down”. -Christina Aguilera, Beautiful 

 

Beauty is an attitude. It is a sense of morality, of values. It is heart. It is soul. Beauty is the child who keeps on smiling, while inside she weathers the storm. Beauty is the boy who holds his head up against bullying. Beauty is the love we feel for our children. 

Isn’t it time we moved beyond the skin-deep value of beauty? Placing such a huge value on physical appearance can’t possibly be healthy to our children whatsoever. And yet we continue to provide them with toys and media that express a need for physical perfection. At what point do we start to focus inwardly? At what point do we teach our kids to stop looking in the mirror, and start looking in their hearts? 

The journey to beauty is a long one, one that I myself am still struggling with. But if you never take the first step, you’ll never reach the finish. 

Readers: In what ways do YOU nurture the inner beauty of yourself and your children?  

Parenting Style Affects Genetic Makeup

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 The nature vs. nurture debate has never been more heated than it currently is among psychologists and child development experts. One definitive piece of information has resulted from these years of study. That is, that the way children are raised directly affects the physical shape of their brain. Every interaction a child has, whether good or bad, will result in the formation of pathways within the brain. These pathways connect to shape the individual person that your child will become. Obviously, a pattern of abusive or neglectful behavior will shape a child’s brain differently than a pattern of nurturing and love. 

A study posted in the February 2009 edition of Nature Neuroscience states that in addition to changing and shaping the brain, interaction patterns also affect the way a person’s genes are expressed. For more than ten years, researchers have known that affectionate mothering alters gene expression in animals, but it was not until recently that we were able to see proof of this in humans as well. Research has shown that children who are exposed to patterns of trauma and abuse are biologically altered to make them more sensitive to stress. 

While scientists are still speculating as to why some people are more easily able to regulate stress than others, it is now commonly accepted that experiences do play a significant role in the development of genes. Previous generations would have looked at an angry child with the attitude of ‘they were born that way’, but scientific research does not allow for this excuse to be made anymore. Scientifically, we have proven that raising our children in loving, nurturing environments will produce loving, nurturing adults, who will in turn raise loved, nurtured children of their own. 

The cycle starts with you. Are you doing the best you can for your child? 

Calming The Chaos

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As parents, we have all had those nights. You know the ones. The baby screams until 2am, and just when you FINALLY get him to sleep, the other child is up with a nightmare or asking for a drink of water. Being sleep deprived is an unfortunate part of parenting, and by repeating the mantra “this too shall pass”, we can make it through it! But sometimes, in the midst of bouts of crying and heart wrenching sobs coming from your infant or toddler, our frustration gets the best of us. It is in those times that parents resort to unintentional violence or angry outbursts. 

Obviously, responding to your child in an angry or violent manner is not healthy for your child’s self esteem or mental development. It can also pose a physical threat if your anger gets too out of hand. I will give my 2 year old an occasional swat on the butt when other discipline techniques fail, and I have found myself resorting to a smack when perhaps a time-out would have worked. On countless occasions, I have found myself speaking sharply to her when her roller coaster emotions frustrate me. 

There is no excuse for this, except that we are all parents, only human, and none of us are perfect. Fortunately, I have been able to curb my behavior, and the result is a happier, more harmonious home for everyone. Here are some things you can do to calm the tears before things get out of hand: 

Responding to Tantrums and Strong Emotions

  • Tantrums represent real emotions and as such should be taken seriously
  • Some emotions are too powerful for a young child’s underdeveloped brain to manage in a more socially acceptable manner
  • A parent’s role in tantrums is to comfort the child, not to get angry or punish her. 

Responding to Colic

  • Take deep breaths. Focus on breathing deeply, in through your nose, out through your mouth, while you calm your baby. Baby will automatically adjust his breathing to match your own, which can also sooth the chest rattling sobs. 
  • Repeat a mantra. Every parent should have a mantra. It could be something as simple as “this too shall pass” or “stay calm, stay strong”. In times of tension and frustration, this mantra should be repeated either silently or out loud until you feel you have control of yourself and your emotions. 
  • Visualize a relaxing place. While it can be hard amidst the screaming, visualizing a happy place is one of the best ways to calm yourself, and thus to calm your baby. 
  • Feel the support. Remember, you are not alone! Millions of parents are going through the same thing, at the same time. Can you hear their desperate attempts to quiet their children? Feel it, and find strength in the unity of your numbers. 
  • Take a break. If you find yourself becoming angry or unable to control yourself, step out of the room and collect your thoughts. Your baby will experience less damage from a short bout of CIO than from you losing control. 

Sometimes, the long nights with infants of the long days with screaming, temperamental toddlers get the best of us. Don’t worry, you’re only human. But here are signs that you need to step away from the situation and take a break IMMEDIATELY: 

• You can’t think logically or clearly
• You’re uncontrollably emotional: laughing, crying, etc.
• You get angry at baby or consider violence
• The situation is causing you to shut down and feel hopeless

Remember, above all, your baby cries because she has no other way to express her thoughts and feelings. And despite her apparent anger and frustration, she loves you and needs you. Let’s all try to keep our cool and weather the long nights with a level head. Remember: this too shall pass. 

Cosleeping Until Age 5 Is Best For Babies

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I recently read an article over on Inhabitots.com about extended cosleeping. The article suggested that parents cosleep until a minimum of age 5, and that this practice can have specific physical and mental health benefits for the child. The entire article can be found here

The London Center for Child Mental Health has done numerous studies that show that cosleeping until age 5 is healthiest for baby, and can help to produce a happier, healthier child and adult. Dr. Margot Sunderland believes that children who cosleep with their parents experience less stress than those who crib sleep. There are numerous arguments supporting extended cosleeping, including a lowered risk of SIDS, healthy heartbeat and breathing regulation in infants, lower stress cortisol levels in babies and children, and much more. The benefits are endless! Cosleeping also tends to be more economically friendly and environmentally friendly because it eliminates the need for a crib and extra bedding. 

The article I linked to at the beginning of the post says that whether you co-sleep or crib sleep, there are a number of safety precautions you MUST follow to ensure that your infant stays safe through the night. These precautions are as follows: 

  • Always place your baby on his back to sleep, no matter if co-sleeping or in a crib.
  • Do not share a bed with your child if you drink heavily, smoke in your room, or if you take heavy prescription medications or street drugs.
  • If you’re heavily overweight, co-sleeping can pose a danger to your baby.
  • Don’t allow your baby to sleep in a big bed alone.
  • Your baby should not sleep on the edge of the bed because he might take a steep dive off the bed or get caught between the wall and the mattress. 

As long as these safety precautions are followed and all involved parties are educated in the do’s and dont’s of co-sleeping, there is little to make it unsafe. While certain anti-cosleeping campaigns would lead you to believe differently, that is not the case. Co-sleeping has many benefits for mother, father and child, contributing not only to a healthier child, but also to a healthier family and a healthier environment. Are YOU ready to ditch the crib?