Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Baby Sign Language

Parenting is a very tough job.  We place a huge amount of burden on ourselves to make our kids smart.  We've seen so many things.... Your Baby Can Read, Baby Einstein, Baby Mozart, etc.  Do they really work?  So far most of them have been debunked.  So what should we focus on with our babies/ children?  I think the most valuable thing we can do as parents is interact and communicate with our children.  I am very skeptical that plopping a baby in front of a television to watch some educational video is going to make them a genius.  Do our kids need to be geniuses anyway? That seems like an awful lot of pressure. 

One fad I am in favor of is baby sign language.  I really love it.  Why?  Because it actually helps out with one of the most frustrating parts of being a parent of a baby or toddler... communication.  I don't know how many times I have asked, "What are you trying to tell me?"  And I am sure that in his frustrated scream he is saying, "Why aren't you listening to me?"  Baby sign language actually helps.  Babies develop their motor skills and their understanding of language earlier than their ability to speak it.  Baby sign language bridges the gap. 

One research study found that babies taught sign spoke sooner than their peers, maintained more advanced verbal skills up to about 3 years of age, and had an average of 12 point higher IQ at the age of 8.  These findings sound nice, but that was not my motivation behind teaching my son baby sign.  I am teaching him sign because:

1. Communication:  He is able to express what he wants/needs/feels.  It feels wonderful as a parent to understand what your child wants/needs.

2. Bonding:  spending time doing anything with your baby enhances the parent-child bond.  In addition, when a child is able to communicate and have their needs met, it also improves bonding.

3. Fewer Tantrums:  Tantrums are a normal part of child development.  They don't know how to deal with frustrations and emotions yet, and that is ok.  Baby sign is not going to end all tantrums, but it will cut down on frustration related to trying to communicate.

4. Self Esteem:  Learning something new feels really good.  So does being listened to and understood.  Confidence and self esteem are important things to foster during child development.

Myths about Baby Sign:

Myth 1.  Baby sign language will make your baby talk later because he will be content signing.  This is not true.  Just as a child that first learns to crawl will still learn to walk, signing does not take away a baby's interest in speaking.  Several studies have been done to address this issue and all have found that signing babies speak just as soon or sooner than their non-signing peers.

Myth 2.  Baby sign language is difficult to learn.  You don't have to teach you baby the ASL language in its entirity to use baby sign.  You can teach your baby only 10 signs if you want.  You can even make the signs up yourself.  As long as you and your baby understand eachother you can do whatever you want.

Myth 3.  Baby sign language is very expensive/time consuming.  You don't have to go to a baby sign class to learn it.  Like I said, you can make up your own gestures/signs if you want.  It doesn't take any extra time because you can thrown signs in to your daily routine.  As you play and talk with you baby, you can sign at the same time.










Monday, August 13, 2012

Car Seat Safety

I consider myself a fairly well-informed mother but even I was lagging in the most recent car seat recommendations, and I'm not the only one.  In a 2005 study conducted for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that 80% of infant and toddler car seats were used improperly.  Yikes!  It is so hard to keep up with all the changing laws and recommendations so I thought I would spread the word about some basic car seat guidelines.

1. It is very important to make sure you secure your child into the harness properly.  The federal law states: "A snug strap should not allow any slack. It lies in a relatively straight line without sagging. It does not press on the child's flesh or push the child's body into an unnatural position."  Most parents do not tighten enough for fear of hurting their child but think of how much it would hurt if the child were not properly restrained in a car accident.  The chest clip should be at armpit level.  In addition, the harness straps should be adjusted into slots that are at or below the child's shoulder height.

2. The most state laws require that all infants must remain rear-facing until they are at least 1 year old AND 20 pounds.  This does NOT mean that you can turn your child forward-facing before their first birthday if they weigh more than 20 pounds.  In addition, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that the child remains rear-facing until they are at least 2 years old or have exceeded the weight/height limit for rear-facing (which varies depending on the car seat).  This may seem extreme but the recommendation was made in light of a 2007 study published in the journal of Injury Prevention.  The study found that the rear-facing position does a better job at supporting the child's head, neck, and spine during a crash because of the way it distributes the impact.  Some organizations have recommended keeping your child rear-facing for even longer.

3.  The safest place for your infant is the center of the back seat.  It has long been recommended that child under the age of 12 sit in the back seat due to potential injury from airbags.  The center is the safest because it protects the infant best from side-impact collisions.  According to a study performed at University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, "Children seated in the center rear had 43% lower risk of injury compared with children in the rear outboard position." 

4.  Be sure to read your car seat's owner manual thoroughly so you know the limitations of that particular car seat.  Also make sure you check into your state laws, as each state has different requirements.  More importantly, I am not a mom that is satisfied with minimum requirements.  If you would like to find out more about the most recent recommendations and studies, find a nationally certified Child Passenger Safety Technician (CPST).  They should have the most current information.  Here is a link: https://ssl13.cyzap.net/dzapps/dbzap.bin/apps/assess/webmembers/tool?pToolCode=TAB9&pCategory1=TAB9_CERTSEARCH&Webid=SAFEKIDSCERTSQL






Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Question your Induction

I want to be clear, I believe that women should make decisions for themselves with regards to birth, and I am not writing this to criticize anyone's decisions. I am writing this because I feel that the true risks of medical induction of labor are not accurately explained to women. Nothing irritates me more than the withholding of information. My goal is to inform, not to criticize, scare, or coerce.
A medical labor induction is a procedure in which labor is started by artificial means. The most common means of labor induction is the use of Pitocin, a synthetic form of oxytocin. There are many reasons that inductions are performed, many of which are legitimate (such as preeclampsia, deterioration of the placenta, and premature rupture of membranes without onset of labor). However, elective inductions are on the rise. An elective induction is a medical induction that is performed for reasons other than a medical need. This practice is not recommended by ACOG (the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) or the WHO, yet many OB/GYN's suggest and even pressure patients into elective inductions for reasons of convenience. I find it absolutely appalling that they do this without informing their patients of the true risks involved.

Risks of induction include abnormal fetal heart rate, shoulder dystocia, fetal distress, increased risk of NICU admission, increased risk of vacuum- or forceps-assisted delivery, increased risk of C-section, increased risk of baby prematurity and jaundice. Not to mention the risks associated with a Cesarean section. Often reasons for induction outweigh the risks, but are these risks justified for the sake of convenience?

Here are some statistics involving Medical Inductions and Cesarean Sections in the United States:
  • In 2009, the C-section rate in the U.S. was 32.9%. That is 1/3 of all births! The WHO has stated that a C-section rate higher than 15% is a cause for concern.
  • In 2008, the induction rate in the U.S. was 23%. Of those inductions, 40% were elective (for reasons other than medical need).
  • A labor that is medically induced is twice as likely to end in C-section than a spontaneous labor.
  • A recent study published in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology found that more than 43% of women expecting a first baby were induced. Of these nearly 40% were being induced for convenience. More than 1/3 of women undergoing induction for convenience had a cervix that was known to be unfavorable for induction. Using a very conservative analysis, the authors estimate that fully 20% of all C-sections done at their institution were the result of inductions for convenience (Ehrenthal et. al., 2010).
  • Another study found that first-time mothers with an unripe cervix who were induced had a 42% C-section rate in labor (Thorsell, et.al., 2011).

The end of a pregnancy is not much fun. Elective induction can begin to sound very appealing. But before you schedule an elective induction, take a look at the risks and really ask yourself if it's worth it to you. Medical induction is one of the many incredible medical advancements we have available to us, but these interventions should only be performed if the benefits outweigh the risks.


Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Snack Successfully

It is so tough to get started with a healthy diet when your kitchen is packed full of junk food.  It is hard in the beginning to resist the urge to grab a few potato chips everytime you walk by the bag or grab a hot pocket instead of making a healthy sandwich.  If this sounds like your kitchen, its time for a clean-out.  Here are some tips to making your kitchen more health conscious:

1. Throw out the crap.  You don't need it, you won't miss it, and you need space for better choices.

2.  Time to clean the refrigerator.  You know, one of those deep cleans:  throw out all the fuzzy leftovers lurking in the shadows, scrub the hardened ketchup off the shelf, and throw away the shriveled up lettuce that you think you can save.  Its time to start with a clean slate.

3.  Empty out a cupboard and designate it as your snack cabinet.
4.  Fill the cupboard with healthy snack options.... canned tuna, low sodium nuts like pistashios or almonds, healthy protein bars, healthy popcorn, etc.  I did weight watchers so I would write the points value on the package with a sharpie so I could open the cupboard and pick something without having to look it up. 

5.  Get some fruit & veggies to snack on.  I like to wash everything when I get it and cut it up so all I have to do is open the fridge and grab it when I need it.  Carrot sticks, strawberries, apples, jicama, pineapple, etc.

6. Identify your weaknesses and don't buy them.  It is ok to have a square of chocolate, and for some people it may work to satisfy their sweet tooth. However, if eating one makes you want to eat 12 it is not a good choice for you. Everyone is different.  You need to identify what works for you and set up your kitchen to accomodate what works.