We love it when industry experts and role players get together to share knowledge, tips and ideas. We teamed up with Johnson's to offer midwife workshop sessions in Cape Town and Johannesburg on Sleep and the Science of the Senses. The morning was filled with great presentations and valuable information on the importance of sensory awareness and integration when it comes to looking after a baby. Sr Ann Richardson, co-author of the Baby Sense book, also talked about the science of sleep in a sensory world. It’s always inspiring to listen to someone with so much passion, knowledge and experience. Her top 10 sleep tips are: Create a sleep zone and stick to it At sleep time, put your baby to bed. Try to avoid letting her fall asleep where ever you may be at sleep time such as on the couch, in your arms or in the car. Obviously there will be times where your baby will fall asleep out of her bed, but try not to make it the norm. Watch awake times. It is the time spent awake between sleeps that drives your babies sleep. Follow the guidelines of “awake times” and allow your baby to fall asleep then. Don’t wait until she shows signs of over tiredness before trying to put her to sleep. Put your baby to bed “happily awake”. Watch for her signals to indicate to you that she is getting tired (not is already tired!) These signals may be a simple sneeze or a hand on her face. Modulate the environment to promote sleep. Switch off loud, jarring music or sounds such as a lawnmower at sleep time. For day sleeps, cut out glare by closing curtains and dim lights at night. If you are out and about, cover the pram with a cotton blanket to block out sunlight and noise. Remove all stimulation from the immediate sleep zone - mobiles, toys, activity sets and stimulating bumpers Encourage a sleep comfort or doodoo blanket; it will comfort your baby at sleep time and act as a memory trigger to help induce sleep. Accept that babies don’t sleep like we do! This acceptance goes a long way towards helping you cope with sleep deprivation in the early days. Babies usually start to sleep for longer periods at night from the age of 12 weeks (even earlier if you are lucky!). Stay calm. Your baby will pick up any anxiety from you and will be even more unsettled. Have a sense of humour. If all else fails, laugh – after all, it is the best medicine around! It’s always interesting to see how professionals in the industry interact with our products and these two sessions were no different with loads of questions and excitement about our new products. We know that moms across the country will now also be equipped with that information when the midwives take their newly found knowledge back to the clinics and other places of work.
For over 100 years scientists and other professionals have been debating what has the biggest impact on a baby’s development: is it the DNA, the genes that your baby is born with; or is it the environment that your baby is exposed to after birth? We now believe that it is not the one or the other. It is the relationship between your baby’s genes and the environment – an intricate dance between your baby’s genetic makeup and his temperament and the emotional context that his environment provides, that has the biggest impact on his development. Your parenting journey begins the day you discover that you are pregnant and it probably ends the day we leave this planet. It’s a long time. Why not make a conscious decision to make the most of it, learn as you go along, embrace and enjoy it? Much easier said than done, especially if you know how it feels to hold a crying baby in your arms for hours on end, or try to negotiate with a strong-willed toddler over what clothes to wear. I believe there are two major contributors that prevent us from fully embracing and enjoying this parenting journey. The first one is the fact that parenting comes with no guarantees. There are lots of aspects in and around our children and our parenting journey that are beyond our control. No matter how much you read, how much you do, how much you try to create an optimal growing and learning environment, there are no guarantees that your child will sleep through the night, sit, crawl or walk when he’s supposed to and be the perfect child that we want him to be. In a culture which some describe as a microwave or a quick-fix culture, the fact that we cannot predict or control every aspect of our child’s being, leaves us feeling out of control. Another contributor that steals our joy as parents is an underlying phenomenon called perfect parenting. We want to be the perfect parent and raise the perfect child. Especially when it is your first child. It becomes a fear-driven competition which is measured by performance rather than being. The effect of this competition on a family is detrimental: the breakdown of relationships, disconnection; shaming and blaming becomes part of our fabric. As a mother, I’ve been on an extensive journey in trying to come to terms with what perfectionism really means and why it is dangerous. Most of us would like to be the best mom we can possibly be. That is not perfectionism per se. The problem arises if there is no room in your life for mistakes, failures, admitting you need help and letting go. Perfectionism at its core has to do with a defensive shield we put up to protect us from shame and judgement. It is when we constantly seek approval by looking perfect and doing things perfectly. It becomes a competition in which we compare ourselves, our parenting and our children to others. Perfectionism is driven by a “what will they think?” mentality and the fear of failing. But being a mom means that there will be days when you feel overwhelmed, there will be times when you drop the ball. Don’t beat yourself up on those days. Admit your imperfections, get up, dust yourself off and try again. Be okay if your baby is not the first one to smile, clap their hands or walk and talk among your friends. The quicker we realise that there is no such thing as a perfect parent or a perfect child, the better it will be for us and our children. So, if there are no guarantees and no such thing as a perfect parent, where does it leave us? It leaves us feeling extremely vulnerable. Feeling vulnerable is not something that all of us are comfortable with. In an effort to shut it down, we push it away and turn parenting into a pursuit of performing, pleasing and proving. A self-destructive cycle with little joy. The question remains: How do we use the power given to us to enjoy our parenting journey while raising happy children? I believe we do it by showing them what it’s like to be brave. Brene Brown’s research on vulnerability, courage, shame and worthiness indicated that the people who are the happiest and most fulfilled are those who had the courage to be imperfect embrace vulnerability and be authentic. So in these results lies our first lesson. Joseph Clinton Pearce writes: “What we are teaches the child more than what we say , so we must be what we want our children to become.” Second lesson: if we want to raise caring and happy children, who live and love with their whole hearts and make a difference in this world, then we need to show them how it’s done. No pressure! Back to the interplay between your child’s genes and his environment. To me it’s a bit like a colouring book. Your child’s genes provide the outlines - the basic wiring. The input he receives from the environment – the playing and interacting with a warm, attentive parent - provides the colours within the lines. Great news is that these pictures aren’t static. The brain’s ability to shape itself, called plasticity, makes our brains highly malleable. Especially in the first three years of your baby’s life, his brain is very responsive to external input due to the increased neural activity in those early years. But it does not stop at age three. The brain continues to grow and change no matter what your age; it all depends on how you use your brain. So when we give up perfectionism and embrace vulnerability we change our brain wiring, and we can help our children to do the same and become the healthy, happy and caring children we’d like them to be. Let’s take a look at what the brains looks like and how it can help us to be brave. Our brains have three main parts: The primitive brain (consisting of the brain stem and cerebellum) The emotional brain (the limbic system) The thinking brain (the cortex and frontal lobes) The primitive brain The primitive brain is the deepest part of the brain and guides behaviour vital for survival. It is the control center for all functions that keep us safe and alive. It regulates our breathing, circulation, temperature, hunger, movement, posture and balance as well as our stress response – all without us being consciously aware of how hard it works. The emotional brain The emotional brain forms the bridge between the lower primitive part and the higher thinking brain. This part of the brain gives meaning to what we see, hear, smell, taste and feel. It helps control the stress response of the brain. It triggers strong emotions such as fear, rage, distress, love and ecstasy. When we respond intuitively (from the “gut”) we are calling on this part of the brain to guide us. The thinking brain The thinking brain is the biggest and most sophisticated part of the brain. It acts as the CEO of the brain, consciously managing our intentions, emotions and behaviours by drawing from previous experiences and problem-solving. Your parenting has a massive impact on your child’s developing brain. Over time strong connections are formed that regulate complex skills such as controlling our body and emotions, attention, creativity, problem-solving, kindness, empathy and caring. Also, the different parts of your brain, and that of your child’s don’t work in isolation. They are interdependent on one another – therefore, if you do physical exercise it has an effect on your emotions (you feel better) and your thoughts (you think clearer and are generally more positive). We can use what neuroscientists and researches tell us about the brain to be brave, model courage to our kids, enjoy our parenting journey and raise caring, happy kids Do brave Doing is moving. Movement restores calm. Moving helps us feel joy. Studies show that moderate exercise, when done regularly improves our health, mood and sleep and reduces stress, anxiety and depression (often seen in mothers who experience post-natal depression). When we get our joints and muscles moving, our heart and our sweat glands pumping, feel-good hormones are released and it is said to physically change the brain to improve memory and thinking skills. What can you do? Create a habit of including some form of exercise into your day, be it moderate. Pram-walk with your baby Join a mum-and-baby exercise class Do Pilates, Zumba, rowing, working out at the gym, cycling or swimming – whatever works for you and realistically fits into your lifestyle. Don’t forget that household activities can count as well, such as intense floor mopping, raking leaves, or anything that gets your heart pumping that you break out in a light sweat. What you and your baby can you do? Move freely: Ensure that your baby has ample opportunities to move freely; kick his legs, roll over, stretch and bend. Limit the time that your calm-alert baby spend in baby carriers, buggies, and high chairs. Avoid walkers all together. Dance with your baby: Hold your baby tight and sing and dance together. Play rough-and-tumble: Roll on the bed, play horsey-horsey, lift your baby up in the air; use your body as an obstacle for your baby to crawl over and under. Feel brave Connection and compassion is what fuels the courage to be brave. Connect with your own feelings and have compassion – with yourself and others. Give yourself permission to feel vulnerable. Take off your mask. Embrace your imperfections. Even if that means admitting that you don’t know all the answers, that you feel alone, that you need help. Let others see the real you. Connect deeply - with yourself, your baby and those around you. What can you do? Surround yourself with other brave moms. Be on the lookout for like-minded moms whose goal is not to outrun or outdo those around them. Ask for help and accept it when offered. You aren’t supposed to go on this parenting journey on your own. When you feel overwhelmed ask for help and when help is offered, accept it gracefully. What you and your baby can you do? Connect and play. Make time. Give more of yourself. Practise playing, really playing with your baby. Those kind of child-led games where, if one of your friends walk into the room, you’ll feel like a total loser. Your child needs to see the real you. They need to feel the connection. Child-led play has profound implications for your child’s development on all levels, i.e. physical, emotional, social and intellectual. When children play they form brain connection that improves their attention, engagement and interaction with this world. They develop empathy and self-worth. They develop courage. It is worrying that although the evidence is all conclusive that playing children are healthier and happier children, the actual time children spend playing continues to decrease. think brave Our thoughts influence what we feel and what we do. Think brave thoughts. Don’t get caught up in the cycle of self-doubt and negative thoughts. Instead focus on what you’ve already done, identify the times when you showed courage. Carrying a baby and giving birth is probably the most courageous thing any human can do Remind yourself that you are not alone. For thousands of years there have been mothers who have struggled to get their baby to sleep through the night, or who have spent hours on end trying to console a crying baby. It is encouraging to know that your parenting issues aren’t unique. There are lots of other brave moms out there, who have pushed through difficult times and had the courage to be authentic. Practise gratitude. A few years ago, I started a gratitude journal with my kids. We write down what we are grateful for, each and every day. But if we don’t have that book lying right in front of us on the kitchen island, then we forget. So we need to see it. Only then can we open our eyes to see everything around us and within us that we are grateful for. We name the big things like the sun rising, warm beds and schools, to the small (but rather significant) hugs, toothbrushes and shoes. Some have a gratitude jar. Doesn’t matter how you decide to practise gratitude, just know that when you do, you will experience joy in a whole new way! Lizanne du Plessis, Occupational Therapist and Author
It is empowering for parents to have an idea of what play activities they can incorporate into their daily routines to interact with their baby. Activities that stimulate their vision, hearing, touch and movement, all help them make sense of their world and move towards it. It is important to spend time watching what your baby is doing and what he/she takes an interest in, and then repeating it, providing more of the same. It is in our daily interactions with a loving, consistent caregiver that baby receives the most valuable input. Nurturing daily routines of feeding, bathing, dressing and nappy changing, provide wonderful opportunities for playful interaction. Finding time to be with your babies, to watch them, and to have fun together, is the key to stimulating their development. Remember, YOU are your baby’s first and most important play-mate and play-object. Baby clinics, family or friend groups, and mother-baby workshops are also very beneficial in our learning as parents. Groups give support and sharing as well as help parents understand their babies’ behaviours, stages of development and what activities are best for stimulating sensory and motor development. Here is a guideline of your baby’s development in the first year of life. Having an idea of what your baby is beginning to learn at each stage, gives you an idea of what you can do to encourage their newly emerging skills. Babies respond to and engage with their parents. This is the stage of falling ‘in love’. Babies are able to ‘woo’ and be ‘wooed’. Parents feel their babies’ love, which reinforces their own love. At this stage, babies are becoming more alert and interested in the world around them. Their range of interest expands - from their parents, to the bigger world. They are now actively exploring with their senses. They are looking, touching, smelling, tasting and moving. Their focus and eye movements improve rapidly. They are able to focus on smaller objects and things further away. They are also able to follow objects or people with their eyes. They become interested in more complex sounds and start to babble, coo, laugh and imitate sounds. They learn social interaction skills, using babble and laughter in simple back and forth conversations. Babies are beginning to learn that they have an impact on the world and develop new determination. There is deliberate intention to get at an object of interest. Babies gain voluntary movement, which enables them to use their hands. They bring their hands to the middle, look at their hands and begin to swipe at and reach for objects. They learn to bring toys to their mouth and shake a rattle. There is a major progress in physical development during this time. Babies learn to push up on straighter arms when on their tummies. In back lying, they reach for and play with their feet. They learn to roll. At the end of this stage, they learn to sit with little or no support, and take weight on their legs when placed in standing. They can entertain themselves for a while, and enjoy the space to explore their newly emerging abilities. Parents must still be close at hand. Stranger anxiety starts to develop from around 6 months. This is a sign that a baby can distinguish between people she knows and those she does not know. This shows a greater awareness and is expressed differently by different children. Some may become quietly shy of strangers and others may object loudly. This is normal and not an indication that the child is regressing, which is what some parents may feel. Kate Bailey, Occupational Therapist
Category_Advice & Tips>Baby>Ages & Stages>1-3 Months
Illnesses system by system Most babies contract recurrent minor illness within the first 2-3 years of life when their immune systems are immature and all the bugs they encounter are “new” to their systems. Babies in crèche/daycare and babies with older siblings are exposed to more bugs and tend to get sick more frequently. Do not be surprised if the child has 5-10 minor infections (eg common colds) per year in the first 2-3 years of life. In addition, every cold may last 1-3 weeks so it can feel as if your baby is “always sick.” Remember that children have a higher breathing rate than adults (30-50 breaths per minute can be quite normal for young children, compared with 16-20 in adults); they also have a higher resting heart rate (90-150 beats per minute), which is increased even more when they have a fever. Coughs and colds/Respiratory illnesses Snuffly noses and wet coughs are usually caused by the common cold virus, which lasts 1-3 weeks, and for which there is no specific treatment. Keep the child comfortable with saline nose drops, paracetamol if needed, frequent small feeds and lots of hugs. Children are often “grumpy” or “difficult” when they feel unwell, and often that is the first sign of a viral illness Ask your doctor about doses of fever/pain medication that need to be given. An example of commonly used fever medications are: Paracetamol (eg calpol syrup, panado syrup- NOT infant drops): 0.6mL per kg body weight 6 hourly, eg For a 5 kg child: Panado syrup 3 mL 6 hourly; for a 10kg child 6 mL 6 hourly Ibuprofen (e.g. Nurofen syrup) : 0.3mL per kg body weight 6 hourly. e.g for a 10 kg child: Nurofen syrup 3 mL 6 hourly We do not recommend over the counter cough or flu medicines or sedatives for young children except if advised by your doctor. Not every snuffle needs a doctor’s opinion; however please see your doctor if the child is: - feeding poorly - has a high fever (> 38 degrees in the first 6 months and > 38.5 degrees after that) - is unusually lethargic or irritable - is breathing fast (more than one breath per second/60 breaths per minute; especially if you have already controlled the fever) - has a wheeze when breathing out (often bronchitis or asthma) or a “whoop” when breathing in (usually croup) - is not “getting better” after 5 days or (they may have developed a secondary bacterial infection such as a middle ear infection or tonsillitis). Tummy bugs/Gastroenteritis The most common cause of an upset tummy is a viral gastroenteritis; these viruses are very catchy and often pass through the family. Typically, they present as vomiting for a day or two, followed by diarrhoea for 3-7 days. Of course there can be many variations of this pattern. Keeping the child hydrated is the most important management step, it works best by feeding them fluid little and often. If they are drinking and active despite runny stools, they are coping well. Relax about solids while the child has gastro- fluids are much more important. Commercially available rehydration solutions are best, if your child refuses those try some diluted apple juice or even milk if all else fails. If the diarrhoea lasts more than a week, you may need to try a lactose free diet (eg lactose free formula, reduce dairy in the diet) for the child a week or two while the tummy settles. Consult your doctor if: The vomiting is persistent and the child can’t keep any fluids down The diarrhoea is very frequent (> 10 stools a day) or has blood in it The child looks drowsy or is very lethargic as they may be dehydrated The child has a high fever or a rash. Rashes Rashes are very difficult to self- diagnose so a prompt visit to your doctor is justified if you are not certain of the cause. Some rashes are part of a harmless virus (usually pink spots that fade if you apply pressure to them and are non-itchy); some are the very common, such as seborrhoeic dermatitis (cradle cap) rash in the first few months of life (scaly rash on face and upper body, typically non itchy). Consult your doctor if: The rash is accompanied by a high fever or the child is very unwell The rash consists of red spots which do not fade when you press a glass on them (this may be the dreaded meningitis rash) The rash is itchy (this may be eczema which should be treated promptly) The rash is getting worse with time Other illnesses A child with a high fever and no obvious source of infection (like a runny nose), may well have a flu-like illness (often other members of the family are also unwell), but always seek medical attention if the child is: Very irritable (meningitis and urine infections will need to be excluded) Has respiratory distress or unexplained rashes The illness “Roseola” typically presents with a high fever and irritability for 2-3 days, followed by a rash once the fever settles. Very often the child will have incorrectly be placed on an antibiotic while they have a fever (the throat may also be red), and when the rash appears it gets misinterpreted as a reaction to the antibiotic! Dr Claudia Gray, Paediatrician and Allergologist, Vincent Pallotti Hospital and Red Cross Children’s Hospital, Cape Town
We’ve all heard that breast is best for your little one but it’s often easier said then done. With our busy lives and demanding workloads it sometimes seems near impossible to try and find much needed downtime to breastfeed or express. Moms that have to return to work after their maternity leave often have the added anxiety about how to keep expressing during work hours so that their little one’s can continue to benefit from breast milk The South African law makes provision for breastfeeding breaks at work. This means that as a breastfeeding mom, you’re entitled to two 30 minute breastfeeding or expressing breaks a day at work until your baby is 6 months old. These breaks don’t form part of your lunch break and must be considered as paid time as per the Code of Good Practice, which forms part of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act of 1997. We asked our Baby Sense Moms to help us choose the best sign to hang outside your breastfeeding room at the office. Download our winning design here
Category_Advice & Tips>Baby>Ages & Stages>3-6 Months
It happens to many of us in our baby or toddler’s life – we need to go away on holiday or business or move home or need to move in with granny for a few weeks. We dread the disruption to our baby’s life and wonder if she will settle back into a good sleep pattern in a strange environment. A variety of factors affect how your baby will respond to a new environment: Firstly, how she manages change and interactions in general is a good indication of how she will cope with a new sleep space. Some babies are really laid back and go with the flow. For these easy babies you probably won’t need to expect too much upheaval. Generally by the second night they have adjusted well. However, if your baby is a ‘slow to warm up’ or sensitive baby you may have more difficulty settling her each night. A baby’s age also make a difference to how they adjust. Interestingly newborns to about 6 weeks, often cope quite well with change as long as their feeding patterns are kept consistent and new people in the new space do not over handle them. As your baby gets older she may have increasingly greater difficulty dealing with change. To ease your baby into the new sleep environment and to short circuit any major sleep problems after a change, try the following tips: Take your baby’s favorite toys with her and make the new sleep space as similar to hers at home as possible. Place her camp cot in a similar place in the room to where she normally sleeps – e.g. put the head of the cot next to a wall or away from the door (as it is at home) Make sure you can dim the room even if it means putting black refuse bags against the window to darken it in the evening and for day sleeps. Take bedding from home and her special blanky. Bedding from home and a familiar ‘doodoo’ blanky smell familiar and cue your baby into a state for sleep. Sensitive babies, in particular, do better in their own rooms where parents getting up or even turning over at night do not disturb them. If possible put her in her own room, if not place her cot away from your bed in a quiet corner. From the first day have her take her day and night sleeps in her ‘new’ room. Keep your bedtime routine identical to the routine you follow at home. Even though holidays are exciting times, try to keep her calm just before bedtimes by taking her to her room and quietly looking at books with her before putting her into her bed. Use lots of calming activities from four o’clock onwards, such as quiet walks in a sling or pouch or pram. If she wakes at night, crying for you, wait to see if she will resettle herself and then comfort her by speaking quietly and giving her or at most placing your hand on her. By Meg Faure