Sensory Play: “Doesn’t she put that in her mouth?”

I post a lot of pictures to my Facebook page of Stella engaging in sensory play.  I try to offer some form of sensory play every day (it doesn’t always happen though) and I enjoy sharing what we do to give other parents ideas.  In almost every picture’s comment section, you’ll find someone asking a variation of, “Doesn’t she put that in her mouth?” or “How do you keep her from eating that?”  It’s a common question and a valid concern, so I decided to go ahead and blog about it.

Soapy, sudsy water and a whisk (7 months).

Soapy water and a whisk (7.5 months).

To answer the question, yes, Stella puts things in her mouth.  In fact, she puts almost anything into her mouth that she can get her little hands on!  Mouthing is a typical (and good!) baby behavior because it is one of the important ways they learn about their world.  Putting objects in her mouth helps a baby discover obvious things, like taste and texture, but also not-so-obvious things, like size and shape.

Because mouthing is an important part of babyhood, and because I believe it’s important to avoid constantly telling a baby, “no,” I don’t offer a lot of things to Stella that I’m not comfortable with her putting in her mouth.  That being said, my comfort level may be different than yours…and that’s okay!  I’m comfortable with her putting most of our sensory items into her mouth.  Some of these things include:

-Play dough (I make ours, so I know exactly what’s in it)

Dry rice

-Salt (to a certain point, anyway)

-Flour

-Paper/cardboard (until it becomes soggy and could break off in her mouth)

I haven’t always been comfortable with babies putting things in their mouths.  Even after learning about the importance of letting babies explore with their mouths, it took at least a year of working with babies every day at an early learning center for me to actually feel comfortable with it.

How did I become okay with it?

I had to be mindful of my feelings and question whether I was redirecting a child from putting something in their mouth because it was actually a safety issue or simply because I didn’t want them to (for any number of arbitrary, often unnecessary reasons).  I did this by pausing before I said, “That’s just for your hands,” and asking myself, “Why not?”  (Asking yourself, “Why not?” before reacting to something your child is doing can be a powerful tool in lots of areas, but more on that in another post.) If I couldn’t think of a really good and legitimate answer to “Why not?” then I didn’t redirect.  Instead, I just went with it.  “I bet that play dough tastes really salty.”  “How does that flour feel in your mouth?” “That rice is probably kind of hard, huh?”

Playing with dyed rice and stacking rings (7.5 months)

Playing with dyed rice and stacking rings (7 months)

Just because I allow Stella to explore things with her mouth, doesn’t mean I would let her eat a handful of salt, rice, play dough, etc.  I’ve offered sensory experiences since she was a tiny infant — I think we were playing with rice by the time she was three months old (I didn’t let her put sensory items in her mouth until after she started solid food at six months though), so she has had a lot of exposure to it.  Often, she will put something in her mouth a few times and then she’s satisfied (because I let her actually have the experience) and will just use her hands.

Rice play at 4.5 months. Feet don't have to be excluded from sensory play!

Rice play at 4.5 months. Feet don’t have to be excluded from sensory play!

Even though I feel comfortable with Stella exploring a lot of things with her mouth, there are obviously some things I can’t allow for safety reasons (mostly choking hazards) — water beads, dry beans, rocks, etc.  In cases like these, I just do lots (and lots, and lots, and lots) of modeling and redirecting when necessary — “These are just for your hands.”  “Keep them out of your mouth.”  “Look how we can…(squeeze these water beads, drop these rocks, scoop these beans, etc.).”  It takes a lot of patience.  I also don’t offer these types of sensory experiences unless I am going to be right beside her the entire time to help her keep them out of her mouth.  Not cleaning up the kitchen with her on the floor nearby.  Not visiting with a friend.   Not checking Facebook.  RIGHT BESIDE HER and actively engaged, making sure it’s not going in her mouth.

Stella exploring water beads.

Stella exploring water beads.

If you want to offer sensory experiences and want to allow your child to mouth things, but aren’t entirely comfortable with it yet, you could start out by acknowledging what they’re doing — “You’re putting the play dough in your mouth.  I bet that tastes salty.” — and then try to gently redirect — “I’m going to roll my play dough into a ball.  Oh, that’s neat!  Now I’m going to squish it!  Do you want to try!?”  This way, you’re not denying them their experience or telling them, “no,” but you’re also attempting to get them engaged in a way you’re more comfortable with.

It can take a lot of exposures to sensory play before a baby or toddler will avoid putting the objects in their mouth and actually use her hands to play with it instead, but it’s so worth it!  Remember, they can’t learn if they don’t ever have the opportunity!

So, is your jaw still dropped from reading that I let my 8-month old put play dough in her mouth?  It’s okay; I’m used to people thinking I’m a little crazy when it comes to babies 🙂 A few years ago, I would have thought the same thing!  Just give it a try — it may surprise you how quickly your baby can learn!

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Adventures in Baby-led Solids

Have you heard of baby-led solids?  Basically, it means skipping purées and baby cereals and moving straight into “real” foods cut into large chunks that baby can easily grasp and gnaw on.  Putting food into the baby’s mouth for them (i.e. spoon feeding) is avoided.  The thought behind it is that a baby isn’t ready for food until she can put it into her mouth herself.  It puts Stella in charge of whether she eats or not, and how much.

Stella (6.5 months here) eating slices of avocado and acorn squash.  Other common foods we frequently offer her are large slices of pear, half of a banana, baked sweet potato fries, strips of bread, and round-sliced squash and zucchini.

Stella (6 months here) eating slices of avocado and acorn squash. Other common foods we frequently offer her are large slices of pear, half of a banana, baked sweet potato fries, strips of bread, and round-sliced squash and zucchini.

My plan had always been to make my own baby food purées and I had lots of yummy combination ideas I wanted to try out!  But, after researching baby-led solids, I changed my mind about purées and decided that doing a baby-led approach is what would be best for Stella.  Here are a few reasons why we enjoy this approach:

1. Stella is in control of what goes into her mouth.

2. I feel more comfortable with her learning to chew and maneuver food while her gag reflex is still closer to the front of her mouth.  The gag reflex is what protects us from choking and it moves further back on the tongue as a baby grows.

3. We believe that “food before one is just for fun.”  WHO, AAP, CDC, and probably other organizations that I don’t know of, recommend that baby’s primary nutrition through the first year of life is breast milk.  Right now, giving food to Stella serves only as an introduction to various flavors, smells, and textures of food….not nutrition.  By letting her feed herself, I can be sure I’m not making her eat too much of the “fun” stuff (not a lot of the food actually makes it into her mouth!) and that her main source of nutrition is still breast milk.  I can also feel confident that she is gaining experience with and understanding of real food.

4.  It’s fun!  We love watching Stella figure out new foods that we introduce to her and she always gets excited about eating.  It has also been exciting to watch her progress.  She started out by mostly squishing, poking at, and smearing the food around her tray, but as she has gained more experience and watched us eat, she now actually puts the food in her mouth intentionally.

5.  It’s less work.  I would be lying if I told you this wasn’t a motivator for us to do baby-led solids!  We eat lots of fruits, veggies, whole grains, and lean meats, so we almost always have something with our meal that Stella can have, too.  I don’t have to prepare something different for her than what I’m already preparing for us.

When we don't have something with our meal that Stella can have, we always have bananas to fall back on!  Bananas are a super easy item to take for her if we're going to be out during a meal time.

When we don’t have something with our meal that Stella can have, we always have bananas to fall back on! Bananas are a super easy item to take for her if we’re going to be out during a meal time, also.

So, are there any drawbacks?  Well, let’s face it…handing your baby half of a banana, a couple of slices of avocado, or a pear doesn’t always end without a mess.  Actually, it never does 🙂  Baby-led solids is MESSY and, understandably, that can be enough reason for some parents to choose a different approach.  I don’t mind the mess, because I believe that exploring the textures of food (i.e. getting messy!) is an important part of the process of learning about food.  But, if the idea of wiping banana out of your baby’s hair and ears and armpits (and, and, and…), then, baby-led solids probably isn’t for you.  It’s not always that messy, but it definitely can be.

See?  Messy.

See? Messy. The bibs we use have a pocket at the bottom to catch dropped food. It helps a lot!

What about choking!?  This is the most common question people ask me when I tell them about baby-led solids.  I worry about it, too (then again, I worry about everything), but I worry less about it now than I did in the beginning.  It’s important to understand that gagging is different from choking.  Gagging is good.  Choking is bad.  Like I mentioned earlier, gagging is what protects us from choking on our food, so if a baby is gagging, it means she is working through it.  If a baby is choking, she will not be able to make noise and may start to turn blue.  Stella has gagged on her food several times (and, yes, I was scared and started to take action before realizing she was working through it on her own), but she has never actually choked on anything.

This article about baby-led solids has really great information about why introducing food in this manner isn’t a cause for increased concern of choking (see the section labeled “Won’t he choke?”).  I would recommend reading the entire article if you’re considering trying the approach. You should also discuss it with your baby’s doctor.

Stella (8 months) having fun during her first experience with whole-wheat spaghetti noodles!  (Poor picture quality from my phone...)

Stella (8 months) having fun during her first experience with whole-wheat spaghetti noodles! (Poor picture quality from my phone…)

I don’t follow baby-led solids as whole-heartedly as some parents do.  For example, once in a while, I will give Stella bites of food off of my spoon or give her a piece of food with my fingers, but I always let her come to the food rather than putting the food into her mouth myself. For the most part, we let her feed herself.

This is not an “all or nothing” approach.  You can adapt it to work for your family.  If the idea of a mess makes you squirm or you’re concerned about choking but are still interested in baby-led solids, then I would recommend just starting out with something that’s within your comfort zone.  If choking is your worry, then an overripe banana is a good option.  If the potential mess is holding you back, then try baked sweet potato fries.

We don't follow the approach religiously.  Stella eats from my spoon sometimes.

We don’t follow the approach religiously. Stella eats from my spoon sometimes.

Understandably, not all parents are comfortable with a baby-led approach to solids.  What do you think about it?  Is it something you would try?

Why I love cloth diapering

During my pregnancy, I was a little neurotic.  Okay, I was a lot neurotic.  Some of my family would probably say that I still am.  But, I assure you, it has gotten better.  I know it’s gotten better because I don’t (always) yell at my husband anymore for putting plastic containers in the microwave, I cooked with a nonstick pan last week, and, just tonight, I let Stella lay on a blanket that was dried with a dryer sheet.  See?  Definitely getting better.

I blame my neurosis (which I don’t think is all bad) on the book, “Green This!,” by Deidre Imus, which I read right after I became pregnant.  After I read it, I decided to “go green” with the cleaning products I use in my home.  Though not in detail, the author also made mention of cloth diapering, which sparked my interest.  I was paranoid about all of the chemicals used in disposable diapers being right up against my baby’s skin.  I’m a little bit over that, but I’m still glad I’m cloth diapering for other reasons.

Cost played a big role in our decision to use cloth diapers. Did you know that disposable diapers, on average, cost a family $600 to $700 per year?!  If a child is in diapers for an average of three years, that could cost $2,100.00 in diapers.  DIAPERS.  Diapers that would end up in landfills, which would probably end up making me feel guilty.  Since I’m staying home with Stella and plan to do the same with future babies, we decided the cost factor alone was important enough to us to give cloth diapering a try.  And, I had been trying to green our lives, little by little, for the environment and my family’s health, so that was a plus, too.

I decided that if I was going to do this cloth diapering thing, then I was going to be “all in” from the beginning.  I didn’t want to get accustomed to the ease of disposable diapers and then have a hard time switching to cloth diapers or end up not using them at all.  I made sure my husband was fully on-board — all it took was the line, “It will save us money.”  Then I spent hours agonizing over all of the options that I didn’t even know existed —  all-in-one, all-in-two, prefolds, hybrids, contours — trying to find the diapers I thought would be best for us.  I settled on Best Bottoms and my parents decided they wanted to get us the starter set as shower gift.  Score!  They are AMAZING.  (The diapers and my parents…but I’m talking about the diapers.) Best Bottoms are an all-in-two system and you can go here to see how they work.  I also chose to use the hemp/organic cotton inserts because I figured if I was going green, I might as well go all the way.

My biggest concern, and the one that almost held me back, was the laundry.  I hate laundry.  Everyone says that, but I mean it.  I hate it more than the average person hates it.  I hate, hate, HATE doing laundry.  But, as it turns out, the diaper laundry is actually my favorite laundry to do.  Just toss it all in the washer (generally, every 2-3 days), run a cold rinse, add detergent (I use Charlie’s Soap after having absorbency issues with All Free and Clear), run a hot wash/cold rinse cycle, and pop them in the dryer or hang them in the sun to “bleach” the stains.  No sorting.  No folding.  Easiest. Laundry. Ever.  It’s like laundry for the lazy.

I’m so glad we decided to jump on the cloth diapering bandwagon.  It’s not for everyone, but if it’s something you’re considering, I would highly recommend giving it a try!  How can you resist this cloth-diapered cuteness?!

Sensory Play…It Makes Sense (repost)

*This is a post I wrote for my old blog that I’m re-posting.

 Picture this: Ten kids under the age of six in bare feet and underwear, skating on shaving cream on the kitchen floor, falling down, getting back up, laughing and squealing! This was the scene I encountered upon entering my father-in-law’s house not too long after my husband and I met.  At that moment, all I thought was, “Ah, yes…this is totally the right family for me!”

By engaging in play that utilizes their senses, children (at any age) are using scientific inquiry.  To an infant or toddler, everything is new, so lots of questions develop which leads to exploration.  The child explores objects and materials using his senses, gathers information about them, and attempts to answer his own questions. 

Not only does sensory play create connections in your child’s developing brain, but it also serves as a calming mechanism and can help children release emotions that they may not yet be skilled enough to sort out verbally.  For example, the process of scooping and pouring a substance can feel very calming and relaxing (water, rice, sand); squeezing and pounding a material can help release anger and frustration (playdough, clay).

Consider this:

You hit the power button on your TV – it won’t turn on.  “Hmmm,” you think, “that’s strange.”  If you’re like me, you probably continue to hit the power button, harder each time, hoping it will eventually work.  It still won’t work so you follow the power cord and realize it is not plugged in. Duh.

When a toddler displays challenging behavior (biting, hitting, screaming…), I typically first ask myself if they have had enough access to sensory play (by first, I really mean after I stupidly keep trying whatever I am trying in the first place that isn’t working).  Often times, I find a connection between a lack of access to sensory play and the challenging behavior.  In this way, I liken sensory play for a young child to a power cord for a TV — just like the TV cannot properly function without the power cord plugged in, a young child cannot properly function without opportunities to engage his senses.  If your toddler is driving you over the edge with challenging behavior, consider implementing some sensory play into her day and see if you notice any differences.

That day in the kitchen, my nieces and nephews weren’t just participating in what will become an awesome childhood memory for them, but they were also creating valuable connections between pathways in their developing brains.  The feeling of soft, foamy shaving cream between their toes; their feet sliding around on the smooth, slippery floor; the fresh, musky scent; the sounds of laughter around them — the kids were engaged in a meaningful activity full of lots of sensory input — two things that are very conducive to appropriate brain development.  AND…the kitchen floor got a good “mopping” in the process!  See?  Good for everyone!

So go ahead…engage those senses and have some fun!  Your kitchen floor needs cleaned anyway, right?

few of my favorite sensory activities (it was hard to narrow my list down to a few!):

 Cornstarch + Water (touch) — this is just pure awesomeness…is it a solid or a liquid?! Try it.  You’ll love it, too.

— Texture Collage (touch):  gather materials of various textures (cotton balls, sandpaper, ribbon, beans, etc.) and let your child glue them to a piece of cardboard.

— Coffee Sand (touch and smell): mix coffee and sand together = fun texture and yummy coffee smell.

— Flubber (touch): Click here for recipe.

— Colored Rice (sight, sound, and touch): Mix a few drops of food coloring with a teaspoon or two of rubbing alcohol and add it to uncooked rice.  Let it dry and then get to playing!

— Plain Water (sight, touch, sound): add measuring cups for scooping and dumping, wash clothes and dishes for “washing,” water wheels, sponges…the possibilities are endless!

Links to other great sites with wonderful sensory ideas:

Lekotek: Sensory play ideas from Lekotek, complete with recipes. 

Mommy Poppins: This site has 99 great ideas for sensory activities. 

What’s your favorite sensory activity?

“I was spanked and I turned out fine!” Uh…let’s talk.

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” -Martin Luther King, Jr.

I have a strong opinion on spanking. It’s something that matters to me. I have been meaning to write a post about it but have been putting it off because I know it’s a highly controversial parenting practice and, to be honest, I’ve been afraid of how people would respond. Too often, I stay silent about things that matter to me because I don’t like to argue or upset anyone. With yesterday being Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, I saw the above quote multiple times and made a pact with myself to be more vocal about “things that matter.” I decided it’s time to put my fear of being ridiculed aside and advocate for kids like my education should compel me to do.

In church last Sunday, (in a sermon totally unrelated to spanking) my pastor mentioned that when he used to be a youth pastor, their goal was to “scare the hell” out of the kids. They would have them watch videos, tell them stories, etc. that would basically scare them into believing in God and following His word. He was recalling this practice with an attitude conveying he knew it was no longer considered a useful way to teach children. He said, “It worked.” Then, he held up his hand and spaced his thumb and forefinger about an inch apart, “For about this long,” he said.

“Yes,” I thought. “Exactly.”

We no longer teach with fear anything we expect children to learn. Would you use fear to teach a child to read? What about math? Do you think scaring a child would make him learn his multiplication facts? Is that how you would want to be taught? No, of course not. Had I been taught that way, I would have hated school and resented my teachers.

We expect everything else — reading, math, science, social studies, art, religion — to be taught with kindness, compassion, understanding, patience. This is interesting, because the way we want our children to be taught is also what we expect their behavior to reflect — kindness, compassion, understanding, patience. So why then, when it comes to children’s behavior, do we, the adults, often lash out in a manner that contradicts the very way we actually want our children to behave?

I would argue that people do it because they are simply uneducated and inexperienced in appropriate and effective discipline practices for young children. I think many people spank because it’s how they were disciplined as children and it’s what they know how to do. It’s the “quick and easy” solution; it requires little thought.  Do I think parents who spank their kids are mean-spirited? Bad parents? Ruining their children? Of course not. I think most parents who spank genuinely believe they are doing the right thing for their children and I understand that mindset.

But, I also believe, based on evidence-based research and my own education of child development, that there are more effective ways to discipline a child than spanking and that spanking can do more harm than good.  Please don’t misunderstand.  Discipline is very important.  Our society just needs to understand that “discipline” is not synonymous with “spanking.”

I have outlined below some reasons why spanking is an undesirable and ineffective form of discipline:

1.  “Spanking” is a euphemism for “hitting.”  People call it “spanking” because it justifies the act for them.  They are conscious of the fact that calling it “hitting” would sound terrible.  It is what it is, no matter how instructive you try to make it sound.

2. Spanking says, “It’s okay to hit.”  It’s unreasonable to spank your child, yet expect her to not hit others.  Children mimic the behavior you model.

3.  Spanking too often leads to abuse.  Since spanking does not work to change behavior, parents often feel that since it’s not working, the solution is to spank harder.  Continuing with that cycle, spanking or hitting often gets out of control and results in abuse.

4. Spanking teaches compliance through fear, not responsibility — “It’s not wrong if I don’t get caught.”

5. Spanking doesn’t work.  It may seem to work in the moment, but the disciplinary effects of spanking are not long term.  The emotional effects, however, can be.

Consider this scenario: A five year old child, Johnny, is interacting with another child, Billy, on the playground. Johnny gets upset about something and, because young children lack impulse control, he hits Billy, knocking him to the ground.

Let’s pretend for a moment that Johnny is a child who is disciplined by being spanked. He has learned that certain behaviors are wrong only if an authority figure witnesses them. After hitting Billy then, Johnny quickly looks around, realizes no one saw him do it, and leaves Billy on the ground crying while he runs away to play with something else, happy he didn’t get caught.

Now let’s pretend that Johnny has been disciplined using positive discipline.  His parents have talked with him about his actions and emotions and have helped him understand right from wrong.  In this case, when Johnny hits Billy, his moral code tells him he has done something wrong.  He walks over to Billy, apologizes and helps him up.

The child in the spanking scenario is different from the child in the positive discipline scenario because he doesn’t understand why his actions are wrong.  He thinks he has done something wrong only if he gets caught. The child in the positive discipline scenario, while still acting with the lack of impulse control of a five year old, understands his wrongdoing after he hits the other child and makes an effort to correct his behavior.

I think it’s worth repeating — “spanking” is not synonymous with “discipline.” There are many ways to discipline a child that do not include spanking. Here are a few:

1.  Use natural and logical consequences.  An example of a natural consequence would be, if a child throws a ball over the fence, he doesn’t have the ball to play with anymore.  An example of a logical consequence would be, if a child dumps his milk on the floor, he has to help clean it up.

2.  For the very young child, redirection works well.  A young child cannot relate a punishment, like spanking, to whatever they did to receive the punishment.  It doesn’t make sense to them.  For example, let’s say a one-year old is playing with something he shouldn’t be.  Your best bet is to remove the child from the situation and direct them to something they can play with.

3.  Talk about it.  Explain to a child what they have done wrong.  Give them words for their emotions so they can learn to use words instead of actions.  For example, a three year old pushes another child out of anger.  You can say to the child, “I can see that you are angry, but it is not okay to push.”  Help the child find the words he needs to convey his feelings.

4.  Use positive guidance.  Instead of constantly punishing a child for doing wrong, notice what she does right.  Your children want to please you.  Help them know when they are doing so and they will strive toward that kind of behavior more often.

5. Model the behavior you desire.  You simply cannot expect your child to display behavior that you, yourself, do not model for him.  If you want your child to be kind to others or use a quiet tone of voice or eat their vegetables, you have to first show them what those things look like.

Maybe you agree with me, maybe you don’t. That’s okay. We all have our own personal opinions and I’m not asking you to abandon yours. I’m just asking you to set aside any defensiveness you may feel or emotions you may have surrounding the topic and look at the facts, the research. Don’t take my word for it. Consider the educated opinions of those who have dedicated themselves to researching how a child’s brain works and how a child learns, like Dr. Sears or the American Academy of Pediatrics. I strongly recommend Dr. Sears’ articles, “10 Reasons Not to Hit Your Child” and “Top Ten Discipline Principles.” Also, click here to browse through many other articles on the topic of discipline.

Tell me how you feel about spanking and why you feel the way you do. But, be warned — any reasoning similar to, “I was spanked and I turned out just fine” will be difficult for me to take seriously. Research has come a long way. You don’t paint your home with lead-based paint. You don’t use a drop-side crib. You make your child ride in a car seat. Let’s take the same proactive, educated approach when it comes to discipline.

If you’re still thinking, “Well, I was spanked and I turned out fine,” I’ll leave you with this quote from the American Academy of Pediatrics:

“It is true that many adults who were spanked as children may be well-adjusted and caring people today. However, research has shown that, when compared with children who are not spanked, children who are spanked are more likely to become adults who are depressed, use alcohol, have more anger, hit their own children, hit their spouses, and engage in crime and violence. These adult outcomes make sense because spanking teaches a child that causing others pain is OK if you’re frustrated or want to maintain control—even with those you love. A child is not likely to see the difference between getting spanked from his parents and hitting a sibling or another child when he doesn’t get what he wants” (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2012).

Read the full article here.

Wait…I feel immaturity coming on.  I have to say it — I wasn’t spanked and I turned out fine!  Okay, now back to adulthood. 😉

Let the comments begin! I’m interested in your opinion.

Note:  If you think your discipline may be out of control, click here for a list of signs that you may need help. You may be surprised.

Food, Water and Attachment (re-post)

*Note — This is a post I wrote for my old blog, but I think it is worth sharing again.

Yep, it’s that important.

There are few, if any, aspects of infant/toddler development more important than the child’s attachment relationship to his parent or other primary caregiver.  Secure attachment provides a healthy and secure base for the child to learn how to appropriately respect, relate to, and interact with others.

“But,” you wonder, “what exactly is attachment?”

Attachment theory is credited to child psychiatrist, John Bowlby, and psychologist, Mary Ainsworth.  To learn more about Bowlby and Ainsworth, click here.  Here’s a very brief breakdown of what they discovered:

Attachment is the emotional bond that forms between an infant and her primary caregiver (typically the mother).  An attachment figure provides the baby with feelings of security, comfort, consistency, and happiness.  As the infant grows into a toddler, she uses her attachment figure as a secure base from which to explore the world she’s discovering.  When the baby is separated from her attachment figure, she typically experiences distress and fear.

Secure attachment is what you want for your child.  There are three other types of attachment: avoidant, ambivalent, and disorganized.  These are insecure and unhealthy attachment patterns and often result in emotional issues in later childhood and adulthood.  They are not conducive to optimal development.  If you want to learn what these patterns look like, this website gives a brief breakdown of them.

In short, a secure attachment relationship during early childhood is crucial in order for your infant to develop healthy relationships over the course of the rest of his life.

No pressure, right?  🙂

Relax.  You are likely already engaging with your infant in ways that help create a secure attachment — picking him up when he cries; feeding him when he’s hungry; changing his diapers; talking, reading, and singing to him; holding him (babies thrive when they have physical contact); and picking up on his cues.  These things (the things you’re already doing...go you!!) are the best ways to create a secure attachment with your infant.  As long as you are responding to your infant consistently, appropriately, and lovingly, you’ve got this attachment thing down. Click here to read, “Bonding with Your Baby,”(a great article!) for more information about ways to create a secure attachment with your infant.

Some people tend to believe that in order to foster independence in an infant or toddler, they must limit how quickly they respond to the infant’s needs and avoid consistently responding to all  of their needs.  They think they will “spoil” the baby.  Actually, the opposite is true.  Research proves that babies whose needs are met in consistent and loving ways develop a more positive self-image and become more independent and more secure adults than babies whose needs are met inconsistently or unreliably (who tend to act out in ways we might define as “spoiled”).

 To sum up, I basically just told you that there is no such thing as holding your baby too much (as if you needed a reason to hold your baby) — so go ahead and ignore those people who tell you you’re “spoiling” your infant…that’s really pretty hard to do.  In several years you can prove them wrong anyway with the secure, independent, caring little human you’ve raised.

Adopting a new definition of “clean”

We all know the basics of what pregnant women need to avoid — alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, etc.  But, we don’t often think of the other potentially harmful things we eat or otherwise come into contact with that could effect our unborn babies.  Deli meat, for example.  Pregnant women are now advised to avoid deli meat  (unless heated until steaming) due to possible exposure to the listeria bacteria which can cause preterm labor, miscarriage, or stillbirth.  I mentioned this to a friend of mine who has a 4 year old and she didn’t remember this being a recommendation when she was pregnant just a short time ago.

New research is surfacing and things are constantly changing.  It makes me wonder what other “common” activities, foods, and chemicals are harmful that we just aren’t yet aware of.  Bringing a baby into the world makes me even more concerned about it.

This concern is what has prompted me to switch to organic cleaning products.  I’m currently reading the book, “Green This!” by Deirdre Imus.  Did you know that some chemicals used in household cleaners have been found in umbilical cord blood and have the ability to cross the placenta?  That really freaks me out, because the placenta is kind of a big deal.  It protects our babies from all sorts of harmful things, but some substances are just too much for it and they can cross it and harm a baby.  These super harmful substances include things like alcohol, drugs, and cigarette smoke, so it’s interesting that we are “cleaning” our homes with chemical-based products that can prove just as harmful as the substances that most of us wouldn’t dream of exposing ourselves to during pregnancy.

I’m beginning by getting rid of all the non-organic cleaners in my home, which, admittedly, is most of them.  I switched to using Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day products, which I love.  However, while some of the products are reasonably priced, some are a little too expensive for me to buy on a regular basis.  So I am also exploring making my own cleaning products out of all natural products like borax, lemon juice, vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, olive oil, and baking soda.  It’s amazing how much less expensive it is to make my own cleaning products and I have the added benefit of peace of mind knowing that I can clean my home without posing any unnecessary harm to my family.

The first homemade product I made was laundry detergent and I love it!  Here’s the recipe:

1 cup Borax

1 cup Arm & Hammer Washing Soda (in laundry aisle)

1 bar Ivory soap, grated

a few drops of essential oil (optional) – I used lavender

Mix all of the ingredients and store in an airtight container.  From what I understand, this detergent will work in high efficiency washers, too.  You only have to use 1 tablespoon per load, so it lasts a really long time!