Teething

Teething refers to the eruption of new teeth in the baby, a developmental milestone that usually first occurs around 6 – 10 months of age although sometimes starts as early as 3 months. Some babies teeth appear one at a time. Others cut several teeth simultaneously. Teething is usually a painless process. However, some babies do experience uncomfortable symptoms. For instance, there can be loss of appetite, sleeplessness, ear pulling, gum rubbing, coughing, and possibly a low fever. Drooling may cause an uncomfortable  rash around the mouth. Some infants and toddlers  experience significant soreness, swelling and even blisters in their gums during this period. It is common (and understandable) for babies and toddlers to be more distressed and irritable than usual when they are teething.

If your baby is in the process of teething, consider the following tips:

Unhappy Babies
Parents are advised to be more patient and sensitive to their child’s changing moods and needs during the teething stage. Infants can become so distressed with teething pains that they cry all the time. Teething may also result in behavior traditionally associated with infant distress, such as clinging to Mom or refusing to be separated. Try to be patient – your little one will become more independent and happy again when the tooth finally appears. However, as many teeth need to cut through, you can realistically expect to have to settle and soothe your teething baby off and on for almost 3 years! There are likely to be some hard days and nights. Even so, these will be scattered between the happier, pain-free periods, giving both you and your baby a much welcomed break!

How to Help Your Teething Baby
Fortunately, there are many things parents can do to help. If there is inflammation, applying something cold to the gums usually helps. Gently rubbing ice cubes in the area where the tooth is about to come out has been known to soothe pain. There are also teething toys, such as teething rings, that you can place in the freezer for an additional chill. Frozen washcloths and cold water are also good alternatives. Some parents have found cold foods such as yogurt and chilled applesauce to be helpful. If none of the above work for your baby, you can try using Infant Tylenol and other infant medicines. Your pediatrician may recommend a specific product.

Traditional means of soothing a distressed infant are also recommended during this stage. At this time, traditional comforts such as holding and rocking are definitely in order. Providing additional stimulation, such as a gentle massage, may also prove a valid distraction to a baby that is teething.

Making Temporary Adjustments
If the soreness is interfering with the infant’s ability to eat and drink, parents might have to make some temporary changes in the child’s diet or feeding style. For instance, a child on solids may need a temporary liquid diet until chewing becomes more comfortable again. Offering the child cold water in between feedings can also help. In some cases, giving a child something solid to bite on is very helpful (avoid choking hazards of course!).

The good news is that teething eventually comes to an end. For most kids, the stage passes uneventfully with minor symptoms requiring little or no intervention.

Afraid of Needles

Nobody enjoys getting a needle, but getting the occasional needle is a fact of life. Babies, kids and teens get them for immunizations as well as for blood tests and other routine medical care. Some children who have been treated in a hospital have endured intravenous injections as well. In fact, no one knows when they might have to receive a needle for emergency medical care. This being the case, it is highly inconvenient to have an intense fear of needles! Unfortunately, many kids are afraid of the pain that accompanies receiving a needle and some children have an actual needle phobia – a reaction involving irrational terror and panic.

If your child is afraid of needles, consider the following tips:

Use Emotional Coaching
If your child is afraid of getting a needle, try using emotional coaching. Emotional coaching is the naming and accepting of feelings. In this scenario, you can say such things as “I know you’re afraid the needle will hurt,” or “I know you don’t want to have the needle – nobody really likes getting needles.” Acknowledge your child’s fears without minimizing or discounting them. For instance, DON’T tell him the needle won’t hurt or that it’s not such a big deal or that he is being a baby! When you simply accept the fact that he’s fearful, it actually helps take away some of the fear. However, if your acceptance does nothing to minimize feelings of panic, it is still valuable: it shows the child that you take his feelings seriously. This helps develops the child’s emotional intelligence which, over time, helps the child have greater comfort with his own and other people’s feelings. (Emotional Intelligence also leads to success in every area of functioning.)

Be Careful Not to Reinforce Fears
Avoidance makes fears worse – don’t solve the problem by letting your child skip the needle if it isn’t absolutely necessary or if it can be taken on a later date. Moreover, try not to show excessive interest in the fear (i.e. by constantly talking about it). Make your communications and interventions on the topic brief, matter-of-fact and low-key.

Try Simple Techniques First
Some kids can be bribed out of their fear, so if offering a treat or privilege helps to distract the child from fear, then go ahead and do it. Similarly, if distracting the child at the time of the needle with a joke, a funny face, a question or a puppet will help the child get through the moment comfortably, then go for it! However, if your child’s anticipatory anxiety is way too high for such simple interventions, then consider the techniques below.

Teach Strategies to Cope with Fear
Teach your child how to use his imagination to help him stay calm and confident. Right now, your child is imagining his skin being painfully punctured. He is fixated on the moment of pain. You can instruct him to imagine the time period AFTER the needle – he can picture himself leaving the doctor’s office with a nice lollipop in his mouth, or a storybook that you’ve bought for him, or (if he’s older) the new game on his handheld device. (Of course, you don’t really have to get the child anything new; he can just imagine having one of his old favorites with him!) Imagination is strengthened by asking the child to close his eyes and cross his arms across his chest, Indian Chief style. He should then picture leaving the doctor’s office happily while he taps alternating left, right, left, right with his hands on his upper arms or shoulders. Tapping like this for one to three minutes is all that is necessary and can be repeated whenever he starts to feel fearful. Bi-lateral tapping helps the imagination take root deep in the mind where it can affect the emotional centers.   Another thing you can do, is teach your youngster breathing techniques to help calm his nerves, particularly when he is about to receive his needle. One simple technique that is easy to teach is to have your child think the word “in” while breathing in and think the word “out” while breathing out.  In addition,  you might look into a fear-busting technique called Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT). This is a simple form of acupressure that you can do with your child before his gets his needle. It involves tapping lightly on your child’s body on meridian pathways on the face, chest and fingers. In many cases, the technique causes the fear to completely disappear in a matter of minutes. In other cases, it brings the fear down to a more manageable level. There are many internet resources for learning EFT – a very easy and quick technique to reduce fear and other negative emotions.

A Needle Phobia May be a Genetic Condition
While fears can be acquired after bad experiences, phobic reactions are biological vulnerabilities – a child can inherit the tendency to have one or more phobias. (If a child develops panic around needles because of having had a life-threatening experience involving a needle, then it may be part of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder rather than a simple phobia.) Therefore, if your child has a complete meltdown, cries, absolutely refuses to cooperate with the doctor (or even go to the doctor), it is possible that he or she is suffering from the very common mental health disorder known as Simple Phobia. There is nothing “simple” about such a phobia from a parent’s point of view, however, since the child’s overwhelming reaction makes it extremely challenging to provide the proper medical care. Some children will calm down, however, if given a few drops of Rescue Remedy in water. Rescue Remedy is a harmless water-based remedy – a special type of Bach Flower preparation – that is used for intense upset and overwhelming experiences. It helps turn off the fight-or-flight response. Although it is useful in the moment for a child who must have a needle, proper treatment with Bach Flower Therapy can help prevent the panic from happening in the future (see below).

Experiment with Bach Flowers
Bach Flower Therapy is a naturopathic treatment that can ease emotional distress and even prevent it from occurring in the future. It treats every type of emotional disturbance (fear, panic, worry, anger, tantrums, low mood, guilt, perfectionism and so on). When your child worries obsessively (i.e. can’t stop thinking about the needle that he is going to have), you can give him the flower remedy called White Chestnut. For specific fears (like the fear of needles) you can use the remedy Mimulus. The remedy Rock Rose is used for feelings of panic. You can mix several remedies together in one treatment bottle. To do so, you fill a one-ounce Bach Mixing Bottle with water (a mixing bottle is an empty bottle with a glass dropper, sold in health food stores along with Bach Flower Remedies). Next, add two drops of each remedy that you want to use. Finally, add one teaspoon of brandy. The bottle is now ready to use. Give your child four drops of the mixture in any liquid (juice, water, milk, tea, etc.) four times a day (morning, mid-day, afternoon and evening). Remedies can be taken with or without food. Continue this treatment until the fear is gone. Start treatment again if the fear returns. Bach Flower Therapy can help melt fears out of the system over time and can compliment any other treatment the child is receiving.

Professional Assessment and Treatment
If your interventions have not helped your child face needles more comfortably, you can have him or her assessed by a mental health professional. A short course of professional treatment may help your child manage this fear much better.

How to Raise Your Child’s Emotional Intelligence

Emotional Intelligence (E.Q.) refers to “people smarts.” A person with high emotional intelligence understands both himself and others. Not only does the person understand people, but he also knows how to make them feel comfortable – he knows how to bring out the best in others. As a result, the person with high E.Q. experiences more success in relationships and at work. Kids with high E.Q. have better relationships at home and at school, with kids and with adults. Moreover, high E.Q.in children and teens is associated with better academic performance, better physical health, better emotional health and better behavior. In adults, high E.Q. is associated with better performance in every area of life.

What can you do to help foster your child’s emotional intelligence? In this article we will discuss ways one can boost their child’s emotional intelligence.

Adapt an Authoritative, Not an Autocratic Parenting Style
Parenting style has a huge influence on children’s emotional intelligence. When parents can guide their children while still being sensitive to their feelings, children have higher E.Q. Authorative parents are warm, but consistent in setting appropriate limits and boundaries. They will use discipline, but not at the expense of respectful communication and care. Their children will learn how to be sensitive to others and they will also learn how to “talk to themselves” compassionately, modelling after their parents. This gentle self-talk becomes a major aspect of their emotional intelligence, a tool they can use to reduce their stress in a healthy way.

Autocratic parents, on the other hand, don’t care that much about the child’s feelings. Instead, they focus on the rules of the household, what is allowed and what is prohibited, what the child may and may not do. Sensitivity to the child’s inner world is missing. In this case, children fail to experience parental empathy and as a result, fail to learn how to soothe their own upset emotions. They may attempt to relieve their discomfort by becoming aggressive, acting out their feelings. Eventually they may turn to comforts outside of themselves such as addictions (to food, alcohol, drugs, etc.). Acting out and addictive behavior reflects lower E.Q.

The more feeling words used by parents and educators, the more sensitive a child becomes to his inner reality. Most of us tend to use few emotion words in our dealings with children, and when we do, we often use the same few tired ones over and over.  It is important that we move beyond “mad,” “sad,” “glad,” and “scared.”  Shades of feeling are most helpful and can be used when describing our own feelings or the child’s feelings. Words like irritated, annoyed, frustrated, anxious, worried, terrified, alarmed, disappointed, hurt, insulted, embarrassed, uncomfortable, unsure, curious, interested, hopeful, concerned, shocked, elated, excited, enthusiastic, let down, abandoned, deserted, mellow, calm, peaceful, relaxed, bored, withdrawn, furious, enraged, frightened, panicked, and proud can be used DAILY to help provide an emotional education in the home or classroom. These are the regular feelings that children have in facing life, stimulated by everyday experiences, dreams, movies and even novels. Identifying a youngster’s emotional reaction and feeding it back to him, helps him to become aware of his inner processing. This information then forms the core of his emotional intelligence, providing an accurate barometer of his response to his world. From this place of inner certainty, a child is well-equipped to navigate life, knowing what he feels, what he is searching for and when he has attained it. His familiarity with the world of feelings allows him to connect accurately and sensitively with others. This prevents him from hurting other people’s feelings with words and further, permits him to achieve great kindness and sensitivity in his interpersonal transactions.

Here are some practical steps you can take to bring feelings into focus:

  1. Respond to your child. From the time your child is a crying infant to the time she is a young adult, be sure to be responsive. This means that you take her communications seriously. If she cries, try to come (instead of making her cry it out.). If she asks for something, try to answer her promptly. If she talks, you listen and respond appropriately. All of this responsiveness builds emotional intelligence because you are giving your youngster valuable relationship feedback. In the opposite scenario, in which a parent either fails to respond or responds only after a long waiting period, the child learns that people tune each other out. This causes the child to shut down. She assumes that her feelings aren’t that important based on lack of parental responsiveness and from this concludes that people’s feelings aren’t that important – the very OPPOSITE of the conclusions made by emotionally intelligent people. Quick responsiveness gives the message that people’s feelings matter. This is a prerequisite concept for emotional intelligence.
  2. Use a FEELING vocabulary. Pepper your daily conversation with “feeling” words. You can name your own feelings. Let your child know that you feel excited or dismayed or discouraged or resentful or whatever. This gives your child the vital information that everyone – including parents – has feelings and an inner life. Some people do this naturally, of course, but many do not. For instance, when a child is making too much noise, a parent may just say something like, “Can you please quiet down?” However, the Emotional Coach would say something like, “I’m starting to feel overwhelmed with all this noise going on. Can you please quiet down?” Similarly, a regular parent might give positive feedback to a child in this way, “I like the way you waited patiently in line with me at the bank today.” An Emotional Coach, on the other hand, might say something like, “I felt very relaxed with you in the bank today because you were waiting so patiently.” In other words, the Emotional Coach looks for opportunities to describe his or her inner experience. It is this description that helps the child begin to build an emotional vocabularly that will open the doors to Emotional Intelligence.
  3. Name your child’s feelings. Children feel feelings all day long but not all parents comment on them. In fact, many parents are more practical, focusing on solutions to problems. For instance, if a child is upset because there are no more of his favorite cookies left in the jar, the typical parent might say, “I’ll pick up some more for you when I go shopping this week.” While that solves the problem, it doesn’t build emotional intelligence. An Emotional Coach might say, “Oh, that’s so disappointing! You really love those cookies! I’ll pick some up for you when I go shopping this week.” The extra few words acknowledging the child’s inner world (“Oh that’s so disappointing”) make all the difference when it comes to building Emotional Intelligence. Similarly, parents often try to get kids to STOP their feelings or at least SHRINK their feelings by saying things like, “Just calm down – it’s not such a big deal” or “There’s nothing to be afraid of,” of “Don’t make a mountain out of a molehill.” The Emotional Coach, on the other hand, accepts all the child’s feelings, giving the child the name for what is going on inside. “I can see how upset you are,” or “You’re really scared about this,” or “It so important to you,” and so on. By accepting all feelings as they are, the Emotional Coach teaches kids not to be afraid of or overwhelmed by feelings. This is a very important part of becoming emotionally intelligent.
  4. Teach your child how to express emotions appropriately. While all feelings are acceptable, all BEHAVIORS are not. It is not O.K. to hit and scream just because you feel angry. It is not O.K. to cry for an hour at the top of your lungs just because you are disappointed. Parents must teach children – by their example and by their interventions – the appropriate behavioral expression of emotions. For instance, parents can teach children to express their anger in a respectful way by saying things like, “When you are mad at your brother for touching your puzzle, just tell him ‘I don’t want you to touch my puzzle. I’m working hard on it and it bothers me when you move the piece around.’ Don’t slap his hand!” Parents will have to use the normal techniques of positive attention, encouragement and discipline to get the lessons across. It is, of course, essential, that parents are respectful themselves in the way they express their upset, fear and disappointment. See “The Relationship Rule” in Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice for details on how to teach the proper way to express negative emotions.
  5. Let them experience failure and disappointment. It’s understandable that parents want to protect their children from disappointment. But know that rescuing children from pain, to the point that they never get to experience life, will backfire in the long run. Children need to know how to bounce back from adversity — resilience muscles need training too! And children won’t know how it is to rebound from disappointment if they aren’t allowed to experience it to begin with. When your child gets a poor mark on a project, don’t rush to the teacher to get the mark raised; instead, use emotional coaching with your child (that is, NAME her feelings). “This mark is so disappointing! You tried really hard and the teacher didn’t appreciate it. That is frustrating!” By naming feelings, you actually help shrink them down to size. Feeling words act as “containers” for feelings. It’s O.K. for the child to be upset, or even to cry. After awhile, she’ll calm down. And this is the important part – learning that calm follows a storm. Everything in life doesn’t need to be perfect. There is such a thing as recovery. “There will be more projects, more chances to get a good grade.” You want to show the child that you yourself aren’t afraid of negative experiences or emotions. This model that life is “survivable” can really help a child cope when the going gets rough.
  6. Expand their social network. Few parents think of other people as possible teaching instruments in promoting emotional intelligence. But kids can learn more from interesting personalities and other people’s life experiences than they can from a classroom lecture. Having to adapt well to different types of people — quiet, assertive, annoying, fun-loving — can teach a child how to regulate their behavior based on the demands of an interaction. The challenges other people go through can also provide insight on how to manage one’s own trials in life. Learning vicariously through the success and failure of other people is a good way to raise a child’s E.Q. So if you can, go ahead and enroll your child in various clubs or organizations. When they’re a bit older, encourage them to volunteer in community service. Send them on mission trips. Let them talk with grandpa or grandma. Every person has a lesson to impart to a child.

Baby Wakes Up at Night

You can’t blame exhausted parents for trying – they want their 8 hours of sleep back! So they read every book on the market and scour the online resources. “Rock your baby, don’t nurse her,” “Walk your baby till she falls asleep and then gently lay her in her crib,” “Sing to your baby while patting his back until he drifts off,” “Don’t pick her up again, just talk to her,” “let her cry 10 minutes before you come to her and then don’t pick her up,” and so on and so on. Many people offer advice about how to get a baby to sleep through the night because somewhere, for some baby, this advice actually worked at least once. However many, if not most, babies will defy your get-him-to-sleep strategies and continue waking up several times a night for—brace yourself—several years.

Why aren’t people aware of this fact? Because the popular culture suggests that if parents just do it right, their babies will be sleeping through the night by 4 – 6 months of age. Feeling embarrassed and inadequate, most parents with wakeful 8 month-olds or 2 year-olds simply don’t tell the truth to anyone. “Is your baby sleeping through the night?” the mom at the Moms & Babes group asks.  “Oh, yes. He sleeps quite nicely,” lies the other mom for fear of admitting what a failure she is at this tender stage of the game. Her lie only goes into the large pile in the sky that makes other normal parents feel guilty and ashamed. She should have answered, “Gosh no! Babies aren’t supposed to sleep through the night! Yours doesn’t, does he?”

Why Do Babies Wake Up?
Infants need things in the night. Their little bellies empty every couple of hours and for the first year or so, they actually get hungry in the night. In addition, when babies cycle into light sleep, they “realize” that they are alone; they crave warm body contact and cry out for it. In the second year of life, nursing babies suckle for the same reason—no longer just out of hunger (because their tummies have grown and can hold more food), but now out of longing for physical contact. Some babies are sensitive to the sensations of their own bodies and will wake with discomfort from a wet or dirty diaper.

All of this waking has been programmed into babies for their survival. If you were a paraplegic without a wheelchair or other equipment, unable to speak the local language and unable to get yourself from point A to point B,would you want to be left alone for 8 hours at a time? Probably not. You would want to know there was someone near by who could meet your needs. Have you ever been stuck in a dentist’s chair or other restraining medical device for 15 minutes without someone in the room? Did you feel a twinge of the panic of helplessness in that situation? What if you needed something? What if you wanted to tell someone something?

Babies are in that position until they become toddlers. They are helpless. To top it all off, they are like foreigners—unable to speak the local language. They open their mouths but they cannot put their needs and wishes into words; they can just make noise.  For all these reasons, babies are programmed to be distressed about finding themselves alone. It just isn’t safe for them to be alone. There are serious survival issues going on. They wake up for contact to in order to assure that they will be looked after. This is not something that we want to program babies out of any more than we would want to program adults out of their scream response when faced with life-threatening danger.

Training Babies to Sleep Through the Night
Nonetheless, removing survival instincts can be accomplished, if we only persevere long enough. By ignoring a baby’s cries consistently, the baby will learn that no one will come and there is no point in crying anymore. If this experience only occurs at night, the baby learns that there is no point waking up at night. For parents, this translates into a baby who sleeps through the night. If it happens both day AND night, the baby goes into a hopeless depression (as seen in “failure to thrive” syndromes), since he “realizes” that he has been abandoned and there is no further hope of getting his needs met (and therefore no further reason to keep trying to bring help through crying). Fortunately, for most babies, the “abandonment” experience is happening only at night. However, the newly subdued baby has still learned that there is no point in crying. This will not lead to hopeless depression. In fact, in babies who are now enjoying a better night’s sleep, we may even see improved daytime mood.

Here is the problem however: if a baby quickly catches on to the idea that crying at night is a waste of time, there is minimal suffering on the baby’s part. However, if the baby has the “not-so-good sleep genes” that cause him to put up a royal battle, screaming for weeks or months  before he finally submits to the new regime, then it could be that the child is truly suffering. What this does to his long term development is simply not known. Some say it does nothing. Others say that it causes trauma. More research is required before we will know the truth.

Tired Parents
Even if parents do not want their babies to feel abandoned, it is not clear that responding to their every cry at night is the action of choice. After all, tired parents also pose a risk for babies. Tired parents have less patience with their children and are therefore more likely to engage in poor parenting techniques like snapping at the kids (including the baby), yelling or speaking in a harmful way. Fatigue causes more daytime errors including driving more dangerously, forgetting to turn off electric elements and putting the baby down in unsafe locations “just for a moment.” Exhausted parents can even dose off during the day when they need to be alert. Therefore, it is essential that parents find a way to balance their own needs for sleep with their babies’ needs for night-time wakings. This is especially important because night-time waking happens, as stated earlier, in the majority of homes—not the minority. And, it continues for the early years of childhood in many homes. Therefore a coping strategy is badly needed!

Here are some strategies that parents have found to be helpful. Not all will be practical for your own situation, therefore simply choose any that might fit into your own lifestyle:

  • Keep the baby in bed with you and DON’T get out of bed the entire night (see Dr. Sears’ books on attachment parenting for details of co-sleeping techniques and strategies). Although you’ll still be waking in the night to tend to the baby’s needs, you’ll need to expend less energy doing so.
  • Keep toddlers on a small crib-size mattress on the floor near your bed. At first, they can start in your bed and when they fall asleep, you can gently place them on the floor mattress beside you.
  • Have the baby or toddler sleep on a large mattress on the floor in her own room. When you wake up, go to the child’s bed and sleep there the rest of the night.
  • Tend to the baby in his crib when he cries at night. In the daytime, hire a daily baby-sitter and take a nap for a couple of hours. If the baby is in play group or daycare and you are at home, take your nap during those hours.
  • Alternate “baby duty” with your spouse. Whoever tends to the baby at night, gets a one or two hour evening nap the next day while the sleeping spouse takes responsibility for house & childcare.
  • Alternate night-time shifts with your spouse so that neither of you gets completely exhausted. For example, one answers cries until 2 a.m. and one answers cries after 2 a.m.
  • Use weekends to catch up on sleep. One spouse sleeps in late on Saturday; the other sleeps in late on Sunday.

As you can see, all of these strategies address the problem of night-time waking by assuming it is going to happen, parents are going to be tired and they will need to make up the sleep somehow. This approach is more in line with reality than trying to get babies and young children to stay asleep all night long. But here’s the good news: once kids are around 4 years old, there are effective strategies that can be used to really keep them in their beds throughout the night. By the time a child is this age, he can speak and walk; he is no longer totally helpless. He is familiar with his world and is achieving a level of competence. No harm will be done now by insisting that he stay in his own bed. So just hang in there. Sleep is coming. That is, until your child turns 15. Then you’ll be up at night again—waiting for him to come home. Sigh.

Baby Wants to Sleep with Parents

Many babies want to sleep in their parents’ bed. They like the body warmth, the comfort and sometimes the nursing. But many parents like their babies to sleep in their own cribs!

If your baby wants to sleep with you, consider the following tips:

Your Baby is Normal
Throughout the ages, babies have slept next to their parents. In olden times, no one had multi-room homes in which a baby could have his own nursery. The cradle was in the parents’ room and just as often, the baby was in the parents’ bed. Mothers nursed their infants throughout the night until they weaned them around the age of two or so, depending on the culture. Modern life is so different! Working mothers, bottle-fed or supplemented babies, room-to-room intercom systems and a completely different lifestyle has resulted in an era of babies separated from their moms at night. If your baby doesn’t appreciate the innovations of the culture, don’t worry – he’s in good company! Normal babies want to be held day and night. They like to sleep on people’s bodies. In our nuclear family, this usually means that babies want to be with their parents. In previous times, babies may have been happy to sleep with any number of people who nurtured them – siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles and whoever else was nearby and available.

You are Normal Too
You want a good night’s sleep so you can function and feel well the next day! While many parents do enjoy sleeping with their babies for the first couple of years (Dr. Sears calls this “attachment parenting”), many parents just can’t sleep with someone kicking around them in bed, pulling at their nightgown for all-night feedings, or otherwise disturbing their peace. If you can’t sleep well with your baby in your bed, it’s important for everyone’s well-being that you find a way to keep your child OUT of your bed! A tired, resentful parent is not only miserable, but also at risk for doing some poor daytime parenting as well.

If you are one of those parents who don’t mind the baby being in bed with you, then definitely go for it! There is nothing wrong with a baby sleeping with his parents. Do some research on safety issues; you will find all sorts of information showing that babies who sleep next to their parents have less risk of SIDS (sudden-infant-death syndrome) and conflicting research showing that they have more. You will have to draw your own conclusions. However, keep in mind that many, many people are currently sleeping with their babies and we’re not hearing about a high fatality rate from this practice. If we did, the practice would have been legally prohibited by now. Some parents find it easier to have the baby in bed with them than to have to get themselves out of bed a couple of times a night to tend to the child in another room. Such people say that they feel more rested having the baby by their side than they do having him down the hall.

Keeping the baby out of your bed. You will almost certainly have to tolerate some amount of crying in order to train a baby to stay in his own room. Whatever method of education you use, (and there are MANY!), the child will likely complain with tears and temper for a number of days or even weeks. However, once the crying has stopped and the baby has caught on to the fact that his bed is elsewhere (because you have consistently refused to take him into your bed), you may find that your child sleeps peacefully throughout the night. Both you and the baby can get quality sleep. Sometimes, the baby will still awaken once or twice in the night for feedings or even attention. However, you and your spouse may be able to take turns at nightime care and both of you will be more rested than you might be with the baby right in your bed.

It is important not to make exceptions once the child has been trained to sleep in his crib in his own room. If he is ill, keep him in his own room – even if YOU have to sleep there too. If you are going back to bed, give yourself peace of mind by keeping a baby monitor on loud and clear. Moving him into your bed because he has an earache or because you’re on vacation or because he’s teething, can completely disrupt the baby’s ability to stay in his own bed. You may find that you have to go through the entire training process all over again.

Colicky Baby

Inconsolable crying in babies is understandably anxiety-provoking to parents. After all, crying can be caused by many things, pain and illness included. When parents have tried all means of soothing a child, it’s easy to imagine the worst. If only babies would be able to speak and tell their parents what’s wrong!

If you have a child who tends to cry and fuss frequently, for no understandable reason, consider the possibility that your child has colic.

What is Colic?
Colic refers to the condition characterized by a healthy baby who tends to have periods of intense crying, fussing and/or screaming for no known reason. Traditional medical definition classifies colic as crying episodes that last more than 3 hours a day, more than 3 days a week, for more than 3 weeks, although variations of colic outside these parameters also exist. It is believed that colic affects 1 in 5 infants.

Symptoms of colic typically appear within one week after birth, and can last up to the baby’s fourth month – after which they generally go away on their own. While crying episodes can happen anytime within the day, it usually reaches its peak during late afternoon or early evening.

What Causes Colic?
The exact cause of colic is still unknown, although many theories exist. This is why the phrase “healthy baby” is critical in the condition’s definition; infections, diseases and all kinds of illnesses have been ruled out in most (but not all) cases of colic. Proposed explanations for colic include overfeeding, gastro-intestinal upset, allergies or sensitivities, a child’s innate temperament, anxiety in a household, and difficulty adjusting to the environment outside the womb. Research findings so far show no bias towards any one of these explanations.

In general, colic is harmless, and is not associated with developmental delay or impairment of any kind. In fact, the bulk of the impact of colic is felt by the parents. Colicky babies have been known to trigger fatigue and burn-out, feelings of helplessness and inadequacy, as well as anxiety and depression, among their primary caregivers.

What can Parents Do?
Traditional soothing techniques for infants are specially recommended when caring for a colicky baby. These techniques include rocking the infant gently in one’s arms, singing to the baby and walking the baby outdoors he or she is upset. Changing the baby’s position, e.g. turning them on their stomach, and swaddling (wrapping the baby in a warm blanket) have also been found to be helpful.

There are also medications that are specifically for colic, although many have expressed concern regarding medicating someone so young. It’s best to consult your pediatrician if you want to know your pharmaceutical options for dealing with colic.

Some nursing mothers have found that adjusting their own diet helps reduce their babies colic. For instance, removing gas-inducing foods like beans and cabbage may help the baby. Or, removing dairy products, wheat products or common allergens might sometimes make a difference. Some parents have discovered that their crying baby is reacting to something in the environment like cotton clothing or baby creams or powders – and when they remove the offending substance the colic suddenly stops. However, the majority of parents with colicky babies cannot trace down a specific trigger. They and the baby just have to deal with the upset.

Obviously, parents must pay attention to self-care. It’s easy to get defeated by the stress of caring for a colicky baby. There’s loss of sleep from the baby’s crying, frequent trips to the doctor to figure what’s wrong, worry over the baby’s health, and just the effort of keeping the child calm when he goes into one of innumerable cryng spells. When parents can get some time off of caring for their baby, they will come back more refreshed and able to handle some more stress. Babysitters can help or parents can relieve each other, taking turns caring for the baby as much as possible. It’s important to get out of the house, see other people, exercise and have some fun; all of this strengthens a person to deal with the hours of crying and fussing. Picture the baby growing a bit older and a lot quieter – it WILL happen! Realize that colic is temporary and keep your eye on what’s up ahead.

When should Parents be Concerned?
Excessive crying among infants is such an ambiguous symptom to interpret. It can be colic or something else. To be safe, parents need to check-in with their pediatrician regularly. They should always note any other symptoms that accompany crying such as fever, skin rashes, diarrhea, vomiting or developmental delays. Most colic is nothing but colic and will disappear on its own in a matter of months.

How to Burp Your Baby

Babies can suffer from the effects of gassiness whether they are being breast or bottle-fed. It happens because infants who are not yet skilled in nursing, tend to swallow air along with their milk. This is why feeding time should always include burping time. Burping releases the air that infants swallow. The process helps prevent the accumulation of gas in the baby’s stomach, which can result to gas pain, irritability, spitting up and feeding fussiness.

The process of burping a baby is relatively simple. In fact, it can be as easy as holding your baby upright against your chest, their chin on your shoulder, while you gently rub or pat their back. Just being help upright can help the air come up after feeding. You have to mind possible milk spits though when you burp a baby. Spitting milk is normal and doesn’t harm the child. A parent, on the other hand, may want to have a towel over their shoulder handy just in case.

There are also other ways of burping a baby aside from holding them against your chest.

Some parents prefer to lap-burp. In this method, babies are placed on their stomach in a parent’s lap, their tummy’s against the parent’s thigh for gentle pressure and their head supported so that it’s higher than the body. Again, gentle patting or rubbing of the baby’s back can get the child to burp. If the child doesn’t burp immediately, just be patient. The process can take as long as ten minutes.

Another method of burping a baby is by sitting them upright on one’s lap and cradling their chin gently using the palm of one’s hand. Gently lean the baby forward while applying gentle pressure on the tummy. A parent’s partner can also pat the baby’s back while this is happening to facilitate burping.

How often burping is required differs from baby to baby. Typically, once after every feeding is adequate. But like adults, different babies have different styles of nursing, which is why some kids are more prone to gassiness than others. Bottle fed babies also tend to have more gas than those who nurse from their mother’s breast. For babies who tend to accumulate gas more frequently, burping twice — once within the feeding session, and one more after getting fed — is recommended.

Babies with colic need to be burped more often than those without the condition as well, as prolonged crying can cause them to swallow air. Burping a colicky baby after a crying session is recommended.

Temper Tantrums in Public

When a child doesn’t get his way, generic he or she might throw a temper tantrum – a “fit” in which the youngster expresses rage both verbally and physically. While having a tantrum, a child might throw himself on the ground, kick and flail, cry, scream and shout verbal abuse or other types of hysterical rants. The tantrum can be a reaction to not getting a candy, a toy, or another object of desire. In fact, it can occur for any type of frustration. Sometimes, a child may throw a temper tantrum in public, which can be especially embarrassing and aggravating for parents to experience.

Public temper tantrums are normal for toddlers and pre-schoolers and also occasionally happen with school age kids. For pre-teens and teens though, this behavior is rare and is reason for concern and specialized intervention. No matter what age your child is, however, temper tantrums must always be addressed.

If your child has public temper tantrums, consider the following tips:

Stay Calm and Respectful
When your child throws a temper tantrum in public, you may be angered by the embarrassment he is causing you and you may be tempted to react the way you’re feeling. However, it is important to stay calm and not display any anger in this scenario. First of all, you are also in public at the same time as your child. No one wants to watch an angry parent make a scene, even if they understand your particular predicament. In addition to this, you are a role model for your child. If you react angrily to something you don’t like, you are showing him that anger is an acceptable reaction, which is exactly what you don’t want to show him here. Instead, speak slowly and calmly to him, despite your frustration and demonstrate the proper way one should react to frustration.

Use Emotional Coaching
When your child has a tantrum, you can briefly name his feelings. “I know you’re upset.” “I know you’re not happy about this.” There is no need to go beyond the simple naming of his feelings at this time when he is in an intense state of distress. Tantrums are not “teaching moments.” It is useless to try to get the child to understand anything while he is having a meltdown.

Don’t Reinforce Tantrum Behavior
When your child is having a tantrum, do not give him lots of attention or try to console him through hugs and the like. Do NOT give the child the thing he desires that is the subject of his tantrum (i.e. if he wanted you to buy him a toy and then threw a tantrum when you said no, don’t buy him the toy to stop his tantrum). If you give into his tantrum, you will only be encouraging this type of behavior in the future. He must learn that tantrums are not the way to get what he wants.

Teach Alternative Methods of Responding to Frustration
After the tantrum is over and your child is calm, teach him how to properly respond to frustration with the use of words instead of tantrums. Use the CLeaR method to reinforce his efforts. For instance, teach the child to say something like, “I’m not happy about this” on occasions that he is disturbed by your response to him. Then, if he asks you for a treat and you tell him that it is too close to dinner time and he remembers to say, “I’m not happy about this,” you can use the Comment, Label, Reward (CleaR Method) strategy to reinforce his appropriate behavior. You could say, for example, “You remembered to tell me your feelings in words! (Comment).”  “That’s very mature of you! (Label)” “Since you spoke so nicely even though you were frustrated, I’m going to change my mind and give you that treat after all (Reward).” See more about the CLeaR Method in Raise Your Child without Raising Your Voice by Sarah Chana Radcliffe.

Use Discipline
For children older than four, use the 2X-Rule (see Raise Your Child without Raising Your Voice) to discourage tantrums. Think of a negative consequence that will always follow a tantrum and tell the child that you will use it from now on, whenever he has a tantrum instead of using his words. In this way, the child’s brain will make the connection between his tantrum and something unpleasant happening afterwards. The next time he thinks of throwing a tantrum, he’ll think again!

For older kids and teens, attempt to explain how you feel when he throws a public tantrum and point out that there are far more appropriate ways to convey and handle distress and frustration. You may also try discipline (i.e. revoking certain valued privileges whenever he throws a public tantrum).

Consider Bach Flower Remedies
If your child is prone to frequent tantrums, consider the Bach Flower remedies Vine (for children who MUST have their own way – or else!), Cherry Plum (for those who lose control) and/or Impatiens (for those who quickly disintegrate when frustrated). Or, consult a Bach Flower Practitioner for assessment and recommendations. You can find more information about the Bach Flower Remedies online and throughout this site.

Consider Professional Help
When children – especially older children and teens – continue to have tantrums despite your interventions, they may benefit from professional counseling or even anger-management training. Ask your pediatrician for an appropriate referral

Baby Doesn’t Like Doctor

Babies – especially the smart ones – can learn to dislike visits to the doctor. Young as they are, here they are able to remember that they don’t like being held down, adiposity weighed on a cold scale, pricked and prodded and even punctured (with a needle!). Babies who have health issues that require painful or uncomfortable medical interventions can develop particularly intense negative reactions to examination and treatment. Unfortunately, medical treatment is a necessity of life. Whether the baby likes it or not, there will be routine, exploratory and possibly even emergency visits to the doctor.

If your baby has learned to hate going to the doctor, consider the following tips:

Try using Emotional Coaching
Emotional coaching involves acknowledging and naming your child’s feelings. Though your baby may not understand the words you are saying, he or she will still understand the message you are trying to convey through body language and tone of voice. You can say, “You don’t like the doctor, do you?” or “The doctor hurt you last time you were there, didn’t he?” Cooing gently, indicating sympathy and understanding, you will be able to communicate your emotional support even to a pre-verbal child. At the doctor’s office, be sure to hold and stroke the baby even while the doctor performs an examination or intervention. Again, this communicates, “We’re here with you and we care about you. We know it hurts.” Although this approach isn’t going to make your baby like the doctor, it can help prevent or reduce trauma and leave the door open for developing a more positive doctor-patient relationship in the future.

Consider Bach Flower Therapy to Help Reduce Fear
Bach Flower Therapy is a harmless water-based naturopathic treatment that can ease emotional distress and even prevent it from occurring in the future. It is safe enough for newborn babies and nursing mothers. Rescue Remedy is a potent mix of a few different Bach remedies, specially designed to address situational stress, panic, trauma and terror. Although it doesn’t always work (just like medication doesn’t always relieve a headache), it is usually very effective in calming a distraught child or adult. Since it is harmless, there is no reason not to try giving it to your baby before a visit to the doctor. It might just help!  Rescue Remedy can be found in health food stores around the world. Give your baby 4 drops of Rescue Remedy before you head to the doctor and again once you enter the examination room. The 4 drops can be added to any liquid (water, chocolate milk, juice, etc.) and sipped, or they can be applied directly to the baby’s body (pulse points, chest, tummy or wherever). Remedies can be taken with or without food and they do not interact with any medicine, herb, food or health condition.

Provide Special Treats
When you’re finished seeing the doctor, allow a few minutes (if possible!) for the baby to play with the toys in the office or to have a pleasant outing with you. Depending on your baby’s age, it might be appropriate to offer a treat, a story or a special toy. The idea is to help your baby associate the doctor’s visit with something nice afterward. This can reduce future stress and form positive associations between seeing the doctor and enjoying something extra nice. Obviously, if your baby is too sick to enjoy anything, getting home quickly will be the best treat of all!

When Your Child is Homesick

Home is where the heart is. When kids leave home – for a night, a weekend, a month, a school year, or for good – there are often mixed emotions. Excitement, fear and sadness are common feelings but may be confusing or even overwhelming for the youngster who is experiencing them. How can parents help their children negotiate departures most comfortably? How can they help them through the pain of homesickness when it occurs?

Homesick
The pain of leaving home has different sources for different children. Let’s look at three common origins of this type of sadness:

1. Leaving home for camp, school, vacation and travel means dealing with change. One is thrust out of one’s familiar, cozy, home environment and thrown into a new, different place. Kids who have trouble handling change will naturally have some level of difficulty in adjusting to living away from home because of that factor alone.

2. Leaving home also means leaving a place of security and familiarity. Children who tend to be fearful in general will often feel separation anxiety – the fear of being alone, separated from everything they know and love.

3. Leaving home for the first time is like any other “first time” experience; initially challenging and somewhat anxiety-provoking for almost everyone.

These three issues – difficulty handling change, general anxiety and the challenge of new experiences – require three different types of parental interventions.

Difficulty with Change
Some kids want to come home because they are having trouble being out of their familiar environment. If your child is like this, you can help prevent homesickness in the first place by helping your child become as familiar with the new environment as possible before he or she actually goes there. For instance, taking young children to see their new classroom before the first day of school helps the place to become somewhat familiar even though it is a new place. Taking children to see the hospital in preparation for a stay there is a similar concept. Sometimes, however, the child cannot go to the new location. In such a case, picture books or internet video clips might be employed to illustrate the general idea. There are, for instance, video clips of children preparing for surgery and recovery in a hospital – these clips show everything from the admitting desk to the surgical room and more.

Offering your child the Bach Flower Remedy Walnut can help foster an easier adjustment to change. Walnut is specifically indicated for those kids and teens who have a hard time with changing circumstances. Two drops in a little liquid, taken four times a day in the weeks before the change can help make the transition must easier and more comfortable. You can find more information on the Bach Flower Remedies online and throughout this site.

If you have not been able to prepare your youngster for leaving home, you can help him adjust to change by sending along some familiar items (i.e. a favorite pillow, some family photos and so on). Once in his new location, it may be helpful for the child to be able to communicate with you frequently at first, simply to help ease the transition. As the child becomes more comfortable in his or her new surroundings, less communication will be necessary.

Allow your child to express his or her unhappy feelings. “I don’t like it here,” “I don’t like the food here,” “I don’t know anyone here,” I want to come home,” are all legitimate feelings. Acknowledge and accept them. “I know Honey. Yes it’s hard. Yes, it’s different. I understand.” Refrain from telling the child that he will soon get used to everything. Let that happen by itself. Also refrain from rescuing the child by bringing him home. He needs to master the experience of change. “You’ll soon be home again,” is enough – respond calmly to the child’s anxious and stressed state. Don’t offer too much reassurance, but instead convey through your calm responses that you believe in the child’s ability to handle the difficult feelings. “I know it’s not easy.” Say it sympathetically and just leave it at that. If the child is quite young, try to arrange for extra adult support. “Aunty Sara will let you sleep in her room for the first few nights.” Little kids need more help in adjusting to new environments. When they are given that help, their adjustment tends to be smoother. This is also why some nursery school classes allow parents to stay with a child for the first few days – or even weeks – of school. Gradual transitions to separation are easier on small children than sudden separations. Similarly, younger children do better with shorter stays away from home. It’s normally very hard on a four year old to be away from parents for more than a couple of days. Eight year-olds may be fine with two weeks away at camp. Fourteen year-olds can usually handle two months away with no problem. However, don’t be surprised to find your eighteen or nineteen year old child experiencing homesickness in College or other places away from home. They, too, can be bothered by the change or the separation issues.

Difficulty Separating
Children with separation issues need to build up their ability to leave home. If possible, help them to make short excursions before more lengthy ones: arrange for them to sleep over ONE night at Grandma’s house. Staying with familiar people helps in the early stages. Build up to two nights away, a few days, a week or two and a month – try to do all this before sending this kind of youngster off to college in another city. If you haven’t done this or if it hasn’t helped, and your child is painfully homesick missing YOU and the family, then it’s fine to help the youngster by providing as much communication as possible until he gets used to being away. For instance, there is no reason to avoid daily telephone calls or frequent texting (unless the child is at a camp that forbids this). Eventually the child will settle into his new environment and not need or want that much contact from you. Use some of the comfort strategies suggested above for kids who find change difficult – bringing familiar things from home can help at least a little.

The Bach Flower Remedy Mimulus can help reduce the pain of being away from loved ones. Give as described above for Walnut.

Again, it is important to help your youngster succeed at staying away. Bringing him home early should be avoided unless the homesickness is so overwhelming that the child is not functioning well in his new environment. Even an older teenager can be brought home if homesickness is interfering with his functioning – sometimes, he just needs one more year or two at home. People do develop at different rates. During that time, it would be wise to arrange brief separations as described above, in order to help prepare the child for a lengthier separation in the near future. Keep in mind that one 13 year-old is ready to leave happily to a boarding school while another is beyond miserable at the thought of being away. Your child is an individual who needs individual attention – there is no one right way to respond to serious homesickness. Do what feels right for you and your child. However, if a child is young (under 9) and homesick, go ahead and bring him home if it is possible to do so – he’ll do better with separation when he’s older.

The Stress of First Time Experiences
In order to reduce feelings of homesickness that are occurring due to the fact that the experience of being away is new, help prepare the child for the experience as much as possible. Use the strategies suggested above for kids who have difficulty with change.

Sometimes there is no time to prepare a child. A youngster might suddenly require hospitalization, for instance or he may have to suddenly stay at a relative’s house due to a family emergency. Explain what is happening in as much detail as possible. “Mommy and Daddy have to fly to New York for Grandad’s funeral. You will be staying with the Gold’s until we get back. We’ll be gone for four days. We’ll call you every morning to say good morning and every night to say goodnight before you go to sleep. You will have breakfast, lunch and dinner with the Gold’s. You will also have a bath there one night. I am sending your clothes and your school books. You’ll go to school as usual and they will pick you up afterward…” Giving the child all of this information can help him cope with the novel situation with less stress.

However, the child may still miss his home and his parents. Again, allow him to be sad – his feelings of homesickness are perfectly normal. Let him know you understand. DON’T try to talk him out of his feelings – the fastest way for him to feel better is for him to be able to say what he feels. Young kids can be encouraged to draw pictures for their parents or pictures of their feelings. Sometimes art is a better medium for the expression of their feelings than words.

For children who are feeling homesick, the Bach Flower Remedy Honeysuckle might help. When there is nothing else that can be done, go ahead and offer two drops of Honeysuckle in liquid four times a day until the child is feeling better – or until he is returning home!