Parenting

How to Help Your Baby Develop Good Sleep Habits

At best, most newborns don’t sleep more than two to three hours at a time, day or night. A newborn’s nutritional needs and developmental maturity won’t be ready for a full five to seven hour stretch for a while. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t start helping your baby develop good sleep habits. By creating a healthy, safe sleep environment and planting the seeds of good sleep habits, you’ll plant roots for a lifetime of high-quality sleep.

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A Safe Sleep Environment

Even if you set up the nursery long before your baby arrived, it’s a good idea to give everything a last check to make sure all safety measures are in place. A baby-safe sleep environment include:

  • A crib, bassinet, or playpen that meets all current safety guidelines including no head or footboard with decorative cutouts and slats that are no more than 1 ⅜ inches apart.

  • A location that’s away from windows or cords that could be reached by your baby.

  • No toys, blankets, and crib bumpers as they pose a suffocation hazard. Extra layers, as well as sleep sacks or sleep blankets, should provide the warmth your baby needs.

  • A mattress with a snug fit that’s low enough that your baby cannot crawl or fall out of the crib. You’ll have to keep an eye on it and lower the mattress as he grows.

While baby monitors aren't a necessity, they do offer peace of mind and give you some extra freedom while your baby sleeps. Be sure the cord is kept well away from the crib.

The Start of Healthy Sleep Habits

Unfortunately, babies don’t normally have a regular sleep cycle until they are about six months old. However, healthy sleep habits can begin even before your baby is able to sleep through the night. Try to:

  • Keep nighttime feedings and diaper changes quiet and dark. Nighttime feedings should be all business so that your baby is wakened as little as possible.

  • Develop a bedtime routine. Bedtime routines can start as soon as your baby comes home from the hospital. As your baby’s nervous system develops, a regular routine will help trigger the release of sleep hormones. Some classic bedtime activities include reading a book, taking a warm bath, or rocking in a rocking chair.

  • Play and stimulate your baby’s senses during the day. As your baby stays awake longer during the day, he’ll start to sleep for longer stretches at night. It also helps to start establishing those developing circadian rhythms, the natural cycles the body uses to time the sleep-wake cycle.

  • Lay your baby down when he’s drowsy, not asleep. Your baby will learn how to self-soothe as he gets used to falling asleep on his own. This can also cut down on nighttime waking as he’ll learn to put himself back to sleep as he gets older.

  • Don’t jump to soothe. Some babies fuss a little before bed to let out some pent-up tension. Let your baby fuss for a few minutes before going in to soothe him. If he continues to fuss, make sure to keep the room dark and quiet so as not to overstimulate your baby when you soothe him.

Stacey L. Nash is a Seattle area writer for Tuck.com whose insomnia led her to research all aspects of sleep. With a degree in communications from the University of Puget Sound, she helps put sleep into the forefront of the health and wellness conversation. When not researching and writing about sleep, she spends time with her husband and four children on their heavily-wooded, twelve-acre piece of heaven.

Navigating Picky Eaters and Food Sensitivities

Whether you have a picky eater or a child with food sensitivities, sometimes as a parent you may find yourself having to get creative with snacks and meal planning!

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It can be so easy to fall into the trap of feeding your child a separate meal from everyone else most days; or relying on a not-so-healthy option just to get some food in your child's belly.

One of the reasons that I teach about food introduction is to help avoid pickiness and also to try and alleviate food sensitivities. The most common food sensitivities are nuts, gluten and dairy. If you feel that your child has behavioral difficulties, doesn't sleep well, gets skin rashes or has dark circles under their eyes, I encourage you to get them tested for food sensitivities. Seeing a Naturopath is the way to go as the tests they use is far more extensive.

If you have found yourself in this boat here are some things you can do to get on a different path with your little one.

Start with simple and mild foods and then graduate up to more adventurous options. Choose one veggie at a time and have your child try it every day for a week; even if it is just a bite. If by the end of the week then it is safe to say that one may be a no-go! 

Sweet potatoes and carrots are a nice beginner. My favorite way to serve these is cutting them up into sticks (like fries), coat in olive oil, sprinkle with salt and roast them in the oven until they are soft and a little crispy on the outside. They can be dipped in anything! You could even try a little raw honey. There are so many ways to sneak veggies into meals. A great cook book for this is Deceptively Delicious. You will find ways to hide vegetables in just about anything! There are wonderful dinner options. Plan your meals out. If you can, make it visible for everyone to see so they can know what to expect each evening. One night a week try and make something new with diverse flavors such as a curry dish. The other nights of the week can be easy and basic, a protein, a veggie and a grain. Some ideas are tacos, pasta, grill packets, omelets. 

There is always the tried and true smoothie idea. Bananas cover up just about anything! Stuff your blender with fruits and spinach; for a dairy free option use coconut or almond milk as your liquid. For good fats, I just found a wonderful coconut milk yogurt called CoYo. It is amazing how many great products are out there to help with food sensitivities. Here are my favorite go-to snacks:

Larabars: While these do have nuts, they are a great snack to keep in your bag with you. There are so many flavors! My favorite is Cinnamon Roll!

Bitsy's: These tasty snacks are organic, allergen friendly and they sneak in veggies! They have crackers and cookies available.

Seaweed Snacks: This may not be for everyone but you would be surprised how many kids love them! They come in their own little package and are very healthy! I have found that Trader Joe's sells them for only $.99 a package!

Popcorn: There good brands out there but this is an easy snack to make at home. I suggest cooking your own on the stove; it is easy and takes about 5 minutes. Sprinkle some salt and a little butter. To make it sweet add some maple syrup.

Natural Fruit Strips: Target's Simply Balanced brand is organic and cost effective. If you like to cook, here is a fun recipe to try!

Fruit & Veggie Pouches: You can't go wrong with these! They are full of fruits and vegetables. They are quick and easy. Again, if you want to make your own, you can buy reusable squeeze pouches!

Remember, you are doing a great job! Feeding little ones can be tricky and sometimes us moms put so much pressure on ourselves. Many of these options are easy and quick.

 

 

 

Dr. Amy's Favorite Things for Pregnancy, Birth and Postpartum

Over the years after working with so many mamas and of course my own children I have come across many products and ideas; some have worked wonders and some not. I would love to share my thoughts about my favorite things that I used and recommend!

PREGNANCY

Pregnancy Support Band: As your baby bump grows you will start to feel pressure on your pelvis. One great way to help ease the discomfort is a support band. This provides support under your belly. My favorite brand is www.babybellyband.com

Chiropractic Care: I highly recommend chiropractic care throughout pregnancy. It helps so much with alignment which can easily be thrown off in pregnancy. Good positioning of your baby is helpful for labor and birth. Regular chiropractic care is proven to help shorten labor and pushing. Dr. Amber Moravec with Naturally Aligned works right out of Health Foundations Birth Center. Of course I love her! She specializes in pregnancy and newborns.

BIRTH

Birth Plan Flexibility: I am a big fan of birth plans. I do like to think more of it a birth preferences. The thing about labor and birth is that it is different for everyone. There are guidelines of what a "text book birth" looks like which is great but everyone IS different. Things come up; things change. Try and keep an open mind and remain flexible for change.

POSTPARTUM

Double Electric Pump: Whether you are a working mama or not, having a pump is essential. Even if you are not working you will want to pump and introduce a bottle for times you are away. If you are going back to work you will want a good pump that is easy to transport. Check out our class PumpTalk 101; it is very helpful for coming up with a plan on introducing pumping. There are many good brands out there but I prefer Medela or Spectra

Hands-Free Pumping Bra: Along with a good pump, get a hands-free pumping bra! That way you can do other things like work on a computer or read a book. Try the Easy Expression Bustier.

Medela Hydrogel Pads: Even with a great latch your nipples will be tender the first few days. The Medela Tender Care Hydrogel Pads are heavenly. They are re-usable and help soothe your nipples. If you have cracked or bleeding nipples please reach out to lactation consultant right away. 

Bottle-warmer: Bottle warmers are a huge time saver. You never want to use a microwave to heat breastmilk or formula; it kills the nutrients and heats it unevenly. You can heat by placing in warm water but that takes a long time. The bottle warm is quick and heats the milk evenly. 

Nursing Tank: Nursing bras are great but nursing tanks are all you need in the first couple of weeks. They are easy and low-maintenance. Bravado has a great one; it is loose and comfortable during postpartum. You will find yourself living in it.

Woombie: I am a big fan of swaddling. When your baby was in-utero they were cozy and warm and didn't have a lot of space to move around. Think of swaddling as mimicking that space outside of the womb. It can be very calming for them and help promote good, restful sleep. I like the woombie because it is very easy to use and the shape of it is comfy for your babe. Swaddling should end by 2.5 months because of the possibility of rolling over.

Pacifier vs Fingers: Pacifiers in my opinion are awesome. Babies love to suck for comfort, it is very soothing. If you are breastfeeding you may find yourself constantly comfort nursing and it can be overwhelming. Pacifiers can help soothe your baby when cranky or tired. It can also help extend sleep. Sometimes parents are afraid of using one and will use their pinky finger to soothe. The problem is, your finger is attached to you! I remember hearing a mom say, "why don't they make fake fingers for babies?!" One popular brand is Avent Soothees.

Stroller with Click-In Carseat: Even if you love wearing your baby, a stroller is essential! Find one that works with your infant carseat. That way if your baby is sleeping you do not have to disturb them. Until your baby is sitting up strollers can be awkward and not very supportive to your baby's head and neck.

Allowances, Chores & Money Jars: How to Teach Kids to Manage Money

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This past Sunday on the MomShow one of the topics we discussed was starting to teach kids how to manage money. One of the ways we talked about helping kids understand finances is to make money jars for their allowance and other money they receive. When they divide their money into separate jars they are learning responsibility and setting goals from the very beginning. After the show my daughter, Isla and I, gathered the supplies necessary to make money jars for our house.

I didn’t want to make this a complicated or involved process. We went to Michaels and purchased small glass jars and chalkboard stickers. I realized once we got home that we didn’t have chalk but we had a gold marker so we used that to write on the stickers. We made eight jars, four for each child. All the supplies totaled $12.43.

We decided to make four different jars: Save, Spend, Give and College. We assigned a percentage to each jar: Save 10%, Spend 70%, Give 10% and College 10%. At the beginning of summer, we started a points system at home for doing chores or being helpful around the house. Points are assigned to tasks and tallied over the course of the week. Every 5 points = $1. Money is paid on Friday. Now that we have the kid's money jars, the money will be divided between the jars based on the percentages above. This system has worked for our family. We have tried charts and more complicated things in the past that have not worked. As you can see from the pictures, we are sticking with simple; and simple is what we are all able to commit to so far.

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My kids are 9 and 11 years old. I decided to include a fourth jar for College to introduce the expectation of some sort of schooling after high school. I think this jar can be optional. Save, Spend and Give would be a great place to start, especially if you have younger children.

Check out Dr. Amy's recent talk on the MomShow here!

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What Parents Can Do While Raising Kids to Set Them Up Financially

written by: Cassandra Brashier

“Being a parent and raising a family is easy” - said No Parent Ever. Let’s try to break it down in some bite size pieces. Here are some things to consider financially while you’re raising those little darlings…

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Life Insurance: There are as many opinions about life insurance as there are Taxis in New York. This topic for most people is right up there with having a root canal. However, death is never timely. Try to look at life insurance as an act of love rather than a burden to bear. If you have a family and you provide for that family, either with a paycheck or by running the house (or both), then you provide an economic value and one that should be protected. What would happen if your paycheck stopped coming into the bank account every month? Let alone you not being there for the day to day tasks. Today there are so many different kinds of insurance at many different price points.  The amount appropriate will largely depend on your specific situation.  If you don’t have any now – anything you get will be better than nothing.  For example having 1X your income would keep the family going for about a year. Although, it is not uncommon to have 10 years or more factored in as well as things such as college costs, funeral expenses, etc. The right amount can’t be determined by a ‘strict rule of thumb’.  

Funding College: There are many questions people have about how to save for their children’s future education costs.  One of the most common ways is to start a 529 plan. This type of account allows you to put money in and others can contribute as well. So when Grandma Charity says she wants to help fund Wisdom’s college fund, she can do that.  A 529 plan can now also be used for elementary and high school. There are other strategies available like Coverdell ESA’s and if set up a certain way, life insurance policies can also be used as a strategy to fund college. Which one is right for you depends on your goals, income and situation. 

UTMA & UGMA Accounts: Don’t know that your kids will be college bound?  The sky’s the limit with these accounts.  It can be utilized for school or to fund that Tech start-up they’ve been dreaming about and any number of other options. The pros is that it’s more flexible then the 529 plan and there are no contribution limits.  The cons are that it is taxed along the way and upon the child reaching the age of majority, the funds transfer to them and the adult no longer has any say or control over the money. But thankfully most 18 year old’s are responsible money managers, right?! 

Having a Will or Trust: Once kids are in the picture you have a lot of decisions to make. Daily. This is an important one though: What would you want to happen to your kids if both parents weren’t there to raise them?  If you don’t have a Will or Trust in place then the state is going to step in and make the decision who will raise your kids. So not having a Will doesn’t mean you don’t have a plan, it’s just going to be the State’s plan. Do your kids a favor and put one in place and be sure to name a guardian who would be responsible for the assets on their behalf.  

Kids Life Insurance: With this topic most people assume the worst.  When in reality this could provide some long-term benefits to your child. Most people will become uninsurable at some point in their life.  For many it will be later in life but for some of us things happen or we are diagnosed with something before adulthood and that could prevent us from ever qualifying for life insurance (or make the cost extremely high).  This is one of the main reasons to at last have something for a child.  Either way having it and not needing is every parents hope. 

Beneficiaries: As parents we work hard to build up our assets and have life insurance for protection and it’s usually intended to be passed down to our children.  It can seem logical to have them listed then as our beneficiaries but if they are minors it’s not recommended.  A minor cannot take control of assets so they wouldn’t be able to access the funds as easily (a guardian will have to be appointed if there isn’t one already) in the event of a tragedy. If the child/children are special needs and have assistance this can also affect the funds they receive and could impact if they continue to qualify.  The best way to pass your assets along will depend on your situation. 

If you’re still reading and haven’t poked your eyes out, congratulations! (no offense to any pirates in the audience)

Allowance:  If kids can understand at an early age they have to do something to have money, they will have learned a valuable life lessonHelp them start good money habits by saving a portion of everything and watching that accumulate. Set financial goals with them for things they want to buy.  These can all be great tools to teaching kids good financial habits for their life! 

There isn’t a ones size fits all and so much of raising kids and finances is sensitive to each family. To answer questions about your unique situation talk to your tax professional, attorney and financial advisor. A little planning can go a long way and may even impact multi generations to come. 

Cassandra Brashier is a wife, mother of 3 and has been a Financial Advisor for 15 years. For questions go to www.momstalkmoney.com

Securities and advisory services offered through Harbour Investments, Inc.

Dr. Amy's Guide to Food Introduction

 photo credit: Big River Farms CSA

photo credit: Big River Farms CSA

One of Dr. Amy’s passions is food introduction. It is a fundamental building block for a baby’s development, their immune system and has long-term health benefits. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends 6 months of exclusive breastfeeding (no formula or solid foods). Breast milk contains antibodies that support immune function as well as optimal nutrient ratios that change as the child grows. Until approximately 6 months of age, a baby’s digestive tract is not able to adequately digest most foods. Early introduction of foods may result in food allergies or sensitivities. Around six to nine months, breastfed and formula-fed infants will begin to develop their gastrointestinal track in a way that makes them ready to start some solid foods.

Food introduction is one of the most important times in your child’s health; it becomes the building blocks and foundation of health for the rest of your child’s life. The gastrointestinal tract is an extension of the immune system. Introducing foods in a way that will not cause allergic reactions will help build a stronger and more solid foundation than if your child is always fighting off immune reactions. So many early health problems in children are related to food introduction. It is pertinent that you observe your child for signs of a reaction, such as red marks around their mouth, red cheeks, eczema, diaper rash, constipation or diarrhea, etc. (see below more complete list). If these early warning signs are not headed, more serious reactions may result as the immune system becomes more and more compromised.

Signs Baby is Ready for Solid Foods

•      Is at least 6 months old

•      Able to sit unsupported

•      Can push away food

•      Can turn head from side to side

•      Shows interest in what you are eating

Since breast milk is all your baby needs in terms of nutrients, there needn't be any rush to start your baby on solids. Let your baby lead. If she is always grabbing for your food, then allow her to explore it. But if she isn’t interested, don’t force her to try it. Most babies will become interested in food between six to nine months. If your child hasn’t started trying solids by nine months, start offering it to him and see how he responds.

This transition in life can be a source of stress for many parents. Take your time and be patient with your child. Know that she is getting all the nutrients she needs from your breast milk or formula.

Up until the first year, the benefit to babies of trying solids is being exposed to new textures and learning hand mouth coordination; prior to a year most babies gastrointestinal tracts are not mature enough to be absorbing many nutrients from solids, so if your child isn’t eating a lot of solids, it is not compromising his nutrient intake as long as he is still drinking breast milk or formula.

Introducing Foods

New foods should be introduced one at a time. Wait a few days after introducing each new food to see if your baby reacts to the food. If your baby has any of the following symptoms below, remove the food from baby’s diet for 2-3 months, then try again.

If your child has a life- threatening reaction to a food such as difficulty breathing, call 911.

Your baby will show you he has had enough to eat. Stop feeding him when he spits food out, closes his mouth, or turns his head away.  Let him control how much he eats.

Symptoms that may indicate a reaction to a food include:

•      Rash around the mouth or anus

•      Hyperactivity or lethargy

•      “Allergic shiners” (dark circles under eyes)

•      Skin reactions/rashes

•      Infections/cold/flu

•      Diarrhea or mucus in stool

•      Constipation

•      Runny/stuffy nose or sneezing

•      Redness of face/cheeks

•      Ear infection

•      Other unusual symptom for your child

Use the following schedule as a general guide for introducing foods to healthy, full-term babies. You can hang it on the fridge and put a date next to each new food introduction so that it is easier to remember what your child is eating and for reference if your child develops a reaction. If your child has chronic illness, special needs, or has signs of allergies or sensitivities such as asthma, chronic respiratory infections, or chronic ear infections, a modified schedule may be necessary.

Even though it is a common practice in our culture to give babies powered rice cereal, this is not an evidenced based practice and is not recommended by nutritionists. Start with vegetables and fruits. When it is time to introduce grains, use whole grains whenever possible, instead of processed grains.

Finally, enjoy this new time in your baby’s life as he explores new textures and tastes. Be playful with your child and let meal times be a fun game or a time to be social and sing songs about foods. Use it as a time to learn colors or numbers, instead of always focusing on getting your child to eat. If they don’t like something, introduce it again in a few months. Try to make it easier on yourself by modeling good nutrition to your child and giving them some of your meal, instead of always having to make something completely different for them. Enjoying our meals improves digestion and overall quality of life, so do what you need to for yourself to de-stress mealtime and enjoy.

Join us on March 26th at 10:00am on the MyTalk, 107.1 Mom Show to learn more and visit https://www.health-foundations.com/mom-show/ after the show to download a specific food introduction schedule.

 

Preparing Your Child For a New Baby

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Welcoming a new baby to your home is an exciting and sometimes overwhelming event for a family. Your family is growing and will be forever changed to a new “normal” the moment your baby arrives. Sometimes welcoming your second, third or even fourth child may be even more intimidating than your first as you have the added task of preparing older siblings for the big change. Here are 5 tips to lovingly helping your child adjust to the idea of a new baby before he arrives.

  1. Consider your child’s age and understanding level when deciding when to share the news: While older children will be able to conceptualize waiting 9 months for baby’s arrival, a toddler has a hard time understanding tomorrow versus one week from now. If your child is on the younger side, try telling him what season the baby will arrive in rather than how many months from now. For instance, “Next summer, when we can go to the pool again, the baby will arrive!”
  2. Find age appropriate books to share with your tot about welcoming a new sibling: There are a wide variety of children’s books (and programs) that are available and cover the topic of becoming a big brother or sister. Reading books about having a new baby can help your older child get excited about his or her new role as a sibling and aid in answering any questions they have about what it will be like. Reading books about being a sibling and new babies can also help your child learn ways that they can participate once the baby arrives which will help them realize that they play an important role in the family and as an older sibling. Depending on their age, your child may also want to know where the baby will come from and how he/she will get here. You should be able to find a variety of age appropriate books on this topic as well. 
  3. Involve your little one in the preparations: Whether it’s helping you to choose decorations for the nursery, brainstorming favorite names or picking out some special toys for the new baby, letting your child participate in the preparation will help them to feel involved in this very important family event. If your child is old enough to understand, they may even enjoy coming to one of your check-ups and hearing the baby’s heartbeat on the fetal Doppler or feeling your tummy when the baby kicks.
  4. Encourage your child to share their feelings: You may think that your little one is too young to understand that the family dynamic will be changing with the arrival of a new baby but they are probably a lot more aware than you realize. Even toddlers can sense when something is different and their parents are anxiously preparing for something big to happen. Allow your child to have any and all feelings he or she might have about the impending changes and validate their feelings as best you can. For younger children who are not yet verbal, this may mean spending some extra uninterrupted time with them if they are acting out or simply allowing them to “be the baby” when they need to be.
  5. Make preparations for your child for when you go into labor well in advance: If you do not plan to have your child present for the birth of your baby, it is important that you make plans in advance for who will care for him while you and your partner are away. For many moms, this may even be the first time you’ve been away from your kiddo for an extended period of time which can be anxiety provoking for both of you. Talk to your child about the plans for when it’s time for you to have the baby and consider even doing a dry run. If they will be spending the night with a friend or relative, have them do a practice night where you can go and help them get acquainted with what the visit will be like. Similarly, if you plan to have a friend or relative stay in your home, make sure your child is well acquainted with them and that they understand how the night or nights with them will go. Your child may express feeling scared or upset about you being away either in advance or at the time that you are leaving. Lovingly acknowledge their feelings and remind them that you will be back in no time and that they will be able to visit you as soon as their new brother or sister arrives.

Welcoming a new baby to your family can be a scary prospect for everyone, especially when you’re going from one to two. However, with some thoughtful preparation for you and your child or children, everyone will have a better idea of what to expect and feel like they are an important part of the change. For questions about prenatal care, natural birth, postpartum care and all other women’s services, contact Health Foundations for a free consultation with a midwife and for a tour of our Birth Center.

Managing Visitors After Baby

Newborn Visitors

Nothing attracts well-meaning visitors like a brand new, adorable baby. Once the little one arrives, friends and family will be eager to meet your little one. Being prepared ahead of time for how you and your partner want to handle visitors once baby arrives will save you a great deal of stress and spare you some potentially uncomfortable conversations.  Here are 5 tips for managing doting friends and family once you bring your baby home.  

  1. Come up with a plan with your partner: These days/weeks following the birth of your baby are all about you, your baby, and your new family. You will not only be adjusting to caring for a newborn but also dealing with your own recovery and rapidly fluctuating postpartum hormones. It is important to be mindful of rest and nourishment. This is also a special time of bonding for you and your baby. Set those boundaries ahead of time and stick to them. There will be plenty of time for everyone to meet baby when the time is right!
  2. Accept help: When baby arrives, it is perfectly fine to ask for/accept help. Most people will offer- say yes! People often like to bring a meal, but don’t be afraid to ask for help with things like walking the dog, looking after your other children, or even holding the baby while you shower. Knowing that some of your daily chores are being taken care of allows you to focus on important things like resting and bonding with your new babe.
  3. Have your partner protect your space: Agree ahead of time that your partner will be the person to greet visitors and also gently nudge them once they have been there for a little while. A good amount of visiting time is about 15 minutes. Your partner can tactfully send people along their way when you need your rest, gently step in if your parents or in-laws are overstepping their bounds, and/or make suggestions as to how people can make themselves useful during their visit.
  4. Shamelessly ban sick visitors: There are few things as susceptible to germs and illness as a vulnerable newborn. There is no excuse for visitors showing up with a cough, the sniffles, a sore throat or even recovering from “food poisoning.” Let those mama bear instincts take hold and politely suggest that anyone who is not feeling 100 percent save their visit for a later date. It’s also okay to require that visitors wash their hands and use hand sanitizer before holding your baby. 
  5. Allow for plenty of alone time: A steady stream of visitors can be exhausting. You will likely already be feeling the effects of sleep deprivation, working to establish your breastfeeding relationship and will be navigating life with your newest family member. Try to space your visitors out and limit the time they spend in order to allow plenty of time for you and your little family to bond. True friends and family will understand how sacred this special time is for you and your new family.

You should never feel the need to apologize for prioritizing and taking care of yourself and your new baby in the days and weeks following your delivery. Your baby. Your family. Your way.

For questions regarding prenatal or postpartum care, natural delivery or other women’s services, contact Health Foundations for a free consultation with a midwife or for a tour of our Birth Center.

The Facts on Circumcision: FAQ's & What You Need To Know

Baby Boy Circumcision

There are few topics surrounding newborns that can incite such heated debates as the decision of whether or not to circumcise baby boys. For many families, the decision to circumcise their sons is easily made for cultural or religious beliefs, or simply wanting them to be like dad. But critics of the circumcision often liken the procedure to female genital mutilation and denounce its inherent risks and long-term consequences. No matter what decision you make for your son, the important thing is that you educate yourself on the risks and benefits beforehand and choose the path that is right for your family. Here’s what you need to know.

What is circumcision?

Circumcision is the removal of the foreskin of the penis exposing the glans or penis head. Circumcision is a surgical procedure typically done within the first ten days of life by a doctor in the hospital or pediatricians’ office, or in religious exceptions, in the home. 

How common is circumcision? 

Although circumcision rates are declining with more and more parents choosing to forego the procedure, approximately 55 percent of infant males are still routinely circumcised. 

Does circumcision have health benefits?

Research suggests that circumcision reduces the risk of urinary tract infections in infants by up to 90 percent and penile cancer in older men by more than 50 percent. However, these conditions are rare in uncircumcised individuals as well. The American Academy of Pediatrics does acknowledge that circumcision reduces the risk of sexually transmitted infections.

Does circumcision have risks?

Like any surgical procedure, circumcision does have risks. Complications occur in approximately .2-2 percent of circumcision procedures and may include bleeding, infection, negative reaction to anesthesia or problems with the foreskin such as failing to heal properly or reattachment to the end of the penis. Fortunately, complications are rare and are typically easily addressed with treatment. 

Will circumcision hurt my baby?

With proper use of a local anesthetic, the pain experienced by the infant will hopefully be minimal. Historically, doctors did not use any sort of anesthesia or pain relief prior to the procedure which can be quite painful. Fortunately, now, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all infants receive a topical or injectable anesthetic before being circumcised. Talk to your doctor about what type of anesthetic will be used for your baby before the procedure. 

Is it more hygienic to have my baby circumcised?

Both a circumcised and an uncircumcised penis require gentle cleansing with warm water. If you choose not to circumcise your son, it is not necessary to retract the foreskin to clean beneath it. This will happen on its own typically before puberty. As your son ages , it’s important to instruct him on how to properly cleanse his penile region whether he is circumcised or not just as you would with other areas of bodily hygiene. 

If I choose to have my son circumcised, how long will it take to heal?

Circumcisions typically take 7-10 days to heal. The doctor will give you detailed instructions on how to care for the penis as it heals. During this time, take special precautions to clean the area gently and apply petroleum jelly during diaper changes to prevent the incision site from sticking to the diaper. Do not use baby wipes on the incision site.  

The decision of whether or not to circumcise your son is a personal, family decision that should be dealt with as such. If you have questions or concerns about the procedure or would like more information, contact a pediatrician before he is born to set up a time to talk. As with any medical procedure, it’s important to have a comprehensive understanding of the risks and benefits beforehand so that you can make an informed decision that is best for your child. 

For questions about pregnancy, natural birth, infant care and the postpartum period, contact Health Foundations for a free consultation with a midwife and for a tour of our Birth Center.

Vacationing with Baby: It Doesn’t Have To Be An Oxymoron

Vacationing With Baby

It’s summertime--the wonderful season of sun, sand, water, barbecues, fireworks and family vacations! If this is your first summer as a parent, you may be used to jetting off to fun destinations with your honey without too much forethought. Pick a week, book tickets and hotel, pack flip flops and go, right? Enter baby. Vacationing takes on a whole new dimension when you are toting your tot along for the trip. Here’s all you need to know about planning, preparation and executing a successful vacation with your new baby. 

Packing and Preparation:

Lots of preparation goes into planning a great vacation with your baby. Most importantly, don’t save planning for the last minute or you will end up frazzled and unprepared. Once you’ve decided where you are going and have booked your tickets and accommodations, determine what you will need to pack for yourself and for baby. Make a list that covers all the essential baby items such as:

  • baby sunscreen (if needed)
  • swim diapers
  • hats
  • clothes
  • pajamas
  • dishes
  • bottles
  • formula (if needed)
  • breast pump (if needed)
  • bibs
  • pacifiers
  • swaddles
  • diapers
  • wipes
  • toiletries and bathing essentials
  • stroller
  • baby carrier
  • portable crib
  • toys and loveys
  • car seat
  • baby food (if over six months)
  • hand sanitizer
  • outlet covers
  • baby dish soap

Before you leave, make sure baby is healthy and has had any vaccinations that are recommended before travel. It’s always a good idea to discuss any upcoming travel plans with your pediatrician in case there are any extra precautions that need to be taken for baby due to the season or destination. If you are traveling internationally, baby will need a passport just like you. Allow plenty of time for the processing of the passport before your trip.

If you will be bringing a travel crib for baby to sleep in, consider doing a trial run at home to help him adjust to the new sleep arrangements in a familiar environment. And finally, once you’ve got everything prepared for your tiny traveler, don’t forget to pack for yourself! Put some of baby’s belongings in your luggage as well so in the event that a bag is lost, you will have the important items you need.

Flying with Baby:

If you’ll be flying to your vacation destination, there are several factors to consider when planning for baby. First, will he ride on your lap or will he have his own seat on the plane? Though having a child under the age of two, ride on your lap is free for domestic flights, the FAA strongly recommends that all children from birth to 40 pounds are secured in an airplane compatible car seat in their own seat. Car Seats For The Littles is a great resource that offers tons of valuable information regarding airplane safety for babies and car seat safety in general.

“Remember, on the flight the only things not restrained during taxi, takeoff, and landing, are children under two. Children and adults over two, the flight attendants, all carry-on baggage, books, computers, soap in the lavatory, coffee pots, and snacks are secured. But a lap baby is not. For some reason they’re not given the same priority as the peanuts.” – Car Seats for the Littles 

In addition to ensuring baby’s safety on the plane, here are a few other tips to make air travel a success:

  • Wait to check your stroller until you’ve reached the gate so that you have it for navigating the airport on both ends of your trip and in the event that you have connections.
  • If you do decide to check your car seat, make sure to package it in the original box with sufficient padding to prevent any damage from occurring in cargo. Check the seat over thoroughly upon your arrival and do not use it if there are any visible signs of damage.
  • The 3-ounce-rule does not apply to formula or breastmilk when passing through airport security. 
  • Bring whatever you need to feed your baby on the plane with you.
  • Be sure to pack an accessible change of clothes for both you and baby in case there are any accidents during the flight.
  • Pack your party tricks to entertain baby in the event of fussiness. Include a few new toys, books, and anything else that will help pass the time for your little one.
  • Board early and deplane last. This will allow you time before takeoff to get situated and time after landing to pack up your belongings. 
  • Although most airlines do not have restrictions on the age at which an infant can fly, it’s safest to wait at least until your baby has had their first round of immunizations at 2 months of age. Remember that your new baby’s immune system is still developing and he is going to be more susceptible to germs and illness on a flight than you are. 
  • Offer your baby a bottle or pacifier at takeoff to lessen the effects of the pressure change on his ears.
  • Double check that the car seat you are bringing is air travel compatible. If your car seat at home is too bulky or cumbersome, consider buying an additional inexpensive, travel friendly car seat. 

Accommodations:

Another major factor to consider when preparing for a family vacation is where you will stay. If you are going to visit family and will be staying in a home, you will probably face fewer challenges in regards to setting up a baby friendly space than if you stay in a hotel room with just mini fridge. If you plan to stay in a hotel room, be sure to confirm that the room has a refrigerator if you will need to store breastmilk, formula or baby food and find out if it’s possible to get a suite with a kitchenette to make your stay more comfortable. Another great option for traveling with a baby is to consider renting a vacation condo instead of a hotel room where you will likely have more space, more than one bedroom, a kitchen and possibly EVEN a washer/dryer to accommodate your family of three. 

Airbnb Screenshot Family Home

Upon arriving to your destination, get things set up right away so that you can handle baby’s needs as they arise. This may involve putting up a portable crib, setting up your sound machine, creating a changing station, laying down the play mat with toys, setting up the bottles and other dishes by the sink and taking measures to baby proof any areas where baby will have access. Consider packing some outlet covers in your luggage to take care of exposed outlets and some tape to conceal exposed wires in the room. Obviously these last suggestions are only relevant if you have a baby that is on the move. Making your vacation living space as baby friendly and convenient as possible from the get-go will save everyone time and hassles so that you can focus on having fun.

Schedule and Activities:

While you may not be able to hit the latest night clubs in town on your trip, there are plenty of fun activities to be had with your baby. Take some time to do research about your destination before your trip to determine family friendly activities and restaurants that you might want to try. As much as possible, you want to try to adjust your vacation schedule to your baby’s existing schedule rather than the reverse. If you have a happy well-rested baby, the activities will be more enjoyable for all. 

Speaking of rest, you’re probably wondering how naps will work on your trip. That really depends on the age of the baby but there are many options for making naps work while traveling. Consider wearing your baby in a sling or carrier for naps on the go or pack a comfortable stroller that reclines instead of a basic umbrella stroller. A carrier or a stroller is truly a must have for vacations regardless if you will use them for naps. If your baby needs to nap in a quiet, dark room (which many babies do), you and your partner can take turns staying back with baby while the other partakes in some R&R or vacation activities. 

In addition to family friendly activities like the beach, pool, or sightseeing, you will likely want to have at least a few meals out while vacationing. If your baby is still tiny, you may get lucky and have them sleep through most of your restaurant experiences but if you have an older baby, bringing entertainment is a must. Bring a couple books, a few toys, snacks (if old enough) to ward off any meltdowns due to boredom. Try to eat dinner early if your baby is used to going to bed early  as it’s important to stick to their schedule as much as possible. 

Once you return to your room for the evening, follow bed time protocol just as you would at home. If baby takes a nightly bath to unwind, do a bath. If you usually read three books and sing two songs, read three books and sing two songs. Follow everything exactly as you would if you were home to make baby feel comfortable and secure in his new setting. Once baby is asleep, if you and your partner are itching to get out for some adult time, some hotels do offer sitter services if a friend or family member is not an option. As you can see, traveling with your baby requires lots of planning and forethought to have a successful family vacation. The more prepared you are, the more smoothly things should go for you and your baby. So, pick a destination, drag those suitcases out of storage and start planning your first family vacation. 

For questions about pregnancy, natural birth, postpartum health and women’s services, contact Health Foundations for a free consultation with a midwife and for a tour of our Birth Center. Bon voyage!

And Then There Were Three: Nurturing Your Relationship after Baby

Nurturing Relationship After Baby

Having a baby is a life changing transition for couples that can be filled with excitement, newness, awe, learning and exhaustion. Gone will be the days of leisurely Saturday mornings, spontaneous date nights, uninterrupted romantic evenings and sleep….yes, that will be gone for a while too. All these adjustments in combination with caring for a new baby can cause a strain on even the best of relationships. Here are some helpful tips on how to nurture your relationship while nurturing your newborn.

Family With Newborn
  1. Connect with each other every day: Even if it’s a 10 minute debrief about your day while reheating a freezer meal at 9:00 PM because that’s the first chance you’ve had for dinner, take the time to connect. Consider these ten minutes a team meeting in which you touch base with your favorite teammate in this crazy game of becoming a family. Taking time to listen to one another, show support, and offer a hug or encouraging words can revitalize you both for the next 24 hours.
  2. Make simple loving gestures: Whether it’s popping an extra bagel in the toaster oven when you make your breakfast for your partner, sending an unexpected loving text, or bringing home a favorite treat, little gestures in the trenches of new parenthood make a big difference. In all the excitement and exhaustion of the new baby, it’s nice to know your partner is still thinking of you too.
  3. Plan date nights: Date nights, like you once knew, may be hard to come by these days. However, a date does not have to involve a fancy restaurant or movie and can even be had in the comfort of your own home. Try trading off who will plan the date night and surprising each other with the plan for the evening. Get creative with staying home by doing things like pizza making, games, movie marathons, or maybe a fun project for your home together. And once you’re comfortable leaving baby for a couple hours with a family member or trusted sitter, go on a real date!
  4. Get intimate: And no, this does not have to mean sex. The postpartum period, particularly for women, can be a time of decreased libido. Between recovering from birth, fluctuating hormones and breastfeeding, many moms just want to sleep when their head finally hits the pillow at night. Intimacy can include cuddling on the couch, taking the time to kiss or hug throughout the day, holding hands while watching a TV show or more adult rated fun if you’re feeling up for it! It’s easy to let this aspect of your relationship slip when you are feeling exhausted, overwhelmed and unsexy. Do your best to keep the flame lit in little ways regularly. 
  5. Show appreciation for one another: Being new parents is often coupled with feeling like you are both constantly treading water. Between taking care of baby, keeping up with the housework, providing for the family, paying the bills, feeding the dog, keeping the refrigerator stocked and a dozen other necessary chores, it can often feel like a thankless job on both sides. Take the time to acknowledge everything your partner does on a daily basis to keep the family alive and well. A thank you and an acknowledgement of all the hard work from both parents can be just what we need to feel better at the end of a hard day. 
  6. Continue to support your partner’s interests and hobbies: Whether it’s a weekly yoga class, the fantasy football draft or simply a hot bubble bath with some yummy aroma therapy, allowing your partner time to take time for themselves will help them be a better parent and partner. We all need time to recharge, enjoy our hobbies and indulge a little bit and this is particularly important when you are adjusting to the major life transition of being a new parent.
  7. Communicate: Your partner should be your safe place where you can be vulnerable and share what you need and how you are feeling. Being a new parent, while one of the most amazing adjustments of your life, can also be quite overwhelming. Share your feelings, fears, victories and road bumps with your partner. Ask for help if you need it, or a hug, or advice. Being parents is like being teammates for the most special sport of your life. 

Don’t be distressed if your relationship seems to have taken a backseat since your baby has arrived. This is completely normal for couples as they navigate the overwhelming journey of parenthood. Just remember that this period of sleeplessness, newness and stress will pass and you will come out alive! The more that you and your partner can use this life changing transition to draw closer to one another and grow as parents and partners, the stronger you will come out in the end. 

For questions about pregnancy, natural birth, postpartum health and women’s services, contact Health Foundations for a free consultation with a midwife and for a tour of our Birth Center. 

Keeping Baby Cool in Summer: A How To Guide For New Parents

Keep Baby Cool

Memorial Day has come and gone and it’s officially summer in the Twin Cities! Barbecues, pool parties, vacations and hot weather are upon us and it’s time to get prepared. While having a summer baby in Minnesota may be decidedly easier than the challenges of having a winter baby, there are still factors that you must consider to protect your baby from the heat. Conditions like heat stroke, sunburns and dehydration can be very serious when they happen to a new baby. Here are 10 ways to ensure that your precious babe stays cool in the summer heat.

  1. Keep baby hydrated: Although babies under six months should not drink water, they should be more frequently breastfed or offered a bottle when it’s hot. Babies need to drink up to 50 percent more breastmilk or formula during the warm summer months to receive sufficient hydration. Babies over six months should be offered modest amounts of water in addition to breastmilk or formula. 
  2. Don’t expose baby to direct sunlight: Your new baby lacks the ability to regulate his temperature like an adult and also is not old enough to wear sunscreen. When outdoors, your baby should be fully covered in loose fitting, lightweight clothing at all times and a broad-brimmed hat. Seek shade wherever possible and avoid outdoor activities during the sun’s most harmful hours, between 10:00 AM and 2:00 PM.
  3. Use sunscreen wisely: Although sunscreen is not advisable for small babies, the American Academy of Pediatrics has changed their stance now saying that children under the age of six months can wear small amounts of sunscreen on exposed areas when necessary. Children over the age of six months should have sunscreen applied liberally and often when exposed to the sun. Be sure to wipe off sunscreen with a with a cool damp wash cloth upon returning inside to allow baby’s body temperate to regulate most efficiently. For a list of safest sunscreens for kids, click here.
  4. Choose the right clothing: While baby should be mostly covered when outside, always choose lightweight, loose-fitting clothing on hot days. Natural fibers like cotton, bamboo and linen work best in the heat to keep baby covered but cool. Remember that sunburns can happen even in the shade. Make sure your baby is fully covered or in the shade at all times if he is less than six months and avoid prolonged exposure for babies over six months. 
  5. Never EVER, EVER leave baby alone in a hot car: It does not matter if you roll down all the windows and only intend to be gone for a minute. There is never a time when this is a safe practice. On a 70 degree day, it only takes 20 minutes for the internal temperature of the car to reach over 120 degrees WITH the windows cracked. Leaving your baby in a hot car can be life threatening.
  6. Choose a summer friendly baby carrier: While baby wearing is wonderful for bonding, it can create extra heat between the two of you. To ensure that you both stay as cool as possible while baby wearing, choose a warm-weather-friendly carrier like a linen ring sling, gauze wrap or SSC with a mesh panel. They also make mesh wraps and slings that can be worn in the pool so that you and your baby can take a cool dip together. Opt for tummy-to-tummy carry positions during the summer to allow baby easy access to breastfeeding. 
  7. Keep baby’s sleep environment cool: The safest room temperature for sleep for a new baby is between 65-70 degrees. If temperatures are high and you do not have an air conditioner, consider installing a window unit or large fan or dress baby in minimal nighttime clothing. Baby should be dressed comfortably and appropriately for the nighttime temperature-not too warm but not too cold either. It’s imperative that you do not over bundle baby for sleep as overheating has been found to play a factor in some instances of SIDS. For more tips on safe sleep for infants, check out this article!
  8. Choose air-conditioned fun activities: If it’s unpleasantly hot outside and you have a new baby, you really shouldn’t be spending much time outdoors, if any. Think of places in your community where you can go to cool off and get out of the house like bookstores, the mall, the library, the aquarium, the movie theater, Target, Starbucks etc. In the case of extreme temperatures (over 100 degrees), opt for staying home instead and waiting for more comfortable weather before taking baby out. 
  9. Crank the air in the car: When possible, cool your car down first prior to buckling baby into her car seat. Because she lacks the ability to regulate her little body temperature, strapping her into her car seat in a hot car is not a good idea. Let the AC run for a few minutes to begin the process of cooling down the car. Also, if you have them, ensure that your backseat vents are open and working properly to increase airflow to baby once you do get moving. 
  10. Watch for signs of heat distress: Problems caused by hot weather can range from less serious conditions like heat rash (a red and bumpy rash in the creases and folds of the body) to much more serious complications like heatstroke and dehydration. If your baby appears flush, red-faced, restless and lethargic or is vomiting and seems to be breathing rapidly, seek medical attention immediately as he may be experiencing symptoms of heat stroke. While you wait for medical help, take baby to a cool place, strip him down to his diaper and sponge him with a cool wet cloth. Most importantly, take precautions to prevent serious conditions like heat stroke and dehydration before they happen. 

Taking the proper precautions to protect your baby from the sun and heat during the summer months is as important as protecting them from the winter chill. Remember that your little one cannot regulate his own body temperature like adults can and therefore relies on you to keep him in a comfortable setting. For questions about infant care, pregnancy, natural birth and more, contact Health Foundations for a free consultation with a midwife and for a tour of our Birth Center. Happy Summer!

Helpful Tips for Gentle Night Weaning

Night Weaning Baby

If you’re a new mom, you’ve likely seen the acronym ‘STTN’ in all the mommy blogs, articles and Facebook groups alike. STTN or ‘sleeping through the night’ might seem like an unimaginable feat that could never possibly be accomplished by your baby. One of the biggest barriers to sleeping through the night can be frequent nighttime nursing. Night nursing is a perfectly normal and healthy practice for babies. However, if night nursing is interfering with your ability to get sufficient rest or function in your daily life, you may be considering night weaning. Here are some tips for gently night weaning your baby or toddler.

  1. Don’t night wean until your baby is ready: Although there are various schools of thought about when babies are ready to give up eating at night, it’s best not to try night weaning before six months of age. Young babies are not intended to sleep through the night and need the nutrition as their bodies undergo rapid growth and development. Talk to your pediatrician to see if they feel your baby might be ready for night weaning and as always, trust your motherly instincts first and foremost.
  2. Increase baby’s intake during the day: Often it can be a cyclical effect when babies don’t eat very much during the day and then love to snack all night long. Try increasing the frequency of nursing sessions or number of bottles and solid meals offered to ensure baby is getting adequately filled up during the day. If your baby is older and on the move, this may mean taking time out of their busy play schedule to add an extra feeding.
  3. Introduce a lovey: Quite often, if your baby is nursing frequently at night it may be for comfort and not because they are actually hungry. Begin the process of conditioning other comfort items such as a small stuffed animal or muslin blanket. Try sleeping with the lovey yourself for a while to get your scent on it and hold it in between you and baby whenever you nurse or bottle feed.
  4. Give more snuggles during the day: If your baby is nursing at night for comfort, increasing daytime touch may help reduce the need for those midnight snuggle sessions. Try wearing your baby in a carrier or sling during the day and giving lots of extra attention and cuddles.
  5. Break the eat-to-sleep association: Although feeding to sleep is a healthy and natural practice, many babies can ONLY fall asleep if they are nursing. Breaking the eat-to-sleep association by finding other ways to soothe baby to sleep can help with the night weaning process. Try rocking, patting, shushing, singing, snuggling and other forms of comfort to help baby help baby drift off to slumber.
  6. Get your partner involved: Getting your partner involved with the nighttime routine and with night wakings can help with the process of night weaning. Although your baby may protest this change at first, eventually your partner will develop their own routine and soothing techniques to help baby get back to sleep without nursing. 
  7. Feed your baby before you go to bed: As long as you’re still up, try sneaking in a dream feed before you hit the hay. A dream feed is when you feed baby late at night while they are still sleeping with the intention of filling them up. Adding a dream feed, particularly for younger babies, is a great way to get a few hours in before the next waking when you go to bed. 
  8. Shorten night time nursing sessions: Rather than cutting out night nursing cold turkey which can be distressing to your baby and cause engorgement issues, try gradually shortening your nursing sessions a little bit at a time. Cut back each session by one or two minutes over the course of a week and begin to break baby’s latch when his sucking slows but before he falls asleep. Then try using other forms of comfort (see #5) if he’s struggling to fall back to sleep.
  9. Create new sleep associations: If your baby is accustomed to nursing to sleep, they may have developed the belief that they NEED to eat in order to fall asleep. Creating new sleep associations can help teach babies new cues that it’s time for bed. Try incorporating some relaxing music, soothing scents like lavender or a nice massage at bedtime as part of the new routine. Be sure to use these new associations every night so that your baby learns when he hears the music or smells the lavender, it’s time to sleep.
  10. Create distance between you and baby at night: If you room share or co-sleep with your baby, adding a little distance between the two of you may help with the process of night weaning. Whether this means staying in the guestroom for a few nights while your partner works on their night soothing skills or simply moving baby’s crib a bit further away from your bed, a little distance between baby and his favorite snack may help with the night weaning process. 
  11. Stay calm if baby protests the new routine: It’s likely that baby will put up a fight over this change to his routine. Try to keep your cool and stay calm to demonstrate to baby that you are there to help him through this transition and you won’t be rattled. 
  12. When in doubt, consult the experts: Here are a few of the most knowledgeable experts on the process of gentle night weaning. They’ve done the research for you and have step by step plans for the process. 
  13. Talk to baby about the change: As silly as it may sounds, try talking to your baby during the day about the changes you intend to make. Your baby, and definitely your toddler, can understand more than you think. There are also a few great books on the subject like Nursies When the Sun Shines that can help your baby understand the concept that eating is for daytime. 

Remember, that night weaning is a process that takes time, patience and a commitment. If something doesn’t feel right or your baby seems negatively impacted by the change during the day, consider waiting a little while longer before cutting out night nursing. Many babies still need to eat once or twice during the night at a year or beyond and there’s nothing wrong with that if it works for your family. For questions about night weaning, pregnancy, natural birth and more, contact Health Foundations for a free consultation with a midwife or for a tour of our Birth Center. We are here to support you beyond the birth of your baby!

Tips for Hiring Your First Caregiver

Hiring First Caregiver

You have a new baby. Suddenly, your life revolves around this tiny perfect human and you feel as though you are wearing your heart on the outside of your body. Whether you are returning to work or have decided you just need a few hours to yourself each week, hiring a caregiver for your child can be a very scary and overwhelming prospect. Here are 10 tips to help you find the best caregiver for your family.

  1. Decide what you need and want in a caregiver: Are you looking for someone who can work in your home full-time when you return to work or just for a few hours each week? Do you expect your caregiver to help out with household tasks like laundry and tidying or will their sole focus be caring for your baby? Is it necessary that your caregiver has a car and a clean driving record or is it okay if they arrive via bus or need to be picked up? These are all important factors to consider when determining your caregiving needs. Take the time to write a thorough job description identifying all your needs and wants for a caregiver and don’t forget to include what you are willing and able to pay. Indicate the type and length of relevant childcare experience you require and any other criteria that is important to you like a college degree, CPR and First Aid certification or previous child development coursework. Being specific with your needs up front will help potential caregivers know if they are qualified for the position before applying.
  2. Allow time for the search: Hiring a caregiver for your baby is not a process you want to rush. Allow plenty of time for interviewing multiple candidates, calling references, conducting trial periods and deciding who will be the best fit for your family. You should start your childcare search at least two months prior to when you will need the caregiver to begin. Deciding who you will entrust with your most precious child is not something you want to do in haste.
  3. Connect with friends and family members for referrals: What better reference than one that comes from someone you already know and trust. When you begin your search for a caregiver, reach out to other parents you know and ask them who they would recommend. Ask family members whom you trust and who know your family well, who they would suggest you contact. You may even be lucky enough to have a family member who volunteers to help with the caregiving of your baby.
  4. Consider using a reputable nanny agency: If your personal connections aren’t rendering any great referrals, consider using a professional agency with a good reputation to help you with your search. Using a childcare agency has the added benefit of providing you with candidates who have already been vetted, gone through a background check and determined to be qualified for caring for babies and children. While you may pay a fee up front for this type of service, the peace of mind in the long run will be worth it.
  5. Don’t cut corners on the interview process: While it can be helpful to begin the process with a phone interview, make sure that you meet all serious potential candidates in person. Prepare your questions for the interview ahead of time and allow up to an hour to spend with each applicant. During your time together, you will want to ask questions about experience, child rearing beliefs, what they plan to do with your baby during their time together and any other areas of importance to you. It’s a good idea to ask how the caregiver might approach certain scenarios and how they have handled challenging situations in the past. If possible, have the potential caregiver interact with your child during her visit so that you can see her degree of comfort caring for an infant and how your baby responds.
  6. Call their references: Ask for at least three references from each potential caregiver and actually call them all personally. Make sure they provide you with references that can speak to their professional experience caring for babies and children and not just personal friends or family members. Ask each candidate’s references to share strengths and weaknesses they noticed while working with them and be sure to ask about any reservations they may have in recommending them for future positions.
  7. Ask for a background check: Unless you are hiring a friend or family member for the position, you are essentially hiring a stranger to work in your home and care for your baby. A background check is an important step to ensure that you are hiring the person you think you are hiring and to rule out the possibility of any criminal background. If you find your caregiver via an agency or online nanny website, they may already have a background check on file. If not, you can easily find back ground check services online to conduct varying degrees of searches. Do not skip this step before employing someone in your home with your child.
  8. Make sure they respect your parenting beliefs: If you are adamantly against letting your baby, “cry it out”, and your nanny thinks it’s okay to do, we can guarantee this will not be a good fit. It’s important that your caregiver has a good understanding of your parenting style and beliefs and is comfortable following them while in your home. You will want your child to ultimately feel that it is a seamless transition from parent to nanny in terms of the type of care that is provided. Your nanny should be working with you, not against you, to raise your baby the way you have decided you want him raised.
  9. Conduct a trial period: Decide upon your top candidates after the interview process and do a trial period with each of them. You can do a trial day or week depending on how much time you would like to assess the fit. During this time, stay home and observe how they interact with your baby and their degree of comfort and ease caring for your little one. Do short excursions away to see how your baby adapts to being left with another caregiver. This will also give you and your caregiver the opportunity to get to know one another better and for her to ask any questions she may have about your baby or home. 
  10. Create a contract: Once you have decided on a good fit for your family, put all your expectations, agreements, and terms of employment on paper, review it with your new nanny, and have both parties sign and date the document. Make a copy for your new caregiver and keep one for yourself. This way, if issues arise in the future about expectations or care provided, there is a contract to reference. 

With the proper preparation and thought, finding the right caregiver for your child can be a rewarding and beneficial experience for all involved. Needless to say, this person will be one of the most important people you will hire in your life as they will be responsible for love and care of your baby in your absence. Take the time to do it right—it’s worth the peace of mind.

Baby Friendly Activities for New Moms

Baby Friendly Exercises

Being a new mom can be isolating at times. Even though you are home and loving snuggling up to the new love of your life, you may also be itching to get out of the house and interact with other adults! The good news is that there are so many activities available now for moms and babies in the community. From swim and exercise classes to play groups and mom and baby yoga, with a little effort to get out of the house, you and your baby can be social butterflies in no time. Here’s a list of ideas and local options for new moms in the Twin Cities.

  • Breastfeeding Support Groups: Breastfeeding support groups are a great first social activity for mom and baby as you will find the littlest of little babies at these gatherings and you can gain valuable help and knowledge from a lactation consultant. This is a great way to get help with baby’s latch or transitioning off the nipple shield and many other breastfeeding challenges that may arise. You are also usually able to do pre and post-feed weigh-ins to determine how many ounces your baby is getting per nursing session. Here are some local options for moms looking to connect with other nursing moms.
  • Mom and Baby Yoga: Mom and baby yoga is another wonderful bonding activity for you and your little one in those early months. Most mom and baby classes are open to babies as young as 8 weeks of age and involve small motions for baby that can aid in digestion, sleep and soothing while providing a relaxing way for mom to distress. Mom and baby yoga classes are anything goes as far as breastfeeding, diaper changes and crying babes, so do not worry if your baby isn’t having a ‘Zen’ day. Check out these locations for mom and baby yoga classes in the community.
  • Story Time: You are never too young for the joy of reading. You may have even read to your baby in the womb! Now that your little one is here, baby story times are a great way to get out of the house, meet other moms and enjoy a story or two with your baby.
  • Baby Signing Classes: Baby signing classes are a great way to jump start excellent communication between you and your baby. Although your baby may not be able to return sign with you until 8 or 9 months, they understand well before they are able to communicate. The earlier you begin signing with your baby, the earlier he will be able to communicate his needs to you. Baby signing is associated with earlier ability to communicate, decreased crying and even possibly a few extra IQ points down the road. Here are a few options for baby sign language classes in your area:
  • Music Classes: What better way to connect with your sweet baby than through music, movement and play. Music classes offer the opportunity to expose you baby to different sounds, songs and instruments as well as meet other moms and babies in your community. There are a few great options for music classes in the community including:
  • Swim Classes: Parent and baby swim classes are the perfect opportunity to expose your baby to the water for the first time and begin to learn some basic safety skills like back floating, flipping over from back to front and brief submersion. Most swim schools will allow you to take your first parent and baby swim class around 6 months. Typically the classes will be short to accommodate baby’s needs but will allow time for some simple instruction, games and singing. It is never too early to begin educating yourself and your child on water safety. Here are a few options for baby swim classes in the area:
  • Baby Friendly Exercise Classes: Once you’ve been cleared by your midwife or OB for exercise, you may be wondering how in the world you will find time to work out with a baby. Fear not though, there are actually many options these days for the moms who love fitness. From stroller exercise groups to babywearing barre,  these are fitness classes where moms can actually bring baby along for the ride while she gets her sweat on! Here are just a few options in the area:
  • Mom’s Groups: Lastly, mom groups are a real thing these days. They are born on Facebook, Meetup.com, through churches, birth centers and friend groups alike. Some mom groups are brought together by certain parenting philosophies or interests and others are created simply by location. Whatever the theme or lack thereof, joining a local mom group will be one of the best things you can do in that first year of being a mom to connect with other moms who are going through the same phase of life and have children that are the same age as yours. These moms will become your buddies, the ones you can talk poop and breastfeeding with without batting an eyelash. Their kids will be your kids’ playmates and hopefully your spouses will even get to know one another during family activities. There are many ways to get involved in a local moms’ group but here are just a few ideas.

As you can see, although you may feel as though you’ve been one with your couch and the Boppy pillow since baby was born, there are MANY options for you and your little one to get out of the house and connect with other new moms and babies. Give different types of activities a try to see what works for you and your baby. Try out a couple different mom groups until you find your people. Being a new parent is one of the most exciting, wonderful, terrifying things you have likely ever gone through. Why not make a few friends to join you on the journey?

For questions about natural birth, pregnancy, postpartum opportunities, classes and more, contact Health Foundations for a free consultation with a midwife and for a tour of our Birth Center.