Butt Rash?

There’s almost nothing sadder than a baby with horrible diaper rash-they cry, they scream, and they stiffen up like a board when you try to, ever-so-gentily, wipe their bottom.

Unknown-1Best Solutions:  I personally like to let baby/toddler lay or walk around the house Winnie the Pooh style, that is diaperless. Obviously the risk factor is you might end up with poop or pee on the ground, or on you.  To avoid this take baby or toddler to the toilet directly after feedings, you can kind of use the elimination communication practice.  I recommend throwing on clothes you don’t care much about. If you have carpeting or rugs try to keep them out of those rooms, hardwood or tile will be much easier to clean!  If your baby isn’t crawling or walking, and you want to lay her down, put down a clean, old blanket or towel so she can get some comfy floor time. Besides for the possible accidents, the diaperless method works the best, especially for the more severe rashes.

Boudreaux’s Butt Paste:  This stuff works pretty well, it weirds me out, just a little, because it’s so thick, but it works! You can also do a combination of the paste and naked bottom.

Prevention:  The best way to prevent a rash is by frequently changing your little one’s diaper. Many parent’s I know comment that their children get the most rashes when they spend a full day with grandparents.  I’m definitely not dissing the G-parents, but remember that it’s ok to remind them to change diapers, they might forget because it’s been a long time since they had to do it.  Just casually, not bitterly, remind your parents or in-laws to change them.  You can even blame it on yourself, “I find myself forgetting to change his diaper every 2 hours or so, time just flies and then all of the sudden his diaper is full and his bum it bright red!”

Baby-Led Stories

Here is another verbal tip for both parents and caregivers: Ask your children, or the children you care for to tell you a story, sing you a song or “read” a book to you.  All of these things give them a free-range opportunity to use their language skills and stimulates imagination. An added plus is it gives parents and caregivers a verbal break, but stay alert!  Listen to what your kid is saying, and ask them questions about it when they are done, make them know you care and hear them.

Quote

Wise Words from Kitzinger

“Babies speak a language that needs to be learned.  And with each baby you need to start discovering this one’s special language.  It takes time.  Meanwhile there us confusion, and irritation that the baby’s messages are not clearer, and that your own efforts to understand are not appreciated.  You have read books about child care, but somehow the baby is not playing by the rules. Remember that, though you are trying your best, your baby has not read the same books.”- Sheila Kitzinger (The Year After Childbirth)

Llama Llama Time to Share: A+

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Llama Llama Time to Share by Anna Dewdney is a great book about sharing, a lesson and skill which is one of the hardest to teach and instill in children…and sometimes adults. The thing that I love about the book, and most of the Llama Llama collection is that it offers a lesson which can be easily identified by young children. Llama Llama Time to Share acknowledges the difficulties sharing can entail and the fun which is gained when sharing actually happens.

When the child I watch is having difficulty sharing I reference this book (we read it constantly per her request.)  She immidiately knows what I’m talking about and usually decides to do what Llama Llama would do. This book gets an A+ because the message is clear, relevant and worth learning.

The Giving Tree: A+

GivingTree-1The Giving Tree, by Shel Silverstein is one of my all-time favorite books for children. Why do I love it so much?  Because The Giving Tree provides lessons in emotional education in a beautiful, and simple way.  I also love that the pictures are in black and white, which allows some room for creative imagination.

Interactive Experience:  Ask your child to find the boy.  Throughout the book the “boy” is often hidden in the branches, finding him is a fun interactive way to make them apart of the reading experience.

Toys Toys Toys

UnknownDo you depend too heavily on made for baby/toddler toys? It’s easy to use solely store-bought toys, especially when given to you for free at baby showers, but maybe it’s time to step back, and look in your house and outside for the stimulation your kids need.

You really don’t have to stock up on a ton of baby-deemed toys (other than books) to get your child’s interest, house-ware can be just as stimulating, if not more so.  From my many years of experience with infant-3 years I’ve found that they are most stimulated, and interested in real-world, purposeful objects around the house.  Bookshelves and the books in them become a mecca for defining fine motor skills, i.e., taking the books out and putting them back.

For infants and toddlers, gaining physical control of their bodies is a huge educational feat, from rolling over and reaching for objects, to fine motor-skills, like holding a crayon, so I try to make sure activities and toys influence them physically. Reaching for a stuffed animal or textured, colorful towel is good for their motor skills. As they get older, and more physically capable, putting objects inside each other serves a similar purpose.  You can buy blocked/stackable toys, but you can also use different sized tupperware or boxes to create the same effect.

What I look for in a toy or house-hold made toy is that it serves 1 of the 5 senses, touch, taste, smell, hearing and sight.  Most store bought toys easily include touch and sight, when hearing is involved the sounds emanating from said toy are usually arbitrary.  Music around your house would be much for influential, for tonal patterns, beats and rhythm, and, lets face it, far more enjoyable for the adults.  My point is, infants and toddlers need to be stimulated, consistently with objects, things and people that influence their 5 senses, and most of the time you can find these things in your house.

When we depend solely on store-bought toys we can easily forget about 2 senses which are typically excluded, smell and taste. It also becomes easy to assume that “educational” toys are doing the education, so we don’t have to. But this isn’t true, as parents and caregivers we need to consistently talk about what they are doing, seeing, touching, hearing, smelling and tasting.  It’s fun to think about all of the educational resources around us at all times that we, as adults take for granted, but will thoroughly intrigue and stimulate our babies.

Touch/physical:  Textured objects, this can be anything, cloth, wood, plants/flowers, rocks, paper, etc. When your baby starts to eat solids this is an amazing time for them to explore textures, and amazingly it includes all 5 senses! Hearing? Yes, if you consider the noise of squishing their food, or smacking a spoon against their plate, and adults talking about the food your baby is eating. Everything I listed can be easily found in house, or outside, i.e, plants, flowers, rocks.

Taste: Taste is something store-bought toys do not have (I don’t think….) As I said above, food is a great educational source, because it stimulates all senses.  When your baby is eating, talk about the food, what the food is, the texture and the taste.

Smell: Flowers, soap, food: Smell is also something typically excluded from store-bought toys, so we have to go in house or outside for these resources.

Hearing/Language: Music, books, drumming on objects in the house…really anything, toy or otherwise can stimulate language, all we have to do as adults is talk about what they are seeing, i.e., colors, animals, numbers, etc.

Sight: Everything!! You don’t need to buy colorful toys (you can, but you don’t need to) everything in your house and outside when coupled with some kind dialogue can stimulate sight awareness.

Some store-bought toys I do like: BOOKS!! Puzzles and blocks, and art supplies.

Examples of toys I find useless: Baby Einstein Take Along Tunes, Fisher-Price Go Baby Go! Poppity Pop Musical Dino,

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Cupcakes and Hoo-Hoos

My Body

The first few years of your child’s life, and of your being a parent, come with many exciting, scary, and even dreaded milestones, like the naming and talking about of your child’s genitalia.  As with a lot of my posts, this, too, is founded on what has become my “parenting style,” that of clear, honest, educated communication.

We are the first teachers our children will have.  While a lot of what they learn is through pure observation i.e., watching and hearing us, talk, walk, socialize, etc. We also coach them in these skills, we have mini “lessons” where we ask them questions or ask them to practice a new skill.  We even make up games and songs, because we are so eager for them to learn that, wheels go round and round and that, doors go open and shut.

One of the most popular teaching songs even delves, lightly so, into anatomy, Head, shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes, head, shoulder, knees and toes, knees and toes, eyes and ears and a mouth and nose…. We happily sing this song while touching the corresponding body part, and relish when our little ones can do it all on their own. However, some parents and caregivers do not share the same enthusiasm for teaching their sons and daughters the names of their genitalia.

A lot of parents and caregivers spend little time explaining anything about their child’s genitalia to their child.  I rarely hear adults refer to their baby’s penis or vulva/vagina using the proper anatomical name.  Most commonly babies’ genitals are referred to as just, “down there,” some mystery location, referring to something below the waist: knees, shins, feet?! Some adults adopt some fictional, cutsie name for their baby’s genitalia, such as, cupcake, hoo-hoo, pee-pee, wee-wee, va-jay-jay.

I don’t think vagina is an ugly word.

Oprah Winfrey, unfortunately, helped coin the cutsie term va-jay-jay to replace the “obvious” ugliness “vagina” exudes. It became okay to make up “pretty” names for your vagina, all under the guise of a misrepresented feminism, i.e., a pseudo take back/reclaim your vagina movement, but really only further separates us from our sex and sexuality.  When grown men and women refuse to call their genitalia by the correct anatomical name, they do so out of embarrassment, a feeling I think most can agree should not surround our genitalia, a very important part of our bodies.

Why it can be hard to say P and V:

  • It’s hard for some parents and caregivers to say penis and vulva/vagina because we associate these parts with sex.
  • Our parent’s never said penis or vulva/vagina, so now we can’t say it either.
  • Baby talk: some parents/caregivers have a hard time talking in anything other than baby talk, so knees could become kneesy-weesies without a moments thought.
  • Adults are uncomfortable talking about their own genitalia by the correct names.
  • *Some people think penis and vagina are “adult words.”

*While searching for some examples of cutsie names for genitalia I came upon a web conversation on the site, JustMommies entitled, “G-rated names for penis, vagina, etc.”  Similarly, I searched “body parts Kids” and while there were many diagrams, none of those diagrams included genitalia.  Apparently kids don’t have penises or vaginas.  It seems safe to say we have an overarching problem with how we talk, or rather don’t talk about our genitalia.  The words Penis and vagina do not need a G-rated synonym because they are not bad words. Penis and vagina are anatomical names, just like elbow or collarbone.

Parents’ and caregivers’ inability to say penis and vulva/vagina when referring to their child’s genitalia bothers me beyond the obvious, which is simply that of embarrassment. I believe that at such a crucial learning stage we should be teaching them the correct names for things, in general. Just like we don’t want our kids to use slang or mispronounce words, we shouldn’t want them to use slang for their genitalia. Our jobs as parents and caregivers should be to present them with correct information. If they decide to change the name of their penis or vulva/vagina to something else, that’s fine. But I believe they should be presented with correct anatomical names for these reasons:

Why we shouldn’t make up cutsie names for P and V:

  • Miscommunication:  If you call your daughter’s vulva/vagina a cupcake, she will face confusion when someone offers her a cupcake.
  • Miscommunication: Others will not know what she means when she says “My La-La hurts.”

Why we should say penis and vulva/vagina:

  • Clear communication: Every adult knows what a penis is.
  • Clear communication: Every adult knows what a vulva/vagina is, right?! Vulva refers to the outer genitalia, while, vagina refers to the inner orifice.

I believe, strongly that having an open, and clear line of communication in regards to our bodies is key in creating a well-informed, inquisitive child. A child, who will know how to talk about their bodies without embarrassment, is a child who will also know their body’s limitations. They will be able, later in life, when they hit sexual maturity to make informed decisions, based on those early years of clear and open conversations about their body.

Rest Easy:

You can properly identify your child’s genitalia without sexualizing them. The reality you can take comfort in, is that your babies genitals are not something sexual, and wont be until puberty or after. Even if your baby is touching his/her penis or vagina, they are not doing so out of sexual curiosity.  They are touching themselves out of pure and innocent, A-sexual curiosity, so name those parts the way you do when your baby pulls on their ear and you say “that’s your ear!”

Teaching Moment:

Because we want out kids to learn body parts, we should also acknowledge and help them identify their genitalia and anus.  These areas will gain a lot of interest from your child, especially during potty training, so get comfortable identifying and saying the names.

  • When changing the diaper, simply get comfortable saying something like, “Oh, don’t touch your penis right now, there’s poop on it.”

 

Stay Calm

Parents, nannies, and friends often wonder at my “ability” to stay calm and patient when dealing with children, especially toddlers.  I’m commonly asked shyly, sometimes bitterly, by parents and nannies how I remain so calm when “They walk so slow…Ask the same question over and over…Have a tantrum.”

My ability to remain calm and patient isn’t because I have a super power calm/patient gene. To the contrary, I’m quite impatient in daily life, when dealing with adults.  I am calm and patient with children because I consciously decide that being calm, patient and taking the time to listen and explain is the best way to teach kids these behaviors.

First off, let me say I too get frustrated.  Even after my conscious, educated decision that this “is the best way of parenting and co-parenting.”  I have moments when I too would like to move at a reasonable pace. I think, perhaps we will make it one full block without 5-10, stoop-stops, pebble- stops, adjustments of exactly what she wants to carry as we walk-stops.

During these moments of frustration, I remind myself that we are moving so slowly, that I need to repeat exactly why we have to leave the sandbox, not because I’m dealing with a fall-over, incoherent drunk, but a small child, who does deserve patience and explanations as she learns how to walk and talk and everything else.  I remind myself how wonderful it is that she takes everything in, and then I too can look at the scenery and smell the flowers with her—because when do we do this as adults in New York City?

Remember that letting your child walk allows him to practice new skills, gives him independence and even tuckers him out for a later nap.  This isn’t an anything goes experience, if you actually have to be somewhere explain to your baby/toddler why you must carry him or put him in the stroller.

Here are some tips to get you through the slow walks, and repetitive conversations:

Every day, multiple times a day, remind yourself that everything is going to take two-times as long, and that is okay.

I learned long ago to never stress about time when dealing with toddlers (an attribute I do not maintain in my adult, daily life: I am known as extremely, and maybe annoyingly punctual.)  If you, like myself, have always been a punctual, quick paced person, the slow movements of your life with a toddler will be a more difficult transition.

Assess if you actually have to be somewhere, or if you’re just ready to leave.

When you are asking your toddler to move faster because you “have to go!” assess what exactly you need to leave for.  We are in the habit, especially as New Yorkers, of going places, doing things.  Because of this on-the-go-mentality, we often assume after being somewhere for 20 minutes that we “MUST” leave, but maybe that isn’t true. If you don’t actually have to be somewhere, like a playdate, or doctor appointment let your toddler walk. He has just learned this amazing new thing, so be patient and take your time.  Remember that when you are calm and patient, you are simultaneously teaching him calmness and patience.

Getting ready to go:

So, you do have to be somewhere.  Allot two-four times the amount of time to get yourself, and baby/toddler ready.

My ease with children and the reason I don’t stress about time is because I allot a significant, literally two to four times, more time to get myself and baby ready, and the same goes for getting to the place.  If we are going on foot to a play-date, doctor appointment, class, etc., I decide beforehand whether we are going to take the stroller, or just walk.  I try as much as I can to allow enough time for her to walk, at least part of the way.   A walk that would take me 10 minutes, I decide will take me, and toddler 40 minutes and I leave the house accordingly (Yes, I know I tacked on 30 minutes for a one way trip-this gives us leeway, so I’m not stressed.)

Get everything you can get ready while baby/toddler naps.

I always get her diaper bag stocked with the things I’ll need, or might need.  If we’re out for the day this means any of the below:

-Water/milk bottles.

-Diapers.

-Wet whips.

-Bib.

-Extra cloth bib, for other cleanups.

-Change of clothes.

-A book or 2.

-Food (If you’re out for lunch or dinner.)

-Blanket.

-Hat.

-Sunscreen.

-Bathing suit.

-Sweater.

*Have yourself ready too!

Prepare them for the activity.

While you’re getting your baby/toddler ready to go, explain what you guys are doing (As I describe in my previous post “Baby Talk.”)  Prepare them for the activity, this will help them understand they are apart of it and can also be a motivator for them to move more quickly.

Ask them to keep walking with you and explain why.

If we are in a time-crunch, I’ll ask her nicely to “come along,” and I’ll explain to her why we need to move faster, with information that will likely excite her. “We have to get home to see Mama and Dada…We have a playdate with (name of good friend).” Filling them in on the details is always helpful, especially if what you’re doing is fun.

If you need them to move faster, be fun and make a game out of it!

Another nanny, and mother, I know sings a cute song while marching, the kids love it and always happily follow along.

Remember that like everyone, toddlers are going to be less likely to be motivated by an irritated tone. Stay calm and relaxed. Speak to them kindly, not only for their benefit, but for yours as well.  If you speak in a calm voice with some excitement about what you are doing, it will motivate them, and also, amazingly, make you excited and will rid you of your irritation.

Baby Talk

Most parents have read enough baby books to know talking to their baby while in the womb is crucial. This communication, the sound of your voice, will be a future comfort for your infant (even though your voice will sound distorted.) But what about once the baby is born?  What do you talk about?  It’s easy to see the discomfort while parents attempt to talk to their infant; by trying on different tonal patterns, speaking in baby-talk and searching for conversation topics which might interest their baby. The discomfort largely has to do with the fact that infants are terrible conversationalists, the other end is that we just don’t know what or how to talk to our infants.

I think there are two major things parents/nannies are unsure of when talking to their infant.  The first order of business is how to talk to them; do you talk in your normal voice, or do you raise the pitch? Do you speak in proper sentences with proper pronunciation, or speak in “baby talk”? Second, what do you talk about? Do you talk in long personal monologues or pointed conversations involving your infant, or both?

How to Talk:

Tip: Think about how you want to talk to your baby.

While it can be tempting to talk to your infant in a higher pitch and baby-talk nonsensical “sentences”, I try to avoid this form of communication.  We, as parents and nannies, are their model for verbal communication. Don’t we want to teach them the proper way to speak, form sentences and communicate at large?

Tip: Say words correctly.

I fight the urge to talk like this, “Who’s a tubby-wubby tummy flubber?” because I think pronouncing words correctly is important for our future talkers. I make sure to annunciate, use short and concise language and I even raise my pitch on occasion. I say, “I love you.” Instead of, “I wub you.”

Tip: Break your language down.

Remember to break your language down, so that words will be more accessible to your child when they are able to talk. Use words they will be able to say, don’t say she’s “flabbergasted” say she’s “shocked”. If you are a linguist remember that “big words” will be more difficult for your baby to say, so save your vocabulary for adults.

Be concise with your sentences, and avoid complicated grammar.  Don’t say, “Although when the temperature is appropriate this would be a lovely toy to utilize, today a storm is forecasted, so let’s just play with the ball.” Instead say, “It might rain, so we will stay inside and play with the ball.”

Tip: Be consistent.

In order for your child to understand, and eventually use words, they need to understand the words: both how to say them and how to use them. Be consistent with your words, decide what word you will use to describe something and continue to use that word, repetition is the best way for your baby learn language.  If you decide to refer to your baby’s stomach as “belly” then use that word every time. And use repetition, “This is your belly, can you touch your belly?  Can you show me your belly?”

What to talk about:

Tip: Involve your infant in the conversation.

A lot of your communication with your infant will be talking about whatever comes to mind.  A running monologue of your daily activities together is great, keep doing it, but also involve her in the conversation.  Ask your baby questions, even though she can’t respond, this shows her that you’re interested. “How was your nap? Do you want to eat? Do you like this book?”  Your perceived patience and willingness to involve her will give space for her to communicate when she can verbally or physically do so.

Tip: Take time to describe and explain.

I believe asking questions, and taking the time to describe and explain things in detail will promote verbal communication, and makes for “good-listeners”.  Babies learn communication skills through us, they learn listening, and verbal techniques by watching and hearing us listen and talk.

They will replicate our actions, so pay attention to their moods, and ask them questions about how they are feeling, even if they can’t verbally respond. Ask your infant/toddler why she is upset, happy, frustrated, etc., then repeat what she either shows you or tells you. “You’re upset because you can’t touch the stove?  I understand, but the stove is a thing for big people…” Acknowledging how they feel and giving them language to describe their feelings shows them you care, and will be patient with them, characteristics I’m sure we all want our children to have.

Tip: Explain EVERYTHING.

Explain everything, how things feel, the purpose of objects, safety, etc. It’s easy as adults to take for granted all of the things we know without ever consciously thinking about it.  Remember that your infant, baby, toddler does not know how to describe things, what things are and what they are used for (windows, fans, stoves, etc.,) so explain everything. Instead of ignoring your child’s screams explain why you are lathering her in sunscreen for the 5th time, “I know you don’t like this but sunscreen is important, it protects our skin.” It will be soothing for your baby because you’re acknowledging their frustration, but you’re also filling them in on what’s happening.

Tip: Think about what can be a learning opportunity for both your child and you.

If your infant pulls your hair, bites your nipple, or does something that is too rough, take this opportunity to explain how to be gentle.  This is not a moment to reprimand your infant, because she does not know “right” from “wrong” but begin to teach her these things when they happen. Explain being gentle both with words and show her with your touch what “gentle” means; lightly touch her arm, or the place on her body where she was rough with you and say the word “gentle” or “soft”.

This is also an important learning opportunity for the parent/nanny, because you will need to learn how to explain and show your child acceptable vs. unacceptable behaviors, so start early.  Beginning conversations of safety and behaviors early will prepare you for when you will have to do it daily, when your baby becomes a toddler.