Guest poster Sarah Ruttan returns to share her top 10 tips for traveling abroad with young kids.
Posts from the ‘Guest Post’ Category
Guest poster Sarah Ruttan on traveling with kids: "I’ve come to believe that this same idea is true for travel. Sure, we could stay close to home for the first few years. Everyone would sleep more, and lots of potential public meltdowns could be avoided. Yet, we’d be missing something along the way. Those early family trips build our family culture – they give us an opportunity to begin to teach our kids about the world around us, even if in small ways on local outings. Great moments – and memorable family stories – come from these journeys."
So, we’re moving this summer. At least, we think we are. The deal isn’t done yet, and we’re not even sure of our exact closing date, which is maddening. But probably, by the end of the summer, our little family will move to our first-ever, very-own home, just about a mile away from our current rental.
Talking about a move with Cee has been interesting. She’s been coming to look at houses with us from the beginning, starting in February. We struggled to explain to her why we were spending so much time dragging her through empty houses. We talked about moving to a new house, and she just looked confused. “Why, Mama?” Why, indeed, would we want to leave the only home she likely remembers? (We moved from Arizona to Oregon when she was 7 months.) What could be better than this house, the place of warm memories and celebrated milestones?
Cee thrives on the familiar. Even though we’ll still be living in the same neighborhood and not much else about her life will change, I know this move will be stressful for her. Heck, moving is stressful for everyone. So what can we do to ease the transition? I’ve had this question at the back of my head all summer.
I received the following guest post a couple of weeks back from the folks at Twigtale, a small parent-owned company that makes custom photo books to help kids with transitions. The Twigtale books are really cool, and I encourage you to check them out. Putting together a custom photo book for a big event is the kind of thing I might intend to do for Cee but never get around to, but Twigtale makes it easy with with a template and text written by child development experts. (Cee loves looking at our photo albums, but you know how long those take to put together. I’m still working on our 2012 family photo book!) So, I’m posting this article for those of you who, like us, might be approaching a move and as a sort of shout-out to Twigtale. They’ve also kindly offered to give away any custom photo book (about moving or any other topic they cover) to one Science of Mom reader. See the end of the post for more details!
Moving Guide – Preparing Your Child for a Big Move
Summer is here, and with the warm weather and sunshine comes a lot of change for families. The structure of the year gives way to more down time and loose fun.
Kids may be anticipating a new school year, with new teachers and classrooms, or perhaps starting school for the very first time. Some parents decide to work on potty learning in the summer, as they can take advantage of the warmth outside providing more “naked time” for their children to better listen to their bodies. And perhaps most stressful of all, you may be moving this summer.
So the burning question is, how to best prepare your young children for the move? Read more
I’ve been thinking about bedsharing and sleep safety for the last few months. I have devoted an entire chapter of my book to this topic. Not only is it an important question for parents, but it’s an issue with so much complexity — wrinkles and folds of factors like breastfeeding, bonding, instinct, culture, and just plain reality.
I think it is vitally important to understand the relationship between bedsharing behavior and risk of SIDS and accidental deaths. But our ability to tease apart every factor that might impact sleep safety is imperfect; there will always be factors that aren’t quantified in these studies, not to mention the fact that case control studies have some inherent limitations. You’ve probably heard about the study published this week by Carpenter et al. in BMJ. It combines 5 historic case control data sets from Europe, the U.K., and Australasia to specifically look at the risk of bedsharing in breastfed babies in nonsmoking households. It concludes that bedsharing poses an increased risk of SIDS, even in these ideal situations. I think it’s an important study, but it also has some limitations and doesn’t answer all of our questions with certainty. In fact, no study will probably ever do that. (You can read some critiques of the Carpenter study here and here.)
But even if we accept that bedsharing increases a baby’s risk of dying unexpectedly during sleep, we still have to answer the bigger question of how we translate this information to families living in the real, difficult world of infant sleep. Many families value bedsharing as a cultural practice; others choose it because it feels right. Still others bedshare because it is the only way that anyone gets any sleep at night, and we all know that sleep deprivation carries some risk, too, as does falling asleep on a couch with your baby. This is the reality.
Pediatricians face this reality in their clinics every day, when they talk with parents of new babies about sleep. In my book, one of the questions I explore is how pediatricians handle this conversation, given that their professional organization, the American Academy of Pediatrics, recommends against bedsharing. Several months ago, I sent some questions to one of my favorite pediatrician bloggers, Dr. Melissa Arca of Confessions of a Dr. Mom. She had initially agreed to a Q&A, but then she didn’t respond with her answers. It was the height of the busy flu season, and I figured that she was just busy. Then, this week, she surprised me with her responses. She had been thinking about bedsharing given the news of this recent study, and she was inspired to restart this conversation. We’ve cross-posted our Q&A on both our blogs. Check out her post for more about her initial hesitancy to address these questions, and please feel free to share your experiences in the comments below.
Alice: How did sleep look for your two children?
Melissa: My first child was a challenge to say the least. He is the one who made me question the safety of bed-sharing in the first place. For the first 6 months of his life, sleep was virtually non-existent (or at least that’s the way it felt to me) because he needed my arms and constant soothing throughout the night. But I was terrified to bedshare. I was literally at the end of my sleep deprivation rope. I had tried everything. And instead of listening to my instincts, I was fighting them. Because I was scared.
I never envisioned myself as a bedsharing parent. As a pediatrician, I was adamantly against it. But it was exactly what my baby needed and we struggled and limped along until I finally realized that.
My second child was a breeze and that’s no lie. She was always (and still is) an “easy sleeper”. She needed her space and showed clear signs of being tired. When she was tired, that was it. I didn’t need to bedshare with her. She slept in her own bassinet next to our bed during her first few months of life before being transitioned to her own room.
They could not have been more different in the sleep department. Same parents. Same environment. Different children.
Alice: As a pediatrician, how did you feel about bedsharing before having children? Did becoming a mother change that?
Melissa: I didn’t think it was safe. At all. I had read the studies and the official recommendations. Back to sleep, crib and/or bassinet in the same room with no hazards such as loose bedding, pillows, etc.
I never thought in a million years I would have become a bedsharing parent. But kids don’t have our same agendas. Read more
Yesterday, I posted an excerpt from Nicholas Day’s new book, Baby Meets World. If you missed it, check it out to learn how modern hunter-gatherer societies raise children, and how that task is supported by not just by hard-working mothers but the entire culture. It’s good stuff.
After reading his book, I had lots of questions for author Nicholas Day. Today, I bring you our conversation about his book and on the roles of science, culture, and instinct in parenting.
Alice: Becoming a parent changes all of us. What was it about your particular transition to fatherhood that made you want to research and write this book, to dive into the history and the science of parenting in a way that extended beyond your own reality of parenting?
Nicholas: In a way, I think it was the part of me that wasn’t changed that led to this book: I had stupid questions about babies in the same way I have stupid questions about everything else. (It’s a personality flaw.) I didn’t see why I had to think of babies as simply problems to be solved. Most baby books have what I think of as the leaky faucet approach: if your baby is dripping, we recommend this socket wrench. And there were many, many times when all I wanted was that socket wrench. But I also thought babies were interesting subjects all on their own. I wanted a book that acknowledged that. And I wanted a book that was wide-angled. The study of infancy is highly compartmentalized: the different disciplines don’t talk to each other. The few good books about babies tend to be highly focused: they look at babies through the lens of a cognitive scientist, say, or a developmental psychologist. But there are so many lenses out there! It seemed a shame to only see a baby as like this or like that. There’s so much left outside the frame. So this book tries to show readers the many different versions of a baby that people have seen—and still see today.
It’s strange. You wouldn’t think that babies would be an obscure subject: they are everywhere. (In our highly fertile neighborhood, I sometimes feel like Hitchcock’s The Birds is being reenacted—but this time with babies.) But they’ve been weirdly neglected. This is sort of hard to believe: any book about babies has to clear the high hurdle of being another damn book about babies. (Right? Like that’s what we need. Also, we totally need more diet books.) But I concluded that we really did need that. Babies are still strangers in our midst.
Alice: Your book focuses on four basic facts of infancy: “suck, smile, touch, toddle.” How did you choose these topics? Why not “eat, sleep, poop, cry,” for example?
Nicholas: I joke about this at the end of the book—that there’s so much going on in infancy I could easily have chosen spitting, shitting, screaming, sharing.
Part of why I went with these topics was that I actually wanted answers about them: I really wanted to know where a smile comes from and what a first smile might mean, for example. But I also thought these subjects had been overlooked. There’s been an enormous amount written on sleep, for very obvious reasons: any new parent is obsessed with sleep. But there’s very little written about smiling or walking. It’s the leaky faucet problem: because a smile can’t be fixed, no one writes about it. Read more
I am delighted to have a guest post from Author Susan Brink today. Susan’s book, The Fourth Trimester: Understanding, Nurturing, and Protecting an Infant Through the First Three Months, was released a few weeks ago. I really enjoyed this book. It is billed as an “operating manual” for newborns, but it read to me more like an “understanding manual.” This is actually more helpful, because if you can understand why your newborn is doing the things she’s doing, you’re on your way to figuring out how you and your baby will survive and thrive in this period. The Fourth Trimester includes chapters on crying, sleeping, feeding, sound, sight, touch, physical development, and stimulation. Each is full of both science (well-cited, I might add) and stories from real parents. The sight and sound chapters were two of my favorites, so I’m happy that Susan chose these topics for her guest post on Science of Mom. Enjoy!
WHAT THE WORLD LOOKS AND SOUNDS LIKE TO A NEWBORN BABY
By Susan Brink
Imagine yourself in Paris, and you don’t speak French. Pretend for a moment that you’re from rural America, have never seen a big city much less the elegant capitol of France, and you’re trying to cross the Champs-Elysees at the Arc de Triomphe. You dare not step into traffic, you can’t read the street signs, and you cannot understand what people are trying to tell you. Sights and sounds overwhelm you. Nothing makes sense.
That’s something to think about when wondering what the world looks and sounds like to a newborn baby. But there’s more. Dr. Alison Gopnik, professor of psychology at the University of California, Berekley, adds two elements to the confusing mix: love and caffeine. “You want to know what it’s like to be a baby?” says Gopnik. “It’s like being in love for the first time in Paris after four double espressos. It’s fantastic. It’s a wonderful state to be in. And very likely, you’ll wake up at three a.m….crying.”
We look into a newborn baby’s eyes and wonder what he sees. We watch her reactions and wonder what she hears. But now we’ve got a wealth of recent research into what newborns see and hear that adds scientific chops to what parents have been imagining for ages. Read more
By David Ozab
“Don’t worry, she’ll catch up.”
I heard that sentence from so many parents around Anna’s second birthday. We were worried about her speech; she was talking all the time but we could barely understand her while kids her age and younger spoke clearly. “Don’t worry she’ll catch up,” people would say. I said the same thing to myself. I figured it would just happen. Her speech was like an out-of-focus photograph. Sooner or later, I thought, it would snap into focus.
My wife Julia wasn’t buying it. She thought something was wrong, and she was right. Read more
I’m excited to host a guest post by blogger Jessica Smock, an educator, mom, and almost-finished PhD student. Jessica has only been blogging at School of Smock since the new year, and she’s already turned out a ton of thought-provoking and informative posts about education and parenting. Today, she writes about her son’s transition to child care. It’s a sort of confession, because as you’ll learn, it didn’t go so well. The upshot is that she turned her experience into a useful guide for parents approaching this transition. Enjoy her post, and please feel free to add your own experiences and advice in the comments below.
10 Tips for Transition to Child Care (From a mom who got it all wrong)
By Jessica Smock
I thought I had done my all of my homework, as a diligent parent, researcher and educator.
As a new parent, it can be a tough, long process finding the right child care for your child. You have to think about what your needs are: a small, intimate, home-like environment or a fully-accredited, educationally focused child care center; location (at home, close to home or work); your budget; your schedule… Next, you have to do your research, using friends, family, or a local or national referral agency, to identify providers that meet your needs and have openings. And then you should visit facilities and talk with the providers, asking them questions about their curriculum, sick child policy, discipline philosophy, caregiver experience and training, feeding and nap schedules. Finally, you sometimes just have to use your parental instincts, going with your gut about whether a provider will match your family’s parenting style and your kid’s temperament.
My son had started off when he was six months old with a few different babysitters that came to my home a few times a week while I wrote and worked on my dissertation. He did well with this and loved playing with his young, energetic babysitters, but it wasn’t meeting my needs. I couldn’t concentrate in our small house with the constant chaos and noise that surrounds a baby. So I started looking into child care centers in my new city. I thought I was more than capable of doing this. I was a teacher and curriculum coordinator for more than a decade, with a Master’s and nearly a doctorate in the education field. I had worked as a research fellow for a social research nonprofit in Cambridge, where my major responsibility was helping to write a research report of high-performing child care facilities in Massachusetts. I had interviewed dozens of providers across the state and country, as well as state education heads and early childhood researchers from Harvard and other local universities, and helped to create a framework for evaluating child care providers.
I didn’t think at all about what happened after I chose the program. Read more
Little wisps of blonde hair peek through before Eleanor’s head pops up from behind the chair. She gives me a big smile, a wave, and then runs off, yelling ‘bye-bye’ at the top of her little lungs. Eleanor is our first child, she’s twenty-months-old, constantly oscillating between feisty and willful, silly and sweet. At this age it’s almost as if you can see the neurons connecting in her brain, each new experience bringing the world closer to her tiny baby fingers. As a scientist and nervous first time mom, I know that twenty months is not only a critical age in development but also the best time to catch the early symptoms of autism spectrum disorder.
A decade ago, diagnosing a child younger than three with autism was unheard of. In the years since, several studies have shown us that when autism is caught sooner, before two years old, and is accompanied by early therapy, the outcome is better. Children receiving early therapy not only have significantly higher IQs, but their everyday skills, like brushing teeth and having dinner with their family, are improved. These findings have led to a push in early intervention. After a study published in the Journal of Pediatrics last year, many pediatricians use an autism questionnaire at the twelve-month check-up. The idea being, the sooner the disease is spotted, the sooner it can be treated, and the better the ultimate outcome.
This year the CDC reported a shocking increased prevalence in autism. The number of children being diagnosed is up 78% since 2002. This statistic has sparked fiery debate. Once centered on the debunked role of vaccines, today we have new questions to argue about. Is increased prevalence the result of increased awareness? Better screening? An unknown environmental contributor? Does a genetic basis exist?
There are a few things we do know about the cause of autism. Autism tends to run in families. Supported by the Autism Genome Project, hundreds of patients have had their genomes screened. The findings have been remarkable; certain mutated genes are highly associated with the disease, seemingly passed down across generations. These genes encode synaptic proteins, proteins that bridge neurons and are critical to the collective electrical signaling of the nervous system. Think of these networks like a strand of twinkle lights. When the wires connecting the bulbs together begin to fray, the entire strand stops working properly, blinking in and out. Intriguingly, these genes are implicated in other neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. However, this research has been seriously hampered by the lack of an animal model for autism. After all, what kinds of experiments are safe to do in children?
Researchers at several universities have addressed this by knocking out the function of these genes in mice. They then painstakingly followed their behavior, tracking their social interaction and communication. They found that mice with the mutated version of these genes displayed hyperactivity, repetitive grooming and abnormal vocal and social behavior, in essence, the classic symptoms of autism. For the first time, a clear physiological mechanism for autism has been uncovered.
Building on this, research published in Nature this past June, shows that there may be a way to improve the social behavior of these genetically impaired mice. By stimulating the proteins lost in autism-associated genes, researchers were able to rescue the function of a signaling molecule on the surface of neurons that is critical to memory and learning. This treatment lifted the telltale signs of autism, resulting in mice with normal social interaction.
This month, new research, pursuing innovative, early therapies for autism was published in Nature. Researchers treated a mouse model of Dravet’s syndrome, characterized by impaired learning and autism spectrum behavior, with a drug called clonazepam. Treatment with this drug completely rescued the social behavior of the mice by repairing communication between genetically impaired neurons. This exciting work is the latest chapter in a new trend in studies that highlight the genetic foundation behind some autism disorders as well as the potential for new childhood therapies.
Autism is complex; this type of treatment may or may not result in a viable future therapy. Yet this work has the potential to usher in a new wave of autism therapy, one in which we are able to map genetics to brain function, where children receive personalized therapy specific to their genetic make-up. We’re not there yet, but as I fret over my toddler’s building social skills, I’m hopeful about the future of autism.