Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Sleep: The Ultimate Goal

Getting Baby to Sleep through the Night

            Having had six babies in fifteen years I can understand new mothers' desperation to
find a way to get her baby to sleep through the night.  Sleep becomes a precious commodity for both
mother and baby.  As a new mother I wondered how old a baby needed to be before I could expect them to sleep through the night.  This was followed closely with what is the best way to get your baby to sleep through the night?
            According to Charles Pohl, M.D. director of the Network of Apnea and Pediatric Sleep
Center at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia “They (babies) have what we call disorganized, or fragmented sleep.” You cannot expect your baby under three months to sleep through the night unless you are one of the lucky ones.  Babies are just not hard wired to sleep through the night at that age. But take heart, because by the time your baby is 4 to 6 months old you
can expect your baby to sleep six to eight uninterrupted hours. By this time in their development their stomachs are a little bigger and they can “tank up” for the longer period between feedings.
            By 4 to 6 months most babies should be able to fall asleep on their own, in their
own crib without having to be nursed or fed to sleep.  This was true for most of my six children.  But what do you do if your baby will not sleep through the night?
The most popular method for training a baby to sleep through the night is called
the Ferber Method.  The goal is to teach the baby to learn to fall asleep by themselves in their crib.  

Here is a brief summary:

1.      Put the baby in their crib and say a brief good night and then leave the room.  If the baby starts to cry, let him cry for about 5 minutes.  Then go back into the room and briefly comfort the baby without picking him up and leave.  If the baby cries again you are to wait 10 minutes before going back into the room and repeating your behavior.  If the baby cries again you are to wait 15 minutes, until he falls asleep.  Your goal is to let the baby know that you are still there for him and that he will
be okay.

2.      Repeat with the same behavior every time he wakes up during the night.

3.      After the first night you are to add 5 more minutes to each interval.
This method should only take 3 to 7 days to work for most babies.The baby will begin to associate being in his crib with falling asleep.  This method, while effective was very difficult on me as a mother.  It is hard to wait during the allotted crying periods but it is worth it in the end. Whatever method you choose to get your baby to sleep through the night is up to you.  What works for one baby might not work on another.  The best advice I can give to new mothers is try different methods until you find the one that works for your baby and in the meantime sleep when your baby does because sleep is vital for both of you.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Beating the Winter Blues - Indoor Gross Motor Activities

It’s that time of year again. As the smog descends on the valley and the ice creeps still over the yards, the winter blues have officially hit. The last months of winter are hard on all of us, but possibly the hardest for our little ones who are tired of being cooped up inside all day every day. With the holidays over and the excitement of their new toys worn off your lil guys are ready to move! The park is still too cold so we have brought the fun to you! 

Here are a few, simple ideas to turn your own living room into a wiggle-release zone. We just might all make it through this winter!

Penguin Waddle!
You'll Need:
  • medium ball (i.e. kickball, exercise ball)
  •  masking tape (optional)

  • The child holds the ball between his legs (knees or ankles- whichever is more comfortable) and they have to waddle while keeping the ball in place.
  • Variations:
    • Make it a relay race by marking a start and finish line where the child must pass the ball to another child or to you.
    • Mark lines on the floor with the tape that the child must walk over, like zig-zag lines, curved lines, circles, squares, etc.

Freeze Skate! 

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You'll Need:
  •  Paper Plates
  • Music
  • Masking Tape (optional)

  •  Give each child two plates- one for each foot, and skate around the living room carpet floor.
  • Turn on your favorite tunes and freeze when the music stops!
  •  Variations
    • Tape off a “rink” that the child can skate inside.
    •  Do a skate train where every one hangs onto the person ahead of their shoulders and skate together.
    • Take turns showing each other your best skate tricks. Name them and teach each other how to do them!  Source

Snowball Fight in the News!
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You'll Need:
  • Old newspaper

  • Depending on the age and interest of your child, make “snowballs” with them or on your own by scrunching newspaper into balls.
  • Place them in one big pile in your living room and go to town throwing them at each other, gather and go again.
  • Couches or chairs make great forts and places to hide.  Source

Marshmallow Hockey!

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You'll Need:
  •  Marshmallows (big or small)
  •  Broom (best if child sized but not necessary)
  •  Masking tape

  • Tape a circle with masking tape on the tile, laminate or wood floor.
  • Give child a broom
  • Spread marshmallows around room and let him sweep them into the circle
  • Variations:
    •  Count the marshmallows as he gets them into the goal.
    •  Pass/Sweep the marshmallows around the circle.

Friday, January 16, 2015

The Happiest Baby

Babies cry for a variety of reasons.  Sometimes they’re hungry, tired, need a diaper change, and sometimes we don't know why they are crying. How can you soothe a crying baby when their needs are met and it seems like they’re crying for no reason at all?  Dr. Harvey Karp has some suggestions as to how to do this.  He says that babies are born with a “calming” reflex that can be triggered using these 5 “S’s”.  Sometimes babies will calm down with one, while other times they will need more, possibly all five before the calming reflex is turned on. 

The 5 “S’s”
What they look like
Wrapping them tight in blanket, arms confined
Side or Stomach
Turning them to side or stomach while holding them, after they are swaddled.
White noise, as loud as baby is crying-Shushing, vacuum, hairdryer, static noise.
High speed in swing, or letting baby’s head gently jiggle while supporting it with your hands
Nursing, pacifier, or finger

Dr. Karp suggests that the first three months should be considered a fourth trimester.  Babies need swinging/rocking, swaddling, and shushing, to help them feel at home.  Dads are just as effective at doing these techniques, and sometimes do them better than moms, since they are often not as timid with newborns.

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  • Swaddling should be the first thing you do, and should be done for the first few months of infant's life to make them feel like they are back in the womb.  
  • It needs to be tight, with their arms down, so that they don’t upset themselves with their arms.    
  • Click here for a video example of swaddling  


  • After baby is swaddled, turn her to her side or stomach, and she will often almost immediately stop crying.  
  • When babies are on their back, they often feel like they are falling.


  • Shushing is basically a white noise.  It needs to be as loud as the baby is crying, so that they can hear it over their crying.  
  • “Shushing” can be done in a variety of ways.  It can be the parents or caregiver shushing in their ear, vacuuming, a tape recording of caregiver shushing, the sound of a hair dryer, or turn the radio in between two stations and let the baby listen to static.  It reminds them of the sounds they heard in the womb. 

Swinging or wiggling:

  • Putting a baby in a swing on high speed will help to calm baby down.  
  • Make sure that they are tightly swaddled and strapped in so they won’t fall out.  
  • Wiggling: Sit down with feet shoulder width apart, knees together, and hands on the knees while resting her head in your hands.  Wiggle back and forth, and let her head gently jiggle a little like Jell-O. This should be a gentle motion, since doing it vigorously can lead to shaken baby syndrome.
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  • The last “S” is suck - using a pacifier, a finger, or nursing.  
  • A trick to help keep baby's pacifier in her mouth is to gently hit it so baby thinks she is losing it. This helps to strengthen the mouth muscles to keep it in.

Dr. Harvey Karp is an amazing pediatrician, He developed The Happiest Baby on the Block DVD. To find out more, visit  

These tips can help calm a crying baby almost instantly.  We'd love to hear from you! Please comment and share your experiences and how these tips have helped you soothe your little one!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Tips to Strengthen Your Baby's Neck

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The development of the neck in babies is a milestone that precedes other very important baby milestones. Babies must have good head control before a they can sit up, roll over, or crawl. Since neck muscles are needed for swallowing, properly developed neck muscles also help a baby while he or she is learning to eat solid foods (LiveStrong).

We'll go through the stages of infant neck development, ways to strengthen your baby's neck and what to do if your child is favoring one side of her neck.

Stages of Infant Neck Development

From birth to about six months of age, your baby will gradually develop head control. The BabyCenter website has some great information about neck development and we've summarized part of it for you here:

Stage of Neck Development
Baby’s neck muscles will be really weak for the next few months. Use your hand to support his head and neck when you hold him.
4-5 Weeks
May briefly lift her head and turn it side to side during tummy time.
6-8 Weeks
May raise his head while lying on his back. May hold his head up shakily while you hold him on your shoulder.
3-4 Months
May raise her head up 45 degrees and keep it steady during tummy time.
5-6 Months
Should be able to hold his head steady and upright. His head shouldn't lag behind his body when you pull him up to sit.

Ways to Help Strengthen Baby's Neck

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As your baby grows and develops, those neck muscles will become stronger, but you can complete neck exercises and stretches with your baby to help expedite the process: (LiveStrong: Baby Neck Exercises)

Tummy Time
  • Tummy time is highly recommended by pediatricians and service providers alike as a way to help strengthen your baby's weak neck muscles. As your baby is actively doing tummy each day, her neck will get stronger and she'll try to lift her head from the ground. Make tummy time more interesting for your baby by laying down and have face to face interaction with her or put some fun toys near her for her to play with. 

Toy Game
  • Play with your baby while he is laying down. Take a rattle and gently shake it in front of him. Once he looks at the toy, switch it to the other side of your baby so he has to turn his head to find the sound again. Switch it back to the first side and continue back and forth. Keep your baby interested so he can get his neck muscle exercise  Even if he is a very young newborn, he'll look toward the sound and look at the toy. While you shake the toy, switch to the other side of your baby so that he has to turn his head to find the sound again. Parents Connect notes that you can switch toys if your baby seems bored to keep him engaged, interested and stretching his neck muscles.

    Football Hold
    • The "football hold" is often a dad's favorite way to hold and carry his baby around. This is done by position baby's body under your arm, with your hand firmly supporting her belly and chest. She should be facing downward--this helps strengthen her neck muscles as she looks around the room. The "football hold" is also a popular way to breastfeed.

    Neck Stretch
    • Some babies naturally tend to look to one side more. Gently turn your baby's head so that her chin touches her shoulder. Make sure you gently rotate the head, but never force it or it could become an injury. If the muscles are tight, gently massage your baby's neck muscles while you hold her. This may loosen the muscle to help your baby look to both sides equally. Talk to your doctor if there is any pain or if baby is still favoring one side.  

    Does your baby favor a side?

    If your baby tends to favor a side of his or her neck, you can try doing some these exercises with him: (KidsHealth)
    • When your baby wants to eat, offer the bottle or your breast in a way that encourages your baby to turn away from the favored side. (Use your child's desire to eat to encourage him along!)
    • When putting your baby down to sleep, position your baby on her back facing the wall. Since babies prefer to look out into the room, she will actively turn away from the wall and this will stretch the tightened muscles of the neck. 

    Saturday, January 3, 2015

    Mommy, Wow! We're All Grown Up Now

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    Each and every parent waits in great and nervous anticipation for their children’s milestone moments: crawling, first steps, off to school and—finally—launching them from home. After almost five years of existence, Help Me Grow has reached some of its own milestone moments—many of them under the carefully guided hand of Utah County leaders, who possessed great foresight. These years of nurturing have given rise to services seen fit to now go beyond the bounds of the Wasatch Front. And so, with great support from our state, we’re happy to announce that Help Me Grow is now “all grown up” and able to support families across the state of Utah!

    On our end, we’re filled with gratitude for the generous funding provided by the Department of Workforce Services and various divisions of the Department of Health and Human Services. Due to this funding, we have diligently been hiring qualified workers to be placed throughout the state. Their primary role is to get to know your community and the services there to help families with young children. The staff members in our current offices have been discussing and planning for this expanded growth; they have begun to learn about the resources and supports in their newly assigned areas of Utah.

    For you, we hope this means you feel a new sense of excitement! All of the behind the scenes work is moving forward and is now here for you to take advantage of. Tell your family, friends, doctor, and anyone else where you live that they need to get to know Help Me Grow. Tell all these same people across the state the same thing. Share your story with us here (by commenting below) so others can
    see that being “all grown up” is a blessing and the state didn't go wrong in launching our rapid expansion.

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    We’re as proud as any parents can be. But, more importantly, we’re thrilled! Thrilled that hard work eventually pays off; thrilled by the support from our state; thrilled that our small steps have moved us to this big moment; and thrilled beyond measure that we can now come to you to find and enrich the sense of family and community where you live. The old adage is endlessly true. It takes a village to raise a child. Help Me Grow wants to be part of the village to help you be the best parents you can while raising our future. Together we’ll do it!