Parenting Guide

By: Sarah Shahnavaz

Introduction

Parenting can be a difficult task to master. However, this newsletter will help to cover 5 of the essential topics you should know in order to be a very successful parent. The topics include: Brain Stimulation, Teratogens, Shaken Infant Syndrome, Safety guidlines, and Guiding behavior.

Brain Stimulation

In the first few years of a child's life, their brain is constantly creating tiny electrical connections called synapses. The amount of stimulation received directly affects how the synapses are formed. Repetitive and constant stimulation strengthens the connection, and those connections not used will be dropped away.
The absence of brain stimulation in a child's life can result to an underdeveloped lower region of the brain and an over-developed higher region of the brain. The baby is then less able to control their impulses and it takes longer for them to learn and finish simple tasks. Not to worry! Brain stimulation is a fairly easy and natural part of parenting. Ways you can stimulate your baby's brain include:

  • Hold your baby. Skin to skin contact with your baby helps them feel connected and secure. It is best for them to be up on your chest where they can hear your heart beating.
  • Play fun games with them. Your baby is constantly watching you and trying to figure out ways to mimic you as a way of learning. Respond to your baby in a positive and rewarding way as they are mimicking you.
  • Love them. Babies have a biological need for love and attention. The unconditional love helps them gain strong self esteem and helps develop brain circuitry.
  • Talk and sing to them. Use kind tones and a wide range of vocabulary and emotion. Your baby is trying to see how you model ways to act as well as solve problems.
  • Respond to them. You will not only be responding to your baby's immediate needs, but also teaching them that they can communicate with others and his/her needs can be met which provides a strong sense of trust and emotional stability.

Teratogens

Teratogens are a factor or agent that a person(usually mother) can do to harm the unborn baby while he/she is still in the womb. These factors or agents can cause congenital abnormalities, also called birth defects. Here is a simple list of things to stay away from during pregnancy to increase your chances of having a healthy baby.
  • Medications such as Aminopterin, some anti-epileptic drugs, Warfarin, Isotretinoin, and any type of tranquilizer.
  • Alcohol, smoking, and other drugs. Alcohol can cause FAS in children (fetal alcohol syndrome) while all three may cause SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) and taking addictive drugs while pregnant can cause your baby to become addicted as well, leaving them with a tolerance as they are born which they must break.
  • Infections of the mother. This includes infections such as chicken pox, shingles, Hepatitis B, C, D, E, various viruses, and STDs.
  • Cat litter/feces, because the feces can carry a parasitic infection called Toxoplasmosis. If you get Toxoplasmosis while you are pregnant or while trying to conceive, it can cause birth defects such as eye and brain damage.
  • Stress. Stress increases the risk for high blood pressure and depressions which can cause a miscarriage, premature birth, and/or low birth weight.
  • Caffeine. More than 300 mg per day is considered dangerous to an unborn child. It can cause an abnormally fast heart and breathing rate, tremors, and less sleep. In dad. caffeine increases movement of sperm.

Shaken Infant Syndrome

Shaken infant syndrome by definition is the many signs and symptoms resulting from the shaking of an infant/young child. Many parents are the ones who shake a child due to a few reasons, stress, or the baby just won't stop crying.
SIS can occur in any child from infancy up until 5 years of age. The physical characteristics of a baby allowing SIS to occur is the brain banging against the skull and blood clots of the brain and other vital organs of the body. This can happen when an abuser hand slaps, twirls, or throws a young child. The lasting effects this can have on a baby include:
  • Mental disabilities
  • Blindness
  • Hearing disabilities
  • Paralysis
  • Death
In more cases than none, the person who had done the shaking never meant to hurt the baby, they just couldn't handle the constant crying from the child. As many as 1,400 babies die each year from SIS. If your baby is crying or you are feeling stressed and you're scared you might hurt the baby, here is a list of things that you can do to prevent this from happening:
  • Put the baby in a safe place and leave the room for a few minutes
  • Leave the baby with a trustworthy adult
  • Step away from the child and take deep breaths to calm down
Colic is the mysterious and constant crying of a seemingly healthy baby. Many babies go through a Colic period in the first few months of their life. The stage of constant crying in a baby during 3-5 months of age is called the Period of Purple Crying. It is a normal period of time during your baby's life, and it is important to know that even if your baby is experiencing Colic or Purple Crying, your baby is most likely not in any discomfort or pain. Just in case, here is a list of things that can be checked to ensure your baby has all of his/her needs met.
  • Hunger
  • Burped
  • diaper change
  • Comfortable clothing
  • Released stress
  • Wants to be held
  • Room not to hot/cold
  • Overstimulated
Check to see if your baby may be sick by:
  • Check temperature
  • Check gums for teething
  • Ears- red/warm/draining
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Allergies-runny nose/red eyes
All of these things can be checked to ensure your baby is happy and healthy. Once you are sure that your baby is well but he/she is still crying, you can be assured that there is nothing you can do to reduce the amount of crying. You should stay calm if your baby cries a lot, and be sure not to resolve to violent conclusions.

Safety Guidlines

Your baby's safety is your responsibility. It can be difficult and stressful to be sure that your home is baby-proof as well as your car, his/her toys, clothes, and food are all safe for them. The following tips can help you to keep your baby out of harm's way.
1. Bathing
  • For newborns- don't put a newborn into the baby tub until the umbilical cord falls off and/or the circumcision heals.
  • Clean umbilical cord with alcohol and the circumcision with petroleum jelly- be careful not to mix these up!
  • Do not use soap on face or Q-tips in nose or ears.
  • Check temp of water (not with your hand)
  • Massage scalp vigorously to prevent cradle cap. If cradle cap does occur, treat with baby oil.
  • Never leave your child unattended in the tub- even if they can sit up!

2. Diapers and Clothing Needs

  • For a newborn, you should expect to change his/her diaper every 2 hours. However, change the diaper immediately if it's dirty- not just wet- to prevent diaper rashes and yeast infections.
  • Keep comfort and ease in mind while dressing your baby and always add one more layer of clothing to your baby than you are comfortable with.
  • Always wash all clothing and bedding in baby detergent- it protects flame retardant finishes and should not irritate baby's skin.
  • Children do not need to wear shoes until they walk- they should learn to walk barefoot.
  • Not recommended to hand down shoes.

3. Bottles and Formula

  • A variety of bottles and nipples are available- use whatever your baby likes.
  • Formula comes in soy and milk based types.
  • Three forms of formula are available: ready-to-feed, concentrate, and powder.
  • Generally the most convenient is the most expensive.
  • Baby should wean off of bottles by 1 year.
  • Do not warm bottle in microwave- this creates hot spots in the formula.

4. Introducing New Foods

  • First food is usually rice cereal
  • Closer to 6 months of age you can begin feeding them fruits and veggies.
  • Always introduce one new food at a time to check for allergies.
  • You can make your own baby food.
  • Follow recommendations for food to avoid during the first year: no honey, citrus foods, soft cooked eggs, popcorn, and nuts.
5. Purchasing Equipment- Toys and Car Seats
  • Always be sure to check safety precautions and age recommendations.
  • Try not to borrow or buy used toys and car seats, but if you do, follow safety precautions even more carefully.
  • Toys: do the toilet paper test- if a toy can fit inside a toilet paper roll, it is too small and poses as a choking hazard!
  • Car seat: goes by weight/height and be sure to install correctly into your vehicle.
  • Recommendations change so stay current!

6. Walking and Traveling

  • Every baby is different, but most learn to walk around 1 year.
  • Chubby babies may be slower in learning how to walk.
  • Once your baby learns to walk, it is time to baby-proof your whole house!!!
  • When traveling, pack everything. If you think you may need those extra diapers, you most likely will so don't be afraid to load up that suitcase!

7. Immunizations

  • These change frequently so follow doctor's recommendations
  • Immunizations are required to allow your child into school and most early childhood programs.

8. Good Sleep Habits

  • Routine!!!
  • Don't put baby to bed with a bottle.
  • Don't make it a habit to rock your baby to sleep every night.
  • It is OK to go in to sooth a fussy baby- you may even have to let him/her cry a little. This is their way of learning self-comfort.
  • Your baby should NEVER go to sleep with you- it is easy for you to roll over on top of them and harm them.

9. Teeth

  • Begin cleaning gums before teeth come in.
  • Check water in your home for fluoride levels.
  • See dentist for the first time during their 2nd year of life.
  • Thumb sucking and pacifiers are OK until permanent teeth grow in, although most children give them up long before this time.
  • Pacifiers should be molded as 1 piece and in good shape- do not attach to child with a ribbon.
  • Teething symptoms include drooling and crankiness.

10. Safety and First Aid

  • Supervision!!!!

11. Choosing an early childhood program

  • Very expensive
  • Check licensing and accreditation
  • Try to come in unexpected to see what goes on while you aren't there.
  • Be sure you feel comfortable with the caregiver.

Guiding Behavior

Think about the overall goals you would like to see in your children. What qualities do you want to see in your child for the next year? What about in the next 10 years? Parents can provide a strong foundation for growth and character development by providing a strong guidance foundation. Some strategies of guidance will be listed below.
1. Setting Age Appropriate Limits
  • Age appropriate limits involve matching a child's developmental age to the structure, activities, and expectations that are provided.
  • For example, you would not expect a toddler who is learning to use a spoon to be perfectly neat.

2. Limits and Reasons

  • When setting limits, be a backbone. Be firm and supportive about the rules you are setting. Be sure to display reasons for the limits you set so your child can learn effectively.
  • Be sure to use a calm tone while enforcing rules. If you use a harsh tone, chances are your child will pick up on that and become worried.
  • Be careful while setting boundaries, however, because too many/not enough limitations can hinder the development of the child's independence and competence.

3. The Benefits of Guidance

Children most often want to please adults. However, sometimes they are confused about what is expected. Setting clear and concise guidelines are important to benefit your baby's development in a positive way. Consistency diminishes power struggles, increases the child's independence, and fosters the following 6 qualities:
  • Safety
  • Trust
  • Self-Regulation
  • Competence
  • Reflection
  • Respect
4. The Definition of Punishment
Punishment is the opposite of guidance and can create problems or come off as abusive, both physically and verbally. Forms of punishment include:
  • Physically hurting the child
  • Humiliating the child
  • Never relenting (harping on old misbehavior that cannot be undone)
  • Withdrawing affection from your child

The expectations of punishment are rarely clear. They can be unrealistic, and often harmful or hurtful. In addition, punishment:

  • Stifles relationship building. A child will most likely resent or avoid the adult who punished him/her. This could lead to more punishment because the avoidance angers the adult.
  • Does not teach self control. Without learning self control, the child may only stop the bad behavior while the common punishing adult is present. This typically does not suppress the bad behavior in the long run.
  • Diminishes self-esteem and fosters disrespect. Different types of disrespect, such as ridiculing, elicit feelings of neglect and worthlessness in children.
  • Models aggression. Through punishment, the child can possibly learn that forms of violence such as hitting and yelling are acceptable ways to resolve conflict.
  • Hinders trust. Severe punishment can cause children to lack the ability to trust and form relationships.

Conclusion

So there you have it, some basic foundations for successfully raising a child. Of course, parenting is a difficult task, so these 5 topics can greatly assist in the process of raising a child. Happy parenting!

Citations

  • Notes, Health And Safety, and California Childcare Health Program. "Building Baby’s Intelligence: Why Infant Stimulation Is So Importan." Building Baby’s Intelligence: Why Infant Stimulation Is So Important (n.d.): n. pag. UCSF Childcare Health. California Childcare Health Program. Web. 11 May 2016.
  • "Baby Safety." WebMD. WebMD, n.d. Web. 11 May 2016.
  • "Cradle Cap." Wikipedia. N.p., 7 Mar. 2016. Web. 12 May 2016.
  • Sussna Klein, Amy. "Guiding Young Children: 21 Strategies." Earlychildhood NEWS. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 May 2016.