Five things I’m glad I did with my baby because they really made a difference

People tend to be uncomfortable if you do something with your baby that they didn’t do with theirs. It almost seems as though they consider your choice to do something different with your baby as an unspoken criticism of their parenting choices. Even people that don’t have kids of their own will attempt to weigh in on what you should do. The bottom line is that you should be the final decision maker when it comes to YOUR baby. That being said, here are five things that I did with my baby that I really feel paid off.

Baby Sign Language – Many people consider baby sign language to be a fad, but babies have the ability to “invent” their own sign language before they have the muscles required for speech. Think about it, even very young babies clap their hands when excited and wave bye-bye. Baby sign language enables babies to tell you exactly what they want to communicate. Having a baby sign that he or she wants milk is so much more pleasant than having them cry until you figure it out. Having a baby sign that he or she is in pain gets rid of the guess work and empowers care givers. My baby hardly ever cried because she could tell me what was on her mind. – BabySignLanguage.com

Playing Music – My daughter has been playing Mozart and Beethoven for several years.  I credit my decision to play music for her when she was a baby, especially during her naps. Some believe that playing certain kinds of music for babies “primes” their brain. The theory is that classical music seems to stimulate the same pathways in the brain that are responsible for spatial reasoning.  I played a mixture of soft music, mostly classical and jazz, for my daughter on a regular basis during her naps.

Reading – As a former Language Arts instructor it’s only natural that I would encourage reading to children. But my experience as a mother is the basis for my recommendation that parents and caregivers read to babies and young children. Some may think reading to a baby is pointless. According to KidsHealth.org, “Believe it or not, by the time babies reach their first birthday they will learn all the sounds needed to speak their native language.” Reading to a baby will expose them to more words and allow them to begin reading at exactly the right age.  Reading books that include brightly colored illustrations and large print would be my recommendation. Because a baby’s vision is not as developed as an adult, the bigger the words the easier it will be for them to “read” them. That is likely one of the reasons they recognize the logos and signs of their favorite fast food locations and stores as they drive past them; they’re big and easy to see.

Breastfeeding – Study after study has proven that breastfeeding offers priceless benefits to both mothers and babies. Besides being the most natural, almost perfect way to nourish a baby, it is one of the least expensive. It increases bonding between mother and child. Breastmilk has disease-fighting antibodies that can protect babies. Breastfeeding also lowers the risk of some health problems for mothers. Some studies link breastfeeding to hirer IQ scores. Exclusive breastfeeding for at least six months is typically recommended by pediatricians. However, extended breastfeeding has become increasingly more popular for mothers in the United States.

Regular Health and Vision Screenings – The sooner a health issue is detected, the sooner a treatment can begin. Babies should be taken in for routine newborn care during their first few months of life, and then as directed by a pediatric professional. During their first six years children should be examined at least annually. New parents will adhere to the health screening schedule initially, but some will become lax as the baby gets older. It is important that parents continue to monitor their babies’ health, especially their hearing and vision which sometimes is taken for granted. I was shocked to find out that only one of a baby’s ears is tested at birth. Hospitals only have to establish that the baby has the ability to hear. If the baby can hear in one ear they may not test the other unless the parents request and pay to have it checked. The option to have both ears tested may not be offered. Finding out that your child needs corrective lenses may fall completely on the parent. Having a child’s eyes checked is frequently not done until a problem is detected at school age. Finding out that a child has a vision problem when they are very young is critical and may allow for complete restoration of 20/20 vision.

Every baby is different. It is up to the parents, especially the mother, to bond with their baby and learn his or her personality. Good parents KNOW their babies in a way that no one else can. One of the best pieces of advice that I was given, and that I decided to take, was “listen to your gut as a mother”. God given motherly instincts are often better than any research study.

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