Sleep practices of children, both infants and older children, have become one of societies "measures of a good parent." If a child sleeps well, many consider the parent to be a great parent or just lucky. If a child sleeps poorly, the parent is considered by many to be a bad parent, or just unlucky. Neither of those two statements is true. Sleep is based on many factors, including personality, parental attitude, family lifestyle and the sleeping environment itself.
Newborns routinely wake one to three times per night, almost always because they are hungry and need to feed. Some infants even sleep well during the day, and are awake frequently at night. This occurs when the commonly called, "nights and days are reversed." Night and Day reversal may be accomplished by stimulating your infant during the day. At night place the baby in his or her own crib in a darkened room.
We recommend placing your baby on his/her back to sleep. Make sure to spread sheets smoothly and tuck them tightly beneath the mattress. You should have a crib mattress that is firm and conforms to safety standards. Check the space between the crib rails - they should be no more than 2 3/8 inches apart. Cribs made prior to 1979 may have wider spacing. Be sure the mattress fits the crib perfectly. If pushed all the way to one corner, there should be no more than 1 1/2 inches between it and the side or the end of the crib.
Do not use any loose fitting plastic mattress covers or waterproof sheets as they may wrap around baby's head or neck and cause suffocation. Do not place pillows or soft stuffed toys in the crib. Baby should not be allowed to sleep on soft surfaces such as waterbeds, beanbags, fluffy blankets or comforters.
Your baby should be dressed in clothing that you would feel comfortable in. The air/room temperature needs to be at a level that would be comfortable for anyone in that room. There is no need to dress baby warmer than you would dress, or give extra blankets. Simply dress according to the temperature. You may also want to accustom baby to sleep through ordinary household sounds. There is no need for silence when a baby is sleeping. Tip-toeing and whispering are not necessary, but do avoid sudden jarring noises and loud commotion.
Many infants have a polyphasic sleep pattern, which means short periods of sleep interspersed with even shorter periods of waking. The ability to sleep for a longer period of time comes with growth and maturity. Some may sleep for extended periods of time as early as 3 to 4 months. Some others may not until 10 to 15 months. Because of immaturity of the nervous system, an infant cannot be trained to sleep longer. Introducing solid foods at bedtime has never been shown to prolong the sleep period.
Have patience, by four months of age, most infants will sleep 8 hours or more and by 6 months almost all infants can sleep through the night.
A structured night time routine and bedtime continues to be important as children grow older. The bedtime routine should be one that helps the child calm from a busy, active day to a restful pace for the evening prior to going to bed.
Play should be at a minimum for the last hour before bedtime and it should be quiet play. Even TV viewing should be calming and video games should be stopped in that last hour. A warm bath may soothe a child, but if the bath is highly active with play, it may serve the opposite purpose and actually invigorate the child to remain awake.
Snacks often help but should be more carbohydrates than sugar sweets such as unsweetened cereal or a bagel with a glass of milk.
Once the child is ready for bed, a story or comforting by the parent can help. Make sure this is done in the childs' own room. If they want to sleep on the floor, with a blanket, a soft animal or favorite doll, or even a night light, that is okay. These items often help the child to accept a parents departure from the room easier. That departure should also be done while the child is still somewhat awake. A child will learn to transition to sleep without their parent in the room by experience. If your child has problems doing this, place a chair next to the bed and comfort the child from the chair with as little stimulation, touching or holding, as possible. Over the next few nights move the chair away from the bed and toward the door. Continue to comfort verbally from the chair. Soon you will be just outside the door and your child will receive comfort by your presence only. This is a part of learning the all important "self-soothing" that will help them transition to sleep without an adult being present.
Remember, you as the parent set the tone for how a child will respond to bedtime. Following these simple steps may take more time to achieve that "good night's sleep," but eventually your child will learn that all important skill that makes day time a much more enjoyable experience.
The major cause of childhood injuries and death in the United States is automobile accidents. By following a few simple rules, you can reduce the risks of an accident significantly.
Which way should my child face?
Infants less than one year of age must ride in a rear facing care seat. First time car seat users should take their car seat to their local fire department station where a certified fire fighter will be more than happy to inspect and help you install your car seat.
Children at one year of age and at least 20 pounds may face forward, but must remain in the rear seat of the car.
Until age 13 years, the child must remain in the rear seat. Children 13 years and older may sit in the front seat
What type of seat should I buy?
When buying any car seat, make sure you know the size and weight limitations of the seat you buy. Babies grow at different rates, so be sure the car seat you use matches your childs' height and weight.
Some seats are "convertible." Again, remember and check the weight and height limitations on this or any seat you purchase.
Children that weigh more than 40 pounds may ride in a booster seat. A booster seat with a high back will help to provide protection from whiplash injuries, especially when a childs' head and ears are higher than the back of the automobile seat.
Virginia law requires that children must be in car seats until they are 80 pounds and 8 years of age. Children under age 8 who are at least 4 feet and 9 inches tall may not need a car seat.
If your automobile has side air bags, they should be deactivated if the car seat is next to a door so equipped.
Never let a child move around or get out of the car seat while the car is in motion. All too frequently, we see children injured or killed in that "moment" to move or adjust, and the child is not in the car seat.
Car seats should be replaced when a child exceeds the weight or height limitations. Exceeding the weight or height limitation destroys any opportunity for the seat to save your child from injury or death. Car seats involved in accidents should be replaced as well as the safety features built into the car seat. They may no longer function after an accident, even though the seat appears to be "intact" and operable.
Safety belts should be worn by all. Setting a good example for children sets them up for lifetime use of the safety belt without question. It becomes a part of the normal routine of riding or driving a car.
Toilet-training is teaching your child to recognize his/her body signals for urinating and having a bowel movement and using a potty chair or toilet correctly and at the appropriate times.
When should toilet-training begin?
Toilet-training should begin when the child shows signs that he/she is ready. There is no right age to begin. If you try to toilet train before your child is ready, it can be a battle for both you and your child. The ability to control bowel and bladder muscles comes with proper growth and development.
Children develop at different rates. A child younger than 12 months of age has no control over bladder or bowel movements. There is very little control between 12 to 18 months. Most children are unable to obtain bowel and bladder control until 24 to 30 months. The average age of toilet-training is 27 months.
Learning when my child is ready to begin toilet-training:
The following may be indicators of your child's readiness to begin toilet-training. Your child should be able to:
Signs that your child may be ready for toilet-training include the following:
Getting started with toilet-training:
The following tips may help parents get started with toilet-training:
After training is started:
Children can suffer burns when their unprotected skin is exposed to sunlight. In addition, excessive sunburns can lead to skin cancer later in life. In fact, most people receive 50 percent of their lifetime exposure to the sun by 18 years of age. The following steps have been recommended by the American Academy of Dermatology and the Skin Cancer Foundation to help reduce the risk of sunburn and skin cancer:
Remember, sand and pavement reflect UV rays even under the umbrella. Snow is also a good reflector of UV rays. Reflective surfaces can reflect up to 85 percent of the damaging sun rays.
Consult with your child's physician before applying sunscreen to babies under 6 months old.