Comforters come in all shapes and sizes: it could be a favourite teddy, a blanket or muslin, a soft toy or even a favourite sock or top! Whatever it is, if it helps your baby to sleep, it's probably worth having. Studies have shown that babies with comforters of some sort do sleep better than those that go to bed with nothing. When children have a favourite item or toy, they are more able to self soothe if they do wake up in the night, and this is essential to getting back to sleep on their own.
Parents who rock, cuddle or feed their baby to sleep find in the most part that when they wake in the night, they have to go through the same rigmarole during the night. This is the only way that the baby will go back to sleep. When they have a comforter of some sort, they manage to get to sleep independent of you being there.
For many children a comforter is an effective way of dealing with anxiety or stressful situations. It soothes them and is a comfort. It helps them deal with the situation.
What to choose as a comforter?
You may find that your baby chooses their own comforter independent of your choice. They may always reach for the muslin or ask for a particular teddy. However, if you are trying to decide on something, try to follow these tips...
How to choose a comforter?
1. Choose something that is easily replaceable (ie teddy that is from a high street store or a muslin that is indistinguishable from others.)
2. Choose something specifically designed for babies to use at night time: i.e. not a wooden train or a hard toy that could hurt them.
3. Choose something that is age appropriate i.e. soft toys designed for babies (with no loose eyes or buttons that could come off during the night and present a choking hazard).
4. Choose something that is soft and warm to touch; something that can be stroked or snuggled into.
5. Chose something pale in colour because bright, highly contrasting colours stimulate babies and do not help them sleep.
6. Make sure it's washable!
When should a baby be given a comforter?
You can place a small soft toy in the cot from a very early age. Try holding it close against your skin for a while before bed so it takes on your smell. This can add to the comfort for babies, as well as being able to see it.
Children between 6 months and 2 years will begin to form a real attachment to objects and will be more keen to use a comforter. They can have it at night or when they are somewhere new or in situations when they feel anxious.
By 3 years, they may only need it at night, but be led by them.
By age 5, most children have favourites, but the need to rely on one comforter tends to have passed. Try not to feel pressure from other children or parents to give up the comforter. If it's doing it's job, keeping your little one sleeping through the night or helping them cope with stressful situations, then keep it!
According to research, about 70% of children under five have sleep problems; sleep is a vital part of our daily lives, both for children and their parents, so any problems in this are can have dreadful consequences. The issues behind sleep problems are complicated and stressful because too little sleep at night can make the days even harder for both parents and children.
So, what can be done to improve sleeping? Here are a few tips:
1. A day and night timetable
It is important to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day so you begin to "train" your child's biological clock. This will mean that around 7 am each morning your child will begin to wake and at around 7 pm they will be ready for bed.
Children that follow a routine are more likely to have a more peaceful and calm bedtime. They know that the same thing will happen each night: bath, wash teeth, pyjamas on, book in bed, cuddle then bed. They will come to know what happens next and will expect it to be the same each night.
3. Daytime naps
Surprisingly, sleeps or naps during the day can effect how well a child sleeps at night. You'd think not, but naps are important. Children find it hard to go all day long without a break and it can make them more relaxed and focused. The better the daytime sleep, the better the night sleep.
4. Help get them in the mood
Dim the lights, talk more quietly, turn off the TV or music and be calm during the last half hour of the day. Put black out curtain in your child's bedroom so any sunlight is not making the room bright. Similarly, the sunlight will encourage them to wake up so keep the binds down if you want them to increase the chances of them sleeping in later in the morning.
Try and make the bedroom a calm place in the evening. Make it warm and comfortable. Warm the pyjamas if its cold outside, make the bed look welcoming and just try to make it a nice place to be.
6. Hungry or hyper?
Try not to feed sugary foods in the evening that can make children too alert and awake. Carbohydrates are more calming on the body so try and eat these in the evening. And, make sure they have eaten well during the day. A hungry tummy can make sleep very hard!
7. Wear them out!
Make sure that you do lots of physical exercise with children during the day so they are worn out by bedtime! It's good for them to enjoy the outdoors and healthy too, so take them out whenever you can so they are tired and drop off to sleep quickly.
8. Read a book
A great way to end the day is to share a book. Snuggle up somewhere warm and chat about your day together. Relax and make it a special time of day.
9. Take a teddy
Allow your child to take a favourite teddy to bed with them. Its comforting and helps them sleep. Just make sure it's safe with no loose buttons or ribbons they could swallow.
10. Separation anxiety
If they worry about being away from you and use it as as excuse not to sleep, comfort them, show you where you sleep and be firm about not letting them out of bed.
There is so much TV aimed at children that it's easy to think its okay for little babies and toddlers to watch it all the time. Much of it is billed as 'educational' so why shouldn't they tune in and watch it as much as they like.
A lot of research has been done on this topic. It shows that for babies under two, what they see when they watch television is a mass of colours moving about the place. They do not understand what's actually going on.
Research also shows that cartoons are often full of realistic violence and aggression even when they are animated and that this can make a child more aggressive themselves, making them familiar and unaffected by the idea of violence.
Watching TV can be addictive, the more they watch the more they want to see. It becomes the easy option to pull up a chair rather than do something more creative or interesting.
Time spent watching TV is not spent being active and doing healthy activities so it's not good for mental or physical well being.
Children that watch lots of TV may become antisocial, may have trouble adjusting to new environments and be less enthusiastic or imaginative when it comes to school.
However it's not all bad. There are some benefits that television can bring, if watched in moderation.
- It can teach basic skills, numbers, letters, sounds and good behaviour.
- They can see things that are not immediately around them, extending their experience: wild animals, foreign lands, history.
- TV can support other learning and reinforce what they learn at nursery or preschool.
- It does provide a little down time from physcial activity if they are tired, or after a long day at school.
- Unless billed specifically for preschoolers, watch programmes or DVD's before you show them to your child as there might be scary or sad bits you wish to keep from your child.
- Choose age appropriate programmes.
- Watch with your child so you can talk about the pictures or content together. Talk about the programmes after.
- Make rules about the duration and timing of TV watching and keep to it.
If in doubt, just go and do something more interesting outside!
Music is an important part of a baby's development but at different stages in their early life it can be used in different ways.
Newborns love music played softly. Prepare a nice warm room, cuddle up with your baby and put on some lovely relaxing music. Rock slightly to the rhythm and enjoy some quiet, peaceful time together.
3-6 month old babies love looking at you and your face so this is a great time to introduce singing to your little one. They will enjoy hearing your voice (no matter how good or bad you are at singing!) and will love to be near your face as you sing. Perhaps tap the beat of the music gently on their feet too!
6-9 month old babies are looking for a little more stimulation so this is a good time to introduce actions to your songs and rhymes. Gently hold their hands and guide their arms through the songs. Bounce them on your knee in time with the music and perhaps introduce puppets or teddies that dance along to the music too!
9-12 month old babies will be able to hold rattles and instruments when they are doing their 'singing'. Get hold of some nice bells or wooden rattles and shake in time with the music. See if baby can copy the sounds you make when you sing or the sounds the instruments make. Don't forget to have a dance around together to music. Sway, bounce, and even jig if you feel like it!
12-18 month olds will enjoy moving around a little more to music. Play all sorts of music - not just kiddie songs. Put on your favourite tracks and see how your little ones like it. Do some fast dancing, or slow dancing too. And, don't forget to have some relaxing time together too. Listen to the music in a comfy chair and have some down time.
Have fun and enjoy yourselves!
Getting your baby used to water is very important - taking them for a swim as soon as you are able can make them more confident in the water, more relaxed and open to learning to swim a few years down the road. It's good exercise for Mums and a great reason to get out of the house when you have a new baby. However, beyond all these benefits (and certainly not belittling them) is the wonderful twenty minutes you can spend with your baby or toddler being really close, playing games and having fun!
Tips for having fun in the pool with a baby
- Have a practice run... play some games and sing songs together in the bath!
- Try to go to the pool off-peak. Avoid loud water aerobics lessons or school swimming lessons.
- When you get in the pool for the first time, start gently by sitting yourself on the side of the pool and do some gentle splashing.
- Once you get in, keep baby close and sprinkle water on his back and arms.
- Keep plenty of eye contact, hold baby close to your body at all times and keep your face near her.
- When you are more confident, move baby through the water, cradling and supporting at all times and keep them close to you. Lots of body contact feels great in the water for you and for baby too!
- The weightlessness of swimming feels lovely for baby too - so enjoy moving through the pool together focusing on the unusual properties of water and how it changes how you both feel!
When to get out
- As soon as your baby begins to shiver, get them out and wrap in a towel.
- Only start with short sessions to begin with - about 10 minutes may be enough. Remember, you're not looking for value for money - you're introducing your little one to swimming! Certainly if your baby is under one don't stay longer than thirty minutes.
- Don't go if your baby is unwell or has a cold.
- Check with your GP if your baby has dry skin or nappy rash. Swimming may help or may irritate some conditions.
Dry your baby well and keep them warm after a swim. Enjoy the time together and be as close and as cuddly you can.
Having a routine helps your young children understand where they are in the day, and bath time is an important signal that it's almost time for bed. At the end of the day, babies and toddlers may be tired and almost looking forward to sleep, but it can also be a stressfull time for you if they are over tired and become uncontrolled, running away from you and making the bath routine a physical drain on you! Try to avoid conflict at this stage of the day, the last thing you want to do is wind up the children so that they don't go to sleep when needed. Instead, try to make bath time a relaxing time and use it to calm them down.
There are plenty of bubble and smelly products formulated specially for children's gentle skin that can be added to the bath. Encourage them to play with the water because water can soothe them and calm them. There are plenty of toys designed for the bath, but don't be afraid of using anything waterproof such as plastic bottles, plastic pots and even some of their regular toys so long as they won't trap water inside and spoil.
Encourage your children to think about what will sink and what will float, and have them pour water to learn about the way that water behaves. Pour water from one cup, bowl or bottle to another, to learn about volume, about what holds most water, and what happens to water when it overflows. These are all important lessons as they grow up. Children can often entertain themselves for considerable periods in the bath simply by experimenting, and it's all learning play for them, giving them a thorough understanding of the many properties of water. Why not introduce some ice to their play? ...not so much that it makes the water too cold, but a couple of blocks so that they can see it melt, and learn that ice melts to water. Water is a strange substance, one that we take so much for granted, but a substance that has so much to teach your growing toddlers.
Children need time to interact with adults and to play with other children, but they also need time on their own during the day. Whilst they crave the love and attention of their parents and indeed grandparents and feel loved and special when they share games and activities together, it is also important to give them some space and let them develop their own sense of self through solitary play. This can be in the form of some daily "down time" where they might retreat to their bedroom at a certain point every day. You can build time into your daily routine, perhaps after lunch. Select some books together for your child to look through and encourage them to sit on their beds to read them. Or perhaps encourage some peaceful play time with a few jigsaw puzzles and some gentle music. Or, just explain they will have some time to play on their own in the room, doing anything they like at all. Either way, make sure you are not at the centre of the activities, make sure your child is free and alone, even if it is just for a short time. It's important to allow your children to develop skills to amuse themselves, and, its great to have a bit of down time your self!
There are many benefits to undertaking baby massage with your new baby. The constant contact will help nurture the bond between you and your baby and will make your baby feel comforted and secure. Massage helps relax the nervous system, improving sleep and prolonging naps. Massage can also strengthen and regulate your baby's digestive, respiratory and circulatory systems and it can help reduce colic. Particularly for first time parents, massage helps grow your confidence in handling your baby, and helps to reasssure you that your baby isn't too fragile to handle! There are lots of books, and you should find plenty of local courses to ease you into baby massage. Seek out a course now, and help to nurture the bond with your baby! Don't forget to blog your experiences at ToucanLearn!