Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Back to Sleep: SIDS & the Misconception of Choking

by Wendy Haldeman, MN, RN, IBCLC, Co-Founder of The Pump Station& Nurtury

New parents experience numerous emotions upon the birth of a new baby; overwhelming love, awe that something so small could be so very perfect, and fear that something might harm this little being. One such concern is the possibility of sudden infant death syndrome (S.I.D.S.) also known as crib death. The scary thing about S.I.D.S. is that the cause(s) is unknown. The good news is that there are a number of ways parents can protect their infants.

Research found that when babies were placed on their backs to sleep the baby was less vulnerable. The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development began a campaign in the 1990s called “Back to Sleep”. As a result over a 10-year period the incidence was reduced by 50%. In the past few years the rates for S.I.D.S. have not changed with over 2,000 infants experiencing crib death in 2010. Despite mass public awareness that infants must sleep on their backs, a new study has found that in the U.S. almost 30% of babies are placed on their sides or stomachs for sleep.

The Misconception of Choking
If parents are aware that back sleeping is much safer for their infant, why do they continue to go against this recommendation? Ask any parent and they will tell you that they are more afraid that the baby will choke. This misconception is perpetuated by anyone who raised a child prior to 1990 as everyone believed that babies were much more likely to choke if placed on the back. This is simply not true for healthy, full-term infants.
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Babies are anatomically protected in several ways against choking while lying on their backs. First off, when a human is placed on the back, the trachea (wind pipe) is on top of the esophagus (food pipe). If stomach contents come up the esophagus, the baby will cough to prevent anything from getting into the trachea. Infants placed on their stomachs are actually more likely to choke then if they are lying on their backs. Second, nature further protects young babies in a unique way. Until a baby is about 9 months old she is able to breathe and swallow at the same time. This is possible because the larynx (upper end of the trachea) and hyoid bone are higher up in the infant’s throat. As the baby matures, the larynx and hyoid bone move down, allowing for increased vocal ability.
Placing babies to sleep on their sides can be just as risky as stomach sleeping. Infants can easily roll onto their stomachs from a side position. To prevent this parents will often roll up blankets or use some other device to prop the baby. Unfortunately, blankets and sleep positioners can also become a smothering hazard. Bottom line, infants belong on their backs while sleeping with nothing in the crib except for the baby.

What you can do to help prevent SIDS
Although back sleeping appears to be the most effective measure a parent can take to provide for healthy sleep there are other strategies that can be effective in reducing the risk of S.I.D.S. Don’t smoke around the baby. Provide good air circulation around the baby’s little body. Avoid overheating. Babies who sleep in their parent’s room for at least the first 6 months are less likely to experience crib death. Pacifiers are also thought to help reduce the risk. And lastly, we would not be The Pump Station & Nurtury if we did not also mention that numerous studies have shown breastfeeding to be an important factor in protecting babies against a number of things including S.I.D.S.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Tips to Help Your Child Swim Like a Fish By Age 3

by Lisa Cook, Founder & CEO of KidSwim

Want a three year old fish? Here’s how to get one!

1.    Start them at six months of age. Don’t wait! It is perfectly safe for most babies to hit the pool by six months. If chlorine and sensitive skin is a factor, use a private pool as the chemicals are much lower. Overall though, I have seen very few reactions in all my years of teaching that would keep a baby from enjoying the water.

2.    Ideally you want your baby to experience the water consistently (consistency is THE KEY to swimming at an early age and becoming water confident by age three or four) starting at 6 months all the way up to age 3 with only small gaps of time off. (no more than a two month break)

3.    When it comes to a child's brain, spaced study is preferable to learning in shorter, more concentrated blocks of time. This means that babies and young children learn better and retain more by small doses over long periods of time rather than intense doses for short periods of time.

4.    Don’t be Martin Scorsese, meaning, don’t direct your child. Once they start exploring and experimenting, let them take the lead. Additionally, don’t be their teacher. Your job is to bond with them in a new environment. When your child transitions into formal lessons, let the teacher teach. You should simply enjoy the time in the pool with your kids whenever you get it, without an agenda.

5.    Playing IS learning. Don’t mistake play for ‘goofing around’ or ‘lack of focus.’ We all know children learn through playing and the pool is no different. In fact children are more incentivized to learn to swim when it’s attached to playing.

6.    Breathe! Breathe! Breathe! I can’t say this enough times in enough languages. Breathing is the SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT skill for being water safe. If you skip it and rush your child through a program that does not teach breathing, you are doing them a huge disservice in their later years of life.

7.    Stay with what works. When you find a teacher you like and your child adores, do your very best to stay with that teacher until your child is at least 4.

8.    The most crucial component of creating a swimmer by age 3 is starting at 6 months and keeping them exposed to swimming and pools during the ages of 18-36 months.If you can do this fairly seamlessly, you will have a 3 year old who is familiar with all things water, with swimming, and beginning skills so you can simply move forward without regressing.

9.    Age 2 is the most challenging year for children to accomplish new skills. They are battling their own egos and are emotional creatures. Many children learn to swim by age 2 but may plateau for a good six months before having another breakthrough. Don’t be discouraged and remember that in the big picture, it’s a small price to pay for the happy water lover you’ll get by age 3-4.

10. Don’t compare apples to apples. Remember that your ultimate goal is down the road, having a child who, by age 6 or 7 is swimming confidently, adept at all strokes, diving, treading, etc... There is nothing that indicates how well your child will or won’t swim at age 2 or 3... and if your friend’s child started swimming at 2 but yours didn’t swim until they were 3, I can guarantee that by the time both kids are 6 you wouldn’t even be able to tell which was which.

One last tip - please approach this adventure with a sense of fun. Of course safety is the biggest factor and we as parents must always be vigilant, but it is our responsibility to be the lifeguards for our children.  It is not our child’s responsibility to be their own lifeguard at such a young age. For them, it should all be about fun and exercise.  Lastly, avoid using floatation devices at all cost. They give children a false sense of security and they become a crutch that you eventually have to wean them off of.  Better to not even introduce it in the first place.
 Looking for a swim class for your infant, child or yourself? Check out Lisa's classes! Click here...