Every parent wants to ensure that their children grow up to in a healthy environment – physically, cognitively, and emotionally – but in order to create such conditions, families need a sense of what that means. So, how do can sleep-deprived parents make the shift from daily survival to ongoing enrichment?
It’s all about simple changes founded on these 4 healthy habits.
A Safe Sleep Space
Every family has a different philosophy about where babies should sleep, whether they share a room, or even a bed, to those who make the classic transition from bassinet to crib. Experts, however, generally recommend that infants do not share a bed with their parents because of the suffocation risk, and those sleeping in cribs should not have blankets, pillows, stuffed toys, or crib bumpers for the same reason.
The risk of suffocation or unexplained deaths such as we see in SIDS is why every baby in Finland is given a sleeping box stocked with basic needs, and many other regions, including several areas in the United States, have picked up the practice. While your baby doesn’t necessarily need to sleep in a box, creating a safe sleeping environment should be a top priority.
Feed Them Right
When it comes to your infant’s health, fed is best, but that doesn’t mean all options are created equal. Rather, breastfeeding has numerous health benefits for both baby and mom. These include a lower incidence of asthma, fewer ear infections, and even a lower rate of serious GI issues like necrotizing enterocolitis, a condition that may happen in premature infants and can be deadly.
Unfortunately, difficulties with breastfeeding or lack of support can make it hard for some women to stick with the practice – but a lactation consultant can help you navigate the process. New moms can find a local consultant through the Lactation Network, who can help you find ways to approach breastfeeding that will work for you.
Use Your Words
Researchers who study early childhood development have noted that one of the most important determinants of later academic success is exposure to language at home. That doesn’t necessarily mean reading books to them, although that’s important, but rather just talking about anything and everything. Narrate what you’re doing, sing songs, talk to them during meals or while doing chores. The variety and number of words that children hear on a day-to-day basis can set the tone for years to come.
It can be tempting to carry your baby around all the time or set them in a swing because those activities can be quite soothing, but babies need to spend time on their stomachs each day. It doesn’t have to be a long time, but “tummy time” helps infants develop neck and trunk control that they’ll need to be able to roll over and sit up as they get older. Many babies don’t like doing this, but as long as you keep it brief and engage them by offering toys and talking to them, they’ll eventually transition from tummy time to all kinds of fun and games.
Every family has the ability to build healthy habits for their children, and it starts with the simple things. By providing a wide variety of sensory experiences and opportunities to safely explore their environments, your infant will grow into a happy, confident toddler with the tools they need to thrive.