Healthy Family & Home

What lengths do you go to protect your kids from germs?

When I pick up my older son from preschool, I always bring his little brother with me. Sometimes I let the little one check out the toys and books in the play area.

The other day, my toddler was carrying around a book and occasionally putting the corner to his mouth. I was only taking a moment to jot down a note for the teacher, so I knew he wouldn’t get far. But a concerned mom walked over to him, took the book from him, and said, “I don’t think you really want that in your mouth.”



I’m not really sure what she meant – was she genuinely concerned that my son was getting into something that might be dirty? Or was she worried he might pass his germs on to other kids there?

Either way, I hadn’t been that concerned. I just am not that worried about everyday germs. I’d go crazy trying to keep everything from my toddler’s mouth.

My older son knows to cover his mouth with his arm when he has to sneeze or cough. He automatically washes his hands after going to the bathroom. Those are the bare minimums for keeping your germs to yourself, and at four years old, he does pretty well.

I also cancel playdates if he’s sniffly or coughing, even if he is in good spirits with no sign of fever. But beyond this, we don’t go out of our way to do much to keep germs at bay.

I’ve also found it impossible to keep the brothers’ germs separated.

Little brother just wants to test out everything with his mouth, including big brother’s straw, snack leftovers, and even his baseball bat. And with two kids, there’s just no way I could keep everything out of his reach.

Worst of all, this has been big brother’s first year in preschool, so he has caught everything. Strangely enough, the little brother has rarely come down with even a stuffy nose.

We were pretty picky around the house when they were newborns, though.

We were especially protective when they were first born, as they were premature and the doctor warned us about the potential dangers of catching a cold with their immature immune systems. But when they’re that small, it’s so much easier to shield them from everything.

How about you? What lengths do you go to keep germs at bay around your kids?

Preemie Love

Baby milestones in perspective

My baby boy has his six-month checkup this week. I’m nervous.

He may be oblivious to it, but there’s a lot of pressure to perform.

At his four-month checkup, the pediatrician told me I was probably focusing too much on my older son, and that’s why my baby wasn’t rolling over yet. (Ouch!) Now with the big half-year milestone in view, he’s supposed to be sitting up, passing things from one hand to the other, and probably more things I don’t think he can do yet.

With the pressure on, I’ve been trying to help him get the hang of supporting himself when he is propped up on the floor. At first he just folded over forwards. Now he balances upright for a couple seconds before toppling sideways.

My baby boy was six weeks premature, yet he is subject to all the same expectations as the bigger babies who got an extra month and a half over him in the womb. If they would use his adjusted age, he’d be four and a half months. To be honest, he’s probably somewhere in between developmentally.

Sometimes I hate opening those email updates that talk about all the wonderful things may baby is supposed to be doing at this point in time. My first son, who was four weeks early, NEVER liked stacking things, and I don’t remember him ever staring at his hands.  I kept waiting for him to do those things. (No matter, it’s a useful service. And there’s always a little disclaimer at the end that reminds you that every baby develops differently.)

But still, it plants the seed: Is something wrong with my baby?

In truth, babies do develop differently. Though he’s not sitting on his own yet, and rolling over is still pretty rare, he loves standing up (holding my hands of course). And he’s nearly potty trained. Don’t those things count?

The problem is that babies everywhere go through a progression of skills they acquire before they can go onto the next thing. That’s why rolling, then sitting, then crawling and finally walking are so important. You generally don’t get one before the other.

Still, I’m in no hurry. It seems the past 6 months have flown by, and I’ll be just fine if my little boy isn’t walking when he turns one. As long as things are progressing, I figure we’re fine.

I’m just hoping the pediatrician agrees with me tomorrow, as we struggle to show off our best almost-sitting-up performance.

Newborn Madness

How big was your baby? How big were YOU?

How much did your baby weigh on the day he entered the world? How much did YOU weigh?

There’s a mindset especially when it comes to babies that bigger is better. (Well, not past 10 lbs, for example, but in general, I’d say.)

When I was told at 32 weeks gestation that my baby was already 5 lbs, I was delighted. That’s because we knew he might be born prematurely, and if he was already that big, then he would have to be fine, right?

He was born two weeks later, at 34 weeks, and it turns out the ultrasound was a little off. He was actually 4 lbs 15 oz at birth. Still, not bad, I thought.

The neonatal specialist who visited with us in the hospital tried to prepare us for potential problems with the early birth. According to him, it didn’t really matter how big or small our baby was. The single most important indicator of how well he would do would be gestational age. (He also said preemie girls typically tend to fare better.)

Babies certainly have been getting bigger for the last 30 years. A study in Australia looked at what might be making babies bigger these days. They found contributing factors to be fewer moms smoking, more giving birth later in life, and an increase in gestational diabetes as many moms themselves are bigger these days.

Here’s some data from the study in Australia:

Between 1990 and 2005, according to the study, the percentage of full-term male infants weighing greater than 4000 g (8 lbs 13 oz) increased from 14.3 to 15.8% (a 10.5% increase), and the percentage with birthweight over 4500 g (9 lbs 14 oz) increased from 2.2 to 2.4% (a 9% increase); male infants born LGA (large for gestational age) increased from 9.2% to 10.8% (a 17.9% increase). The percentage of female infants with birthweight over 4000 g increased from 8.3 to 9.5% (a 15.2% increase), and the percentage with birthweight greater than 4500 g increased from 1 to 1.2% (a 20% increase); female infants born LGA increased from 9.1 to 11% (a 21% increase).

I was 6 lbs 2 oz when I was born, at full term. At four weeks early, my first son was 7 lbs 1 oz. The second guy might have been around that, if he’d stayed in longer.

I guess we’re an example of the trend toward bigger babies. How about you?

Preemie Love

How kangaroo care works

If you’ve ever kangarooed your baby, you know it’s a miraculous feeling. Those tiny hands and that warm little body, snuggled up so tenderly on your bare skin. It’s an amazing feeling for the mom as well as the baby.

Kangaroo care is especially helpful for babies born prematurely. Preemies are fragile and often suffer from difficulties arising from their too-early departure from the womb. And while the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) is set up to provide for their medical care, they are missing out on the normal developmental progression that happens while still inside mom.

Take just sleep, for example. In the last six weeks of gestation, babies sleep upwards of 20 hours a day. But in the NICU, premature babies often only get two hours of deep sleep, often less than a minute at a time.

Kangaroo care, or skin-to-skin time with mom (or dad), can bring an amazing set of benefits for premature babies.

  • Better, deeper sleep
  • Regulated heart rate, breathing and oxygen levels
  • Regulated body temperature
  • Improved breastfeeding
  • Better weight gain
  • Calmer movements, with less crying

For moms, too, there are wonderful benefits. Your breast milk supply will receive a natural boost, and you’ll bond in a very intimate, natural manner with your child, gaining confidence in your ability to care for your baby.

In fact, these benefits can apply also to full term babies, too.

Physiologically, the closeness of you and your baby’s bodies causes amazing things to happen.

Studies have shown that a mother’s body will produce just the right amount of heat her baby needs to maintain a healthy temperature. Her chest will warm up quickly and then cool off as needed, more efficiently than any incubator. Her heartbeat soothes the baby, who is reminded of safe, comfortable days in the womb. He will relax and sleep deeply, which allows him to gain weight and grow neurologically, developing in leaps and bounds that are impossible in the busy, noisy NICU.

See Kangaroo Care: Why Does it Work? and Kangaroo Care Benefits for an outline on the research studies around kangaroo care. Then get set to snuggle up with your little one the next chance you get!