February 16, 2009

More Specific Cuddlers...

Continuing on yesterday's calming and soothing theme, a few more ideas for soothing your wee one by stimulating the proprioceptive system:
  • Walking - Try going for an evening walk around the block together. The act of walking provides gentle joint compression for your kiddo. And has the added bonus of promoting health and wellness for your whole family.
  • Rolling on a Yoga Ball
  • Snuggle up together in a tightly wrapped blanket. Holding your kiddo in your lap, give her something weighted, like a rice sack, while talking or reading a book together.
  • Try massaging and squeezing your little one's hands and feet. This can be extremely soothing (for grown ups, too!)

February 15, 2009

Why Hugs are Helpful, and Other Cuddling Calmers

Call it the other sixth sense if you will - proprioception is the body's sense of its parts and limbs in relationship to one another. What allows us to drive without staring at our feet to make sure they are moving the way we want them to. Like the vestibular sense, this is one of the eldest and most basic, evolutionarily speaking. Which is why stimulating it, just like stimulating the vestibular system, is so reassuring and calming for kids.

Hugs are a classic form of joint compression and muscular pressure. As is massage! Yogis from my Baby and Tot classes will recognize Heartwarm Touch and my instruction to use firm (but still gentle, obviously) pressure when doing infant massage with their little ones. This is because a firm touch reinforces a developing child's sense of their body's boundaries - lighter touch tends to be more stimulating (for an adult translation - think of the difference between being tickled by a feather versus being kneaded by a deep tissue massage!).

Tykes class yogis will reconize burrito rolls (using a yoga mat, parents and preschoolers take turns rolling each other up and then "eating" their burritos) as a fun opportunity to provide gentle joint compression and muscular pressure. And doing blanket swing, in which a child lies down length wise in a sturdy blanket while two adults gently swing her back and forth while singing, provides both joint compression AND vestibular stimulation!

Babywearing and infant swaddling also stimulates the proprioceptive system. For preschoolers, try a "human swaddle" - spooning and hugging your child in a dark room at night can be extremely soothing.

February 14, 2009

Sweet Stories, Sweet Dreams

Many of us have a set of familiar bedtime stories that we pull out for our children at the end of the day. Achieve an even more soothing effect by sharing personal stories with your wee one.

Kids love telling and hearing about themselves, so try telling the story of your day together each evening. Our children also love hearing about us - tales from our own childhood might be particularly pleasing to them.

Perhaps you could even collect some favorites into a book that you create together. Or record them so that your babe can listen to them again and again many years from now.

February 13, 2009

A Month of Calming and Soothing

As a teacher of baby, toddler, and preschooler yoga, I get asked quite frequently for suggestions about calming and soothing, and helping little ones to sleep. So, I thought I would spend the next month offering a different strategy each day.

Today's Soother:
Take advantage of the sixth sense, your child's vestibular system! Ever notice that toddlers and preschoolers run around in circles a lot? Or that babies love to be bounced?

Sounds counterintuitive, but boisterous activity may be called for when it comes to calming a wound up wee one. Try bouncing, rocking, and spinning activities - begin fast, and get slower. With babies, match your rhythm and intensity to their breath, then bring things to a calmer place by gradually reducing your pace.

For toddlers and preschoolers - songs that involve bouncing on your lap (Hop Along Yogi and Trot Old Joe come to mind immediately) make a great start. Try running around together and shouting "Stop!" then falling to the floor in fake/dramatic exhaustion. Once you have your child's attention, are in sync energy-wise, and can bring things down to the floor (as opposed to bouncing off the walls!), you can start to introduce quieter activities. Massage or backrubs can make a good transition. If you're familiar with Itsy Bitsy Yoga, try some Heartwarm Touch with your little one. Older toddlers and preschoolers will also enjoy giving mom or dad a backrub.

Check back tomorrow for more ideas (and know that these will work on grown ups, too! seriously - next time you're too wired for bed, try running around the room singing a song, then calling out, "stop!" while falling to the floor giggling...get someone you love to give you a nice shoulder rub, and then just try not to feel more relaxed and ready for sleep!).

Photo Credit:
Sharona Jacobs Photography
"Photographing your family as you are"

February 10, 2009

Keep Rear Facing!!

I've been on hiatus from blogging for a bit, but am back again. All I can say is, man! motherhood, and two newish small businesses in the family sure can keep a gal busy!

Today, I'm on a bit of a kick about car seats. Think 20 lbs and being one year old makes forward facing okay? It's a common, and deadly, misconception. Forward facing too early can lead to a severed spinal cord in an accident. Not good. Need More Evidence? Check out this video:

More from CPSafety:
All children should stay rearfacing beyond the minimum requirements of 1 year and 20 lbs. They should not be turned forward-facing before they reach the maximum rear-facing limits of a convertible seat - either the maximum rear-facing weight limit or when the top of their head is within one inch of the top of the seat shell. While most parents are aware that they must keep their children rearfacing "until they are AT LEAST 1 year old AND 20 lbs", very few are told that there are significant safety benefits when a child remains rear-facing as long as the seat allows. For most children, rear-facing can and should continue well into the second year of life.

The most common misconception parents have is that children are uncomfortable or at risk for leg injury by having their legs up on the vehicle seat back when kept rear-facing longer. This is completely incorrect. First, children are more flexible than adults so what we perceive as uncomfortable is not so much so for the children. Second, there are NO documented cases of children's legs breaking in a crash due to longer rear-facing. Even if there were, a cast can be put on the leg; with a severed spinal cord from FF too soon (of which there are documented cases) there is no way to repair the damage.

Every milestone in a child's life is exciting! First steps, first word, first day of school. Even car seat milestones seem exciting, but the truth is, they should be looked at with a sense of dread, not longing. Every step in car seat "advancement" is actually reducing the protection your child receives. In a forward-facing seat, the neck is subjected to massive strain because the head pitches forward. A child's head is much larger in proportion to the body than that of an adult.

The head of a small child is about 25 per cent of the body mass whereas the head of an adult is about six per cent! A small child's neck is subjected to much more strain than an adult’s neck when facing forward. Additionally, in a forward-facing seat, the head is thrown outside the confines of the seat and can make dangerous contact with other occupants, vehicle structures, and even intruding objects, like trees or other vehicles.

In a rear-facing seat, the head, neck and spine stay correctly aligned and the child is allowed to ride down the crash while the back of the child restraint absorbs the brunt of the crash force. The head is contained within the restraint, and the child is much less likely to come into contact with anything that might cause head injury.

In Sweden, children are kept rear-facing up to the age of 5, or as much as 55 lbs. From 1992 through June 1997, only 9 children properly restrained rear-facing have died in motor vehicle crashes in Sweden, and all of these involved catastrophic crashes with severe intrusion and few other survivors. Larger Swedish child restraints are designed to accommodate these larger children. UScertified restraints can be used rear-facing until the maximum weight limit is reached or until the top of the child's head is within one inch of the top of the seat, whichever comes first.

And a few more helpful links:

How to Tell If Rear-Facing Seat is Outgrown by Height (Feet touching the seat is not an indication of this!)
Safely Wearing a Coat in a Car Seat
Why RF is Safer? Pics of Spinal Development
For Older Kiddos: How to Tell if Your Child Still Needs a Booster Seat