Top 10 'Must Haves' for First Time Dads

This list will offer some valuable insight into one of the most amazing and terrifying experiences of your entire life.

There was shit all over the walls of our one-bedroom New York City apartment. My two-week-old son managed to simultaneously pee all over me and poop on our crisp, white, living room walls.
Aside from being somewhat impressed, I immediately realized that I was an unprepared and overwhelmed first-time parent. If you’ve ever seen the State Farm commercial where the main character keeps repeating “I’m never… (insert random life event here)” – that is basically me.
Marriage and parenthood have been the best experiences of my life. Our son was born a year ago and, after countless of sleepless nights, ‘learning experiences,’ and unnecessary doctor visits, my wife and I have at last become familiar with the territory.
Admittedly, I assumed but did not know what to expect. Today’s your lucky day, though, because this list will offer some valuable insight into one of the most amazing and terrifying experiences of your entire life:

1 | Birthing classes

My wife was a marketing director prior to becoming a stay-at-home mom. Her ability to plan for the future keeps our little family in check and prepared. One of the most important things she did before our son’s arrival was to sign us up for a birthing class.
We were lucky enough to have an energetic instructor whose ability to combine Enrique Iglesias’s “Greatest Hits” with Lamaze breathing techniques kept us constantly entertained. You can only imagine the look on our faces as the yoga-pant wearing, granola eating, tenured nurse of 30 years straddled her living room coffee table illustrating how to squat and deliver a baby.
Not only did the classes bring us together in a comical and very informative way, but we were prepared for every step of the birth process.

2 | Photos

Leading up to the birth of our son, we basically relived our childhoods through pictures. Our families did not hesitate to share every photo of our youth that had ever been taken. Looking at our priceless memories made me realize how important it would be to create our own to share with our son someday.
Whether it’s a camera phone or a DSLR, just make sure that you capture all the moments you can. I captured my wife’s pregnancy and made a great photo book memento. I’m also compiling an album to share my son’s embarrassing photos when he brings his first significant other home to meet us.
Disclaimer: If your wife screams at you to get the camera out of her face while she is in labor, don’t be afraid to ask the nurse to take pictures instead. Your spouse may want to kill you then, but reliving the moment that your child came into the world is unreal.

3 | Prepared hospital bags

‘Essential’ doesn’t even begin to describe this one. Below is my recommended checklist when planning for a stay in a maternity ward. Of course, you’ll probably think of other things I may have missed.
Changes of clothes
Cell phones and chargers
Snacks
Pillow
Candy for the nurses
Medication (if applicable)
Anything you need to make the delivery room special for your wife (candles, pillows, pictures, etc.)
Toiletries
Safe car seat if you’re driving your baby home
Camera
For those driving to the hospital, I would also recommend looking into the parking situation and pricing.

4 | Scheduled date nights

It’s important to make time for your relationship. It’s hard not to feel bad leaving your little one behind, but it’s worse to forget about each other. A strong bond with your spouse will help during the stressful times. The first few weeks after childbirth can feel like your freedom is gone. It’s not gone, it’s just a change – a “new-normal.”
My mother-in-law actually kicked my wife and I out of our apartment to go on one date a week after our son arrived. Except for the tears during the appetizers, it was great.

5 | Dad-ready apparel

My son loves to be walked in his stroller, so a good pair of sneakers was key. Don’t forget you’re going to be carrying your child everywhere.
You’ll also spend a lot of time celebrating moments in your child’s life. Spruce up your wardrobe while you don’t feel bad about spending on yourself. Whether for a religious event or work, a well-tailored suit is always a must-have.

6 | Sense of humor

There will be a lot of serious moments to come. Stay light-hearted and enjoy this special time in your child’s life.
One of my favorite memories came after our son turned a week old. He was having trouble sleeping and woke us up almost every hour for a 48-hour period. We were mentally drained and feeling the physical effects of sleep deprivation. My buddy had given my son a large stuffed bear, so we decided it was time they were introduced. James’s expression was priceless, and the laughter gave us the ability to power through the pain.

7 | Baby gear

After gallivanting around the city at our own leisure for five years, we immediately started to feel caged in our small apartment. Within the first few weeks, my wife and I knew we had to get outside. Our son was born in July, so we were able to take advantage of the summer weather.
I highly suggest a convertible stroller with a snap-in car seat. It’s important to check the weight of the stroller and safety rating. At the end of the day, the stroller should be as comfortable for you as it is for your baby because it will be a constant staple in your life for awhile. Take the time to test-drive a few around the store to determine what works best for you.

8 | Defined responsibilities

My wife and I quickly assumed different roles taking care of our little guy. For us, this was a natural process because we both realized our specialties rather quickly and how they fit in with my work schedule. It’s absolutely crucial that you are there for each other.
If you haven’t done so already, learn to recognize your partner’s ‘breaking-points’ and be prepared to step in to allow for some much needed sleep or a chance to just step away for a minute to take a breath. The first month is a test of true endurance.

9 | A good doctor

This is a big one. During pregnancy, it’s paramount that you and your significant other find a pediatrician for your baby. Lots of pediatricians have scheduled meeting times or take appointments for interviews. I’d suggest meeting with a few different practices before selecting the best fit for your family.
Remember, you will spend quite a bit of time with your doctor in the first year of your baby’s life, so you need to feel comfortable and confident in their ability to take care of your child. Below are several items to think about when selecting a doctor:
What are the hours of the practice?
Does the practice have scheduled times for newborn visits?
Does the practice isolate the newborn and family from other patients when waiting for appointments? (This is important since your child’s immune system will be weak early on.)
Does the practice take your health insurance?
How long has the doctor been practicing?
What hospital is the doctor affiliated with? Will the doctor be visiting your child after birth in the hospital?
Are there other doctors in the practice, and are you comfortable/confident with them?
What are the doctor’s philosophical beliefs about child-raising (e.g. thoughts on breastfeeding or vaccinations), and do they align with yours?
Is the doctor specialized in any particular area, and does this align with any known needs for your child?
What is the on-call procedure at the practice?
Make sure to examine the cleanliness, wait time, and upkeep of the office to ensure they align with your standards.
How far is the office from where you live? Is the location of the office convenient/accessible in the event of an emergency?

10 | Patience

Let’s get real. While it’s a wonderful experience, having a child can be very stressful. When things get tough, take a breath and remember that these moments are fleeting. Don’t be afraid to ask your partner for help when you’ve reached your physical or mental limit.
I’m a strong believer that your child feeds off of and reacts to your energy, so you need to be confident and relaxed. If you have the support of family, don’t hesitate to ask for their assistance when you feel your patience running thin.
I hope this list helps as you begin your journey into fatherhood. When you think things are stressful, just remember, in 17 years your son or daughter will be asking for the keys to your car.
Please share your must-haves in the comment section below!

Car Seat Safety: We’re All Doing It Wrong

A car seat study has been making the rounds, giving new parents one more thing to panic about. But it’s possible the panic is misdirected.

You’ll probably never in your life drive as carefully as you do when taking an infant home from the hospital. Suddenly, the car seat you meticulously researched and spent an hour installing seems less safe than it did before.
In this case, you’re probably right, because according to an observational study published in the Journal of Pediatrics in 2016, 95 percent of infants taken home in car seats are “Unsafe from the Start.”
Researchers at Oregon Health & Science University investigated 291 mother-infant pairs as they were nearing discharge from newborn units. Child Passenger Safety technicians observed the caregivers as they installed the car seats and placed their newborns into them.
The technicians identified errors in almost 95 percent of the study population: 77 percent of caregivers made at least one installation error, such as improperly securing the car seat within the vehicle; 86 percent had at least one positioning error, such as not tightening the harness; 89 percent of the caregivers made at least one “critical error.”
This category of error, which the researchers based off the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration definitions, included positioning issues, like leaving the harness too loose (69 percent), using an incorrect harness slot (31 percent), or using a non-regulated product, like extra cushioning (21 percent). Critical misuses related to installation included car seats that could be moved more than one inch after installation (44 percent) or had an incorrect recline angle (41 percent).
The factor most associated with correct car seat use was working with a Child Passenger Safety technician before delivery. But even those caregivers had a serious error rate of 77 percent.
This study has been making the rounds on parenting websites, giving new parents one more thing to panic about. Although the results of the study suggest that better parent education is needed, here are three important questions to ask about car seat safety:

1 | If 95 percent of parents make car seat errors, are all our children unsafe?

The itemized list of issues caregivers commonly got wrong should alleviate some concern. For example, two of the errors – twisted harness belts and improperly positioned carseat carrier handles – are not likely to result in crash-related injury.
Even some of the misuses categorized as “serious” are not necessarily dangerous. For example, 35 percent of the participants left the harness retainer clip “too low.” Those harness clips, while frequently a source of social media shaming, are not meant to hold children. The clips are pre-crash positioning devices, designed to keep children’s shoulders in the right position before an accident occurs. It’s the harness buckles that keep kids in their seats.

2 | Given that these families were using car seats to take home their newborns, is it reasonable to assume that parents using car seats for the first time are more likely to make errors? Are experienced parents more likely to get it right?

According to this study, no. The researchers controlled for “parity” – that is, the number of pregnancies carried to term – and found that first-timers were slightly more likely to get it right than their more experienced counterparts. Women who had no previous births had a serious error rate of 89.6 percent. Women with two or more births had a serious error rate of 96.6 percent.
The sample size may be too small to draw any concrete conclusions about experience level and car seat misuse, but one explanation might be that the users with visible damage to their car seats or expired seats were among the experienced parents.
Parents preparing for a second (or third, or fourth…) child should pay close attention to car seat expiration dates and replace any car seat with any visible damage.

3 | Given that 77 percent of parents who seek help from trained professionals are still doing it wrong, are car seats too complicated to be used safely?

This study indicates that nearly all caregivers need better car seat instruction. But the results of the study should not in themselves be a cause for panic.
As it has been reported, the study seems to say that even most of parents with CPS training are doomed to misuse their car seats. But the study noticed a pattern in the CPS-trained parents. They were much more likely to make positioning errors than installation errors, suggesting that they had trouble applying the lessons they’d learned to their babies.
The study authors recommend better “postnatal collaboration,” so that parents – now with a live baby instead of a pretend one – get better practice with positioning. The reduction in error rate for caregivers with previous training suggests that Child Passenger Safety technicians embedded in hospitals could help increase safety.

5 Expert Tips for Emotionally Healthy Sibling Relationships

A sibling means having a companion, confidant, and advocate. It also means having someone who is always around when you’d rather have them somewhere else.

“I’m going to take a quick shower,” I explained to my four-year-old.

I rarely shower during the day when both our boys are awake to spare myself the anxiety of wondering what sort of mischief is going on in my absence. But there was no way around it this time. I was covered in the germy ick of the stomach bug that was making its way through the family. I couldn’t put it off any longer.

“But I don’t think I know how to keep little brother safe on my own,” he replied.

I was thankful for his honesty and his exceptional verbal skills. He could have whined, argued, and negotiated. Instead he told me how he felt. If only all our interactions could be so simple.

“I can see how that would make you feel nervous,” I reassured him. “Stay right here in this part of the house with the gate closed, I’m sure he’ll be okay. I’ll turn on a show for you to watch and I’ll only be a few minutes.”

He nodded in agreement and I seized the precious few moments to prioritize my own needs.

The cleansing waters also brought a moment of clarity, a refreshing perspective about siblings and parenting.

I thought back to the times when I’ve needed to resolve conflict between big and little brothers. As I navigated my way through our first year with two boys, I thought giving them time to spend together without direct supervision for just a few minutes at a time would strengthen their bond.

However, every time I was out of sight, I found myself scrambling back a moment later to attend to little brother’s crying and an expression of guilt from big brother. I became frustrated and irritated, expressing my disappointment in big brother’s actions and reminding him (again!) to be gentle.

From my perspective, the misbehavior seemed like a cry for attention, acting out in aggression and jealousy. I knew my four-year-old wanted to be gentle and enjoyed having a little brother. I couldn’t understand why this kept happening.

Then I discovered the work of Janet Lansbury, author of “Elevating Childcare and No Bad Kids,” and host of podcast, Unruffled. Her practical parenting advice, based on the theories of Magda Gerber, involves respectfully acknowledging the feelings behind a child’s behavior, and understanding acting out as a cry for help.

I thought I was doing this in addressing my older son’s need for my love and attention and his feelings of jealousy toward his little brother. What I didn’t realize, until our conversation before my mid-afternoon shower, was that I’d been misinterpreting nervousness and anxiety as jealousy.

Because he told me, “I don’t think I can keep brother safe by myself,” I realized his actions to call me back into the room when left alone with his brother were an attempt to ask for assistance, not to demand my attention.

He knows babies are not self-sufficient, can get into dangerous household items, and can get hurt. It dawned on me that he wants very badly to keep his brother safe from harm but he is just little himself and can’t bear the weight of that responsibility.

I’ll add a disclaimer that I would never leave them unattended for more than a minute or two while I switched a load of laundry or refilled my coffee. My adult mind thought this was a reasonable amount of time. In his mind, I realized, it felt far too long. The only solution he could see was to do something to get his brother to cry, which would then bring me running back to join them.

It was brilliant logic really, once I considered the situation mindfully from his point of view.

He felt the same way being left alone with his little brother as I usually did when I attempted to shower at home alone with them during the day. He was anxious.

When I addressed his anxiousness with empathy and reassured him I felt little brother would be safe, he was able to rest in knowing they would be okay and I would only be out of sight for a short time.

Of course, any sibling relationship will experience resentment, disappointment, and envy, and I’m sure some of those emotions also contributed to my son’s aggression. However, taking tips from parenting experts like Janet Lansbury and books like “Siblings Without Rivalry,” we can address emotions empathetically and help our children build their own relationships, rather than meddling to mold them how we feel they should be.

Respect boundaries

Having a sibling can mean having a companion, confidant, and advocate. It can also mean having someone who is always around when you’d rather have them somewhere else. When we respect our children’s feelings, keeping them separated from their siblings when their actions tell us they can’t handle the relationship at the time, we model how to set respectful boundaries for themselves as they grow up.

Don’t force sharing

Experts point out that when young siblings are adjusting to their new relationship, the baby doesn’t actually care that much when the older one takes away her toys. If the older sibling is given the opportunity to “claim his territory,” so to speak, initially, he will feel less threatened as the relationship develops.

Focus on feelings

Writer, speaker, and childhood development professional, Amanda, at Not Just Cute recommends using the acronym CARE: Cause, Action, Reaction, Expectation, to guide parents through helping children manage challenging behavior. By understanding the root cause of sibling squabbles, we can avoid placing blame and inflicting guilt and judgement on one child or the other.

Comparison: the thief of joy

Adults and children alike feel worse about themselves when compared to others. Especially put in a situation where a child feels they are vying for parental attention or affection, comparing siblings can be especially damaging. The author of “Siblings Without Rivalry” encourages parents to observe and describe a situation from a position of neutrality, being careful not to compare the behavior of one sibling to another.

Fair does not mean equal

That “fair” actually means that everyone gets what they need, not that they get the same thing or what they want, can be a difficult concept for children. But the earlier it’s introduced, the easier it will become engrained in their expectations of family relationships. Babies need different forms of love and attention than toddlers and preschoolers. Reminding older siblings that you’re there to help meet everyone’s needs and pointing out their differences with those needs can keep jealous feelings at bay.

Sibling relationships can be difficult at any stage. Every phase of childhood and development can pose new challenges, but when we let go of our desire to control our children’s actions and interactions, we give them the freedom to learn constructive problem-solving and conflict resolution. If you’re still in the trenches of siblings adjusting to their new relationship, take heart, I’m right there with you. Emotions still run high, and since our little brother isn’t even verbal yet, our boys lack the communication component for building a relationship.

Then I hear the baby giggle at his brother’s silly faces and am assured that we’re on the right track. Using these expert tips and handling situations with empathy has cut way back on aggressive behavior and jealousy. So, with a little time and a lot of effort, I’d say this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Cry-Baby and Other Questionable Baby-Related Expressions

There are a lot of expressions out there about babies. You’ve heard them, you’ve used them, and now it’s high time to see how they stack up.

There are a lot of expressions out there about babies. You’ve heard them, you’ve used them, and now it’s high time to see how they stack up.

1 | I slept like a baby: F

The mother of all shitty baby sayings. When people say they “slept like a baby,” what they clearly mean is that they woke up every hour drenched in sweat, urine, milk vomit, and shit, swaddled in a straightjacket, white noise blasting their eardrums, terrorizing the caring adults and pets nearby. Oh, and they’re shrieking hysterically. There may be head-banging. That’s what babies sleep like.

2 | Cry-baby: D

This one’s total bullshit too. Calling someone a cry-baby is sort of like blaming them for doing what’s expected, like calling someone a bricklayer while they’re just out there in the hot sun layin’ bricks. Or perhaps, more analogously, it’s like calling your pup a bark-dog. Pretty shitty little ditty, as Grandma used to say.

3 | Like taking candy from a baby: D

So 1) maybe don’t give your baby candy to be taken away in the first place, or at least not hard candy, 2) babies are strong as fuck and won’t let you just grab their lolly without putting up a serious fight about it, and 3) the only reason this isn’t a straight-up F is that the song that goes, “Come on, let’s fall in love, it’s easy/like taking candy from a baby” is pretty catchy even though both parts of the premise are wrong.

4 | To be left holding the baby: B+

Yeah, that’s hard. Babies are hard. My baby is hard. No offense meant, little guy, it’s just that facts are facts. This one gets demerits because, well, it’s like 25 percent insulting to babies and guardians alike. Babies are also great, and holding them is cuddly and fun much (some?) of the time.

5 | Smooth as a baby’s butt: A+

This is the real deal, people. We got a bona fide baby-related expression that has legs! Or should I say butts? Anyway, my baby’s little booty is absolutely the softest thing there is. It makes feathers and soapstone and chamois feel like the coarsest grade of sandpaper topped with rusty nails and shards of glass. My first baby’s butt was similar. The Institute for Baby Aphorisms finally got one right.

6 | Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater: A-

Good advice, both literally and pithily, slight demerit for being super obvious. I really almost did throw mine out once, a couple of months ago, as I was getting ready to toss the soapy water into the shower. My feeling is that he probably would have bounced around the stall like a racquetball, but I’m not going to test that out. Yet.

7 | Wet the baby’s head: A++

I guess this one is from Australia mainly. It’s when you liquor up to celebrate the birth of your child. Combines babies and alcohol, ergo A++ WOULD SAY EXPRESSION AGAIN.

8 | Baby, it’s cold outside: C

Not about babies. Still, good idea to let your baby know when it’s cold outside so he can be prepared mentally.

What Can My Baby Hear? A Breakdown From Conception to Toddlerhood

Hearing is one sense that connects babies to us while they are still womb-side. So how exactly does their hearing develop?

From conception until birth, babies do not waste a single second in the construction of their squishy little bodies. Babies are amazing when you stop and think about it: Their whole being is literally formed from two cells, and parents celebrate that fact by counting 10 little toes and 10 little fingers.
As expectant parents, we wait (impatiently) for 40 long weeks to be able to tell our little bundle that they are loved, but the truth is they can hear those words long before we can hear any noise our babe makes. Hearing is one sense that connects them to us while they are still womb-side. So how exactly does a baby’s hearing develop?

In Utero

Before a baby can first hear, his entire hearing structure must first be created, and that process starts at the very beginning of pregnancy.

Week four of pregnancy

Even though mom-to-be may not even know she’s got a baby on board, baby is already busy at work. Baby is about the size of the period at the end of this sentence and the cells are beginning to assemble into their intended body parts. The cells that will form baby’s ears are printing up their blueprints.
If baby could hear this week, he’d hear your whoops of joy as you receive your BFP.

Week nine of pregnancy

Mama may be in the midst of morning all day sickness, but that doesn’t hamper baby’s development. Although the ears themselves have not sprouted, there are now visible indentations, which signify the groundbreaking – so to speak – for baby’s ears.
If baby could hear this week, he’d hear you tiredly ask “Pass the Saltines, please?”

Week 16-18 of pregnancy

Congratulations! Baby’s ears are officially working. His inner ear and all those accompanying bones are developed enough to hear those first few sounds. To be fair, your voice will sound more like an underwater megaphone than a crisp Bose speaker. As baby matures, however, his hearing will improve.

Week 24 of pregnancy

Some researchers note that babies’ heart rates increase when they hear their mother’s voice, which means baby is already paying attention to what you have to say.

Week 30+ of pregnancy

Studies indicate that babies who frequently hear the same lullaby during this time are later soothed by that same lullaby once they are born. Pretty cool!
Common phrases baby will hear during the third trimester: “When will he be here” and “I love you.”
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baby hearing sounds of their cry

Birth

Birth is many things and “loud” can be one of them. From the constant beeping of monitors to the incessant chatter between doctor and nurses to the moaning (okay, yelling) during the ring of fire, the world can be noisy when a baby first enters it. Two particular noises stand out among the rest.

1 | Baby’s own first cry

Not only do mothers everywhere rejoice at this cry, it is also the first time baby hears himself cry. Does it scare him? Or does it make him proud? We’ll never know but I like to think it’s a cry of relief that labor is over. Although, interestingly, some researchers connect that first cry to musical ability later in life.

2 | Mother’s voice

Studies show that the maternal voice is very soothing to baby – after all, it’s been his lullaby since, well, the very first second he could hear. Don’t feel bad, Dads. Dads come in a close second.
Popular phrases a baby hears at birth: “It’s a boy/girl!” “You’re beautiful!” and last but not least “I love you.”
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EMS baby earmuffs for protection from loud noise

Parent Co. partnered with Ems for Kids because they believe every parent should understand the intricacies of hearing development (and not be concerned when their kid starts flat out ignoring them).

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Newborn

Just like a newborn’s eyesight, the hearing is working, but not at full power. After spending 40+ weeks floating in fluid, there’s still some residual fluid inside of a newborn’s middle ear, which can slightly – but temporarily – affect hearing. This is not unlike the hearing fuzziness we experience as adults when there’s pool water stuck in our ear. Add this to a brand new and slightly undeveloped hearing system and you begin to understand why “baby talk” is so popular: Babies respond better to sounds that are high pitched and exaggerated because they can hear those sounds better.
Other hearing milestones

  • Soothed by a familiar voice (two months)
  • Looks for the source of a noise (four months)
  • Imitates sounds they hear (six months)

Popular phrases a newborn hears: “Shhhh,” “Why aren’t you going to sleep,” “Please go to sleep,” and of course “I love you.”
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Baby hearing development water sounds

Toddlerhood

Welcome to toddlerhood – the land where having ears doesn’t mean they are actually used! Parents tend to focus on teaching busy tots to work on their listening skills. (Easier said than done, I know.) Dealing with a toddler who tunes you out can be infuriating, but it is a smidge easier to handle when you understand the reason for the tune out. Toddlers – who still have poor impulse control – are slowly developing their autonomy, and for some kids, that autonomy is manifests as ignorance to whatever you’re saying.
Common phrases a toddler might hear: “No,” “Don’t climb on that,” “I said no already,” “Come back here,” “Don’t eat that,” and of course “I love you.”

How to keep a toddler’s ears healthy

While the terrible twos may force us to focus on the listening aspect of ears, there are many other ways to help keep a tot’s ears physically healthy:

  • Prevent ear infections with extra hand washing during cold season
  • Protect your toddler from loud noises. Toddlers love exploring their big beautiful world. Part of those explorations may include concerts on the green and Fourth of July fireworks. But since their ears are susceptible to damage – and over a third of hearing loss cases are due to loud noises – be sure to bring Ems to functions where loud noises are anticipated. Have a baby in tow? Grab the Bubs Baby earmuffs.
  • Teach him not to stick objects like crayons and beans into his ears.

Whether your baby is still in utero building those budding ears or working hard to hold a conversation with you, the most important thing those little ears will ever hear are the sweet words of a parent: “I love you.”
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Parent Co. partnered with Ems for Kids because they believe every parent should understand the intricacies of hearing development (and not be concerned when their kid starts flat out ignoring them).

Parents in the NICU: What New Research Says About Your Long Term Happiness

Although your life may not look quite as you imagined, research suggests that the medical challenges ahead won’t change your future happiness.

Medical advancements of the last decades have provided miracles for many parents. Babies born at 23 to 24 weeks now have a close to 50 percent survival rate. But the greater health care needs of very premature and very low birth weight babies place additional financial, mental, and physical burdens on families.
Parents of very preterm (VP) and very low birth weight (VLBW) infants have to sort through a tangle of wires to reach their babies, who may face a host of medical complications, including poor oxygen saturation, unregulated body temperature, weight loss, and infection.
In addition to all of these immediate health concerns, parents of NICU babies face an uncertain future. You may also be overwhelmed by the challenges ahead. How will you and your family face your child’s possibly profound physical and mental challenges? How will your work and relationships change as you care for your child? Will you be happy?
You should be encouraged by a study recently published in Pediatrics. The Bavarian Longitudinal Study followed very preterm infants (younger than 32 weeks), very low birth weight infants (less than 1500 grams, or about 3.3 pounds), and term infants from birth to adulthood. The study has been following children since their births in 1985 and 1986. This new paper focuses on those children as they transitioned into adulthood.
Previous studies have followed the transition to adulthood for those born VP and VLBW, looking at physical and mental challenges for both the adult children and their parents. Children born VP or VLBW have a higher rate of disability, more mental health issues, lower academic achievement, and poorer peer relationships than children born at full term. The researchers wanted to know if those same factors led to differences in parental quality of life.
Researchers measured parents’ quality of life and found no major differences in quality of life between parents of children who were born very premature or with very low birth weight and parents who had full term babies.
Although children born VP or VLBW had significantly more disabilities and academic performance issues, the researchers found that these factors did not impact parental quality of life. The researchers conclude that, at least in countries with universal health care, “parents of VP and VLBW children on average show remarkable ability to cope with the challenges presented to them.”
Two factors did impact parents’ quality of life: their children’s mental health and their children’s friendships in childhood. The parents of children who reported a higher number of friendships between six and eight years of age experienced a higher quality of life as those children reached adulthood.
Although there are significant differences between the American and German health care and education systems, the findings of the Bavarian Longitudinal Study still have important consequences for American families. First, the results should be encouraging to parents currently in NICUs. Although your life may not look quite as you imagined when planning for this baby, research suggests that the medical challenges ahead won’t change your future happiness.
The study also has implications for our society as a whole. If it’s true that children’s mental health and peer relationships in childhood have the greatest long-term impact on parents’ quality of life, by attending to children’s mental health and peer relationships we can improve the overall quality of life for two generations.
At the institutional level, this may mean focusing more resources on mental health and relationship building for all children, as well as developing strategies for more inclusive classrooms. At the personal level, this may mean encouraging our children to build friendships with all of their peers, even when it means more effort, flexibility, or creativity on the part of parents when scheduling play dates or parties.

8 Ways to Clap Back at Unwanted Parenting Advice

For those of us going for more than “fine” for our kids, here are eight ways to deflect unwanted advice.

Having a child and taking her out into the world can sometimes feel like an invitation to have others comment on your parenting decisions. With parenting, as with any endeavor, it’s important to be open to new ideas, to listen, and to reflect. At the same time, we all know that a lot of the advice offered out there isn’t coming from a place of deep reflection, but rather from knee-jerk reactions representing the way someone else’s parents did things (and, of course, their kids “turned out fine”). For those of us going for more than “fine” for our kids, here are eight ways to deflect unwanted advice.

1 | Embrace your choices with confidence

If you are a breastfeeding, co-sleeping, baby-wearing, peaceful kind of parent, chances are you’ll be asked at some point, “Are you still breastfeeding?” or “Are you still using a carrier for that child?” Confidence goes a long way in these confrontations. Answer with a smile and an enthusiastic, “Yes!” as if someone had just asked you whether ice cream is still popular in the summertime.

2 | “Is that how you did it with your kids?”

This works especially well for older relatives, especially those who have already raised several children. It’s nearly impossible to raise children to adulthood without learning a few things along the way, and many veteran parents are very eager to share their knowledge with newcomers to the parenting club. Let them share their knowledge. Then do what you feel is best for your kids.

3 | “I’ll give that the consideration it deserves”

This is one of my personal favorites. Most of the unsolicited advice I’ve received strayed so far from what is best for my kids that it deserved zero consideration, and that’s exactly how much I gave it.

4 | “That would be one way to do it”

If someone harangues you about getting your baby used to the crib or using time-outs to deal with those toddler tantrums, you can pull out this phrase. It acknowledges that yes, one way deal with the situation is as this person suggests. It doesn’t mean it’s the right way, or your way.

5 | “This is what works for our family”

You can alternate this with, “We are happy with how we are doing things.” If you sound like a broken record for long enough, people will stop arguing with you.

6 | “Maybe so”

This works well for the pestering questions that start with, “Shouldn’t you…” Shouldn’t you wean already? Shouldn’t you put your child in school instead of homeschooling? Shouldn’t you go back to work? Shouldn’t you cut back on your hours at work to spend more time with your kids?

There are no right answers to these questions. Each parent has to do what is right for themselves and their family. Instead of listing all the reasons why you have chosen your current path (which makes it sound as if your decisions are open for discussion), shut down the conversation with a “Maybe so.”

7 | “Could you pass the bean dip?”

This is a great follow-up to number 6. Change the subject by asking about their kid’s soccer season, how Aunt Martha is doing, or whether they’ve seen the latest season of House of Cards.

8 | “Well, great chat got to go!”

If all else fails, end the conversation. Hang up the phone, pack your belongings and leave, or show the interloper the door.

What is your favorite way to respond to unsolicited parenting advice? Leave them in the comments section below!

This post was originally published here

Playgroup Isn't for Kids – It's a Parent's Lifeline

Whether it’s talking about pregnancy, feeding , sleeping, or tantruming, playgroup mums really do form your squad.

Every week I cart my offspring off to two or three lovely playgroups, and apart from the fact that they both seem hard-wired to fill their nappies in the most foul way the minute we walk through the door, we all have a lovely time. However, I’ve recently come to the realization that these crayon-filled congregations are not actually for the kids. They provide coffee, crafts, community, and conversation for the sleep-deprived, the floundering, the lonely, and the brave. As an added bonus, they let you bring your children!

Social life

If I don’t see another adult all day, my poor husband really knows about it. He arrives home after a hard day in the office to be met with a frantically gabbling picture of dishevelment, who is so desperate for some adult conversation that she can’t actually remember how to make conversation but instead monologues for 25 minutes about the nappy contents of his offspring, current storylines on Paw Patrol, possible dinner choices, and a detailed analysis of how the toddler’s nap is going to affect tonight’s bedtime (it’s never a positive conclusion). Get the poor man a beer.

Don’t get me wrong, I love and am fully aware of how lucky I am to spend every day of these formative years with my kids, but I do have a limit on how many conversations I can have about pretend (but very strict) picnics in one day. (This is the toddler’s current favorite game; it involves a very complex diet plan for each of her stuffed animals, and I am required to comprehensively understand this and serve up the correct colored lego block meal to each “friend” while she sits and watches. The menu can change on a whim and I am not informed when this happens but the consequences for not knowing are dire.) 

If I’ve had a few hours of grown-up interaction, my husband will arrive home to a spotless house, an immaculate and cheerful wife, perfectly behaved children, and a delicious gourmet dinner on the table. Okay, that’s a complete lie, but he will get five minutes of peace and quiet with his beer.

Creative outlets

The craft table at my local playgroup is wonderful, but not because it’s providing my toddler with a diverse foundation in creativity and self-expression. Every week there’s a different and imaginative craft activity complete with a “Here’s One I Did Earlier” example, and every week the table is packed…with mums. We all pay lip service to helping our offspring color within the lines, but eventually get so involved with decorating miniature fairy doors with glitter and beads that we don’t notice that Junior left the table 10 minutes ago and is currently shoveling half the snack table in his mouth while Mum is distracted.

With a two-month-old and a toddler, I currently find myself particularly starved of creative outlets, and any free time I do get is somehow absorbed by incredibly unsatisfying tasks such as showering, life admin, painting three and a half toenails before being interrupted, and removing baby puke from myself, my carpet, my bed, or my toddler. Let me tell you, the playgroup craft table is the highlight of my week.

Support for the body, support for the mind

There is nothing better than a sympathetic ear over tea and cake at playgroup. I do try not to moan my socks off every week, but during the last few weeks of my pregnancy I was like a whale with a sore head. I was delightful company. But everyone cared so genuinely, because they had all been there before, and really, properly sympathized. It was a bit like having my own personal cheerleading team – it helped push me through those interminable days until I could take my tiny man into meet the squad.

Whether it’s talking about pregnancy, feeding , sleeping, or tantruming, playgroup mums really do form your squad. Tell your childless friend that you’ve had a bad night’s sleep with your cluster-feeding newborn and she will sympathize, sure. Tell another mama and she will grimace in shared pain, and wordlessly get you a cup of coffee while you try and staunch your leaking boobs. Next week you will do the same for her.

Oh, and don’t forget the cake. Any place that involves a voluntary cake rotation is well worth attending in my humble and sugar-addicted opinion.

Deranged Quotes Declared by My Toddler in One Single Outing

Being the shepherd of a threenager allows me to act as curator of her finest moments, and provides a slice of levity in an otherwise dark world.

When “you have a vulva, right?” – asked of a total stranger – isn’t the toddleriest thing I hear in a given hour, I know the day has already carried many blessings and will continue to do so all the way until my child passes out at night clutching the lovie du jour (a shoe, say, or a business card). I had a day like that recently.
I’m on paternity leave, and one day a week I’m home with both my seven-month-old son and my three-year-old daughter, and now that he’s started to crawl and teethe and she’s not napping, the minutes crawl by with the intense forward motion of a snail surfing a glacier.
Fortunately, being the shepherd of a threenager allows me to act as curator of her finest moments, and provides a slice of levity in an otherwise dark and anarchic world. What follows are quotes spoken on that day over the course of a single outing by Alice – the human wind-up toy with a sociopath’s vocabulary in question – followed by the ethos and location.

“You wanna pee on my poop, Papa?” [genuine camaraderie/park bathroom, open window]

It was a sensible question, under the circumstances. Alice had pooped, and I needed to pee, and despite reservoirs returning to less-critical levels I’m still pretty drought-averse and don’t like to flush when it’s not truly necessary. She’d already had me confirm that yes, it was a big one, and yes, I was very proud. I had Louis strapped into the 10-year-old Baby Bjorn, the only carrier he’ll handle – the one with less back support than a gorilla hanging from my mouth – and although I’ve become a Papa Pee Ninja, I knew he’d be upset and my aim would be suspect.
But I had to pee.
So pee I did, while Alice cheered me on.
“Yay Papa! You peed on my poop!”
Then, while Louis started to really scream, Alice decided to pee on my pee that was on her poop, and then I reflexively flushed and after three seconds of stunned silence she screamed “I WANTED TO DOOOO THAT” and threw herself onto the gross, gross floor, and then Louis vomited curdled milk everywhere.

(A long list of everyone who’s not sad anymore, now that we found her babing suit) [exaggerated relief/car]

Alice has about 17 different leotards, but only one “babing suit” that currently fits her. It was lost, and we needed to go: We were meeting friends at the park and Louis was already too far into his “wake time” for my liking. I told her we’d find it later, to just use a leotard (somehow me acting all faux-casual didn’t transfer to her), and she began to get panicky and wobbly-lipped and so we embarked on a futile search for it and were about to give up when I finally saw it tucked into a corner of the couch. Alice was so relieved she hugged it tight with snotty tears and began listing all the people and things that were happy now: “Papa is happy now, and Mama, and Louis, and my dog, and Pickle, and the couch is happy, and Grandma is happy and—”.
This continued until we were almost at the park when she asked if she could wear a leotard instead of the babing suit.

“Don’t throw away Pickle! He’s too young!” [pleading/kitchen floor]

Threatening to throw her favorite puppet Pickle the Raccoon into the garbage was not my finest parenting moment, even if she was hitting me and her brother in the face with him, which she was. But the current list of things that Alice loves most in the world goes like this, in order: Mama, Pickle, Louis, me, the dog, leotards & ice cream (tie). Anyway, after I made my ill-advised display of bluster, she reminded me that Pickle wasn’t old enough to be tossed into the garbage, and I was forced to concede the point.

“Dinosaurs don’t swim!” [indignant, shrieking hysteria/living room]

We were headed to a park with a water feature, it was really hot, and she was finally ready to go in her babing suit. For some reason, which in retrospect was a battle I had no business fighting, I made her wear a skirt or shorts. Why? I don’t know. I even told her she could take it off when we got to the park. I’m just making this parenting thing up as I go and I think maybe I needed a little bit of control at the moment? Anyway, once I was in the battle, I couldn’t give in (again, motivation unclear), and so I chose the awesome dinosaur-patterned skirt her Auntie made for her, and while she put it on, tears streaming down her face, she screamed at me that dinosaurs don’t swim. I considered pointing out that interestingly enough, many dinosaurs were actually water-going creatures, but I bit my tongue.

“I want cock!” [hyper silliness/crowded park]

Alice loves to make up works, and unfortunately, one of them sounds exactly like “cock.” My wife and I have tried all the tactics, from ignoring to distracting to “don’t say that” to “how about a different word,” which have all combined to let Alice know that this word is now ammunition. If anyone heard her scream “I want cock!” at the park they did a great job hiding it, and for that I thank them.

“We got trouble here, buddy.” [50’s-style newsreel narrator/Alice’s room]

Alice was trying to take off her dress, and since my wife and I have taught her two different and contradictory top-removal methods, she gets stuck sometimes. Partway through removing the dress, she got all tangled, and for about 10 seconds she thought it was funny before the pre-hyperventilating started. She did her best Bogart impression, and when I laughed, she kept the same voice and said “Big trouble. Big trouble, buddy! I said that and you laughed!” before the claustrophobic panic set in.

“Sometimes I like to hug you on your foot.” [faux sweetness/blow-up pool]

Alice has never been a big hugger. Sometimes I’ll ask her if I can have a hug and she’ll say, quite thoughtfully “um, no thanks, maybe tomorrow, mkay?” I respect that, of course, and want to encourage her body autonomy as much as I possibly can. But she can also be a sneak about it. She knows I want hugs, and so she mainly dispenses them when she’s wet and I’m actively trying to remain dry (like when I’m holding my crying baby).
It was hot, so when we got back from the park it was straight into the blow-up baby pool, and that was definitely the best time for her to come out and give me soaking-wet embraces on various parts of my body.

“I do shoes first THEN my socks!” [hopeful but increasingly panicky about her plan/couch]

She got it into her mind that she wanted to put on her shoes before her socks. I don’t think she ever intended for it to become a battle, but after the gauntlet was laid, some part of her mind understood she had to see it through at all costs, despite my gentle explanations that it simply wouldn’t work. She even invoked her most recent favorite book, “The Carrot Seed,” in which a boy plants and tends a carrot plant and retains hope it’ll grow despite everyone telling him it won’t: “Papa, carrot came up. CARROT CAME UP!”
I tried to say “nice text-to-self connection,” but it was drowned out by the muted, hiccuping sobs emanating from her mouth while she buried her face in the couch, one sock on the ground and the other dangling off her shoe, which was on the wrong foot.

“You have a vulva, right?” [curious/store]

That’s pretty much it. She asked a woman behind us in line if she had a vulva, and the woman furrowed her eyebrow and I said “Okay! Alice! We forgot the milk!” and we left our spot in line to get milk even though we already had milk.

Kids Try Harder When They See You Make Mistakes, Research Finds

A new study reveals that it is actually helpful for children’s development if they see their parents make mistakes and struggle to reach their goals.

I always dread when my children receive a new toy that requires some real high-level skills to put together. Removing the toy out of the package, let alone assembling it, causes the sweat to pour down my face. I feel so much pressure to be able to do everything right for my kids, even if I have no idea how to. It’s not like I majored in toy removal and construction in college!
Why do we stress so much to be perfect in front of our kids? Well, fortunately you can scratch that concern off your list right now because a new study reveals that it is actually helpful for children’s development if they see their parents make mistakes and struggle to reach their goals.
The new study from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology was published in the September 21st edition of Science. The researchers set out to explore how young children learn to decide when to try hard and when it is not worth the time or effort to do so. The specific question they asked was “Does seeing an adult exert effort to succeed encourage infants to persist longer at their own challenging tasks?” This concept is so important to understand because a child’s perseverance and value of hard work can help predict academic success in school and beyond, even more so than their IQ.
The experiment involved 15-month-old babies who participated in a series of tasks. First, they watched an adult perform two challenges: removing a toy frog from a container and removing a key chain from a carabiner, a metal loop with a spring-loaded gate. Half of the babies watched the adult quickly complete the task three times within 30 seconds. The other half saw the adult struggle for 30 seconds before accomplishing the task.
Next, the babies were shown a musical toy with a button that looked like it should turn the toy on but it actually did not work at all. There was also a hidden, yet functional, button on the bottom of the toy. When the baby was not watching, the adult turned the toy on to show that it played music. Then the demonstrator turned it off and gave it to the baby. Each baby was allotted two minutes to play with the toy. During this time, the researchers recorded how many times the baby tried to press the button that seemed like it should turn the toy on. They found that babies who watched the adult struggle with the toy before succeeding pressed the button nearly twice as many times as those who saw the adult easily succeed. They also pressed it twice as many times before asking for help or giving up and throwing the toy aside. Those infants were more willing to try hard and struggle to reach a goal because they saw their mentor work hard.
The researchers also found that direct interactions with the babies made a difference in how hard they worked. When the adult said the infants’ names, made eye contact with them, and talked directly to them, the babies tried harder to accomplish the task than when the adult did not directly engage with them.
From these observations, the researchers concluded that babies who watched an adult struggle with the tasks ended up trying harder at their own difficult task, compared to babies who saw the adult complete the task easily right away. Therefore, the researchers suggest that it is beneficial for children to see their parents and other adults work hard to achieve their goals. Struggling – and even failing – in front of our children at times will help them learn the value of effort and improve their own work ethic as they go through life.