Saturday, January 24, 2009

Schleich Animals - Some of the Greatest Toys of All Time

A friend asked me where we get Connor and Deirdre's animals and since I went on for 4 paragraphs I figured it warranted it's own post.

Schleich animals are hand-painted plastic animals distributed from a German company and made in various locations. When I say realistic, I mean these are not only carved and painted to look identical to the real thing, they are anatomically correct. That male pig is REALLY proud of the family jewels, my friends. There's no mistaking the genders.

They also look REAL. These aren't cute little cartoon animals like the ones put out by Fisher Price.
We fell into the Schleich world when one of my sisters sent us a Target gift card for Christmas a few years ago. We couldn't decide how to spend it and Bryan and Connor discovered these amazing animals.

They cost anywhere from $1.75 to $15.00, depending on the size. We have over 200 of them now, so you can imagaine the investment. They have been and continue to be worth every penny.

Very early on, Connor learned their names, including the more obscure animals such as the Okapi and Ibex. He sorts them into family groups, similar colors or species, and story collections - for example, when he watches Tarzan, he brings out all the animals found in Tarzan. When he reads his zoo book, he brings out all the animals found in the zoo.

They've been great for counting, sorting, story-telling and other imaginative play, and just learning new vocabulary. Deirdre is starting to bring us animals so we can tell her what they are, and she already recognizes her favorites, such as the kitty and the panda (usually the animals she recognizes are from her favorite books).
You can usually find the horses, domestic animals, safari animals, and the occasional shark or whale at Target and Toys R Us. If you live in my area, you can also find them at Hobby Town. The Thanksgiving Point petting zoo used to sell the farm animals but we haven't seen any the last two times we went.

The best place to get them is actually online, because then you can find the more interesting ones, like the dinosaurs, prehistoric mammals, different varieties of sharks and whales, and animals such as the Okapi and Hyena.

We buy ours from H&H Winners Circle, if we can't find what we want locally.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Blatant Misuse of the Montessori Brown Stairs

Montessori purists get pretty anal about how the materials are used, including that they should never be used as"toys." If you read Maria Montessori, though, you'll see she was much more flexible about this, including an observation that younger children loved knocking down the pink tower.

Connor still mixes up some of the stairs, and the way I get him interested in this activity is to include his favorite toys in the whole wide world. Once he set them up the way he wanted, we talked about our latest focus - "in front of." He has a difficult time understanding prepositional phrases, so we're going to add those to our activities.

Deirdre wouldn't leave him alone, so she's watching Bunny Town on the iPod.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Should You Wake Up Your Newborn to Breastfeed?

Should you wake up a little baby every three or four hours to nurse if they are sleeping too long?

We are having a surprising discussion in my Natural Mamas Playgroup forum. A mama’s new baby has a fever and wants to sleep for long stretches of time. She wants to know if she should wake her baby up every four hours to make sure she nurses. I said no, but so far I’ve been outvoted.

My OPINION of the matter is that it is just baby scheduling from a different angle. Connor nursed every two to three hours until he was four months old. Deirdre was sleeping six to eight hours straight each night by the time she was two weeks old, and then nursing for almost a whole hour when she woke up.

I assumed, and still do, that breastfeeding on demand, or following the baby’s cue, meant actually that – letting the baby be the Buddha: Eat when hungry, Sleep when tired. If there had been slowed weight gain or a significant drop in wet diapers, I would have considered pushing Deirdre to eat more often, but in general I would think trusting the baby means TRUSTING the baby.

But is there actual research or evidence to the contrary? One of my friends referred me to two of the best breastfeeding websites online: La Leche League and Kelly Mom.

This is what I found:

“2. The baby sleeps through the night. Not necessarily. A baby who is sleeping through the night at 10 days of age, for example, may, in fact, not be getting enough milk. A baby who is too sleepy and has to be awakened for feeds or who is "too good" may not be getting enough milk. There are many exceptions, but get help quickly.” Handout #4. Is My Baby Getting Enough Milk? Revised January 2005Written by Jack Newman, MD, FRCPC. © 2005

“Waking for Night Feedings
Many pediatricians recommend that parents shouldn't let a newborn sleep longer than three or four hours without feeding, and the vast majority of babies wake far more frequently than that. (There are a few exceptional babies who can go longer.) No matter what, your baby will wake up during the night. The key is to learn when you should pick her up for a night feeding and when you can let her go back to sleep on her own.

This is a time when you need to focus your instincts and intuition. This is when you should try very hard to learn how to read your baby's signals. Here's a tip that is critically important for you to know. Babies make many sleeping sounds, from grunts to whimpers to outright cries, and these noises don't always signal awakening. These are what I call sleeping noises, and your baby is nearly or even totally asleep during these episodes. I remember when my first baby, Angela, was a newborn. Her cry awakened me many times, yet she was asleep in my arms before I even made it from cradle to rocking chair. She was making sleeping noises. In my desire to respond to my baby's every cry, I actually taught her to wake up more often!

You need to listen and watch your baby carefully. Learn to differentiate between these sleeping sounds and awake and hungry sounds. If she is awake and hungry, you'll want to feed her as quickly as possible. If you respond immediately when she is hungry, she will most likely go back to sleep quickly. But, if you let her cry escalate, she will wake herself up totally, and it will be harder and take longer for her to go back to sleep. Not to mention that you will then be wide awake, too!” - The No-Cry Sleep Solution:Gentle Ways to Help Your Baby Sleep Through the Night by Elizabeth PantleyMcGraw-Hill/Contemporary BooksISBN: 0071381392

“"My baby just started sleeping longer at night. Do I need to wake him to nurse?"
If your baby is younger than 4 weeks, then it is a good idea to wake baby at least every 4-5 hours at night to nurse if he does not wake on his own. If your child is older than 4 weeks, you can allow baby to sleep as long as he wants at night as long as he is
peeing, pooping, and gaining weight within normal parameters. “ - Hunger Cues - When do I feed baby?
By Kelly Bonyata, BS, IBCLC

“How often should baby be nursing?
Frequent nursing encourages good milk supply and reduces engorgement. Aim for nursing at least 10 - 12 times per day (24 hours). You CAN'T nurse too often--you CAN nurse too little.

Nurse at the first
signs of hunger (stirring, rooting, hands in mouth)--don't wait until baby is crying. Allow baby unlimited time at the breast when sucking actively, then offer the second breast. Some newborns are excessively sleepy at first--wake baby to nurse if 2 hours (during the day) or 4 hours (at night) have passed without nursing. “Nursing your newborn — what to expect in the early weeks
This information is also found as part of the professional
Breastfeeding Logs.
By Kelly Bonyata, BS, IBCLC

How often should I nurse my baby?
Every baby is different! Due to individual differences, healthy full-term babies may breastfeed as often as every hour or as infrequently as every four hours and thrive, according to LLLI BREASTFEEDING ANSWER BOOK (BAB) Third Revised Edition, page 26. Daily breastfeeding patterns will vary from baby to baby and from day to day.
Many mothers are surprised at how quickly and easily human milk is digested (often within 90 minutes of the last feeding). Rather than watching the clock it is recommended that a mother watch for signs that her newborn is hungry, such as the rooting reflex, chewing/sucking on hands or fingers, or crying.

Mothers can follow their baby's lead in how often to breastfeed, as long as their baby is getting enough. See the
FAQ on how to tell your baby is getting enough milk or the articles in our Web resource page on milk supply issues. Breastfed babies regulate themselves; they take what they need at each feeding, and from each breast. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that healthy, full-term newborns should breastfeed eight to twelve times in each 24-hour period. This equates to feedings two to three hours apart.

Thus, if your baby is not breastfeeding at least eight to twelve times in a 24-hour period in the early weeks, you may need to wake your baby to breastfeed more often. You can find an information sheet on "Tips for Rousing the Sleepy Newborn" in
the LLLI Online Store, or it may be available from your local Leader. It is important that you rouse your baby for feeding as necessary so your baby will gain properly.
- La Leche League

So, it seems to me that if your baby is gaining weight and has frequent wet diapers during the day, it is perfectly fine for baby to sleep for long periods of time without being woken up. Once again, the right answer is, “Follow your baby.”

Monday, January 12, 2009

Breastfeeding is to Porn as Dr Pepper is to Beer

Heather wrote a remarkable post about breastfeeding and modesty, and it inevitbly attracted not only disagreement, but really unreasonable and inconsiderate disagreement.

One poster made an analogy I have heard many times - that of breastfeeding uncovered in public being comparable to putting a bottle of beer in front of an alcoholic.

Heather's response was brilliant:

The problem with comparing a mother nursing in front of someone struggling with porn to placing alcohol in front of an alcoholic is that breastfeeding isn't porn. If you want to go with that analogy, then I'd say it would be more like putting a Dr. Pepper in front of an alcoholic. Dr. Pepper is like alcohol in the fact that it's a drink and it's fizzy, like beer. Breastfeeding might be like porn in the fact that it involves a person and possibly some nudity. But not all alcohol is fizzy and not all soft drinks are alcoholic. In the same way, not all pornography is nudity and not all nudity is pornographic. Breastfeeding is not pornographic for the reasons I've stated in the post.

Might I add she has much more patience with the temper tantrums of that poster than I do.