Rise and Shine Feature – Parenting Q&A with Heidi Murkoff

Parenting Tips from Heidi Murkoff, from Rise and Shine Expo
Parenting Tips from Heidi Murkoff, from Rise and Shine Expo

From 27 to 29 September 2013, Rise and Shine Expo, an informative expo to raise happy and healthy children was held in Singapore. There were more than 100 seminars, workshops and trial classes held and I’m privileged to have the front seat to the workshop by Heidi Murkoff, titled ‘What to Expect in the First Year’.

Heidi Murkoff is the author of ‘What to Expect When You’re Expecting’, a book conceived during Heidi’s first pregnancy and her What to Expect series has since sold more than 34 million copies in US alone and published in over 30 languages. It has even been turned into a film, ‘What to Expect When You’re Expecting’, starring Cameron Diaz, Jennifer Lopez, Chris Rock, and Elizabeth Banks.

Last week, we’ve covered questions relating to baby sleep and today, we are covering other interesting baby questions asked during the Rise and Shine Expo.

Q1: Is it OK for baby to suck fingers?

Heidi: Babies are born suckers, and in fact many suck their fingers or hands before they’re born.  Sucking is a strong reflex in babies – and it’s their go-to habit for comforting themselves (and that’s a very good thing).  So no harm in baby sucking his or her thumb or fingers – in fact, it’s the most convenient comfort habit your baby could settle on (fingers are attached to their hands – no dropping them in the middle of the night, like a pacifier).  Let your little sucker suck away for now – there’s no likely to be harm to teeth until much later in the preschool years.  If thumb sucking is interfering with talking and socializing, occasionally use your little one’s hands to play finger games or clapping games or anything else that engages them.  If later on the dentist says it’s time to pull the plug on that finger, a positive reinforcement campaign – instead of pressure or scolding – will work best.  Say, a chart with stickers for sucking-free days.

When to schedule that first dental appointment? While some pediatric dentists believe it should take place sometime after the first birthday, it’s probably safe to wait until the third birthday if there are no signs of decay or other dental issues, you’re brushing and flossing consistently, and the pediatrician is checking your baby’s teeth at each visit.  Also, wean baby from the bottle at a year to avoid tooth decay, and limit sippy cup use (sippies allow juice or milk to pool in the mouth).  Instead, as soon as your little one is able, switch to a straw cup, which is safer for teeth.  Another reason to break the bottle habit at a year: babies who drink their bottles lying down (as when falling asleep) can be more prone to ear infection.

 Q2: When should parents start baby-proofing the home?

Heidi: A lot of parents assume they’re safe (or, that their home is safe from baby and their baby safe from their home) until their little one is walking, or at least crawling well.  But it’s safer to start sooner – usually around 5 or 6 months – since you can never underestimate the resourcefulness of a curious baby.  In fact, it’s always safer to overestimate you’re your baby can reach/get into/climb to/manage to open or grab.

Q3: How much should parents clean the home?

Heidi: No need to put your baby into a bubble – and of course, that’s not practical. Neither is keeping your home white glove clean or laboratory sterile. Regular weekly cleaning is plenty, as long as you’re also sticking with the most important hygiene habits, like handwashing. In fact, research shows that some exposure to everyday germs actually boosts a baby’s immune system – making them less suspeptible to illness later on. Babies who attend day care or have siblings bringing germs home from school have fewer illnesses later on, too.  Same holds true for exposure to furry friends – studies show that young children who have dogs are less likely to suffer from allergies.

Q4: How many times is a child expected to fall sick in the first year?

Heidi: There aren’t any set number of infections a baby can be expected to come down with.  Some babies, especially those in day care or with older siblings, have more frequent colds and other viruses, others never get a single one.  Breastfeeding boosts the immune system, so breastfed babies are less likely to become sick and when they do, are more likely to recover faster.  And of course, making sure your baby gets all necesssary vaccines (and making sure anyone who spends time with your baby, including you, daddy, and grandparents and other babysitters does too) will help him or her stay well. And hands down, handwashing is the best way to prevent illnesses of any kind.

Thank you Heidi for spending much time on the above Baby Q&A; next week, we will learn more from your reply to questions that parents have raised, including about sex!

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