In Praise of Fathers

Fathers should be appreciated all year… not just on one day! While Father’s Day is a tremendous idea, we all need to affirm Dads for their significance every day of the year.

I come from a long line of fantastic fathering men. My grandfathers were both grand fathering me from birth to their deaths. My Dad, in his 80’s, is still fathering me long distance and with just as much love, sincerity and respect as always. My husband has been an awesome father for 28 years. One of the problems with us mothers is that we sometimes spend too much time trying to get the fathers in our lives to mother, instead of just appreciating what fathering does for our children.

Fathers teach two very crucial concepts to children: how to trust themselves and how to take risks! Since men don’t have the same hormonal response as women when their kids move away from them, a familiar scenario often happens. Mom might go out to the park and ask her husband to watch the kids while she goes to the bathroom. When she returns, the kids are playing on the playground equipment, at the furthest point from where her husband is standing. He is in deep conversation with another Dad. Mom’s first response is usually, “why are you not watching the kids, they are way too far away and you weren’t even looking at them when I came out of the bathroom?”

The truth of the matter is, kids can move six times further away from a Dad, as opposed to a Mom, before he has any physical response like that alarm that goes off in Mom’s head saying, “where are the kids?” That does not mean that men love or protect their children any less than a woman. What it does mean is that fathers teach their kids that it is okay to trust your self and take risks.

So Moms, celebrate Father’s Day by valuing what Dad’s give kids!

In deep appreciation of fathers 365 days per year, Dr. Ann Corwin

You Know I Love You Anyway

In celebration of Mother’s Day, I’d like to share a special poem with you that was given to me by a mom that I had been working with earlier this year. She was a new mommy having trouble adjusting to being a stay-at-home-mom after the birth of her second child. She came seeking guidelines in managing her impatience with her children… the same impatience that many of us experience in trying to juggle life’s many demands. In the course of working with her, she found this poem and shared it with me, and today I share it with you as a subtle reminder to slow down and enjoy your precious children.

I bumped into a stranger as he passed by.

“Oh, excuse me, please,” was my reply.

He said, “Please excuse me too.

I wasn’t even watching for you.”

Oh, we were polite – this stranger and I.

We went on our way and we said our goodbye.

But at home a different story is told

how we treat our loved ones, young and old.

Later that day, cooking the evening meal,

my daughter stood beside me very still.

When I turned, I nearly knocked her down.

“Move out of the way!” I said with a frown.

She walked away, her little heart broken.

I didn’t realize how harshly I’d spoken.

Later that night, wide awake in my bed,

a still, small voice came to me and said,

“While dealing with a stranger, common courtesy you use,

but the children you love, you seem to abuse!

Look upon the kitchen floor,

you’ll find some flowers there by the door.

Those are the flowers she brought for you,

she picked them herself – pink, yellow and blue.

She stood quietly, not to spoil the surprise,

and you never saw the tears in her eyes.”

By this time, I felt very small,

and now my tears began to fall.

I quietly went and knelt by her bed,

“Wake up, sweetheart,” I whispered and said.

“Are these the flowers you picked for me?”

She smiled, “I found ‘em, out by the tree.

I picked ‘em because they’re pretty like you.

I knew that you’d like them – especially the blue.”

I said, “Daughter, I’m sorry how I acted to you today,

I shouldn’t have yelled at you that way.”

She hugged me and said, “Mommy, that’s okay.

You know I love you anyway.”

I said, “Daughter, I love you too!

And I do like the flowers – especially the blue.”

Dr. Ann

Premature Babies ‘Need Cuddles’

Story from BBC NEWS 2008/05/24

Even very premature babies benefit from skin to skin contact with their parents, research suggests.
A Canadian study found that cuddling babies born as early as 28 weeks reduced the stress of painful medical procedures which many must undergo. Writing in the journal BMC Pediatrics, the McGill University team said it might aid the recovery process.

UK neonatal units do not always encourage skin to skin contact, said a London-based expert studying the issue. There is already some evidence that regular cuddling can help babies, even those dependent on incubators, not only by promoting their health, but by encouraging a parental bond which could be important to their progress in months to come.

Neonatal units can be very intimidating places, and parents often do not know the
best way to get involved.
Professor Linda Franck, Institute of Child Health

This study is the first to look at extremely premature babies, born between 28 and 31 weeks.
It was previously thought by some experts that such young babies were not developed enough to benefit from human touch.
A common test used in neonatal units is the “heel prick” blood test, which produces a sample which can be used to check blood sugar levels. This is inevitably painful for the baby, and in some cases, it can take minutes for this distress to recede – which could be a problem for a baby whose health is in the balance.

The McGill researchers carried out the test on some babies who were being actively cuddled, skin to skin, measuring facial expressions, heart rate and blood oxygen levels to assess the amount of pain suffered.
Pain scores after 90 seconds for the cuddled babies were much lower than for those who were not cuddled.

Half the cuddled babies did not show any facial expression of pain when undergoing a heel prick test. Lead researcher Celeste Johnston said that the shorter recovery time could help maintain the baby’s health.
“The pain response in very preterm neonates appears to be reduced by skin-to-skin maternal contact,” she said.

Parent Pressure

Professor Linda Franck, from the Institute of Child Health in London, said that parents were often not encouraged to have skin to skin contact with their premature babies in UK neonatal units, despite growing evidence that it could help.
She said: “Neonatal units can be very intimidating places, and parents often do not know the best way to get involved. “Parents want to do the right thing, but the message is difficult to get out there.
“This study suggests that, even for the very youngest premature babies, skin to skin contact can reduce the stress response.”
She is currently carrying out a pilot study in four London units which is using a variety of methods, including skin to skin contact, to encourage parents to become more involved with the care of their newborn children.

This article from BBC News, once again, reminds us as parents why touching your children from their very beginning minimizes their pain.

I remember not being able to keep my hands off my kids when they were born. It was like this magnetic force in the palms of my hands that could not be stopped even if I wanted to.

As my kids got older, sometimes they seemed as if they didn’t even want to touch me or the time wasn’t right, especially in public, for them to accept my touch. But, I kept on doing it anyway.

Now that they are in their 20’s and not living at home, I long for that touch connection everyday they are away. When we see each other the first thing we do is touch, big hugs and kisses.

That is how we started connecting all those years ago and how we keep our connection now.

Remember the importance of touch everyday with your kids, they need it even if it seems as they grow they don’t want it all the time.

Lots of the pains of parenting go away if you remember to touch, Dr. Ann

What All Kids Need…Oprah Tells Us

Oprah’s show this week about the “Little Girl Found Living Like an Animal” reminded us all what devastating effects neglect has on children.

Even if kids are not severely neglected they suffer if their parents don’t have a relationship with them.

Dr. Bruce Perry www.childtrauma.org is not only the leading authority on child abuse and neglect, but is one of the most down-to-earth psychiatrists I have ever met. His book, “The Boy Who Was Raised As A Dog” is not for the faint of heart, but gives profound insight into how the human brain changes if kids don’t connect with their parents.

There is more neglect in our country than abuse. Caretakers are responsible for helping children learn how to form and maintain relationships. Oprah pointed out that if kids spend too much time with ‘things’ like T.V. and computer/video games and not people that is a form of neglect.

There is optimism about change after neglect. These adoptive parents are awesome. Both mother and father gave this child the gift of unconditional love and affection to help this child travel through her trauma to learning about love. Watching her moving in the family pool to help herself process her emotions and environment was a beautiful sight. All kids need movement to change their moods and deal with their pains.

Dr. Perry emphasized what I have been sharing with you on my website when he said, “Simple things like eye contact, touch and rocking and humming can make all the difference to a baby. It makes neurons (the telephone system in the brain) grow, to make connections in the brain. Those connections make the brain functional.

So the moral of this story is keep touching, talking and making eye contact with your kids for healthy connections to keep their brains thriving.

The gift of your presence in your child’s life means more than any other ‘thing’ you can ever give them, Dr. Ann (Check out show at oprah.com)

Asking for Help Doesn’t Mean You’re a Bad Parent

Parents that ask the most questions about raising their children are the most courageous.

Offering advice to friends and family about what worked for you as a parent is excellent. Just remember to give the advice ONLY when asked and don’t take offense if other parents don’t take it!

If you get unsolicited advice from well-meaning friends and family and it drives you nuts and makes you feel like you are a BAD parent, feel free to use this ‘come back’ that I have told parents for years.

Just say to the person, “Could you do me a favor?” Usually when you ask this people will say, “Sure what is it?” Then say, “I value your opinion, but I would really like to learn from my own mistakes as a parent!”

Feel free to contact me with any question you have this holiday season,

Dr. Ann

Baby Borrowers Finale

After watching the ‘town hall’ final segment of this voyeuristic entertainment T. V. show I thought I would join in with other professional parent educators.

Look what I found out…

ZERO to THREE, The National Association for the Education of Young Children and The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry plus many more organizations all put pressure on NBC to get a healthy perspective on the potential damage this show could have on children.

NBC listened and Dr. Kyle Pruett, MD from Yale represented the voices of professionals from all across the country. Dr. Pruett pointedly told the producer that in the name of entertainment children were put in the hands of ‘ill prepared’ teenage strangers.

The expert representing NBC came back by saying “kids are resilient” (meaning they can bounce back from any trauma) while continuing to focus on the benefits of the show to prevent teen pregnancy.

As I was listening I kept thinking to myself, where is their research? The answer is there isn’t any. In fact, there is more than enough research out there that says this is NOT an effective way to change sexually related beliefs or attitudes. A respected parent educator for decades Joan Comeau at jcomeau@familyinforserv.com can site study after study that confirms this fact.

My second thought was where are the common sense protections regarding research with ‘human subjects’? The answer again is there are none for media commerce.

Are we going to allow social experiments on vulnerable babies, children and teens just because the idea was successfully pitched to T.V. advertisers and producers?

Lastly, the show never pointed out the most important element in coping with being a new parent. That element is the incredible attachment and bond parents feel when they hold ‘their’ precious bundle in their hands.

In other words, you can over come any stinky diaper, crying in the middle of the night, tantrums in mall, back talk or having to go to work everyday even if you don’t like your job because you have a connection with your child.

Just think about it, Dr. Ann

Bonding at Birth…a Huge G.I.F.T. for Orange County Newborns

G.I.F.T. or Giving Intimate Family Time is the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended practice of immediate skin-to-skin contact between mother and newborn.

Here is how it’s done: A quick check is done to be sure the baby is thriving outside the mother’s womb. Then immediately the baby goes right on the mother’s chest and abdomen, skin-to-skin and both are wrapped together with warm blankets.

The baby is left on the mother uninterrupted for the next 1-2 hours. This GIFT of a lifetime facilitates bonding and attachments while the baby is in the quite alert state.

Research shows that skin-to-skin is the optimal place to maintain the newborn temperature and blood sugar and facilitate breastfeeding.

If you want to start your family out right and live in Southern CA head to Kaiser-OC. Where ever you are located be sure to ask your obstetrician for this same G.I.F.T. for your new family.

Father in Law Dangling My 4 Month Old By His Ankles

Hello Dr. Ann!

I have a 2 1/2 year old named Justin, and 4 month-old named Tanner. I was at my in- law’s house over the weekend and Justin said, “Mommy what is wrong with baby Tanner” I looked outside and almost had a heart attack; my father in law was dangling my 4 month old by his ankles outside.

I FREAKED out. I asked him to stop immediately and he didn’t, it took a bit for him to stop and finally come inside. How should I have reacted? I spoke with my pediatrician immediately and was told that it is VERY dangerous to do such stunts with an infant and can cause brain damage.

After all of this, I got a 15 minute lecture on how I don’t know anything about parenting and he told me to find ONE person who said it was bad, well the pediatrician did, now what do I do?

How should I handle the situation? At this point I don’t want him touching my kids! Please help! Leah Smith

Leah,

You are a fantastic mom! Your maternal hormones are working perfectly; they told you to “freak out” as you put it and that is exactly what you should of done. Again, you did exactly what you should of done by contacting your pediatrician.

After all, your pediatrician is who you should trust completely with your child’s physical health.

You need to write a letter or say it in person (or both), whatever you think will have the most impact…I always think it is better to start a conversation with in-laws or well-meaning friends opinions about your parenting with a non-threatening question.

So, ask your father in-law and mother in-law (if there is one), “Can you do me (us) a favor”? They will usually say, “Sure, what is it”?

Then say, “We would like to learn from our own mistakes as parents, so even if you think what we are doing is crazy, it is our prerogative to make those mistakes, without comment from you”!

“You can talk about our decisions behind our backs, but please honor our decisions to our faces”.

Leah, you are your child’s parent(s) and you and only you get to decide how your children are handled. Anyone can have an opinion about how you parent, but if they do not follow your guidelines of safety and loving nurturing of your children then they do not get to be around them without you present.

And if you ask them to please stop doing something to your child, they need to stop immediately. I agree whole-heartedly with your pediatrician.
Stand your ground, because you are right, Dr. Ann

Dr. Ann,
Thank you so much for your help, that provides some very effective tools for us to utilize in our household!

Getting Baby To Sleep

The needs of an infant, in terms of sleep, are all dictated by their nutritional needs.

Meaning they need to wake up to eat. Every 2 to 3 hours, babies need to wake up because their tummies are small. They need to fill their tummies up, and then in 2 or 3 hours, they’ll wake up again because they’re telling you, “I’m hungry.”

So they’re going to sleep according to what their body really needs. You don’t want to think about your newborn sleeping through the night. They’re not supposed to.

How you might know that maybe your baby can sleep a little bit longer is by keeping in close contact with your pediatrician because your pediatrician will tell you if he or she is gaining enough weight and that your baby is developing normally.

During the first 3 months of life or so, make sure that you are encouraging and welcoming the fact that your infant is waking up. I know you’re tired as a parent, of course, but it’s exactly what your household needs to look like. Babies need to wake up to eat.

How long it takes for a baby to adjust to sleeping through the night will vary depending on the baby and the baby’s age. You as a parent need to have patience and stay committed. Sleep patterns do not change immediately.

Quiet time needed.

Before they can fall asleep at night, babies – as well as adults – need to slow down their brain activity. In order to do this, they need some quiet time before bed. Turn down the lights and turn off the television or radio. Keep your voice low. Perhaps read to them in a soft voice.

It’s very important to keep a routine at bedtime.

As much as possible, put the baby to bed at the same time each night. Keep feeding times regular. Babies and children respond to routines – knowing that one thing follows another.

Routines should be followed every night before bedtime. Read to your child or pray or say final words – the same thing every night (“Sleep tight,” etc.).

Transitional objects definitely help.

Transitional items should be introduced to the baby early – before he or she is able to sleep through the night. Whether it’s a special stuffed animal, blanket or pacifier (check with your pediatrician about a pacifier). Hold the item while you feed the baby. Keep it nearby so that the baby will associate that item with you.

By three or four months, most babies will be able to roll over and grasp the item. When they are able to do this, place the item in the baby’s crib. The baby will associate this item with the mother or father. It helps to make the baby feel secure.

Dr. Ann Corwin, The Parenting Doctor
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Getting 7 Month Old Baby To Sleep

Hi Dr. Ann,

I have a 7-month-old son who wakes up during the night to drink a bottle. I have tried many ways to get him to sleep through the night, but nothing seems to work. Can you help?
– Lupe

Dr. Ann Corwin, The Parenting Doctor Advice

Dear Lupe

The needs of an infant, in terms of sleep, are all dictated by their nutritional needs, meaning they need to wake up to eat. Every 2 to 3 hours, babies need to wake up because their tummies are small. They need to fill their tummies up, and then in 2 or 3 hours, they’ll wake up again because they’re telling you, “I’m hungry.”So they’re going to sleep according to what their body really needs. You don’t want to think about your newborn sleeping through the night. They’re not supposed to.How you might know that maybe your baby can sleep a little bit longer is by keeping in close contact with your pediatrician because your pediatrician will tell you if he or she is gaining enough weight and that your baby is developing normally.

So during the first 3 months of life or so, make sure that you are encouraging and welcoming the fact that your infant is waking up. I know you’re tired as a parent, of course, but it’s exactly what your household needs to look like. Babies need to wake up to eat.

How long it takes for a baby to adjust to sleeping through the night will vary depending on the baby and the baby’s age. You as a parent need to have patience and stay committed.

Sleep patterns do not change immediately.

Before they can fall asleep at night, babies – as well as adults – need to slow down their brain activity. In order to do this, they need some quiet time before bed. Turn down the lights and turn off the television or radio. Keep your voice low. Perhaps read to them in a soft voice.

It’s very important to keep a routine at bedtime.

As much as possible, put the baby to bed at the same time each night. Keep feeding times regular. Babies and children respond to routines – knowing that one thing follows another. Routines should be followed every night before bedtime.

Read to your child or pray or say final words – the same thing every night (“Sleep tight,” etc.).

Transitional objects definitely help.

Transitional items should be introduced to the baby early – before he or she is able to sleep through the night. Whether it’s a special stuffed animal, blanket or pacifier (check with your pediatrician about a pacifier).

Hold the item while you feed the baby. Keep it nearby so that the baby will associate that item with you. By three or four months, most babies will be able to roll over and grasp the item. When they are able to do this, place the item in the babies crib. The baby will associate this item with the mother or father. It helps to make the baby feel secure.

Dr. Ann Corwin, The Parenting Doctor
Reprinted from A Place of Our Own
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