Five facts you must know about Preemies

Preemies are babies that are born before the end of the 37th week while full term pregnancy takes 40 weeks. Since they are born earlier than expected, they miss out on the chance to develop in the womb in the last crucial weeks of the pregnancy. That will affect their future significantly. Babies are unique and will grow at different rate and here are the most common preemie facts.

This first appeared in The Standard on 12 February 2017

Preemies are babies that are born before the end of the 37th week while full term pregnancy takes 40 weeks. Since they are born earlier than expected, they miss out on the chance to develop in the womb in the last crucial weeks of the pregnancy. That will affect their future significantly. Babies are unique and will grow at different rate and here are the most common preemie facts.

 

Reaching milestones – Since they are born early, it might take them to reach some milestones. Developmental delay is normal but they will get there soon.

 

Adjusted age – their age is calculated based on their due date not their birth date when trying to track their growth and development.

 

Small in size – they might look small in size for months but they will catch up by the time they turn 1 or 2 years.

 

Complications – their organs did not develop fully. Therefore, they may have health problems that may or not last for long. Breathing and feeding complications are the most common.

 

More prone to germs – newborns are susceptible to germs because their immune system is still developing and preemies are more vulnerable to germs. Caregivers must take great care when handling preemie babies.

 

Five things you should know about your newborn

They lived in a water environment for 9 months as a result the skin can get dry and start peeling off once they have joined the world. It will annoy you but it is neither painful or itchy to them. If you cannot ignore it, use mild moisturizers.

 

This first appeared on The Standard on 18 December 2016

Newborns are very delicate and as different as they look. Here are five common things you should know about your newborn.

The skin might peel off

They lived in a water environment for 9 months as a result the skin can get dry and start peeling off  once they have joined the world. It will annoy you but it is neither painful or itchy to them. If you cannot ignore it, use mild moisturizers. It will clear up after a few weeks.

No long call for days

This is a very common occurrence especially for exclusively breastfed babies. Breastmilk has little waste that the body should remove. As a result, they will go for days without going for the long call. It is perfectly normal as long as you are getting a number of wet diapers in a day. But prepare for a diaper explosion in a few days.

The soft spot

Parents are usually terrified of the soft spot on the head. It pulsates because it is on blood vessels that cover brain. It is safe to touch and wash the area during bath time.

Keeping the umbilical cord clean

The stud usually falls off in two weeks but even after it falls off you have to keep it clean and dry for it to heal faster. Use cotton wool and surgical spirit to clean any minor bleeding, which is also common.

Feeds less sleeps a lot

New mothers usually find themselves checking to see if the baby is breathing in the first few days because newborns sleep for long and they feed less. But don’t let this fool you, they sleep in short intervals. Don’t worry if the baby feeds for 5 minutes and sleeps for 2-3 hours. That is normal and your life for a few weeks will only be diapers, feed, burp, sleep… repeat.

Four baby’s must-haves

Getting a baby when the world is in a consumerist frenzy can be quite tasking. We are made to believe that all baby items on the market are’ must-haves’. Fortunately, our babies are not materialistic and can do with just the basics. But then there are items we really need and these are the most important baby items I have found to be useful since I had my daughter.

This first appeared on The Standard on 19 February 2017

Getting a baby when the world is in a consumerist frenzy can be quite tasking. We are made to believe that all baby items on the market are’ must-haves’. Fortunately, our babies are not materialistic and can do with just the basics. But then there are items we really need and these are the most important baby items I have found to be useful since I had my daughter.

Baby cot on wheels – this is the mother of all baby gear inventions- it is a cot, a changing table, rocking chair, stroller in the house. The wheels helped us in moving her htb1hqv2jpxxxxxqxfxxq6xxfxxxsaround the house very easily without disturbing her sleep. It also came with a fitting mosquito net so it was well-equipped. The storage basket down below also made it a convenient changing table because it can be used for keeping diaper changing items.

 

 

 

Stroller – baby carriers never seemed comfortable for me, slings even worse, but that is just me. captureAs my daughter gained weight and going out of the house was inevitable, the stroller was our saving grace to carry her around, even in the house.

 

Bath seat – once you get used to giving a bath to a newborn, they grow strong and wriggly then bath time becomes challenging when you are alone. 

a-bath-garden-seatThis is where the bath seat comes in handy. Both your hands will be free to do the job and your child will be comfortable and relaxed lying on the bath seat.

 

 

Feeding bottle with spoon – once we started solid foods, squeezy_spoon_6_1this was the best (still is) feeding item we have. It works best with pureed food and avoids the mess that usually accompanies feeding time. It is also easy to handle and feed because all you need to do is squeeze.

 

Life after your baby

So you have gone through the great transformation of bringing a life to this world. For the past few months you have been dealing with soiled diapers, spit up, lack of sleep, cracked nipple, back pain and a million and one other things. You have gotten used to answering the door with your milk stained PJs at 3pm or your hair going unstyled for a number of weeks. But something, like reporting back to work, will wake you up from your hibernation and going out of the house can be your greatest fear.

This first appeared on The Standard on 19 February 2017 

So you have gone through the great transformation of bringing a life to this world. For the past few months you have been dealing with soiled diapers, spit up, lack of sleep, cracked nipple, back pain and a million and one other things. You have gotten used to answering the door with your milk stained PJs at 3pm or your hair going unstyled for a number of weeks. But something, like reporting back to work, will wake you up from your hibernation and going out of the house can be your greatest fear. This can lead to depression and lack of self confidence but while you are in your cocoon, there are some things you can do to keep yourself connected with the rest of the world while enjoying motherhood.

 

Me-time – take a few minutes or an hour (if possible) for yourself everyday. Do something you love in that time. It can be writing about a special moment or frustration or the new journey of motherhood, reading, talking with your good friend or taking a long shower.

 

Dress up – research shows even brushing your teeth gives one a feeling of freshness. So, dress up and style your hair in the morning. You can also get all the mani-pedis at home from hair saloonists who offer house calls once in awhile.

 

Pick a hobby – this is easier said than done but however busy you are with your baby, you will have a few hours in a week. If there is something you have always been interested in, now is the time. Coding, mat making, dancing…the internet is full of ideas.

 

Exercising – don’t take this overboard, even the word can be too much to handle for you. This does not necessarily have to be about losing the weight you might have added.  It is about feeling good. A simple walk outside for 10 minutes a day can give you some refreshment.

 

At the end of the day, you are a different person now, embrace the new you and move on forward.

Got milk?

Breast milk is naturally designed to meet all the needs a baby has. That is why it is advised to exclusively breastfeed for the first six months. Expressing your milk comes in handy to achieve that goal.

This first appeared on The Standard on 28 August 2016

 

Breast milk is naturally designed to meet all the needs a baby has. That is why it is advised to exclusively breastfeed for the first six months. Expressing your milk comes in handy to achieve that goal.

Expressing milk has many benefits. You can store it for later use to have your baby on breastmilk weather you are a stay at home mum or a working mum. You will also keep yourself healthy by avoiding breast engorgement and losing some calories. It will also stimulate your milk supply.

How to express milk

There are different hand pumps and electric pumps available in the market. Research well  before buying the right pump for yourself.  What worked for another mother might not work for you. The main thing to pay attention to in expressing milk is to have a conducive and relaxing environment as well as clean and sterilized equipments.

TIP

To make the expressing process more fruitful, look at a picture of your baby or play an audio or video of her and watch it while pumping.

How to store expressed milk

There are three ways you can store your milk. For this purpose you will need to use sterilized containers that have tight caps because it is very delicate to handle. If you keep it at room temperature it can stay for 4 – 7 hours. If you keep it in the back of a refrigerator it can stay up to five days. Freezer is the best option as it can stay up to three months and better yet, if you have a deep freezer where the temperature is zero degree, the milk can stay fresh for 12 months. Make sure to write the date and time you expressed the milk on each container before you store it.

TIP

When traveling do not thaw the milk until you have to use it.Keep the milk in an insulated bag for 4-6 hours.

 

How to get over the first cold

It is so hard to see your child in any kind of discomfort. You wish you are able to get sick on their behalf. But all you can do is help them get better. Nothing prepares you for the first cold your baby might catch because treating an adult with cold is not easy let alone a small baby.

This first appeared on The Standard on 28 August 2016 

 

It is so hard to see your child in any kind of discomfort. You wish you are able to get sick on their behalf. But all you can do is help them get better. Nothing prepares you for the first cold your baby might catch because treating an adult with cold is not easy let alone a small baby.

The most common problems a cold brings along are congestion, cough and fever. Here are some ways you can deal with them.

Congested nose

Nasal congestion happens when the tissue inside the nose swells or produces a lot of mucus because of the virus from the cold. You can help clear the congestion by applying two saline nose drops in each nostrils and removing the softened mucus using a bulb syringe after 15 seconds. You can also run a hot shower for a few minutes and sit with your baby so she/he can breathe in the steam, which will help in clearing the congestion.

TIP

DYI – You can make Saline nose drops by mixing ½ tablespoon of salt and a cup of boiled water.

Cough

Unfortunately, doctors do not prescribe any cough syrup for small babies and there is nothing much you can do at home. But you should see the doctor if it does not get better after a week or the baby has difficulty breathing or is wheezing.

Fever

Common cold usually causes low fever. As long as it is a low fever you can treat it by removing the baby’s clothes and keeping them cool. But you should immediately visit the doctor if it gets higher (anything above 37.80C).

In addition to these, you can give lots of fluids for babies above six months to keep them hydrated. In the end don’t over-stress yourself because this will help them build their immunity system.

 

Ear Infection

Babies cry for so many reasons and you get used to the different cries in no time. But there is that cry that you know is reserved for serious issues. Ear infection can be one of those culprits. It is one of the most common infections your child might come across in his/her childhood.

(This first appeared on The Standard Newspaper on Sun 09th Oct 2016)

 

Babies cry for so many reasons and you get used to the different cries in no time. But there is that cry that you know is reserved for serious issues. Ear infection can be one of those culprits. It is one of the most common infections your child might come across in his/her childhood.

What causes it

It usually happens in the canal called Eustachian Tube, found in the middle ear, which connects the nose, throat and ear. Any fluid that enters the ear comes out of this tube but when it retains fluid because of blockage the ear gets inflamed and painful. The blockage can result from cold or allergy that causes nasal congestion. This is why ear infection usually follows a cold. Since this tube is narrower and a bit horizontal in children, it creates a conducive environment for bacteria and virus to grow.

How can you tell

Extreme irritability and cry, loss of appetite(suckling and swallowing becomes painful), disturbed sleep pattern, ear tugging and pulling and sometimes fever and yellow drainage from the ear are the most common symptoms.

How to treat it

As much as hard it may be, if the ear infection is mild, the medical experts advice to monitor and wait as they want to avoid giving any medication when it is not necessary. You can press a  wet warm cloth on the ear to alleviate the pain and put warm oil drops in the ear, if there is no ear drainage. If the infection is more serious, especially when your child is younger than 6 months or there is drainage from the ear it is better to visit the doctor immediately.

Did you know that

The Eustachian tube also regulates air pressure in the middle ear and refresh the air in there. As a result, you can prevent ear infection by avoiding tobacco smoke.

Teething

That toothless grin you love will be replaced by the heart melting two teeth smile when your baby is around 7 months old. But nothing is normal and uniform when it comes to teething. Even your own children might get their first teeth at different ages and experience discomfort or nothing at all.

This first appeared on The Standard on 18 December 2016

That toothless grin you love will be replaced by the heart melting two teeth smile when your baby is around 7 months old. But nothing is normal and uniform when it comes to teething. Even your own children might get their first teeth at different ages and experience discomfort or nothing at all.

Despite the difference, the most common signs of teething are a visible teeth underneath the gum, swollen and reddish gums, biting and putting almost everything the hands can get on, excessive drooling, irritation, diarrhea and interrupted sleeping pattern. But the cause of the diarrhea is said to be the things they put in the mouth but not the teething process.

How to make your child comfortable through teething

Something to chew on

Give them something safe to chew on. It helps relieve the pain on the gums. It can be teething rings, sugarcane (prepared in a size that cannot be swallowed), washing cloth or toys. It is even better when it is cold but not too cold. (Take caution with small objects as they my cause choking)

Use your fingers

Apply pressure on the gums using your fingers. Rub or massage the spot.

Sooth them

They can get a bit cranky and want to be held and snuggled for long. Don’t worry about deviating from feeding or sleeping schedules for a few days until they are over the teething stage.

Teething is a long process children go through until they are at least two years old but the first teething process can take days or months. Some medical practitioners advice painkillers depending the case at hand but you must avoid any numbing agents (such as alcohol) as that may cause more harm.

What is BPA free?

You might have seen this written on baby products such as feeding bottles, plastic toys and baby formula cans. BPA, a short for Bisphenol A, is a common chemical that is used in making plastic containers. But why BPA free? How careful should parents be when it comes to products with BPA?

This first appeared on The Standard on 13 November 2016

BPA Free – You might have seen this written on baby products such as feeding bottles, plastic toys and baby formula cans. BPA, a short for Bisphenol A, is a common chemical that is used in making plastic containers. But why BPA free? How careful should parents be when it comes to products with BPA? I spoke with Dr. Isaac M. Rutenberg, an academic with a PhD in chemistry, who has ample experience in working with BPA in the laboratory. He is currently based at Strathmore University heading the CIPIT center under the School of Law. He is also a father of two boys.

What is BPA?

Dr. Rutenberg: It’s a “monomer” meaning that chemists take these and connect them into long chains to form “polymers”.  Think of a link – you can take thousands of links and string them together to form a chain.  BPA is the link, and the polymer is the chain.  Then make tons of chains and this is what we call plastic, like a plastic bottle.  The long chains of most plastics are interconnected in a big mesh like a bowl of spaghetti – the interconnectedness allows the plastic to be  flexible but strong. You wouldn’t typically find BPA itself outside of a lab or a production facility.

What are the health risks parents should be worried about?

Dr. Rutenberg: Polymers (even those made from BPA) are generally completely harmless to humans. The trouble is that, to some degree, small amounts of monomer get trapped in the polymer mesh (‘spaghetti bowl’) during manufacture – which is impossible to avoid. Over time the BPA monomer can work its way out of the trapping mesh. And when it emerges, it can then be absorbed by any liquid that comes in contact with the polymer material.  So a plastic bottle is harmless except that there is BPA monomer trapped in the polymer mesh and the liquid that you store in the bottle can become tainted with the BPA monomer as it leaches out. This processes is accelerated by higher temperature. Hence, warming or boiling liquids in BPA  contaminated containers with BPA will contaminate the liquid at a faster rate.

For every type of plastic (and there are hundreds or thousands of types, although only a few are very common) there is a different monomer. That is why you see BPA Free plastics. But BPA is a monomer used mainly to make poly-carbonate – a very strong polymer indeed. The BPA monomer is, at high enough concentrations, believed to be an estrogen mimic. So if you were to feed BPA contaminated food to a baby, it’s like artificially elevating the baby’s estrogen levels. This likely wouldn’t affect adults because it is a very small amount compared with the estrogen and testosterone that is normally present in a human adult.  But for a baby it could be significant since everything is smaller.

Considering what you said about the risk, what do you think about storing breast milk in plastic bags or containers with BPA or giving plastic toys with BPA to kids? (your professional recommendation as a father who understands chemistry)

Dr. Rutenberg: I think BPA would probably not be a problem in cold storage bags (remember that temperature is a factor) but if you can find breast milk storage options that are BPA free then I would pick those. If you can’t then I wouldn’t worry about it. There are a number of things here (and even in the US!) that are more likely to cause problems or carry high risk. For example, lead in drinking water, or lead-based paints on toys (which inevitably end up in the baby’s mouth). These problems worry me far more than BPA.

Rain, rain don’t go away

Entertaining a hyperactive toddler requires some talent (You will need much more than this if they are two or more). The little things you do together are investments in their personality and future. It also helps you to bond.

This first appeared in The Standard Newspaper on 04 December 2016

I have heard children singing ‘Rain Rain go away come again another day’ almost everyday this past week. For them it is more fun to play outside and the rain keeps from doing just that. Playing in the house is the last option. ‘Hey! Stop running in the house!’, ‘We! If you hit that ball one more time…!’ too many restriction on their movement and the things they can do indoors.

But how can you make their time spent in doors more interesting? Entertaining a hyperactive toddler requires  some talent (You will need much more than this if they are two or more). The little things you do together are investments in their personality and future. It also helps you to bond. Here are some ideas.

Dancing

Don’t over think and plan for salsa and rumba. You can find videos online with different dance routines. Your children will love doing anything with you but engaging in an organized activity like this will be extra interesting for them.

(Suggestion – Break the chain Dance – A campaign song to end violence against women.)

Learn something new together

It can be as simple as learning to say ‘I love you’ or ‘hello’ in ten languages or making soft fluffy mats (that is my next project). Don’t forget to use the things you learned together. It can be your ‘thing’ – just for you and the kids. Be creative.

Cooking

Remember that small  piece of dough your mother gave you to roll when she was making chapati? Let your child get messy and do something in the kitchen with you.

Crafts

With the holidays upon us, you can use the time to make Christmas tree decorations. Surf the internet for different DIY craft ideas.