First “day” back at work after maternity!

Mum's 1st "day" back at work after maternity leave - what it was like, how I felt, what happened!

There is light

So today I was back at work. I’m only doing a certain number of days this month and re-entering slowly.

It was all going so well. I got the lovely crowded tube in the morning; it felt great to get back into the old swing of things despite the mass of people and heat on the tube. Stopped off for a coffee, stopped to look at the shops, the trees, the people, acknowledged the absence of small children, screams, whines, sounds, pushing of a buggy like it’s an extra appendage.
Braving the tube: Mum's 1st "day" back at work after maternity leave - what it was like, how I felt, what happened!

Busy tube, morning commute

Walked into the office. People rubbing their eyes in disbelief – “you’re back?!” – well, not quite like that, they were a bit surprised to see me though (despite various emails about when I was coming back). Chatting. Catching up. Enjoying the conversation.
Logging onto the computers – checking and deleting masses of emails that are now out of date and irrelevant. Setting up my diary. Doing all those fiddly things that don’t really seem that important but need to be done and will save you time later.
Planning and longing for my lunch – thinking about going somewhere with comfortable seats and eating a nice tasty lunch, without distraction, demands or uncertainty about whether a child will wake up from their nap, start to get tired and grumpy, etc.
Re-mapping my brain – reading – thinking – trying to connect back up the links, memories, knowledge in my mind where these had somewhat decayed or stagnated over the maternity leave.
How NOT to have a 1st day back at work after maternity leave - what it was like, how I felt, what happened!

Stickers from the hospital

Anyway, It so happened that I’d set up a doctor’s appointment for the toddler because he’d come down with a puffy and red eye. This had started the evening before but looked worse the next morning (my 1st day back). The childcare provider was going to take him to the appointment. I thought everything would be fine as he’s had some redness and problems with his eyes before and i’ve taken him to the doctors (and an eye test). But no, THIS TIME, this time is different. The GP talks to me on the phone. They say that the toddler needs to go to A&E (emergency room) to be checked by the paediatric specialist because she does not want to take any risks with his eye. She said it was more precautionary. So I pack up. Tell my colleagues this news. Feel like it looks like an excuse and maybe i’m not able to leave the kids or something. Rush back to the tube grabbing a sad egg mayonnaise sandwich on the way. Eat sandwich on tube.
Get home, take child out to the hospital (which takes ages to get to). Wait for nurse triage. Wait for doctor. Wait for antibiotic medication and eye drops. Make our way home.
My first day back at work! Wheeee..eee.eee
(psychotherapists might have a field day about this – the attachment – the separation – me rushing back to give pure physical care and some kind of teleological act of caregiving e.g. giving medication, eye drops, sigh)

 

Psychology Resources & Links – Parenting, Child, Mental health & Wellbeing

Psychology related worksheets, resources, psychoeducation – and links to other sites that provide valuable resources along these lines including self help resources and information.

 

Links to external resources:

Psychology Tools(http://psychology.tools/)

  • Provides free resources for therapists, including worksheets to download, psychological models, translated resources, and welcomes resource contributions from everyone. Psychology Tools was set up by a clinical psychologist in 2008 “as a way to develop and share materials useful to psychological therapists”. I have made use of this website for several years.

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Get Self Help – (http://www.getselfhelp.co.uk/)

  • “Self Help & Therapist Resources”. A good resource for psychological education sheets, worksheets, therapy and self help related materials. Provides information for self help, therapists, trainees, mental health professionals. I have been using this site for helpful worksheets and inspiration for, hmm probably about 5 years!

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NHS self help leaflets

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Centre for Clinical Interventions

  • Has a number of resources for mental health practitioners including therapist manuals, brief information sheets and worksheets covering a range of topics including depression, bipolar disorder, social anxiety, unhelpful thinking styles, self-esteem, eating disorders, generalized anxiety and mindfulness, panic, sleep, procrastination, pperfectionism
  • Sheets include resources such as thought diaries, goals records, core beliefs worksheets, to name a few
  • There are also downloadable packs for “consumers
  • Downloads are well and neatly presented, illustrated, and contain many examples to explain and illustrate the points they present
  • Please read their full disclaimer if you are interested, for example they write that the information provided in the information packages is intended for information purposes only…. “information packages are not meant to treat depression, social anxiety, bipolar disorder or any other mental illness….the information on this website is NOT a substitute for proper diagnosis, treatment or the provision of advice by an appropriate health professional…”[more]

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Mind – for better mental health – charity – information and support

  • Information on types of mental health problems, treatments, helping others, legal rights, tips for everyday living guides to support and services, and helplines
  • Helpful resource on A-Z mental health

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The Compassionate Mind Foundation

  • Set up in 2006 the Foundation aims to promote wellbeing through the scientific understanding and application of compassion”

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The British Psychological Society – Careers Resources

  • Information about careers, education and training in psychology from the BPS

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General Links

Links to a range of pregnancy/parenting/baby/child related information

(I am not affiliated with any of these sites / resources; they are just some options that I’ve come across that you might find relevant)

 

General pregnancy and baby guides

  • A general pregnancy and baby guide from the NHS website –  I looked up many issues and queries during my pregnancy and first few months of LL’s life here.  Pages include short videos on many topics.
  • Pregnancy related questions – From the NHS website. covers issues including food and drink during pregnancy, pre-conception, travel during pregnancy, labour, and more.

 

Information for parents

  • The Start 4 Life website – There is a range of information on the Start 4 Life website including on breastfeeding, introducing solids, and sections relevant to Mums, Dads, Babies and Professionals. You can also sign up for weekly emails

 

Feeding

 

Motor skills and Physical Development

  • Tummy Time Tips – information on what tummy time is, why do it, tips and a helpful video outlining these points. The site says it is “Solely committed to providing the most up-to-date information about the importance of tummy time”, written by a paediatric occupational therapist.

 

General activities, play and learning ideas/tips

There are so many sites and resources out there that detail creative and helpful play and activity ideas. These are just a few that i’ve come across and have probably pinned ideas to the Baby Brain Pinterest board. I have no personal or professional connection to any of the boards or authors, I just liked some of their activities and ideas.

  • The Imagination Tree – a wide range of creative play and learning activities for babies, toddlers, preschoolers and school age
  • Where imagination grows – range of art, craft, toddler and preschoolers activities including playing with light
  • Laughing kids learn – range of sensory play, art&craft, numeracy, science and recipe examples including a zipper board, busy bags, tugging box, with lovely bright and easy to follow pictures
  • Adventures at home with mum – a variety of play and DIY activity ideas including sensory boxes and home made toys, with pictures to illustrate the idea and how baby responds, and nice clear lists of “baby learning concepts” included for the activity such as helps with fine motor skills, developing hand eye coordination, etc.
  • No Time for Flash Cards – site that covers a range of early education and creative play ideas, activities and crafts for kids, including sensory activities, fine and gross motor skills, pretend play, books and reading. You can also helpfully search for activities by age, from infant to school age

Disclaimer: baby-brain.co.uk can not take responsibility for any of the content or advice supplied on any linked to external websites. Baby-brain.co.uk is not affiliated with any of these sites and only links to them as a references source that you may chose to look at for further information if you deem necessary. Baby-brain.co.uk accepts no liability for any consequences arising from the use of any resources made available on this website. Materials referred to and supplied here are intended to be read as interest pieces only, and not as direct advice or in place of guidance and advice from a qualified health care professional who you have consulted with. If you have any questions / concerns / issues regarding your child’s development / well-being, or yours or anyone’s mental health and well-being, please contact your GP, Health Visitor, Paediatrician, Midwife, or other relevant health care professional. Adult supervision is required for any activity featured on this blog. Please decide based on each individual activity if it is appropriate for you and your own child.

Did the baby just sleep through the night?

Did the baby just sleep through the night?

Baby is 8 months 3 weeks. I think he “slept through the night” last night. From about 11:30pm until 6:30am. His older brother, “the toddler”, previously known as “little lovely” didn’t sleep through the night until he was 9 months old, and then only for about a week before he went through a teething episode and some sickness so the sleeping stopped. So, I was expecting to wait until at least 9 months until we all got to sleep again. Hoping this is it and it wasn’t just a one off, or I accidently slept through the usual 3am wails and cries on the baby monitor. Ahhhh. Potential quality of life (QOL) upgrade mayhaps?!

Baby Water Sensory Play Activity

If you want to try this at home be more careful than me!

Dirtand boogers.com water play idea. Baby Water Sensory Play: baby-brain.co.uk, psychology resource, perspective & blog on motherhood

Dirtandboogers.com water play idea

What am I talking about? Well I tried to emulate this Baby Water Play idea (piccie to your right ) from a site called “Dirt and Boogers” (written by a “play therapist turned stay at home mom”; see whole article here with some nice pictures of baby playing with the water tray. There is also a range of play ideas from baby to preschool age on the site). This looked like a great way to introduce the Little Lovely (LL) to some sensory play of a different nature as we have never used water during play other than bath time I suppose, but I haven’t introduced any bath toys yet. I didn’t read the instructions properly and I think this activity is for babies who are not sitting yet, or at least is to be done in a non-sitting position.
Anyway, I set up a baking tray with some toys including linky loops, a sippy cup top and rattle (basically things that would glide about on the water), added water and put a plastic sheet under the tray so as not to spill water everywhere, as demonstrated in the picture below.

Water Sensory Play idea with baby | Baby-Brain.co.uk psychology resource, perspective & blog on motherhood

I sat LL down in front of it (aged 6.5 months) and IMMEDIATELY… WOOSH… the first thing he did was grab the bottom of the tray and tipped it up. The water all spilled out right across the plastic and on to the rug. Oh well, it’s only water.
So this might have been a good sensory experience activity but maybe do as Dirt and Boogers and put baby on their tummy (baby in the original article is 6 months – so similar to LL). Although, I’m not sure if LL wouldn’t have tipped the tray up anyway even if he was on his front.
Maybe I’ll repeat this at some point and see what LL does next time. And maybe I’ll add some balls. I’ve found another water sensory play idea here from Learn with Play at Home (written by a teacher and mother of 2) and they suggest using a high chair tray, which actually might have been a better idea for LL so he couldn’t tip it up, or maybe I could find a heavier or larger water receptacle that he couldn’t tip over. Anyway, try it at home, add some interesting toys/objects to the water that baby can push around and experience the feel and sound of the water. Oh, and at least LL had fun playing with the metal tray, tipping it up and bashing on it with some of his other sensory play objects after his water emptying handiwork was done. He was able experiment with making some nice sounds with the tray – so we got some sensory play after all, just of a different nature to what was planned! Here’s some pictures of him having fun (below).
Safety first! As always, always supervise activities and be careful with with water around your baby. Never leave baby unattended.

 

woosh Water Sensory Play idea with baby | Baby-Brain.co.uk psychology resource, perspective & blog on motherhood

Woosh went the water! As he tipped up the tray

let's make stuff from baby-brain.co.uk - baby water sensory play idea - | Baby-Brain.co.uk psychology resource, perspective & blog on motherhood

Playing with the now emptied of water tray

 

See more stuff the Little Lovely and I made and did together: ⇒back to Let’s Make Stuff!

 

Thank you for reading: Baby Water Sensory Play: baby-brain.co.uk, psychology resource, perspective & blog

The toddler’s visit to the optometrist: infant & child eye health

Infant eye health: when should your toddler or child have their eyes tested?So the other day we went to the eye doctor

I was slightly concerned by one the toddler’s eyes (aged 2 years 4.5 months). He kept rubbing it a lot and sometimes one eye looked a bit different to the other. Hard to explain exactly what it was but probably a mild case of me being overly concerned. Anyway… eye tests for under 16 year olds are free on the NHS and I thought it would be good to assess and get a general idea of his eye health and visual development.

As it turned out, both of his eyes are fine. I was unsure about how he would react to the testing; at our last dentist appointment, for example, he refused to open his mouth, although this was over 6 months ago and he’s changed since. We talked about the eye doctor with him a few times in the days before we visited and explained what would happen and that we were just going to check his eyes, just like we check his ears (the term we use when we take his temperature) and to make sure his eyes were OK. Hopefully by likening the new experience to his previous and known experiences this would make the new optometrist experience feel less alien and a normal thing to do.

Infant eye health: when should your toddler or child have their eyes tested?

We got a sticker!

Fortunately the optometrist was very friendly and the session was quite child orientated and we were able to get some good testing done. There were no problems or signs of infection. Next eye check in 1 year!

 

Here’s what the NHS has to say about children’s eye health and eye tests:

Children may not realise they have a vision problem, so without routine tests there is a risk that any problems could go undiagnosed …

…Eye problems are often much easier to treat if detected while a child’s vision is still developing (usually up to about seven or eight years of age).

When do children have their eyes tested?

  • Within 72 hours of birth 
  • Between six and eight weeks old
  • Around one year old or between two and two-and-a-half years old – as part of the child’s health review
  • Around four or five years old – some children may have an eye test when they start school

 

It’s also recommended that children have regular eye tests at least once every two years. These tests can be done at a high street opticians and are free for all children under 16 years old (and those under 19 years old in full-time education).

For further information on children’s eyes and eye health see this page here from the NHS

 

 

Tummy Time for baby – and why it’s important

Tummy Time for baby - Why it's important! Tips & information, from baby-brain.co.uk

Tummy Time (TT) is important in that long road toward crawling and eventually walking. It involves baby working their muscles, coordination skills and learning to push up, sit up, roll over and other gross motor skills. It’s therefore important to give babies time on their tummy.

Since the Back To Sleep campaign (babies to sleep on their backs), babies were apparently getting less “tummy time” during the day, leading to some delays in reaching important developmental milestones such as crawling (according to this article from the BBC on the importance of Tummy Time for babies and their development). These children did catch up, however.
Some babies can really dislike tummy time, however. I found some tips on this site from a paediatric occupational therapist
– 7 tips for making tummy time a little less miserable, if TT needs some encouragement.
  • It writes about 7 steps to independent TT, starting each step a few times a day for a few minutes while progressing up the steps. It’s also a good idea not to do TT too soon after a meal otherwise there might be a bit of spit up.
  • The Little Lovely (LL) didn’t really mind TT, although in the first few months he could only tolerate a short amount of time on his tummy before making frustrated sounds. I think this was because he was working quite hard in trying to do mini push ups and so it was probably quite tiring for him.
There is a wealth of information out there on how to make tummy time fun and interesting for you both, how to assist baby with tummy time and what to do if baby does not like being on this tummy.
When I first started with LL we tried some assisted TT by rolling up a towel or blanket and putting this under his chest so that he could experience his chest being raised and pushed up from the floor, but without so much of the strain for him.
Tummy Time for baby - tips and information, from baby-brain.co.uk

Tummy Time

  • Make it a bonding experience – there are different games you can play while practising TT and baby doesn’t have to be on their own, tummy down on the floor. Try placing baby on your tummy, tummy to tummy so that you can both see each other when they lift their head. Or, lie on your back and put baby on his tummy on your legs.Lift up your legs, while holding baby securely, and pretend to be an aeroplane. If baby is tummy down on the floor, use toys to encourage them to reach, move, and lift their head. Or, talk or sing to your baby to encourage this. Always supervise TT with baby.
I won’t pretend to be an expert on TT, because i’m not, but here’s a website totally devoted to it – Tummy Time Tips (from paediatric occupational therapist that you can check out for more information. It includes information on the importance of TT, what it is, how to do it (tummy time tips), and a helpful video
Some further links regarding Tummy Time that I have found on my travels:
    • How to make tummy time more fun for your baby – some tips including “forget the floor”, “prop up”, “face to face” and “make it fun”, from a website where the authors are “moms and pediatric therapists”
    • Tummy Time Entertainment  from a site authored by “a certified art instructor and mother of two” – she writes about using an app activity fortummy practice(from Knoala), with pictures.
Tummy Time is important in that long road toward crawling and eventually walking. It involves baby working their muscles and coordination and learning to push up, sit up, roll over and other gross motor skills. It's therefore important to give babies time on their tummy.

Have a Tummy Fun Time

High contrast flash card images for baby 0-6 months

Newborn visual development: babies prefer high contrast images because their visual system is still developing. They can find it difficult to distinguish between similar colours such as red and orange. The hard contrast of black on white (or any strong colour) therefore stands out well. Here’s some simple images to try out. Read more on visual development here.

 

high contrast shapes cards mixed

Download & print for free: High contrast images, newborn & baby, visual images, 0-6 months

high contrast shapes cards mixed sheet 2

Download & print for free: High contrast images, newborn & baby, visual images, 0-6 months

 

 

First days of weaning the baby (we are 6 months old)

The first week of weaning: what we ate and why. Baby-Brain.co.uk. Pschology, babies, motherhood

The first week of weaning: what we ate and why

So, we are 6 months old!

I tried to go away for the weekend. The baby did not like it. He wanted to be fed and wanted me there. I had to come back slightly early. Then I realised (slight second baby syndrome related delay about this) that hey he’s 6 months now and so I should think about weaning (also known as “complementary feeding”, CF).

 

When is baby ready for solids?

The NHS writes that:

Every baby is an individual, but there are three clear signs that, together, show your baby is ready for solid foods… It’s very rare for these signs to appear together before your baby is six months old.

1. They can stay in a sitting position and hold their head steady.

2. They can co-ordinate their eyes, hands and mouth so they can look at the food, pick it up and put it in their mouth, all by themselves.

3. They can swallow food. Babies who are not ready will push their food back out with their tongue, so they get more round their face than they do in their mouths.

(http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/pages/solid-foods-weaning.aspx)

 

The first week of weaning: what we ate and why. Baby-Brain.co.uk. Pschology, babies, motherhood

What you feedin’ me?

Where to start?

Question: How do you get your child to eat vegetables?

Answer: …feed them vegetables!

Some research suggests introducing vegetables in the first few weeks of weaning. Infants may be more willing to try and like new vegetables if vegetables are offered in the first few weeks of weaning – a variety of vegetables, both bitter and sweet, and trying each one a few times because baby may initially dislike or refuse to taste it (as discussed in this article here by Nicola Slawson, 2015). One study (3) reported that

Early exposure to a rotation of vegetable flavours first added to milk then to cereal increased intake and liking of these vegetables during CF [complementary feeding]

Why start with vegetables? – The first few years of life are important in terms of developing healthy eating habits (1) and new foods are more readily accepted in those early years (2). Once a food habit is established they tend to be quite stable (3). So introducing vegetables at the start of weaning/CF might make it more likely for the child to like and accept vegetables as they grow older

Several studies have now shown that CF with vegetables facilitates liking and intake of vegetables compared to CF with fruit (a, b, cited in Hetherington et al. 2015)

What helps a kid to like vegetables? Hetherington and colleages (3) report on different methods such as “stealth” to disguise vegetables in food, or adding other flavours that the child already likes. However, the most successful strategy in promoting vegetable eating is

Mere or repeated exposure…

 

…Early and repeated experience with vegetables serves to increase acceptance

So basically, giving them the vegetables, again and again, to promote “familiarity” (4) and “learned safety” (5). Vegetable presentation needs to be rotated with daily variety, in addition to the exposure (6). Hetherington et al (3) also report that adding vegetables to familiar and liked foods such as milk and cereal facilitated intake and liking of the vegetable. Adding milk to the vegetable can reduce any bitter or sour tastes due to the sweetness in the milk (both breast and formula milk) and dilution effect of adding it (3).

 

Our first foods

The first week of weaning: what we ate and why. Baby-Brain.co.uk. Pschology, babies, motherhood

Banana in a mesh self feeder

We started with baby rice mixed with his usual milk. In the first week we then moved on to a few spoonfuls of:

  • Cauliflower purée (mixed with his usual milk)

  • Avocado (in a mesh self feeder, see picture)

  • Banana (yeah I know this isn’t a vegetable but it was easy to put in the mesh self feeder)

  • Parsnip purée

 

Future planned foods for week 2:

  • Broccoli

  • Carrots

  • Potato

  • Butternut squash

Cauliflower Puree. The first week of weaning: what we ate and why. Baby-Brain.co.uk. Pschology, babies, motherhood

Cauliflower Purée

 

The weaning plan (read more on this useful sheet here):
  • Offer one vegetable at a time
  • Offer a variety of vegetables (because of issues as discussed above)
  • Repeated exposure, to vegetables! Keep trying and offer the food a good few times even if baby doesn’t seem to like it at first (increases chance that baby will eventually accept the food (7) )

 

 

 

 

References:

References 1-6 cited in Hetherington et al., 2015:

  1. Cashdan, E. (1994). 1994. A sensitive period for learning about food. Human Nature, 5 (3), pp. 279–291
  2. Lange, M. Visalli, S. Jacob, C. Chabanet, P. Schlich, S. Nicklaus. (2013). Maternal feeding practices during the first year and their impact on infants’ acceptance of complementary food. Food Quality and Preference, 29 (2), pp. 89–98.
  3. Hetherington, M. M., Schwartz, C., Madrelle, J., Croden, F., Nekitsing, C., Vereijken, C.M.J.L. & Weenen, H. (2015). A step-by-step introduction to vegetables at the beginning of complementary feeding: The effects of early and repeated exposureAppetite, 84, pp. 280–290
  4. Zajonc, R.B. (1968). Attitudinal effects of mere exposure. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Monograph Supplement 9 (2 Pt. 2), pp. 1–27.
  5. Kalat,J. W. & Rozin, P. (1973). Learned safety” as a mechanism in long-delay taste-aversion learning in rats. Journal of Comparative and Physiological Psychology, 83 (2) (1973), pp. 198–207.
  6. Nicklaus, S. (2011). Children’s acceptance of new foods at weaning. Role of practices of weaning and of food sensory properties. Appetite, 57 (3), pp. 812–815
  7. Maier, A. et al. (2007). Effects of Repeated Exposure on Acceptance of Initially Disliked Vegetables in 7-month Old Infants. Food Quality and Preference 18(8): 1023-1032.

a) Barends, J. de Vries, J. Mojet, C. de Graaf. (2013). Effects of repeated exposure to either vegetables or fruits on infant’s vegetable and fruit acceptance at the beginning of weaning. Food Quality and Preference, 29 (2), pp. 157–165

b) Remy, S. Issanchou, C. Chabanet, S. Nicklaus. (2013.) Repeated exposure of infants at complementary feeding to a vegetable puree increases acceptance as effectively as flavor-flavor learning and more effectively than flavor-nutrient learning. The Journal of Nutrition, pp. 1194–1200

How to play with a newborn baby (0-3 months) – what and why – psychology and research


What, how and why to play with your newborn. Really interesting psychology behind newborn play and what's important
As I approach the 5th month with the new baby (already!) I was looking back and thinking of the ways that we “played”. There’s a lot of time in the day so how can you play with baby and what can you do all day long? Well, apart from nappy changes, sleeps, screams, baths and other practical “stuff”, here’s some ways we played together and some of the psychology/research behind activity ideas:

 

SOUND – COMMUNE

Talking:

Face to Face time is a GREAT way to play. This means simply being face to face with baby and having a chat. You can talk about anything; something that you did that day or just make certain sounds with some over the top mouth-moving to show how you’re making it, like B-B-B-B-B-B, OOoooo.

 

→ → → Talk in a funny voice!

Talking is important but it’s a case of Quality, not Quantity

Talking in “parentese” – that baby talk that we do, characterised by higher pitch, slowed down and exaggerated intonation (6) – might irritate some but apparently it has it’s benefits; slowing speech down and exaggerating sounds, also introducing that “sing song” element to the voice is something babies like. It works well with very young babies according to this article who report that prevalence of baby talk with children (in one to one conversations rather than in groups) was linked to better language development,

The more parents exaggerated vowels – for example “How are youuuuu?” – and raised the pitch of their voices, the more the 1-year olds babbled, which is a forerunner of word production.

 

When the babies were 2 years old, parents filled out a questionnaire measuring how many words their children knew. Infants who had heard more baby talk knew more words

Singing:

Again, communication is paramount so singing counts too. Apparently, from day one babies have an ability (innate) to discriminate rhythmic patterns. See this interesting article from Psychology Today for more but in sum, you can start in utero – around 25 weeks of pregnancy the baby starts to process auditory signals – which is why newborns may prefer their mother’s voice, because it is quite familiar to them!

 

Reading:

Reading from birth is a great thing to practice, and has benefits. See my reading page for more in-depth information on the psychology of reading with babies and small children. In brief, baby will recognise their mother’s voice from the womb (1) and hearing it from day one may be familiar and comforting to them, reassuring them of your presence (2).
When we read we usually read with different expression and voices than when we talk and books/reading materials contain different vocabularies, words, expressions than what we might use in every day talk around our children. This is useful because it exposes the child to more varied language and sounds.
Reading to babies from the early months has been found (3) to be related to increased reading with babies at 8 months old (creating a reading habit), which in turn, related to language abilities at 12 and 16 months, particularly with expressive language (being able to put thoughts into words and sentences).
Interaction when reading has also been highlighted as an important element in relation to language development (4) with older babies (12 months).

 

TOUCH

The importance of touch: how what and why to play with newborn 0-3 months

Touching feet

Touching hands, touching feet – we did a lot of this in month one, mainly because his little feet were so cute. The baby and I are due to take part in a research study soon at a Baby Lab about whether infants in the early months can distinguish between a social touch and other touch. This will involve monitoring activity and touching baby’s arm with a toothbrush and then touching by hand.
Skin to skin is recommended and touch is going to be important! Research has reported increased touch to facilitate growth and development (cited in 5). Research on benefits of touch with premature babies has also influenced procedures in some hospitals such as use of “kangaroo care” where the baby receives skin to skin contact being held upright against the bare chest of the carrier (5). There is a huge wealth of literature out there about importance of touch and skin to skin with babies and infants which I encourage you to read further if this is an area of interest to you.

 

Sensory play

Sensory play idea for newborn and 0-3 months - kicking tissue paper. The psychology of newborn playWe also did lots of sensory play such as touching soft toys, a range of textured material and letting him touch/kick his little feet on some crunchy sounding tissue paper.

 

SIGHT

  • Mirroring, including mirroring noises and chatting, having a conversation

  • Face time

  • Tongue talk

  • Copy Cats

How, what and why play with your newborn: stick your tongue out at them! Baby-Brain.co.uk

Nurrr

We spent a lot of time sticking our tongues out at each other! Given baby’s limited communication channels, this was something he was able to do and I sat there and “Mirrored” him, i.e. copying what he was doing and sticking my tongue out in response to him. This then turned into a kind of “conversation” where we would take it it turns. I then threw a few more facial expressions in and tongue clicks which seemed to interest him. This early study (6) writes that babies between 12-21 days old are able to imitate facial gestures, so you can try it from the first few weeks! Also loving the pictures in that article of the baby imitating “mouth opening” and especially the “lip protrusion”.

 

High contrast:

High contrast black & white images with baby - what how why play with newborns and 0-3 months

In terms of visual aspects and development, the visual system is not yet fully developed at birth (a). Baby has difficulty distinguishing between similar colours such as orange and red and so prefer high contrast colours such as black against white. We used several “high contrast” images and resources such as a black and white book and flash cards.

 

 

Let’s Face It

Face time your baby! The importance of talking with newborns and psychology of interaction

Who’s there?

Babies love looking at faces; even in the days after birth a baby will prefer to look at images of a face compared to other images. YOU are their favourite play thing and baby will be very interested in staring at you whilst you sing/talk/coocheecoo at them.

YOU are your baby’s favourite play thing!

Mirroring and attachment:

Here’s a good video about “marked mirroring” with your baby. The page has described it nicely so I’ll just quote here:

Facial expressions that help a baby to know his feelings are understood are known as ‘mirroring’. Mirroring is said to be ‘marked’ when the parent mirrors the emotion then quickly ‘marks’ the interaction with a reassuring expression. Mirroring shows the baby that he is understood and reflects the feeling he is experiencing.

 

The’marking’ helps the baby know the feeling belongs to him and that the parent understands but is not overwhelmed and is therefore able to help him or her to manage such feelings.

(Warwick Medical School, 2014, http://www.your-baby.org.uk/early-interactions/marked-mirroring-showing-they-understand-their-babys-emotions).

 

Home activities: Tummy Time, Mirror Play, Play Gym

Mirror play with baby: What why and how to play with newborn and 0-3 months

Who’s looking at you, kid?

Tummy Time, play in the mirror and play gym were some fun and easy activities we tried at home. See links for more information on these activities. Play gyms for example have some great cognitive, visual perception, grasping and reaching skills, gross motor skills, self-awareness and sensory stimulation benefits as summarized in this nice article here by Mama OT. Personally, I could really see the baby developing in terms of gross motor skills, coordination and crossing his midline to reach out and grasp at toys.

 

Getting out and about

At first I remember it seeming very daunting and difficult on a practical level to get out of the house. Add two kids to the mix and there seemed like even more obstacles and things “to do” before we could get out the front door. However, there are many benefits and aspects for parent and child including social and mental health elements. Here’s a page about choosing activities and benefits of them for maternal mental health.

 

Lastly: Enjoy this time with baby!

Kicking tissue paper fun! Sensory activity with newborn baby and 0-3 months. Baby-Brain.co.uk

Wheee!

 

 

References:

  1. Decasper AJ, Fifer WP. Of human bonding: newborns prefer their mothers’ voice. Science. 1980;208:1174 –1176.
  2. Lariviere & Rennick (2011). Parent picture-book reading to infants in the neonatal intensive care unit as an intervention supporting parent-infant interaction and later book reading. Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, 32 (2),  pp 146-152.
  3. Karras, J. & Braungart-Rieker, J. (2005). Effects of shared parent-infant book reading on early language acquisition. Applied Developmental Psychology, 26, 133-148.
  4. Julie Gros-Louis, Meredith J. West, Andrew P. King. The Influence of Interactive Context on Prelinguistic Vocalizations and Maternal Responses. Language Learning and Development, 2016; DOI:10.1080/15475441.2015.1053563
  5. Ardiel, E. L., & Rankin, C. H. (2010). The importance of touch in development. Paediatr Child Health. 2010 Mar; 15(3): 153–156.
  6. Ramírez-Esparza, N., García-Sierra, A., & Kuhl, P. K. (2014). Look who’s talking: speech style and social context in language input to infants are linked to concurrent and future speech development. Developmental Science, 17 (6): 880–891

a) Brémond-Gignac D., Copin H., Lapillonne A., Milazzo S. (2011). Visual development in infants: physiological and pathological mechanismsCurr. Opin. Ophthalmol. 22, S1–S8.

 

Potty training the two year old – psychology and retrospect

Potty training at 2 years old: Psychological perspectives and a graded hierarchy to encouraging the toddler to use the potty

Our potty

The potty “training” still seems to be going well. I say “training” because I feel like we’re not specifically doing anything, but then I looked back on what we had set up, and, actually I can think some psychological and “set-up” aspects apply.
Firstly, we upgraded the basic boring plastic potty we had previously (that he never sat on) to a fancy Thomas the Tank Engine colourful potty that plays a little song when something is deposited in it. This is a reward in itself. We made the potty interesting and something exciting to sit on by selecting one where he recognises the theme (Thomas), and likes and potentially trusts that brand (because he likes the toy). We set it up so that it wasn’t a toy, though, so he knows there’s a particular function around it. We started to talk more about that “function” and make it part of our every day, normal, conversation by saying things like “mummy is going to the big potty now”, etc, to make the toddler aware that going on the potty is a normal thing people do. I suppose we kind of set up a graded step by step hierarchy as well by:

 

  1. Introducing the potty
  2. Having the potty out in the living room
  3. Discussing that the potty is for doing a wee or poo in, not a toy, and normalizing this process when adults in the house needed to go to the “big potty”
  4. Encouraging the toddler to sit on the potty, with clothes on in the first instance (as he wasn’t sure about it)
    1. offering a reward/reinforcement for just sitting on it (I can’t remember if this was a biscuit or watching his favourite TV show, which also probably reduced any anxiety or concerns because he was distracted by the TV and calmed by his favourite show)
  5. Encouraging the toddler to sit on the potty without a nappy (diaper) on
  6. Encouraging him to sit on it when we thought he might need a wee, e.g. after a bath because that’s when he often does one, and offering a reward for doing a wee – also talking about what reward he would get
    1. offering a reward/reinforcement for doing a wee which was chocolate and now also a reward “coupon”, which the toddler calls “tickets”. He likes the fire engine tickets the most (pictured)

 

Potty training at 2 years old: Coupons, Rewards and Reinforcement; encouraging the toddler to use the potty

Reward “coupon”

We haven’t got to the point yet where the toddler can tell us that he feels the need to use the potty. That is still to come. But, we’ve done very well so far I think!

 

♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

Also, here’s a complete cut and paste job from a previous post of mine about reinforcement:

Ψ reinforcers = increase frequency/likelihood of a behaviour

Ψ punishers = decrease frequency/likelihood of a behaviour

Ψ Here’s a good page that explains positive/negative reinforcement and punishers – for example, they explain that “punishment” doesn’t necessarily mean there is a harmful or dangerous consequence, it’s a process where a consequence immediately follows a behaviour which decreases the future likelihood of that behaviour occurring. Positive punishment is where a negative consequence is put in place after the behaviour, like sending child to “time out” or telling them off, and negative punishment where a good thing or desired outcome is removed after the behaviour occurs, such as removing cake/sweets/ice cream because the child was “naughty”. Reinforcement is where behaviour increases. Positive reinforcement is where a behaviour increases because  it’s followed by a positive/motivating consequence such as praise, reward, like giving a kid money (positive) for doing chores (the behaviour). Negative reinforcement is where behaviour increases because a negative consequence is removed, such as a kid does his chores (behaviour) to avoid being nagged to do it (negative).

 

 

 

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