The Role of Iron in Formula

Iron is an essential mineral to your baby’s growth and development. It is vital to the blood supply, helping to create the hemoglobins that carry oxygen through the blood. Most formulas today are fortified with iron, in accordance with AAP recommendations for preventing an iron deficiency, or anemia, in babies. There are some concerns regarding iron in formula, usually in relation to constipation or other stomach problems; however, the recommendation is still to choose iron-fortified formula over low-iron versions.

Iron in Formula vs. Breast Milk

Some advocates of lower iron formulas argue that breast milk contains far less iron than the average fortified formula. This is true; however, the iron in breast milk is much more easily absorbed by and used by a baby’s body than that found in formula. Therefore a lower amount can have a greater effect. Some doctors do recommend an iron supplement for breast fed babies, but the research is not yet clear on how helpful this is in preventing anemia.

Does Iron in Formula Cause Gastrointestinal Distress?

The main reason why parents choose to switch to a low-iron formula is the belief that the iron in the formula is responsible for such problems as colic, constipation, gas and diarrhea. Because iron supplements in adults can cause constipation, it seems like a logical conclusion that iron would have the same effect on a baby. The research on the topic, however, discredits this belief. There is no evidence of any difference in any of the above issues between babies fed iron-fortified formula and those fed low-iron versions of the same formula.

There is, however, a difference between breastfed babies and formula fed babies in levels of constipation and gas, as well as other stomach issues. This is not because of levels of iron, however, but because breast milk is much easier for the baby’s body to digest than formula. It is also used so effectively by the body that it often leaves less waste to clog up the baby’s system.

The Benefits of Iron in Formula

Since manufacturers started adding iron to formula in the 1970’s, the rate of anemia in infants has dropped dramatically, from 20% to 3% of formula fed babies. Iron is vital to your growing baby’s health, allowing the creation of new red blood cells.

At this time, the AAP recommends that you use a formula fortified with iron, if you are not breastfeeding your baby. Formulas with higher amounts of iron are a better choice because a very small amount of the total iron is actually absorbed and used by the body. Cow’s milk formulas have an absorption rate of only about 12% of iron, while soy formulas are even lower. Compared to the 50% rate of absorption from human milk, it becomes obvious why adding iron to formula is necessary to provide baby with an adequate supply of iron.

At this time, there is no evidence to support the use of low-iron formulas, but despite efforts to educate new parents, low-iron formulas are still available and are still being chosen by parents based on inaccurate information. If you have concerns about iron in your baby’s diet, talk to your pediatrician. It is difficult to see a baby suffering from gastrointestinal distress, but blaming it on iron and removing this important nutrient from baby’s diet can have a damaging effect on health and is unlikely to improve the problem.

Looking For and Building Up Fine Motor Skills In Your Baby

There’s just so much to take in throughout baby’s first years. They will change so much from month to month that you may even feel as though you don’t recognize your little one on certain days. They grow leaps and bounds just within a given week. They accumulate new skills and traits all the time, leaving you marveling at all that they can do.

It seems that almost overnight your little newborn baby who is more of a blob than anything else turns into this charismatic little person that has more personality than you can believe. Babies are truly marvelous in all that they accomplish, and many of these milestones happen right in front of our very eyes. When it comes to fine motor skills, this is something that you want to be tuned into in terms of your baby’s development. You want to be on the lookout for it and you want to help foster and develop it as a parent, as it will provide great benefits later on.

What Can You Look For?

First and foremost, it’s important to note that this is not something that you want to force. You don’t want to push your baby as they won’t reach any milestones until they are ready. If you push too hard you may get the opposite reaction. However, you do want to keep tuned into their fine motor skills as this is something that they will utilize their whole life through. See if baby is reaching for things, grabbing for items, sucking on her hand, or discovering things such as their own body parts. These are all good examples and exhibit a sense of fine motor skills that are rather important for baby’s development. These are important to ensure that they keep on track, and they are actually things that you can facilitate on your own.

You want to watch for these things in the first few months of your baby’s development. By five months as an average, baby should be trying to reach for things or at least be interested in things. It may take some time and encouragement from you as a parent, but the simple act of reaching or grabbing is a great sign that baby is doing what they are supposed to do. Every baby will work on their own timetable as some babies start grabbing or reaching far sooner. Others may skip over this phase and then move onto the next. This all shows possible coordination and shows that baby understands what to do to get what they want. All of these things are important for fine motor skills and the development of your baby overall.

How Can You Facilitate It?

This doesn’t mean that you should be shaking a rattle in front of your newborn relentlessly every day. It does mean though that as your baby grows and shows signs of readiness, that you are on the floor playing and interacting with them. Introduce different toys such as puzzles and different colors of toys. Things that are interesting to them will help them to reach and grab, and eventually pull items towards them. The point is that you as a parent can set up an environment that doesn’t force but encourages your baby to develop these skills and build upon them as they get older.

Preparing For and Understanding Baby’s First Words

Many parents look at their baby’s content little faces as they sleep and wonder what’s next. There are so many different milestones to look forward to as a parent. As you make it through the first year of baby’s life, there is much to work towards and much to enjoy. You want to be sure that you enjoy every moment, even the little ones. You also want to know what you have to look forward to. It may almost feel like a race sometimes – you make it through one milestone and enjoy it, wondering what will be next. This is a common sentiment amongst new parents, particularly as they await some of the larger milestones. One of the biggies is by far hearing baby’s first words, and it’s an exciting one. So what can you expect in terms of baby’s first words?

Detecting Baby’s First Words

The reality is that baby’s very first words may be a bunch of jumble. If you look at this chart for example, you see that baby’s first words change and evolve as they grow older. At three months they will be rambling or just responding to the sound of your voice. By six months however, that may be turning into a limited and somewhat difficult to decipher vocabulary.

As with any other milestone it is important to note that there is no real set time limit to encounter these things. So before you set yourself or your baby up for unrealistic expectations, know that it will all come in time. Sure if your baby isn’t saying anything as they near their second birthday, then it’s time for some outside help. However up until then enjoy their sounds as they prepare to utter those first words.

How Can You Get Them Talking?

Though it’s all likely to happen in its own due time, the reality is that there are certain and very simple things that you can do to get them talking. Baby’s first words are likely to be very simple one-syllable words that they can easily utter. The reason that many babies utter “dada” first is that it comes off of their tongue so easily. Whereas “mama” requires more pronunciation that their little mouths aren’t really ready for. So while this may serve as a disappointment to moms everywhere, this is why the first word is often “dada” or even something else – it’s not due to lack of love or appreciation.

What you can do to help the language along is to talk to them. Many parents find that talking to their babies as they move about their day can help to properly prepare them for the words that they will say. Tell them what you are doing as you are doing it, even the simple things. Have a conversation with your little one as they will be fascinating by the sound of your voice and seem interested in what you have to say to them. You can also get them talking if you show them toys or pictures of things and then tell them what it is. This is a more educational type of play, and it does wonders for developing a baby’s vocabulary. It may not mean that they start uttering words tomorrow, but it will most certainly work towards their overall development and vocabulary moving forward.

Understanding the Crawling Milestone for Your Baby

The one thing that you will learn early on as a parent is that no two babies are created equal. You will quickly learn that just because one baby is doing something at a certain point in their development doesn’t mean that every baby will do it the same way. Even amongst siblings, developmental patterns can be totally different. This is an important lesson to learn early on as a parent so that you ignore the urge to compare your little one to others.

If you’re in a playgroup or have friends with a baby about the same age, then you may be tempted to look from their baby to yours and wonder why the milestones are happening as they are. It’s natural but it can be a destructive behavior! Understanding how the milestones work is a good idea, particularly when it comes to one such as crawling.

Is Your Baby Crawling On Time?

You will hear experts say that the typical baby crawls anywhere between six and ten months. This is an average and therefore not something to be taken as anything but a guideline. There are some babies that will crawl far earlier than that, and then some babies that will crawl far later than that. Some babies may not even crawl at all because they prefer scooting and can get to where they want to be using this method. Add to that the fact that some babies will skip over crawling altogether. They may roll or scoot and get what they want until they one day get up and start standing and walking.

So as you start fearing that your baby is behind, know that there is no real set time limit. If you are ever in doubt or concerned, then by all means talk to your pediatrician. Know though that every baby handles this rather large milestone in a totally different way.

They All Do Things Differently

Babies get mobile in the first place to get to items that they want. They see something across the floor that they want and then they go for it. As you can see even experts such as Dr. Greene are reluctant to give true time limits to crawling. If the baby sees something that they want, then they will start off by rolling to get to it. This can quickly evolve into crawling, though it usually does take time and has a process involved with it.

If you see your baby “army crawling”, that is using their forearm to move them along and bringing their bottom half up behind, then they may be getting close. They may use these alternate methods solely as it’s easy for them to get around. So be sure not to put any pressure on your baby or your expectations because they are still doing what they are conditioned to do.

Ignore the myths that say if a baby avoids crawling or is late to crawl that they may not be as coordinated. This is simply not true and if your baby is moving around and doing everything else that they are supposed to do, then they are right on track. It’s easy to get caught up in measuring the milestones, but remember that every baby is different and that crawling is an activity that is quite different for everyone.

Baby’s First Tooth

Has your baby not quite seemed like themselves lately? Many parents can tend to pinpoint when something is amiss and when their baby seems to just be a bit off. It can be a sign of the baby being sick, or it may be a sign of something more routine and common that every baby goes through.

Teething is an aspect of baby’s first year that is on the minds of parent, and it can be a rather challenging one to contend with. The reality is that every baby is different and therefore to say when it will happen or how strenuous it will be on parent and child is hard to predict. Some parents will tell you that their baby was virtually unaffected by the teething ritual. Others will tell you that it was one of the most challenging parts of the first year. Every baby is different and therefore how they cope with teething can be a completely unique experience.

Planning for the Milestone

Every parent looks anxiously in their baby’s mouth from early on to see if that first tooth has finally popped through. Even when they are showing signs of teething, though, it may be a long road until you see the first tooth. As you can see from this baby development chart, the average age for a baby to get their first tooth is anywhere between four and seven months. This, however, is a rather wide range and there are babies at either end of the spectrum. Some may not even have their first tooth by their first birthday, and that’s just the way they are built. This is not a sign of imperfection nor of any sort of developmental issues. This is just how each baby is built and how they develop, so it’s nothing to be concerned about. You can plan for the milestone with a few simple supplies that can make any potential teething issues run much smoother.

Are They Showing Any Signs?

Sure there are some parents that will tell you that they had no idea that it was coming. That they woke up one morning, looked in their baby’s mouth, and suddenly a tooth was staring back up at them. While this does happen, it’s an exception to the rule. Even if your baby doesn’t necessarily have a difficult time with teething, they will often show some sort of signs to indicate that it’s coming.

So what are the signs? One of the first and most obvious signs is that the baby is drooling a lot. This is due in large part to the excess fluids gathering in the mouth as a result of the teething, and therefore comes out almost constantly. You will see your baby drooling, sometimes almost like a faucet, and the only thing you can do to contain it is to put a bib on them.

Many babies are also known to put absolutely everything in their mouth. If they are chewing on their toys, your hand, or anything else in sight that they can fit in or around their mouth, then they may be teething.

You will notice in some babies that they get fussy or that their sleeping or eating patterns get disrupted. This may go on for a bit of a while as the tooth actually breaks through, but it’s a good thing overall. That tooth will come in no time and you can enjoy yet another milestone with your little love.

Getting Your Child Ready for Preschool

The first years of your child’s life fly by so very quickly. In an instant, you may feel as though you are dealing with a baby one day and a big kid the next. Though it may not seem like it at the time, the years fly by and so too do all of the many milestones. Before you know it, you are looking at an almost school aged child and wondering to yourself if they are ready for the next big step.

Preschool can be a huge step for many kids, while others just float into it with great ease. Just as every child has a different upbringing and different care each and every day, they will be different in their readiness for preschool. Though age is a big determining factor in their readiness, it’s certainly not the only one. You should think through other factors, particularly personality, when you make the decision to put them into preschool or not.

Is Your Child Really Ready?

First and foremost, there are certain age limits or restrictions that may help to make the decision for you. In many preschool programs, kids can start by the age of three but they must have turned three by December first of the current year. If they aren’t there yet, then they’ll need to wait for the next school year to start. This isn’t always a bad thing as it can give you plenty of time to prepare for the big step, but it is something worth looking into before you get them signed up for a preschool program. Some kids start preschool at four years old, but it is becoming more and more common these days that they start at three years old and then work their way up.

You also want to decide if they are ready in other ways too. Take a look at this preschool guide for example. Consider if your child can bear to be without you for a couple of mornings a week. If they have never been away from you at all, then this can be a shock to the system. It can also make their adjustment to preschool very difficult so plan accordingly. You also need to ensure that your child is potty trained before you enroll them in preschool. Many schools won’t even take a child unless they are potty trained and can work independently in this and other areas.

Helping to Prepare Your Child

Preschool is a big step for both of you, so it’s important to work with your child ahead of time to get them ready for it. First and foremost any exposure that you can give them to a school like setting can be a big help. Sign them up for a parent and toddler class beforehand to get them acclimated with the structure and feel of a real classroom. Be sure that they get plenty of exposure to other kids, because this will be a big help.

Though you want to be present for every big moment in their life, do your best to let them work independently whenever possible so they get used to that feeling. Work with them on lessons like the “ABC’s” or painting. Though you don’t need to put them through boot camp, any steps that you can take to get your child ready will really benefit them when that first day of preschool comes upon you.

Planning for Baby’s First Birthday

It may be hard to believe, but you are staring down a major milestone. Baby’s first birthday is just around the corner and you feel just amazed by this fact. Wasn’t it just yesterday that you had that little bundle of joy?

If it feels like the time has simply gone by too fast, you’re not alone. Many parents are in awe of just how quickly the first year goes by and aren’t sure what to do when the milestone of a first birthday comes upon them. Many parents not only feel overwhelmed by the fact that their baby is turning one, but they may not know quite where to start in terms of the planning. This is a huge milestone and you do want to celebrate it with glee, but you have to ask yourself how much money, time, and effort that’s ultimately worth. So here are a few guidelines that can help to make planning your baby’s first birthday much easier and more enjoyable.

Keep It Simple

Here’s the reality of the situation-your little darling isn’t going to remember a thing! Sure they’ll look back on pictures and therefore you want it to be something special, but they are not going to remember any details of the event whatsoever. So before you get yourself all crazy thinking of which theme to select or what sort of elements to incorporate, remember that this is a party that is really more for you than for your baby. Not to burst any parent’s bubble, but the parents get far more out of the first birthday party than the kids do. That will change in years to come, but for now suffice it to say that simple is the way to go.

If they have taken to a favorite cartoon character or symbol then by all means incorporate it. If not though, don’t worry and just go with simple and effective. Fortunately there are many different first birthday “themes” out there that you can run with. Keep the decorations simple and just use the plates, napkins, and any decorations in a certain color theme or something else unified in nature. A cute idea is to put out pictures of your little one throughout their first year. These can serve as centerpieces on tables or just adorn the space of the venue that you’re working with. So try this out as a way of honoring your little one, and of course as a way to help decorate the party space.

Make The Baby the Center of Attention

Spend some of the money that you may have spent on extraordinary decorations on a cute outfit for your little one. This is their special day after all, so be sure that they are dressed in something cute and fitting for the occasion. Invite close friends and family, as the first birthday is usually one of the larger celebrations to mark such a special and memorable milestone. Have everybody around that is meaningful to you and your baby, as they will surely want to be a part of the celebration.

One of the most important parts of the first birthday party is most definitely the cake. Be sure to not only make or buy an adorable cake for your adorable guy or girl, but get them their own little smash cake as well. A first birthday party isn’t complete until you put that cake in front of the birthday person and let them go wild as they eat their way to stardom. That’s what first birthday parties are all about after all!

3 Months Old: Brain Boosting Play

At three months old, your baby is really beginning to interact with the world around her. She is starting to be able to grasp toys and respond to you with smiles, laughter and coos. Her eyesight is improving and she can see her surroundings much better, allowing her to respond.

Talk to Me!

Language skills are just starting to develop at this time, and the more you speak, sing and read to your baby the more she will learn about sounds and words. If you haven’t yet, this is a great time introduce books. She can hold her head up relatively well, and will be able to sit in your lap while you read and look at the pictures. Point things out to her and talk about what is on the page.

Singing will not only entertain baby, but will further advance her introduction to sounds. Try songs with entertaining hand gestures such as “The Itsy Bitsy Spider”. Take baby’s hands and help her to perform the motions as well. This will help to develop her awareness of her body and learn what she can do.

When baby starts to vocalize, be sure to respond to her as much as possible. Hold a conversation with her as she talks by asking her questions like “And then what happened?” and “Are you sure?” She won’t know what you are saying, but she will begin to pick up the rhythm of conversation from these exchanges.

Body Language

Your three month old is just starting to be aware of his body and how he can use it to get what he wants and interact with the world. Part of this learning involves his developing understanding of cause and effect, object permanence, as well as hand-eye coordination and motor skills. Remember that physical development requires brain development! Every time your baby practices a new physical skill, his brain is forming new connections that will keep moving him forward.

Help baby’s brain figure it out with physical games. Hold a toy out to him and encourage him to reach for it. Pull it away, and then bring it back, making sure he catches it regularly so that he will remain entertained and not become frustrated. At this age tummy time becomes very important. Get down on the floor with your baby and play too! Hold a toy in front of his face, and lift it slowly into the air. As he tries to follow it with his eyes, he will lift his head and shoulders off the ground, strengthening important muscles. These skills will lead to baby’s ability to roll over, push himself up and eventually crawl.

Touch and Learn

Now that baby can hold and examine objects, he will begin to learn more about his world through touch. Offer him objects with varying textures and sizes to touch and hold. Let him touch your face, hair and clothing. Every new thing that your baby gets his hands on will help his brain to categorize and understand the things he encounters. Books that offer textured pages for baby to feel will make him a more active participant in reading and learning.

This age opens many new doors for baby, and every minute that he is awake he is learning something new. You are baby’s first teacher, and building his brain is as easy as being aware of the ways in which he learns from you every day, even at play!

Help your Baby Learn Through Games

Playtime with your baby is more than just entertainment; through fun and games your baby is learning about how the world around him works, as well as developing his motor skills. Making time for play every day is not only a great way to spend time with your baby, it’s also vital to his development. So give these simple learning games a try and watch him discover his world!

Little One, Big One

Teach your baby all about opposites by gathering common items and toys together from around the house in contrasting pairs. Try items like a small teddy bear and a large one, a baby spoon and a soup spoon and a washcloth and bath towel. Hold the smaller one up first and say “Small!”, and then the larger one, saying “Big!”

Size isn’t the only comparison you can start to teach! Show him the concepts of in and out by placing toys in a bin and then removing them. Lift him up into the air saying “up!” and back to the floor with “down!” Let him touch opposite textures, such as soft and hard, smooth and rough. It will be a while before he learns all the words, but before you know it, when you ask him which one is soft, or which is bigger, he will surprise you by choosing correctly!

Where Did It Go?

Babies aren’t born with an understanding of object permanence. They have to learn that when something (or someone) disappears, it doesn’t cease to exist. Simple games to help your baby grasp this concept include various versions of peek-a-boo and hide and seek. Hide behind the couch and pop up at different angles, sometimes on the side, other times at the top. Once baby is on the move, you can call out to him saying “Where’s mommy? Can you find mommy?” and let him follow the sound of your voice to discover your location.

Hiding a toy behind your back and then bringing it out, or throwing a blanket over something and then removing it are basic playtime ways to teach object permanence. At first, baby will wait for you to reveal the object, but soon he will begin to crane his neck to see behind you or lift the blanket himself as he starts to understand that the object is still there, just hiding!

Did I Do That?

One of the major concepts your baby will develop through play is an understanding of cause and effect. As she starts to interact more with the world around her, she will slowly start to realize that she can make things happen! Take baby around the house and find fun things she can try out. Put her hand on a light switch and help her to flip it, or help her to turn on the faucet. Musical toys are great for teaching cause and effect, as she will learn how to make new and interesting noises. Let her bang on pots and pans with a wooden spoon, or fill an empty plastic bottle with a tight-fitting lid with beans to create a home made maraca.

Bath time offers opportunities to teach cause and effect as well. Give baby a sponge and show her how to wet it and then squeeze the water out. Let her fill a cup with water and dump it out. Even simply splashing in the tub is helping her to learn!

Simple games like these turn playtime into learning time and will keep baby stimulated and happy too!

What Children Learn Through Play

Playtime isn’t just fun and games. It is the most important tool children have for learning. From the infant years where babies learn simple concepts like cause and effect, through childhood, where play encourages learning of social skills and more, a child at play is a child developing.

Infants: Learning about the World

The earliest forms of play in infancy are the ways in which a baby discovers what is in his world, how it works, and how he fits into it. Through play a baby learns about cause and effect; how he can have an impact on objects and people, and how to elicit responses in different ways. He learns how to move his body, improve his motor skills, and make his way through the world. Play encourages an understanding of spatial awareness, object permanence, differences between objects and more.

Through play, an infant is also learning how to use his voice, how to communicate his needs and desires, and creating the building blocks of language. Games involving a lot of interaction with mom and dad are vital to this learning process.

Toddlers: Independence and Personality

Entering the toddler years, play is an avenue for a child to develop a sense of who he is as a person, and what his role is in the family. Play encourages your toddler to test his independence while learning – and then pushing past – his limitations. Toddlers begin to build a foundation for social skills and also develop imagination, both of which are important to future endeavors. As independence blossoms, your toddler will learn to play by himself and to solve his own problems

Your toddler is also swiftly adding to a wider knowledge base about the world, as he learns colors, numbers, sizes and even more abstract concepts like feelings. Vocabulary is expanding at an incredible rate as he learns the labels for more and more things and can relate experiences to each other. All of these things are learned through play, which becomes more imaginative and involving during these years.

Preschoolers: Social Skills and Problem Solving

As your preschooler begins to interact more and more with her peers, the play they engage in together will teach her vital social skills. Your preschooler is learning to share, and to think about other people’s needs. She is learning how to cooperate with other children, through negotiation, compromise and exploring options. She is learning patience, taking turns, and how to deal with delayed gratification. Play with others also teaches preschoolers about empathy; she is learning to consider other people’s feelings, and to understand how others might feel in various situations.

Although problem solving skills begin at a very young age, in preschool they go to a whole new level. Your preschooler is working with more abstract concepts and solving problems that are not always right in front of her. In addition to teaching cooperation, working out the issues encountered while playing with others teaches problem solving. At this age, she is also practicing these skills through role-playing games which allows her to see things from a different perspective.

Throughout childhood, the most important task at hand is learning, and the number one way children do this is through play. From infancy through into school, the skills learned at playtime build upon each other to help children to make sense of their world and prepare to be citizens within it.

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