Sister Lilian

My little one has developed a fear of water. Any suggestions?

Aversion to bathing and washing hair is quite common and is often difficult to deal with but mostly passes of its own accord if you don’t make too much of a fuss. One has to find practical ways of dealing with washing in the meantime. Bathing with your little one often works. Warming the bathroom with an oil heater before starting may help in the cold months of the year. Placing the baby bath in the big bath or shower cubicle works for some, keeping a vest and trainer pants on and washing under these for others. Let baby brace feet against the foot end of the bath as this adds to a feeling of security and drape a wet, warm wash cloth over the tummy to ‘ground’ baby, as very effective ways of dealing with fear in a small baby. Washing toddlers and older children under the hosepipe (in summer) in the garden or a big basin of water outside is another possible solution. Simply washing with a washcloth while the little one stands or sits in the bathroom or in the bath can also be done. Small babies especially do not really become that grubby that a wipe down with a moist, warm cloth cannot sort it out. Do not become agitated or anxious as this will reinforce negative reactions from your child. This phase will pass, so keep the light at the end of the tunnel in view! If a traumatic incident with water led to the problem, and these tips do not help, consult a child therapist if the problem persists into toddlerhood or pre-school years

How do I dress my newborn in terms of keeping them warm but not too hot?

Dressing babies in early weeks of life seems like quite a daunting prospect but before you know it you’ll recognise if baby is comfortable or not. The first 3 or 4 days temperature control might still be very unstable and baby may need more snug wrapping than will be the case after this. Changing weather conditions and baby’s individual body-type (scrawny, plump, etc) also play a considerable role. Feel the back of baby’s neck and if clammy and hot, baby might be over dressed, if pleasantly warm, all is probably fine. Hands and feet are generally quite cold on a cool day and at night but that is okay and maybe even a good stimulus to keep breathing! Babies lose most heat through their heads and if one goes walking, baby’s head should be covered – remember they are getting circulating air (a draught, basically) but no heat-producing exercise to warm them. At times a newborn will need a cover-all suit (mostly at night and early morning and evening) and as the day warms, short-sleeved cotton clothes are usually fine. There are no hard and fast rules, because babies differ just like adults do.

What is cradle cap and what can I do about it?

Cradle cap is a thick yellow sticky crust on the scalp and often in the eyebrows and sometimes in the fine hair on newborn ears too. It is thought to be that the skin cells, which baby is shedding at quite a rate, don’t even have time to dry out before falling and stick to the already moist developing epithelial cells beneath. We do know however that cradle cap is also related to eczema and many of these babies either come from families with this condition or go on to develop it themselves. Cradle cap responds very well to the Sister Lilian tissue salt remedies Kali mur and Kali sulph, taken 1 tablet of each crushed and dissolved in 5 ml cooled boiled water 3x/day. You can also massage olive oil into the scalp, leave overnight and wash out the next day or use a fine-tooth comb to remove crusts. A paste of bicarbonate of soda and water, applied and removed after 5 minutes may also help. If it persists you might need to change baby’s formula milk to a special allergy formula. If you are breastfeeding, reduce dairy and grain products in your diet. Do not introduce cereals to baby too early either.

When should my baby move from cot to ‘big bed’?

It is advisable to keep your baby in a cot until at least two years of age or even longer if possible. A big cot is always a good idea to accommodate growth till this time. Once babies have progressed to sleeping in a bed, it’s almost impossible to get them back into a cot. When sleeping in a bed they are able to climb out at night, so not only does that hold the risk of them getting hurt while you’re sleeping, but it also tends to negatively affect their sleeping patterns. The cot provides a safe haven in many ways, the security of a smaller, contained space. Parents often try to get a toddler to grow up faster when they are pregnant with a next baby, thinking that it will help them cope with the new addition to the family. Truth is that this often increases the insecurities that a toddler experiences at a time like this. One should take care not to let them feel that they need to ‘grow up’. They are still babies and, if you allow them to be that, they normally handle the transition a lot easier.

What’s better, a camp cot or a traditional cot?

It is not a must to have a traditional cot but it can provide a secure and practical environment for your baby, which a too-small camp cot might not in the long run. There need not be concerns about baby’s posture, back and neck, if the camp cot has a firm base and does not create a hammock-effect. A camp cot has the advantage of being a ‘bed away from home’ when necessary, often making sleep issues easier when visiting. It is also transportable around the home and usually takes less space. The ideal camp cot is one in which the mattress height is adjustable so that you can have baby close to your bed at night, almost as an extension to your bed. A camp cot should be quite big to accommodate a growing baby, if you will be using it for quite a while, and also to prevent climbing-out accidents. If the base is firm and secure and the mattress fairly firm, one need not worry about any effects to baby’s development or posture in a camp cot, when used most of the time. A standard cot too should be roomy enough to prevent your baby needing to move on to a bed too soon, as this often heralds the end of going to bed easily at night. Of course, many babies end up more in their parent’s beds at night than anywhere else and that too is fine, often leading to more secure little ones and less hassles at night for the parents, especially moms! One more factor to consider is your back! A camp cot requires a lot more bending and in time your back might feel it!

I have very mixed feelings about my baby being with the nanny all day. Will she still love me and how do I stay in touch with her?

When you collect your child from daycare, ensure that you do not have too many chores to attend to. Every time you cook, make a double portion, in order to free up time on another evening. Try not to take work home from the office. Discover the child in yourself as you play games with your little one. Bath together for a dollop of extra-special interaction. Massage your baby daily for ten minutes to keep open the channels of touch communication. You need to know that you will miss out on some ‘firsts’, but if you treat the first time you see anything as special, you will rejoice just as much. See the caregiver as an ‘extra mommy’ not as a replacement – in other words, your child is privileged.

Are car seats all equal and are they really necessary?

Safe, secure, approved (SABS stamp) car seats are essential from baby’s very first trip, as little one’s are more vulnerable than older children or adults even, should you have to break suddenly or be involved in an accident. This is because of the proportionally large size of their heads, making an unrestrained baby fly like a missile if the car suddenly stops. The size and type of seat must be chosen with baby’s weight and age in mind and each reliable manufacturer has good guidelines in this regard. Many car seats and other baby transport devices (like strollers) are made with a dual purpose nowadays, and can be easily removed and used to carry baby around and even place in shopping trolleys or on counters at home for close contact with mom or the caregiver. While this is very practical, it must be remembered that baby’s movement is very restricted in these seats and this may affect the ability of abdominal and back muscles to strengthen, which automatically occurs when baby lies flat on a surface, as he or she will constantly tense these muscle groups to try and shift position or come upright. This lays the cornerstones for strength of baby’s backs, sitting ability and even standing firmly as a step to learning to walk. Moderate use of car seats outside of the car, with ensuring that baby often lies on the floor and is allowed to stand on one’s lap or a surface with assistance, to exercise those little legs, is quite in order.

When do babies sleep through the night?

This is another hot potato issue! Central to this is exactly what is meant by ‘sleeping through’. Once again, answers from a group of parents vary greatly. Anything from one period of four straight hours, 10pm – 4am to dusk to dawn, are the typical expectations. This seems to support the theory that there is not one absolute solution nor one correct answer to this question.

How much sleep do babies need?

One could just as well ask how long is that proverbial piece of string. Just like their adult counterparts, there are babies who need copious amounts of sleep (in my experience a modest minority of about 30%), those who are rearing to go for most of the 24 hours that make a day (some fairly happily, others amidst much whining) and those who sleep, but restlessly and fitfully. There is no one right answer and the trick lies in helping those parents who need more sleep than their babies to achieve this aim.

Why do newborn babies sneeze and splutter so much?

This is normal as colostrum, your early milk, thins mucus that has been in the respiratory tract, making it easier to expel. Mucus is a good medium for infection and so it is important that this occurs. Simply turn baby on the side to help drain mucus away when spluttering.

I have heard that many babies are restless and needy in the early evenings. Why is this?

Early evening is often called suicide hour for the simple reason that there is so much to do and everyone is tired and a bit grouchy, mom, baby and even dad. It’s been a long day and many people feel a little down at this hour. Your attention is also now divided and baby still has to learn to cope with that. If supper only has to be warmed, relaxation is far more possible – begetting happiness! Pre-freeze 45 meals before the birth of your baby and when you do cook afterwards, double up quantities so that you have an almost endless supply of ready-to-eat meals.

Is there anything I can do during pregnancy to ensure a calm baby?

Do all you can to make pregnancy as restful a period as possible in your life. Hectic pregnancies beget hectic babies! Most expectant moms increase the pace of life to try and have more free time after the birth, but this often backfires, so ask yourself if you really need to do all you are.

What should I do if my two-year-old throws a tantrum in the middle of my grocery shopping expedition?

Catch a hint and avoid major shopping trips with toddlers! And if you are a sucker for punishment and believe that you must prove a point or teach your child a lesson, or if you are so pressed for time that you undertake an expedition anyway, (not realising that in the end you lose both time and energy), try these hints.

Feed your child beforehand or take healthy snack and drinks along with you. Reserve a few favourite toys for these times and only let them come out then. Have a shopping list, preferably geared to a chronological sequence with the aisles, and speed through the process. Do not park the trolley too close to the shelves, admittedly you might have a few dissatisfied co-shoppers but, believe me, they will be easier to appease than your toddler who reaches for an item on the shelf only to have you object. If despite these steps your cute kid still turns into a red-faced monster, simply leave – pick the child up and retreat from the public place as quickly as possible, without exchanging a single word with your child. If you’re really brave you can sit it out away from the prying eyes of others until things settle. Resume your shopping. The essence of this is that you are ignoring the drama of your child’s performance.

What is the difference between comfort sucking and real drinking?

You will see very involved jaw and muscle movement (right up to the temple) if your baby has latched well and is drinking properly. There will usually be a steady rhythm to the sucking and you will hear swallowing. Sucking just on the nipple sometime hurts, although a bit of comfort sucking seldom causes this. Pain and cracked nipples are usually due to faulty latching when a baby is really hungry.