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Monday, August 26, 2019

10 Infant Safety Risks New Parents Often Overlook

"Becoming a parent is exciting and terrifying."

"It's the best decision you can make."

Both of the above are statements I have heard about new parenthood and both of those statements are true. It's the best, happiest, most exciting, and especially terrifying experience in the world. In order to curb the terrifying nature of parenthood, many parents go into baby-proofing overdrive, others might choose to embrace a laid-back approach to parenthood, and that works for them and it's fine. But no matter one's approach to parenting, the responsibility to keep our children safe is the heaviest responsibility of all.

We hear heart-wrenching stories on the news all the time of childhood injuries and accidental deaths, and it is so frightening to think that those stories, those nightmares, could happen in any home. Those stories are the reasons we take infant safety so seriously. September is National Baby Safety Month. So, for all of you terrified and excited new parents out there, I feel your fear and self-doubt. I'm sharing with you the following infant safety tips as a way to offer support in one of the most intense seasons of life.

  1. Infant Cosleeping - Cosleeping, sleeping with your new baby in the bed with you, may seem convenient or feel very necessary, depending on your child's sleep schedule. It is important to understand the risks of cosleeping with a new baby. Parents in this season of life are exceptionally exhausted. They may accidentally roll onto their sleeping infant, causing them to suffocate. Likewise, pillows and blankets on the bed may also cause asphyxiation.
  2. Baby Gates - Baby gates are a household staple for many families, with some choosing to install semi-permanent gates and leaving them installed well through their child's toddler years. Baby gates are a tried and true way of keeping kids in safe areas and away from potential dangers. But, in order for these gates to be as safe as possible, it is important that they are properly and securely installed. With specific gates designed to be used to block off staircases, parents should resist the urge to skimp on the baby gates in their home by only using the traditional position and lock tension gates, rather than their walk-through counterparts. It is also important to install the proper gate hardware when installing gates blocking off stairs with banisters. Gates should always be secured to their fullest extent and parents should still be wary of their children pulling on the gates in a way that would cause them to loosen them.
  3. Baby-Proofing Furniture - You might think that a baby can't possibly be strong enough to pull over a bookcase or television, but you would be wrong. Babies learning to pull themselves up and learning to climb can be fatally injured when they tug and pull on unsecured furniture. To avoid heavy furniture from toppling over, secure to the wall with an L bracket. Dressers and bookcases can be easily secured. Television sets may be trickier and many choose to install a wall mount for their television, keeping it out of toddlers' reach and securing it to avoid accidents.
  4. Avoid Putting Car Seats and Bouncers on Countertops - It can be very tempting to come home with your infant still in their car seat, content, maybe sleeping. And why rock the boat by getting them out. Instead, you place them in their car seat on the countertop or on the couch. But doing this can be dangerous as the infant wakes up or rocks themselves while playing in their seat, toppling off the counter or couch. That's a scary experience for both parent and child and one that can cause injury even when a child is properly strapped in. The safest place for a child's car seat or bouncer is always on a level floor.
  5. Always Strap Baby In - Regardless of your infant's wiggliness or mobility, it is important to always use the child restraints and buckles on all car seats, booster seats, high chairs, swings, and bouncers. When strapping in a child, the straps should be adjusted to fit snugly across the child's lap and/or shoulders.
  6. Cut the Cords - Our homes are wrought with wires and cords. They power many of baby's devices, like monitors, sound machines, and swings. They charge our phones and home computers. But these cords may cause infant injuries, as babies love to pull and chew on them. Exposed cords should be kept to a minimum and when not being used, they should be stored away. Cords should be secured with covers whenever possible and should never be left dangling when plugged in or unplugged.
  7. Proper Babywearing - If babywearing is something you and your infant enjoy, make sure your carriers and wraps are adjusted properly and are correct for the size and weight of the infant. Ill-fitting carriers may be a smothering hazard.
  8. Don't Let Things Dangle - When you are in the kitchen preparing dinner, you may not notice the end of a tea towel hanging off of the countertop, but your baby certainly might. Curious children may be unaware of what they are doing when they reach for the edge of a towel or even the handle of a pot or pan positioned over the edge of the stove. Accidents like this may be the cause of severe cuts and burns. Never leave things dangling off of countertops and always turn the handles of pots and pans inward and out of reach.
  9. Baby Proof Door Latches are Not Only for the Kitchen - Baby-proof all cupboards and drawers within reach, not just in the kitchen but throughout the house. This is especially true for cupboards that contain hazardous items, such as cleaners or other chemicals. Likewise, drawers containing sharp object or wires can be dangerous when not properly secured. As you initially and continuously baby-proof your home, take note of your child's behaviors and areas of interest. If there is a cupboard that they keep going back to, whether or not it is secured, make sure that there's nothing in that cupboard that could cause injury. This may mean that you move your bathroom cleaning products to the top shelf of a hall closet, instead of more conveniently under the bathroom sink.
  10. Stay Aware of Your Surroundings - Regardless of how safe you make your home for your baby, you cannot control the other places they'll be exploring. When coming into a new space, be it a public place or a private home, take stock of your baby's surroundings and be aware of the risks. It's unrealistic to expect the world to be baby-proof and it is important that parents stay vigilant when out and about with their new babies. Being especially aware of small choking hazards on the ground, such as coins, bottle caps, and rocks, is important in protecting your child's wellbeing and safety.

Infant Safety Resources:

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Friday, August 16, 2019

It's National Dance Day! Here are 10 Benefits of Dancing for Kids

Get your dancing shoes on, people! National Dance Day is just around the corner. Celebrated on the third Saturday of every September, it lands on September 21st this year and I'm all ready to boogie down. Now, my kids have never really been dancers, but I am excited to take this opportunity to share with them the world of dance and the benefits of moving their bodies to the beat.

I loved dance as a kid. The buns, the costumes, the pride I felt as I mastered new skills and combinations. Sadly, this mama lost a little bit of her grove with age and I'm pretty rusty. But that hasn't dampened my love of the art. Maybe it's the music, or the endorphins, or the feeling of muscles stretching and strengthening. Whatever it is, dance feels good to me. It has a ton of other important benefits, too, that can benefit our kiddos.

Dance to Improve Health

Dancing improves physical health, stamina, coordination and balance, flexibility, and posture. It also strengthens muscles and increases flexibility. Whether your kids are jete-ing in ballet class or poppin' and lockin' in a hip hop class, they're getting their heart pumping and having fun doing it. It's exercise that doesn't necessarily feel like exercise and sometimes that's all that's needed to engage kids and encourage them to be active.

Dance for Personal Development

Dancing can be a solo or group activity, depending on the type. Square dancing, ballroom dancing, and sometimes ballet, for example, require a dance partner. This forced socialization helps our kids to practice interacting in close proximity with their peers. Dance styles that may not require a partner are still typically taught in a group setting, encouraging interaction and offering kids the opportunity to build friendships. Teamwork is also a big part of dance, especially when practicing for recitals or competitions. Likewise, trust and cooperation can be cultivated through dance.

Dance to Develop Character

Dance can help our kids develop character, in a similar way that organized sports can. Dancing requires commitment, focus, and discipline. The time and energy required to learn and master new moves can pay off with applause when kids put in the time and commit to giving their dance routines their all. Kids with the drive and commitment to developing their craft might even earn the opportunity to try out for competition teams and professional dance companies at both the local and national level.

Dance to Shine with Confidence

The learning, growth, and development involved in dance can give tiny dancers the confidence they need to succeed in many different capacities. Be it on stage or in the classroom, dancing is a great way to instill in our children that they can do anything, as long as they are willing to put in the time and practice to reach their goals. It takes courage for kids to step onto a stage and showcase what they've learned and practiced to near perfection. Digging deep and finding that courage may give them the skills needed to do other hard or intimidating things with confidence.

What is National Dance Day?

Celebration National Dance Day Your Way

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Friday, August 9, 2019

10 Summer Safety Tips for Dogs

How many of you have experienced a heat wave this summer? They seem to be happening worldwide this year. Whenever there's a hot weather advisory, it's important to take care to hydrate and limit time in the direct sun. Children and the elderly are especially at risk, and many of us step up to keep an eye on them, but there's another vulnerable population you should remember if you're a dog owner. Dogs are also at risk in high temperatures, and they also might find potential hazards at popular summer events and festivals. I've gathered up a list of some important tips to remember in the heat to keep your dog healthy and comfortable all summer long.

  1. Make fresh clean water available at all times. It's easy for dogs to get dehydrated in the heat, and dehydration is associated with some serious risks. Change out the water often to keep it appealing and cool for dogs so they remember to drink regularly. Check often to make sure they have enough, since they'll increase their water intake when it's hot out.
  2. Never leave your dog in a hot car. Even a few minutes can be deadly for dogs. In the shade, a car can reach 90 degrees after a few minutes, and it can get up to 160 degrees in the direct sun! It's best not to take your dog out in the car at all in the hot weather, but if you do, bring along a water dish and don't leave them unattended.
  3. Make sure your dog has a shady spot to hang out in the yard or stays inside where there's air conditioning. A dog house is not good shelter on a hot day: They can trap heat.
  4. Get your dog a kiddie pool! It's a fun way for dogs to play while staying cool (and even clean off a little).
  5. Speaking of exercise, it's best to limit it on very hot days. Skip playing fetch if there's a high heat warning, and limit walks to just enough time for your dog to do its business.
  6. Be careful of your dog's feet in hot weather. The asphalt heats up and can easily burn the pads on your dog's paws. If you can't avoid your dog walking on asphalt, you can protect their feet with special boots for dogs.
  7. Be aware of your dog's breed and their susceptibility to heat. Breeds with flat noses, like pugs and Pekingeses, are more prone to overheating because they can't pant as effectively. You should also be extra cautious of elderly dogs or dogs with heart disease.
  8. Make yourself aware of the symptoms of overheating. These can include excessive panting, a high heart rate, bloody stool, vomiting, and collapse.
  9. Apart from the heat, you should avoid dangerous foods at barbecues and other typical summer events. Dogs should stay away from onions, chocolate, and grapes.
  10. The other big summer features to avoid with pets are events that have fireworks. Most dogs are really afraid of them, and they may run away in a panic.
Find more about the author: Kim Hart