Children’s Health & Wellbeing
As parents, the health and well being of our kids is a central concern. Knowing what you’ll need on hand to assure your child’s continued comfort and good health can be confusing to new parents, especially in the face of marketing that seems to suggest that certain non-essential products simply can’t be lived without. If you’re wondering which gear and products are actually necessary, you’re not alone, and you’re on the right track in looking for advice from experienced parents.
Prepping Your Home For Baby
While your pre-kids setup was likely just fine for you and your partner, you’ll need to make some changes to your home in order to make sure it’s a safe space for baby; yes, we’re talking about baby-proofing! The task can feel daunting, but there are a few key purchases that can really help you out.
- Monitors: Whether you choose an audio, video, or motion sensor system, a baby monitor is a great way to make sure you always know what your little one is up to. You won’t have to worry that you won’t be able to hear their cries, since the device in their nursery will transmit directly to your receiver.
- Baby gates: A durable baby gate can help to keep babies and toddlers out of dangerous areas and away from stairwells, keeping them contained in spaces that are baby-proofed and safe for them.
- Cabinet push locks: While these handy little locks aren’t tough for adults to open, they make it so that newly mobile toddlers aren’t able to open cabinets or cupboards that are within their reach.
- Bumpers/edge guards: Many coffee tables, end tables, desks, and other surfaces have pointed corners that can be seriously hazardous to toddlers in motion. Bumpers and edge guards secure to these points to soften them — some are made of foam rubber, making it far less likely that impact will be painful.
Common Baby Health Concerns
While common colds, scrapes, and scratches don’t have a schedule that can be anticipated, certain conditions like teething and occasional colic are fairly universal and can be expected to occur within baby’s first year of life. While it can be tempting to drop everything and take them to the pediatrician if they’re not feeling well, the advice often winds up centering around the use of over the counter and non-prescription remedies. Here are a few important tools to keep on hand:
- Teething toys: Generally made from silicone, plastic, or wood, these toys give your baby something to bite down on which will relieve their sore gums. Look for teething toys with multiple textures and those which can go in the freezer for extra comfort. Be sure to only use teething toys or chilled, wet washcloths for this purpose; it’s not safe to let baby use other toys for teething.
- Thermometer: Temperature is a key vital sign that lets you know whether or not something is amiss. Your child’s temperature is likely the first thing a pediatric nurse will ask for when assessing symptoms if you’re calling in for an appointment, and it’s information you’ll want to know. Many of today’s parents choose to bypass the uncomfortable rectal thermometers of the past in favor of less invasive ear or forehead temperature checks.
- Nasal aspirator: While it’s easy to tell older children to blow their nose, a baby or toddler doesn’t really understand the concept. A nasal aspirator is helpful here, allowing you to relieve their stuffed-up nose without getting your hands too close.
- Pedialyte: If your baby or toddler is throwing up or having diarrhea, they’re losing essential electrolytes. Just drinking water isn’t as restorative as Pedialyte, which can prevent dangerous dehydration during stomach bugs.
- Humidifier: Dry air in baby’s room can lead to nasal and throat irritation, but a good cool mist humidifier will help them to keep breathing comfortably.
- Pacifier: While it’s not directly for health concerns, a pacifier can help to soothe and calm an irritated or overstimulated baby. It’s best to use orthodontic nipples made of silicone, and regular cleanings are necessary. Always dispose of pacifiers at the first sign of damage or discoloration.
- Gripe water: The formula varies from brand to brand, but gripe water is a mild herbal tonic that relies on gentle, natural ingredients and baking soda to relieve the pain of occasional gas and colic.
Staying Safe Outside
Naturally, you’ll want to venture outside and enjoy the great outdoors with your little one in tow! In order to do so safely, here are a few things you should keep on hand.
- Baby sunscreen: Sunscreen is important for people of all ages, but products made for adults often contain harsh chemicals and fragrances that aren’t great for babies. Instead, choose baby sunscreen, which is more gentle; look for products that use natural ingredients.
- Kids’ bug repellent: Some bug repellents for adults have truly nasty chemicals that even grown folks would rather avoid, so opting for kids’ bug repellents that use natural plant-derived oils to repel insects is always a better bet for the younger set.
- Sun hat: A wide-brimmed sun hat that fastens under their chin can help to shelter kids from harsh rays, especially when they’re small.
- Leash: If you’re going out alone with more than one child, or if your toddler is a sprinter, a leash can help keep them safe and close to you.
Basic Hygiene Essentials
Just like you, your baby needs hygiene products, but sharing your shampoo, conditioner, and other bathroom items simply won’t work. They need grooming items designed for their size and their needs.
- Toothbrush: It’s important to choose one that’s kid-sized and has soft bristles; some parents prefer electric toothbrushes, but manual is also fine.
- Hairbrush: Choosing a hairbrush with soft, gentle bristles that won’t irritate a sensitive scalp is essential, especially if cradle cap is an issue. It’s good to keep a comb on hand as well.
- Bath products: Shampoo and body wash for babies are much milder than adult versions, which is easier on delicate skin. It’s generally better to start with fragrance-free soaps, which are unlikely to bother your baby.
- Lotion: Your baby can be vulnerable to dry skin, but as with other products, they need a mild baby lotion that’s suitable for their delicate skin. Lotions with low or no fragrance and natural ingredients are best.
- Laundry detergent: Many babies, toddlers, and children are sensitive to the harsh fragrances present in typical laundry soap, and will need a milder, fragrance-free detergent. If you’re willing to switch the whole household to a dye and fragrance-free detergent, there’s no reason to buy a separate bottle just for baby’s laundry.
- Hair styling products: As your toddler gets older and has more hair, you may want to try out some more elaborate styles. Milder organic gels and pomades that use natural products and are designed for kids are the best choice.
Keeping Toys Clean
You know it’s important to keep the kids clean, but did you know that their toys should be bathed regularly as well? It’s important to clean your child’s toys often, giving them a light wipe down about once a week and a more thorough clean once a month. Always clean toys after they’ve been shared, if a pet has accessed them, or if someone in the home has been sick.
Bath toys are especially prone to mold and mildew, and will need to be cleaned and thoroughly dried after each use. Storing them in a net bag or basket is ideal. Always get rid if any toy that is showing signs of mold or mildew, is shedding, cracking, breaking, or damaged.
As kids get older, they’ll have both want and need to use the Internet, which is of course accompanied by concerns of safety. Vigilance and openness are the best tools, as are forming a set of rules which are consistently enforced. If you’re not sure where to start, here are a few basic rules of online safety for parents:
- Moderate access with parental controls: Make use of computer software and apps designed to limit kids’ access to short periods of time and block content that’s inappropriate.
- Set time limits: Create an age-appropriate time limit for daily Internet use that can grow with them. Younger children might be limited to half an hour, while an older child might be allowed an hour of supervised recreational time online.
- No unsupervised use: Keep the computer in the family room, so that there’s no mystery or secrecy about how it’s being used.
- Open dialogue: Talk to kids about what they’re seeing and doing online, about why online safety is important, and, when they’re old enough, how to avoid risks associated with social media use. Encourage them to let you know if they see or experience cyberbullying.