Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Language Development

In my years teaching preschool I referred many kids for speech therapy. I have learned some of the best practices to prevent speech problems or to help children who already have problems improve.
I'm awake, you can start talking now.
Why am I wearing this mommy?

From birth our kids have heard lot of talking. We narrate what we are doing, read books, and talk about everything around us. The more words a child hears the better their language development and there is a direct correlation to future school success. It is extremely boring talking to a mostly unresponsive baby. There's no flow of conversation and it's difficult to keep talking when there is nothing else to say. One trick is to narrate everything you are doing with as much detail as possible. Another is to pick a theme and spend an hour pointing out everything within that theme - colors, shapes, animals, foods, etc.

There's a lot to talk about in this room.

Ideally while you are speaking your child is in a position where they can see your mouth. They may choose not to look at it, but when they want to they should be able. It's also important to note that this exposure to spoken word is only beneficial in person. Hearing speaking on the tv, radio, etc doesn't help and in fact has been shown to have a negative effect.
We can see your mouth.

Changing the scenery helps to stimulate your ability to talk. Reading books will bring in a larger variety of words. I don't know what your life is like, but when I'm narrating what I'm doing the word "giraffe" very rarely comes up, yet when reading board books it's in a lot of them. It has even been proven that parents who can't read if given picture books will increase the number and variety of words their kids hear just by describing the pictures.
This blanket has a butterfly on it.

Another study I read was about using blocks to increase language development. By using open ended toys (nothing that lights up, plays music, or can only be used for one purpose) parents naturally increased their level of vocabulary, which in turn improved the child's language development. We have very few toys that play music and less than 5 that have batteries. Those 5 are the least played with toys we have.

Baby faces on the blanket

I mentioned earlier the negative effects of hearing words from a cd. If you sing along with music, children still get the benefit. So when you run out of things to say, turn up some music and sing along.
Why is Mama singing and dancing like a crazy woman?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


I realized the tone of this blog isn't coming across correctly. I enjoy doing research on how children learn and I incorporate that into my parenting. I've had many people ask me why I make certain decisions, which are not at all mainstream. After a discussion with a family member over Christmas, I thought about starting this blog.

It's not that I think the way I'm doing things is right and the way other people do things is wrong. I'm reading the research and making decisions about what is best for our family. No one else has a family like mine and I would not expect anyone else to make all the same decisions we have. We can make opposite decisions and both be right.

There are many times I read the research and don't follow what it says. For example, research has proven children raised from birth with daily exposure to in person fluent native speakers of three diverse languages (English, Slovakian, Chinese - not English, Spanish, French) will have better brain development, faster processing times, and about a dozen other great things. However, this is not realistic in my life.

This blog is about what I do and why. I am not judging your decisions, just hoping you will better understand my strange ones. :)

Friday, January 7, 2011

Twin Pregnancy

I approached pregnancy just like everything else, with tons of research. When we found out I was having twins I had to do even more research.

I read about nutrition in multiple pregnancy, exercise, how to prevent common problems, etc. I also looked at the survival/disability rates for multiples in many other countries. The countries with the highest rates of living, healthy multiples did many things differently than the standard of care in the U.S.

In the U.S. most women are told to take a prenatal vitamin every day and that's the extent of the nutrition advice. However, the better a woman's nutrition the healthier the babies. Weight gain in a multiple pregnancy is extremely important. The more weight you can gain earlier, the better. I interviewed multiple providers before finding one (with a team) that I knew would lecture and provide me with research on things like nutrition at every appointment. She also was available by email, text, and phone all the time.

I struggled with weight gain. I had all day sickness (not just feeling nauseous) every day for 5 months. I ended up in the hospital with severe dehydration because I couldn't even keep down a sip of water. I tried every cure out there. When we would go out, my husband often carried lemon slices in a baggie in his pocket. Smelling and biting into one would often give me enough time to get to a trashcan or bathroom.
4 months pregnant

About the time that ended, we went on our last big vacation before having kids. It was an incredible trip to Hawaii. I was limited to just walking and swimming for exercise, so we hiked and swam every day. It was beautiful, though I will have to go back another time when I can swim with sharks and do a few other things I wasn't able to do that trip. I remember thinking I was huge and looked so bad in everything I wore. Little did I know how much bigger I would get.
 Hiking - 6 months pregnant
6 months pregnant - I thought I was huge.
Another thing I learned from other countries, is for the best chance of avoiding early labor (other than tons of water and staying hydrated) is to stop working at 30 weeks. This is enforced by doctors in other countries because it is so much safer! While I did stop working at 30 weeks, a situation/opportunity  presented itself and I did work a few more months. However, I worked with my legs up and kept drinking tons of water.

In the U.S. most multiple pregnancies are over by 36 weeks. The OB has often scheduled the c-section early in the pregnancy to prevent any problems. In the countries with the highest success rates multiples are usually born vaginally between 38-42 weeks. This was my goal. While I did make it to 38 weeks, I ended up with a c-section.
38 weeks - I gave up on maternity clothes fitting
While pregnant (and huge) people would often comment on having twins. Most people said things about how wonderful it is, how lucky we are, and how they have always wanted twins. People who had multiples would say they are thinking of us, wish us luck, and offer condolences. My favorite response at the time, and looking back, still the most accurate, came from a young 2 year old. He is a twin and was usually a happy, silly, bouncy boy. When his mom told him I was having twins he stood still, looked very serious, and very slowly said, "Ha. Ha." He then walked away. That pretty much sums it up.

I made some very unusual decisions for a multiple birth in the U.S. Many people thought I was crazy and should just do what an OB tells me without question. However, when I had to go to the hospital at 38 weeks, the nurses assured me I never would have made it that long with an OB. I did end up with a c-section and looking back would absolutely do some things differently. Choosing a care provider (midwife) who had the same goals I did would not be something I would change. My kids were born at just over 5 pounds each. If they had been born any earlier, they would have spent time in the NICU. Instead they spent their time with us, in our arms, and bonding from the moment I was awake.
1 day old
Most people don't realize how dangerous it is to carry twins. Fetal deaths per 1000 births is 26% for twins (7% for singletons). Everyone knows premature birth is dangerous, however most don't realize that 62% of twins in the U.S. are born early - usually through an induction or c-section. 82% of twins are born with low birth weight. 70% of low birth weight babies have a disability diagnosed before age 11 and 30% within the first year. There are also serious risks for the mother trying to grow multiple babies at one time.

I spent the entire pregnancy thinking things like, if they were born now they have a 5% chance of survival. If they were born now, they have an 80% chance of survival, but a 98% chance of disability. When I made it to 36 weeks I finally breathed a small sigh of relief. I was still waiting for their weight to go up. Knowing that most ultrasound weight estimates are off by +/- 2 pounds I wanted them to measure at least 7 pounds before I would feel safe. At my last ultrasound, 2 days before they were born, they measured 7lb 5oz and 6lb 15oz. Almost there and I felt relief. I am so glad I didn't believe they would be born the size they were estimated.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Car Seats, Baby Carriers

It seems like everyone these days has the infant car seats with carriers. Every trip to the doctor, grocery store, restaurant you see people carrying their babies around in these.

Before getting pregnant I attended a conference put on by neuroscientists for educators. One of the things they mentioned was that babies carried around in these tended to have less brain development as babies. Since the majority of our brains develop before the age of 3, a child being carried in these for a full year can make a significant difference. A child who is carried or worn, can look around more easily, can follow their parents' gaze to see what they are talking about, and is less likely to get sick.

The last benefit is because people will be more reserved at getting in your babies faces if they are next to you. Strangers (even those that are sick) seem to have no problem kissing, holding, and touching a baby in the car seat carrier.

Once I knew this I was completely against getting the infant carrier car seats. I did tons of research to find the perfect seats for us. Then my kids were born at just over 5 pounds each. Just like most babies, they lost some of their birth weight. When it was time to take them home they weighed less than 5 pounds and our car seats weren't rated for that. My husband had to go out and buy car seats that were made for smaller babies. That's how we ended up with infant carriers.
Coming home from hospital

There were a few times we did take the car seats in someplace. Almost exclusively when they were asleep and we didn't want to wake them. The rest of the time we took them out of their seats and carried (or wore) them. They were much happier in our arms and loved being able to look around. When my son became overwhelmed by his surroundings, he could hide his face in a shoulder. They could both control what they were looking at and spent great amounts of time following our gaze.

I keep mentioning wearing the babies. During pregnancy we went to a great store (no longer in business) where they let us try on many different types of baby carriers with weighted dolls. I thought I was going to love a sling, but after trying it, it just didn't feel secure. I ended up with a Moby wrap. It looks complicated, but didn't take long to learn and I could do a twin carry! The biggest down side was how hot it felt when it was 100 degrees out.
 Twin carry - first day at home
Twin carry - 3 months old
My husband wasn't about to wear a Moby. It doesn't look cool. He ended up with a Pikkolo carrier in plain black. He could only carry one in it, but he found it comfortable and manly. We used them for trips around town, traveling, and walks around the neighborhood.
 Chicago - 2 months old
 Christmas lights - 3 months old
 Zoo - 4 months old
 First football game - 2 months old