Baby's First Year: Weeks 48-52
Worried about working?
Even though most mothers of infants and toddlers work outside their homes, many parents fret that spending time away from their young children may affect their children negatively.
A survey of more than 1,000 mothers and babies by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Study of Early Child Care shows that how much time a mother spends at home or at work has less impact on her child than the quality of their time together.
The group's study also has found that high-quality child care has many benefits. It aids young children's thinking, language and learning skills, especially in children at risk for delays. Child care and preschool are also where most children find their first friends. Stable and lasting early friendships appear to ease the move to formal schooling and improve performance in first grade.
This may also be accomplished by an attentive stay-at-home parent who encourages her child to socialize. Connecting with other at-home moms and their children through meet-up groups or at local libraries, hospitals, or community centers will provide a child with social interactions that spur development and provide opportunities for friendship - between moms as well as kids. The important thing to know is your baby can thrive whether you are at-home full time or working outside the home.
Talking with your child-care provider
Whether you've just begun or have been there since soon after your baby was born, your baby's child-care is a big part of both your lives. Ideally, you and your child-care provider have an easy partnership in caring for your baby. The key is daily contact about how your baby's day went and concerns you or your provider might have.
A high-quality provider will want to know about how your baby is growing and feeling at home, just as you want to know about how and what your baby is doing at child-care. Sharing this information will bring you closer and make you a team in doing the best for your baby.
Remember: Your baby is due for his fourth set of immunizations when he is 12 months old and his final infant vaccinations sometime between 15 and 18 months.
With a growing understanding that one's health is linked to the health of the family, doctors treat the family as a whole whenever possible.
Many studies, for example, have shown that when a mother is depressed, her baby's development may be delayed. The children of parents who smoke are more likely to develop asthma and other breathing disorders. In fact, "third-hand smoke" - the toxic residue left in furniture and carpets - is a hazard for children. Allergies and other chronic illnesses tend to run in families. Even the eating habits and mealtime practices of families can affect the overall health of all the members.
When health issues arise in your family, seek medical care for the individual, but also look at the overall health of your family. What are the connections and patterns that may relate to the issue?
Noise and language development
A research study on language development shows one example of how a family environment can affect family members. Just as an older person with hearing loss might have trouble making out voices at a party, background noise can interfere with an infant's ability to learn language. The study found that infants learn best when they can see the face of the person speaking to them, but constant noise, such as a television in the background, can distract them from play and slow their learning.
To support your baby's language development, minimize background noise and be sure your baby can see your face as you talk.
No more chicken-pox
Not long ago, chicken-pox was as much a part of childhood as skinned knees and training wheels. In 1995, the varicella virus vaccine changed all that, and now those itchy episodes when the virus spread through classrooms and families are mainly a memory.
While most cases of chicken-pox are mild, the virus can cause severe, even fatal, complications. The vaccine should be given between 12 and 18 months of age. It keeps 90 to 100 percent of the children who receive it from getting chicken-pox.
A set of wooden blocks may be the best toy to add to your baby's collection now and will be used for many years to come. A simple set of solid, sanded blocks helps develop hand-eye coordination and spatial ability and, as children grow, enrich creative play.
A 12-month-old baby is coming to or at the age when she can stack one block on top of another, making a small tower. The thrill of this feat is exceeded only by the joy of knocking it over. You can show your toddler how to stack a couple of blocks and then watch her experiment until she is stacking three or more on her own.
The importance of talking
Talk, talk, talk and more talk. The effect of talking to your baby - chatting, explaining, asking, echoing, rhyming, and so on - is enormous and lifelong. A classic study of 42 varied families showed that the most important aspect of children's language experience is its quantity. The amount of day-to-day talking that parents did with their babies and toddlers was closely tied with the children's vocabularies and IQ test scores at age 3 and beyond.
Surrounding your child with live human conversation - as opposed to TV, radio or videos - now and as she grows is among the most lasting, valuable gifts you can give her.
A recent study also showed that a two-way conversation with infants and toddlers is six times more effective than just talking or reading to them. Waiting for your child's responses when talking or reading aloud not only gives him the chance to practice, it also helps you tailor your speech to your child and offer positive feedback or gentle corrections.
Sometimes lifelong weight problems begin as early as the toddler years. As your baby enters his second year, you can take steps now to prevent obesity in the future and avoid the serious health problems that go with it. The following are recommendations from the American Academy of Family Physicians:
- Provide a nutritious breakfast every day.
- Eat fewer foods that are high in fat and calories.
- Plan healthy snacks and meals.
- Minimize sugar-sweetened beverages.
(Note also that in 2011 the AAP began advising against the use of "sports drinks" as well, saying that they contain carbohydrates and sugar as well as electrolytes and can contribute to dental cavities, weight gain and obesity.)
- Limit meals away from home.
- Serve appropriate portion sizes.
- Limit screen time (combined time spent watching television, playing video games and using the computer).
- Increase active time to at least 60 minutes each day.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) changed its recommendations for the use of car safety seats with infants and toddlers in 2011. Their new guidelines advise parents to keep children in rear-facing car seats until they turn 2 or until they grow too big for seat specifications, and then to use a forward-facing seat with a harness for as long as possible, up to the highest weight or height allowed by their car safety seat's manufacturer. (Note that convertible car seats, which can be used either forward or rear facing, tend to have higher weight and height limits-generally up to 35 pounds-than do infant-only seats, which snap in and out of a base that stays in the car.)
After that, use a belt-positioning booster seat to keep your child safe. Unless your car has a child safety seat built into it, remember that seat belts are made for adults and will not fit or protect a child until she is 4' 9" tall, usually between 8 and 12 years of age. A booster seat is needed until then.
Also keep in mind that some children as young as 12 months have shown themselves capable of unbuckling a seat belt, so keep an eye on your children even after they're buckled up.
FYI: if you are in an accident where your child's car seat is damaged, some insurance companies will reimburse you for its replacement.
Your 1 year old
You and your baby are about to celebrate a huge milestone. It's a wonder to see how much your baby has changed in 12 months, and how you've settled into parenting your little one.
At 52 weeks, your baby is a sociable, busy member of the family who enjoys games and new experiences. His spoken language is emerging, with new words being added every month. It's hard to believe that just 12 months ago, he was so tiny and new.
As your baby becomes a toddler over the next few months, his ability to cope with new experiences relies mainly on knowing that he can depend on you and other caregivers for support and guidance.