With a myriad of parenting choices available to us all, it can be difficult to establish which one will work best for you. Often it is a case of trial and error, and armed with all available information it is up to you as parents to decide what works best for you and your family.
An increasingly popular parenting choice for many new families is ‘attachment parenting’. This style of parenting focuses on the connection that can be built between a child and his parents and is often viewed as an excellent way to bring up children to be empathetic, secure and independent as well as enabling them to grow into understanding, caring and rounded adults.
What is Attachment Parenting?
The philosophy of attachment parenting revolves around giving you, as parents the tools that you need to provide a nurturing environment for your child in which their direct and indirect needs are understood and consistently responded to. It involves treating your child with respect, kindness and dignity so as to build a long lasting relationship – or attachment – rather than rejecting their needs, leaving a divide between you both.
Attachment parenting builds and strengthens an emotional connection between parent and child.
A child who feels secure will be more likely to become an independent and confident adult.
Parents’ should respond to their child in a physical, verbal and emotional way when they are sick, upset, scared, tired or worried.
Children who trust their parents when they are growing up will learn to trust others in their lives and have the confidence to explore their environment.
Attachment Parenting Practices
There are certain practices that are available to those parents who choose attachment parenting, but remember that this is not a check list that needs to be strictly adhered to. Attachment parenting is a lifestyle choice and as such has the ability to be moulded to your family’s specific situation. Some of the practices of attachment parenting include:
Breastfeeding: Recent statistics published by UNICEF show that in 2010, 81% of newborn babies were being breastfed. (http://www.unicef.org.uk/babyfriendly/about-baby-friendly/breastfeeding-in-the-uk/uk-breastfeeding-rates/) Breastfeeding is an excellent way of making an initial bond with your baby and taking the first steps to getting to know him. As he grows, you will be able to read his cues and body language and reinforce your bond. Breastfeeding not only provides your baby with every single nutrient he needs to grow and develop in his first few months, but also stimulates your body to produce oxytocin and prolactin (also known as the mothering hormone).
Baby-Wearing: Wearing or carrying your baby helps them to learn from you, gain confidence and be reassured. Evidence shows that carried babies are less likely to cry than non-carried babies, often reducing their crying by over 50%. (http://wrapsodybaby.com/babywearing-resources/baby-wearing-myths-vs-facts/). Baby-wearing also improves the sensitivity of you, as a parent. You get to know your baby very well and will really enjoy understanding their needs and wishes from a very early age.
Co-Sleeping: If you work during the day or do not get to spend as much time as you would like with your child then co-sleeping is an excellent way to reconnect with them. However, it is important to remember that the best sleeping arrangement is one that sees all the family getting the best night’s sleep. For babies, night time can be an unfamiliar and scary experience. Co-sleeping can help to relax and reassure them, helping them to sleep soundly. It is also beneficial to breastfeeding, as your baby has access to the breast whenever he needs it.
Understanding Your Baby’s Cry: Getting to know your baby means getting to know his cries. You will very soon realise that he has a different cry for each situation. Responding to those cries quickly and sensitively will help to build your relationship. Not only will your baby be comforted by you, you will learn to trust your mothering instincts when it comes to what your child wants or needs.
The Benefits of Attachment Parenting
It may be slightly overwhelming when reading through the practices of attachment parenting and wondering if it really is something that you can incorporate into your life, especially with all the stresses of bringing home your newborn. Thankfully, the benefits of this type of parenting will last a lifetime; so just remember that if you want it, you can achieve it and seeing your happy, content baby growing up to be an inquisitive and confident toddler and a respectful and independent child will reassure you that you made the right decision. For a little extra incentive, here are some of the advantages of attachment parenting:
Promoting independence: Attachment parenting will nurture your child’s mind. With the right tools, your child will develop a strong bond between you which will also help to provide a secure base upon which to explore the unfamiliar and gain confidence and independence.
Improving behaviour: An attached baby will cry less, be less fussy and less clingy. This all comes from how the baby feels and whether they feel valued and cared for. If your baby feels good then they will act and behave well; they will not need to ‘act up’ to get what they need, they will already have it.
Improving development: If your baby is not crying as much, then what are they doing in their ‘free time’? Well the answer is – they are learning. And with more time to learn, they are able to develop effectively and become more receptive to learning.
Follow Your Own Parenting Instincts
It is true that many parents begin to follow the principles of attachment parenting, not because they have researched and invested in it, but because they are just doing what comes naturally to them and their baby. The key to becoming a loving, caring and successful parent is to be relaxed, calm and receptive; so remember this throughout motherhood and your children will grow up to be happy and health members of the family.
During pregnancy, we are focused. On our body, our emotions and our health. And as our body changes, so do our emotions (sometimes on an hourly basis thanks to hormones!) and it’s likely that our health needs change somewhat too. Growing another human is a huge undertaking and one that must not be under-estimated. Give yourself credit for the amazing thing you are doing! But don’t forget that at the end of this pregnancy, comes the birth. Sounds silly, but many women focus on the day to day challenges of pregnancy, but when it comes to the birth not a lot of consideration is given to the logistics of it all. Then there are the women who give it a lot of thought indeed! It’s important to keep things in perspective, which is why writing a birth plan is often suggested. But instead of writing a plan that may not be kept, how about simply choosing your birth preferences instead?
Choose preferences, don’t plan
When we make plans, we often set ourselves up for failure if they go awry. And during pregnancy, labour and birth, nothing is set in stone. Childbirth cannot be predicted. We cannot know how labour will progress nor how baby will react. Unpredictable events cannot be planned for! So, writing a birth plan may seem like a sensible thing to do (and for many it is!) but it could be an idea instead to choose birth preferences that fit in with your expectations?
To be informed is essential, and if you are armed with all the knowledge of what is happening to your body, and what will happen during birth then you are in a better position all round. Knowledge is power, as they say, and being in the know will help you to feel more in control too. But remember that your baby does not know about your plans. No matter how well you have researched your ideal birth- you will still need to be flexible. So writing down your birth preferences makes a lot more sense than writing a plan, don’t you think? And when you do, you might find there is more that you can control than you originally thought…
Let go of the fear
It’s normal to feel fear and anxiety about birth. Television and films tell us that it is going to hurt, and depending on what book you read many of the experts agree. But it is up to you how you channel that pain. If you decide that you want to take pain relief when you’re in labour, research the different medicines that are available at your hospital. Make sure you know what each one does and what the side effects are, and write down your preferences. If you decide you will handle events differently, look into other ways to manage the pain and reduce fear and anxiety- hypnobirthing is excellent for this and we’ve already written a quick guide that you can refer to.
The most important thing is to release the fear, and you can do this by:
Read some birth stories. Fear of the unknown is destroyed if you know what is in store for you.
Talk about it. Let your partner and your midwife know how you are feeling, and ask questions too.
Make sure that you address your fears before you write your birth preferences and make sure that whatever it is that is causing anxiety is out in the open as soon as possible. The saying ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’ really is true!
Create a positive birth environment
Another thing to consider when you write your preferences- where you are going to give birth. And how can you make it as positive as possible? Whether you opt to have your baby at home, a midwife led unit or in hospital, it has to be the right decision for you. And there are ways that you can make it a positive environment for you. Consider the following:
Lighting. Some women like to have candles to help create a calm and relaxing environment. Some hospitals can dim the lights for you and it’s worth knowing that bright lights can actually inhibit the progress of labour, so make it clear in your preferences how you want your lighting controlled.
Your sense of smell is very powerful and the aromas that you choose to have around you as you give birth are important too. Soft, pleasant and nurturing scents such as vanilla can help you to relax and are a lot nicer to smell than hospital antiseptic smells! Have some scented massage oil to hand and ask your partner to apply some when you need it.
Lots of women find listening to music during labour extremely relaxing, so if you have preferences make sure you bring your own music.
Food and drinks. During labour, you will need lots of energy to see you through your task in hand, so make a list of the types of food and drink you want- and the types you definitely don’!
When you write your birth preferences, discuss them with your partner so that you are both clear about the things you’d like to be in place when the day arrives- but remember that they are just preferences. Nobody knows what is going to happen, and if you are happy to remain flexible then you are more likely to retain control of the situation.
The arrival of a new baby into your life will bring vast amounts of joy and happiness, but it is normal for new mums to feel confused and surprised by the physical, emotional and mental challenges that come from the novel responsibility of being a parent. This period of postnatal adjustment can extend for many months and is truly the biggest transition a woman will have to face. The change from woman to mother can leave many feeling overwhelmed, which is why it is essential that mothers feel supported during this time. Not only does this assist optimal recovery, having encouragement from those around her helps a new mother ease into motherhood more naturally.
However, strength and relief can also be found through natural therapies, which offer a way of balancing out hormones without using synthetic chemicals. The natural assistance that holistic therapies bring, allows mothers to not only nurture their babies but also ensures they feel nurtured too.
You have probably heard the phrase “a happy mummy equals a happy baby” before. This commonly used saying stems from the accepted truth that babies are sensitive to stress that occurs as a direct result of their own experiences or as a consequence of the emotions of those around them. From the parent’s perspective, if feelings of emotionally vulnerability or stress permeate daily life, then this can have an impact on the level of care they are able to provide their newborn. Parents that are consumed by stress and worry are not as attentive to a baby’s needs, which can result in the infant experiencing feelings of insecurity and isolation; feelings that can be detrimental to the mental and physical development of the child. If the parent’s lack of emotional wellbeing continues to go unchecked, this may produce long term effects when it comes to the emotional health of the child.
Complementary therapies can provide an array of advantages when treating physical, mental and emotional complaints. From boosting the immune system to relieving pain, improving sleep patterns to increasing energy levels and helping combat postnal depression, complementary therapies can help restore the body’s equilibrium naturally. When your body feels relaxed, it is more able to cope with everyday stresses and strains, and with sleep deprivation and hormone imbalances to contend with post-partum, complementary therapies can provide important tools for women to face the challenge of motherhood.
Recommended Holistic Therapies
Getting back into shape after childbirth is a concern for many women. The effects of birth will permeate your physical self deeply, but light exercise and toning will ensure that you begin to recognize your pre-pregnancy body. Key areas that should be strengthened as soon as possible are the pelvic floor, back and stomach muscles, once approval had been given by your care-provider
Homeopathy’s holistic approach towards medicine means that it encourages the body to heal itself. Non- toxic, and with an excellent safety track record, this natural treatment is particularly useful following labour, and can help you recover from hormonal balances. Homeopathic treatments also work well to address the common ailments a child faces within the first year of life, such as colic, cradle cap, constipation, and teething.
Yoga classes are a great way of toning up while allowing you to bask in the deep relaxation the exercise provides. Yoga’s ability to supply relief to the shoulder and neck areas particularly affected by carrying a child, along with breathing techniques designed to lower anxiety, will also be a benefit for the months – even years – to come.
Massage therapy is one of the most beneficial therapies new mothers can undertake. Its ability to relax ensures that the task of motherhood will be met with a clearer head; after all, a mother who feels looked after herself is better able to look after her child. Not only does the practice promote feelings of well- being and emotional calm, it also has a wide range of physiological benefits. From draining excess fluids within the tissues and toning the abdominal muscles, to realigning the spine and pelvic structures, postpartum massage can speed up the process of your physical recovery in the most relaxing way possible.
Part of a progressive new field of alternative treatment, flower essences provide inner balance by using only the natural energies of plants. Designed to settle and soothe anxieties, they can help you to cope with pregnancy, labour and the relationship with your child after the birth. They come in the form of distilled plant preparations and use the key characteristics of the flower as a remedy for an emotional ailment.
From the smell of baked bread to a lightly fragranced breeze, our sense of smell has long been known to trigger emotional responses – including the resurgence of memories from long-forgotten moments. This is because our sense of smell has its roots in the limbic system- the area of the brain also responsible for memory, as well as for the stimulation of the hypothalamus and pituitary glands. when these two areas are triggered, they can release positive hormones, which is why aromatherapy is particularly useful for enhancing feelings of well-being and calm.
Whether you choose to disperse the scent of aromatherapy oils around the home, use them in combination with a relaxing massage, or add a few drops to your bath water, the therapeutic benefits of their natural fragrances cannot be disputed.
Self – care
Although many parents claim that sleep is a thing that escapes them on a nightly basis, there is nothing more important when it comes to your physical recovery and spiritual rejuvenation. Emotional and physical stress will only be increased when attempting to provide care for an infant while depleted of energy. Traditionally, new mothers are advised that trivial matters such as housework, cooking and entertaining should be shelved during recovery – and this is advice that should be heeded. Minimize any extra exertions, and always attempt to sleep when your child is sleeping, especially during the first six weeks after the birth. Of equal importance is ensuring that you’re eating the right foods on your road to recovery. Eat healthily, making sure you’re taking in extra vitamins, minerals, and iron-rich foods, especially if you are breastfeeding. Keep hydration levels topped up at all times by drinking water regularly or enjoying herbal teas, which have the added benefit of enhancing a sense of well-being. Nuts, seeds, and meat, as well as plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, are essential foods that should be on every new mother’s shopping list.
When we have children, they become everything – they become our world. As parents, it’s our job to give our children all that they could possibly need, and that includes a healthy start in life. One of the most important organs to care for when it comes to babies is their skin, which, although perhaps surprising at first, makes a lot of sense when you realize that it is 30 percent more delicate than an adult’s. That means it is much more sensitive and much more prone to irritations.
Remember that our skin is the largest organ in our body (or rather, on our body). Everything we put onto it is absorbed into it, and so it needs to be treated with the utmost care – whatever you put onto your baby’s skin needs to be thoroughly scrutinized.
When a baby is born, its immune system is defenseless; that means it takes time to start working properly. Because of this, many parents (rightly so) feel that organic products are the best option. But there are so many natural skincare products for babies out there; which make organic claims, that it’s hard to determine which one is the best. After all, each one claims something different, yet hardly any of them actually go into what organic really is. That can be something of a problem for parents who are keen to give their child only honest, organic skincare.
Organic skincare makes a lot of sense, and I truly believe it is the best way to care for a baby. Unfortunately, the planet is still constantly being polluted – heavily – with chemicals, and manufacturers seem mostly unconcerned with how much these chemicals can affect our children, and specifically their delicate skin. A baby is much more sensitive to these chemicals then an adult would be – their skin is thin, and their brand new respiratory, endocrine, and digestive systems are absorbing everything through it. That’s why I’m encouraging you to think carefully about what you’re putting on your baby’s skin. It can make all the difference.
So what exactly is ‘organic’? An organic product is one that has been made with organic ingredients. In other words, ingredients that have been grown naturally, without using any chemicals to assist them. There are no awful pesticides involved, and that means the products are better for our bodies as well as our planet.
So, when you go shopping, make sure to look for the Soil Association logo on anything you buy. This shows you that it is certified as organic; it’s a mark of trust that means you can use the product worry-free, and it’s the only way you will know for sure that what you are picking up off the shelf is totally organic. Although many products make organic claims, without that all-important logo, you can’t be sure that it’s true. The Soil Association logo is a powerful symbol of trust and transiency – offering buyers assurance in an uncertain world.
This is why I created Mumma Love Organics for babies and children, and why I decided to put my children’s skincare range through the proper certification procedures. Here at Mumma Love Organics, we care what stays out of our products as much as we care what goes into making it. So no harsh chemicals will be found in our skincare, just honest, natural, organic ingredients. This is supported by the Soil Association Organic Standard.
Babies don’t come with instruction manuals, unfortunately, and no matter how many parenting books we read, or how much advice we’re given from well-meaning friends and families, there can be times where it all seems a little daunting. Caring for a tiny, helpless human being can be overwhelming sometimes! Remember that we all feel that way now and then, whether this is your first baby or your third. And often it is the smaller tasks that can seem the most tricky when you’re tired and emotional. One such task is the newborn bath. It’s not always as easy as it looks, but there are steps you can take to make sure that it goes as smoothly as possible. Here is our very quick guide to bathing a newborn baby- we hope it helps!
How often to bathe?
There are mixed opinions on this. Officially, newborn babies do not need to be bathed every day, and its recommended that you wait until they are at least a few days old before giving them their first one. If you have your baby in hospital, the staff there might help you with the first bath, or you may prefer to wait until you get home. Either way, for the first week or so you can just ‘top and tail’ (we’ll explain more in a moment) before moving on to bathing. And then it is up to you, and your baby. Some families use bath time as an essential part of their bedtime routine so they bathe baby every day, some families prefer to alternate with every other day. If your baby loves the warm water and finds it soothing etc then there is no reason at all why you can’t make a bath part of your daily routine too. Remember that newborn babies do not get ‘dirty’ in the same way as toddlers so a daily bath is not a necessity if you don’t have time, or prefer to simply wash baby in between baths.
Top and Tail
So called because you are simply washing baby from top to tail, without the need for a bath. Here’s how to do it:
Prepare everything before you start. Make sure you have a warm towel and nappy changing items to hand, plus all you need to dress and feed baby afterwards.
Make sure the temperature of the room is warm so that baby doesn’t get cold.
Fill a bowl or sink with clean, warm water. Check the temperature to make sure that it isn’t too hot or too cold.
Undress baby and place her on a warm, dry towel. Some babies will protest at this point, so be as reassuring as you can- and work as quickly as you can without appearing rushed or frantic. Your baby will pick up on any urgency you project so keep calm and composed!
Topping: wash baby’s face gently with cotton wool dipped in the warm water. Start with the eyes, wiping once from the corner of the eye near the nose, outwards. Always use just one piece of cotton wool for one wipe, to prevent potentially spreading infections. Next, move on to the ears- wipe gently with cotton wool, and then around the outside of the ears. Don’t wipe inside the ears. Use new pieces of cotton wool to then clean baby’s face, neck creases and hands.
Tail: Baby’s genitals and bottom need to be thoroughly cleaned. Do this by using a very mild organic liquid soap in the water, and cotton wool.
It’s a good idea to top and tail baby daily if you aren’t bathing her daily, or just on the days in between. Baby’s bottom and genitals will need cleaning after every nappy change.
Bathing your baby
Again, it is up to you how often you bathe your baby and as long as you are both comfortable with it there is no reason why it can’t be daily. There is no need to wait for baby’s umbilical cord stump to dry and fall off; but you do need to let it dry properly after the bath. Here are some tips to make bath time easier:
Get everything prepared. Place a towel on the floor for baby to lie on as you undress her, and for afterwards. Have clothes, nappy changing items and everything you need for a feed to hand. It’s also a good idea to have a folded towel or a kneeler for you too.
Make sure the temperature of the room is warm.
Fill a baby bath with warm water and use your soothing and settling baby bedtime bath wash too if you like.
Ask someone to help you if you’re feeling nervous, especially at first. Babies can be wriggly and slippery when wet!
Undress your baby, and wrap her in the towel while you clean the face, as you would in a top and tail.
You will need two hands to lower baby into the bath. Place one arm around the shoulders and neck, holding baby’s outside arm with your hand. Then place your other hand under the bottom and lower her gently into the bath.
When baby is securely resting on the bottom of the bath, remove that hand and use if for washing.
Using your hands, scoop warm water onto your baby’s body slowly, ensuring that she is warm at all times.
When baby is ready (and it may only be a five minute affair at first) gently lift her out and wrap her in your towel. Don’t rub her dry, gently pat her body and hold her close until she is warm, dry and ready to be dressed.
Lots of babies enjoy a feed straight after the bath so now is the time for you to both sit back, relax and spend time together. Hopefully baby will be nicely relaxed, clean and happy. Good luck!
Did you know that breastmilk is a bit of a superfood? It’s true. While for some strange reason the world seemed to fall out of love with one of the most natural phenomenons in history, Mother Nature must have been shaking head in confusion. When breastmilk can be tailored perfectly to your own individual baby, based on her needs right now- why would you opt for anything else? Of course there are many, valid, reasons why you may choose not to breastfeed- personal, emotional and medical- and our intention is not to berate those decisions. We are not here to judge, simply to share the wonders of breastmilk: nature’s original superfood. Here are five reasons why we believe that to be true.
Breastmilk provides baby with all the antibodies and bacteria needed to support a healthy immune system.
When in utero, your baby is protected in a sterile environment, away from bacteria that could pose risks to her health and wellbeing. Once on the outside though, it’s a different story! And aside from wrapping your baby in cotton wool and banning all forms of human contact, you just cannot replicate this environment. And why would you want to? Babies need to be exposed to bacteria so that they can build their immune systems- and that’s where breastmilk comes in.
Studies now suggest that if your baby is breastfed for just the first week of life, your milk will provide enough friendly bacteria to give her immune system a super blast. And it’s thought that up to 80,000 babies’ lives could be saved each year if access to breastmilk in that week alone was possible. That’s pretty mindblowing! Further studies have found there to be up to 700 different strains of bacteria in breastmilk, which is enough to support baby’s biome and to provide long term health benefits too. Leading on to our next point…
Breastmilk helps to promote long term health…
for mother AND baby. A baby who is given breastmilk in infancy will build up her immune system to the point where she is able to fight common allergies. It also helps to protect against asthma, digestive issues and autoimmune diseases too. A breastfed baby will also be getting lots of essential fatty acids from the milk too, which means a boost in brain development, growth, and bile salt production. Experts agree that the nutritional value of breastmilk is second to none in the first six months of life. And for mum?
Mothers who breastfeed are less likely to develop postnatal depression, as nursing triggers the release of oxytocin, the feel good hormone. This means that during breastfeeding, mums are more relaxed and nurturing instincts are also emphasised. Lots of mums report that they feel the bond with their baby is strengthened through breastfeeding too. Additionally, studies have found that women who breastfeed are more protected against breast and ovarian cancer. It’s thought that structural changes in the breast during at least one year of nursing, coupled with the fact that lactation suppresses oestrogen production in the body, can help to protect against breast cancer in particular.
Breastmilk is tailored perfectly to your baby’s needs.
So there is no need to go out and buy different types of milk depending on your baby’s age. Each time you nurse your baby, your body produces milk suitable for her needs- so the milk changes and adapts as required. What other food can do that? Breastmilk is the perfect combination of water, fat, protein, carbohydrate, minerals and vitamins. It also contains hormones, and enzymes, essential fatty acids specific to your baby. It’s a little like a magic potion made specially for your baby.
It’s convenient (and free)
No other method of feeding is quite like breastfeeding. And what other superfood is available 24 hours a day and at no cost? Breastmilk is the ultimate in healthy fast food, and there is no denying the convenience of it all. Not all mothers find breastfeeding easy at first, but if you are able to work with a lactation consultant or similar, you should be able to establish a good feeding schedule that suits you and your baby quite easily. And it’s worth noting that breastmilk is always served at just the right temperature too- no preparation required!
In a world where we are surrounded by foods and products that have been chemically enhanced to taste, smell and look good, breastmilk is a welcome superfood. There are no added chemicals, preservatives, sugars or flavours. It’s easily digested, it has a natural laxative effect so that breastfed babies are rarely constipated, and it is all your baby needs in the first six month of life.
If you would like more information and/ or support with breastfeeding, here are some links that might help:
A healthy, safe skin-care routine for your child should revolve around one word: gentle. But did you know many skincare products made for babies and children contain irritating ingredients? A baby’s skin is 30% more delicate than an adult’s, leaving it sensitive and prone to irritation.
Chemicals such as sodium lauryl sulphate (sls), silicones, parabens and mineral oils are all commonly used in baby care products. These chemicals can be skin irritants and even disrupt the immune, reproductive and endocrine system. Your baby’s skin absorbs things easily, so anything that is applied to the skin such as baby wash, baby oil, creams and lotions are absorbed into their bloodstream.
It is slightly worrying that such ingredients, which may be in your baby’s bath wash, such as sodium lauryle sulphate, started life as an industrial garage floor cleaner due to its corrosive ability to remove grease. The journal of the American College of Toxicology in their final report on the safety assessment of SLS stated that the chemical has been seen to be a skin irritant in clinical studies all over the world. This is especially bad news for those with sensitive skin or those suffering from eczema and psoriasis, as the chemicals will strip the protective oils from the epidermis, leaving it raw and irritated (1,2).
SLS also has strong links with eye development. Researcher Keith Green Ph.D., ID, Sc. Of the medical College of Georgia carried out extensive research on SLS. Dr. Green states: ‘There is an immediate concern relating to the penetration of these chemicals into the eye and other tissues. This is especially important in infants…exposure to SLS results in accumulation in eye tissues, a process that could retard healing as well as potentially have long term effects’. He concludes that exposure to sodium lauryl sulfate can cause improper eye development in children, and that since it is absorbed systemically through the skin, it does not have to enter the eye directly.
Younger individuals are more susceptible to the effects of SLS (3,4). Worryingly, this chemical becomes harsher with increasing temperature (5). Most people prefer to wash in warm or hot water, which should be a grave concern for everybody, the baby care industry in particular.
Parabens or benzoates are also a concern when buying baby cosmetics. They are widely used in food and cosmetics to extend shelf life of the product. It has been claimed that these preservatives stimulate the creation of oestrogen, which disrupts the hormonal system. They have also been known to cause allergic reactions and skin rashes; evidence published in the Journal of Applied Toxicology indicates that parabens can also be detected in human breast tumors.
We here at Mumma Love Organics believe there is a question mark held over the safety of parabens and SLS in baby cosmetics. In parts of Europe parabens have already been banned in cosmetic products, for example, Denmark was the first country in the EU to ban products containing parabens for children under the age of 3 years.
At Mumma Love Organics we care what stays out of our products as much as we care what goes into making it. So no harsh ingredients will be found, just natural organicingredients with natural preservative properties. This is supported by the Soil Association Organic Standard.
ANDERSON C, SUNDBERG K, GROTH O. Animal model for assessment of skin irritancy. Contact Dermatitis 1986 Sept: 15 (3): 143-51.
2. GIBSON WT, TEALL MR. Interactions of C12 surfactants with the skin: Changes in enzymes and visible and histological features of rat skin treated with sodium lauryl sulphate. Food Chem Toxicol 1983 Oct: 21 (5): 587-94.
3. HERLOFSON BB, BARKVOLL P. Oral mucosal desquamation of pre- and post-menopausal women. A comparison of response to sodium lauryl sulphate in toothpastes. J Clin Periodontol 1996 Jun: 23 (6): 567-71.
4. SCHWINDT DA, WILHELM KP, MILLER DL, MAILBACH HI. Cumulative irritation in older and younger skin: A comparison. Acta Derm Venereol 1998: 78 (4): 279-83.
5. GOFFIN V, LETAWE C, PIERARD GE. Temperature-dependant effect of skin-cleaning products on human stratum corneum. J Toxicol 1996: 15 (2): 125-30.
The bookstores are packed full with an array of instructional parenting books giving advice on how to bring up children and promises of a peaceful night sleep, but there’s nothing that really focuses on mindful parenting in this modern, hectic world. And that, of course, is what we all really need.
Our busy lives seem to be overrun with an abundance of commitments; work deadlines, paying the bills, trying to be a supportive partner, keeping fit, and on and on the list goes – it’s no wonder we get stressed at times. The demands of this modern world can weigh heavily on our shoulders which in turn can take a toll on our minds and bodies. But more than that, it also can have a negative impact on our parenting. Becoming a more mindful parent allows us to take some time out from life’s dramas and connect with our children in a more compassionate way. It enables us to step back and enjoy the moment rather than let it pass us by. Our children’s childhood is so important; how we parent our children can affect them for the rest of their lives. When it comes to parenting there are no second chances, so it’s important to make the most of this time now.
So what is mindful parenting?
The concept of being present and in the moment with your child is a fresh and exciting one; a parent’s attention is by far one of the greatest gifts we can give our children and mindful parenting is a way of providing this. Being mindful means living in the moment, with a non-judgemental, compassionate awareness. It allows us to observe a newfound consciousness intentionally, and helps us sustain that attention over time in the best way we can. Allowing our minds to maintain this attentiveness brings more awareness into our lives and lets us parent in a more instinctual and compassionate way.
Nevertheless, the problem with society today is that we often run on auto pilot, mindlessly functioning day by day, without questioning our existence. Our brains seem to operate in two ways; they are either swirling with past events that we can’t control, or they are preoccupied with future circumstances or concerns. This way of thinking often leaves us feeling stressed, anxious and even depressed; the amount of emotional strain we put on ourselves frequently leaves our minds and bodies exhausted; which can have a detrimental effect on parenting. This is where introducing mindfulness into our day to day parenting can help – it’s about stepping back, taking a moment and looking through our children’s eyes. Being in the moment with our children allows us to understand new possibilities, benefits, and even challenges with a newfound conscious awareness. Allowing ourselves to parent in this conscious way will enhance the engagement we have with our children, promoting a deeper understanding of our family and ourselves, which in turn cultivates a certain awareness. This is known as mindful parenting.
Mindfulness can create the imaginable; practicing it can give you the capability to see past any parenting challenges and certain behavioural issues. It allows us to see our children more clearly and opens us up to be more empathic, compassionate, and understanding. This will create connections that will last a life time. Most parents want to do right by their children – they want to be loving, warm, provide structure, set boundaries, and provide a positive role model – this is where mindful parenting comes into play. Parenting mindfully can be rejuvenating and transformative for both parent and child. However, learning and implementing this style of parenting is a task you’ll need to master.
Where to begin?
Firstly, let’s get one thing straight; you don’t have to be a Zen master to practice mindful parenting. You do, however, have to be willing, patient, and persistent. Just like any new skill, it can take a while to grasp.
An ideal way to begin mindful parenting is simply to be more present with our children. When we are more present our communication becomes clearer and our words become more meaningful. But, as well as being more present, we can also use other tactics to become more mindful, like the ones I share with you below:
Our children are our world, but we often seem to disregard their needs as other priorities take over our day to day life. When we run on autopilot we miss signs that our children are trying to give us, our inattentiveness can, in turn, make them feel worthless, and they may start to feel like they are beneath our attention and will begin to retract inwardly.
For example, if you are preoccupied on your phone or computer when your child is trying to have a conversation with you or tell you something important, they will start to feel inadequate and eventually will give up trying to communicate with you at all. However, we do live in the 21st century and life is fast-paced, so we can’t unplug the whole time we are with our children. Nevertheless, we can control how much time we spend on our devices. Technology is a brilliant thing, but it can affect the amount of quality time we have with our families. So make sure you unplug yourself at least once a week, keep your mind present and fully enjoy your family time; this will enhance your children’s self-worth and make them feel like they are top priority and not having to compete with your gadgets for your time or attention.
Take the Time
In this modern world, time doesn’t always seem to be on our side. But have you ever wondered how we find the time to accomplish menial tasks yet hardly ever take a moment to focus on our family’s mental well being? Ask yourself, how does it feel when we laugh with our family or have a great conversation over a meal, or when we cuddle up with our little ones and really listen about their day – I bet I can answer the question for you; it feels great, doesn’t it?
Another question; why do we make time for boring routine tasks but we don’t allow time in our daily routine to create more positive family dynamics? We seem to procrastinate over and over again, telling ourselves that we just don’t have the time. However, time is truly valuable; once a moment in time has gone we can never get it back. It’s so true, how often you have heard grandparents say “make the most of this time now, they grow up far too quickly”. They are right but the question is why aren’t we spending more quality time with our children?
The truth is this modern world exhausts us, and after a long day in the office or feeling overwhelmed with mundane family chores we are simply tired. This is why the very first step to mindful parenting is self-care; which we will look at in greater detail on my blog, next week. But to cover briefly, we have to make sure we take care of ourselves so we can take care of others. Often parents don’t take time out for themselves; they see putting their needs in front of their families as selfish, unreasonable even. Parenting is one of the hardest jobs in the world. It’s physically and emotionally draining. Therefore, it’s important to take time to recuperate and recharge your batteries, so you can be the parent you want to be.
Go easy on yourself
Mindful parenting can seem like a dream when our children are acting angelic, playing together, or willing to go to bed. Nevertheless, children do have a habit of pushing the boundaries; we all know that feeling that children can conjure up; our blood starts to warm, then slowly simmers, our kids push a little further and we’re now at boiling point, ready to explode! As a parent, this is the time to put your mindfulness into practice, take a mindful pause and just BREATHE. Our children will challenge and irritate us at times (that’s parenting), but there’s always a reason behind such behaviours (reasons that are often out of our control). What control we do have is how we respond when parenting becomes demanding.
Taking a moment to take a breath can have a powerful impact on unwanted behaviour. It will allow you time to gather your thoughts and encourage you to respond to your child’s needs rather than react to them. In general, people use the word reaction and response synonymously but there is a world of difference between the two. A reaction is provoked by certain behaviour; it’s instant. It often has no consideration behind it. You literally meet your child’s emotionally-led behaviour with your emotionally-led conduct. Reacting to your child’s behaviour in an angry, aggressive way simply isn’t the answer; all this creates is a crash of negatives emotions.
Responding, however, gives you the time to allow your child to express their negative feelings; they need to let them out, and if you try to suppress them they will to erupt another time – trust me. If your child does become angry, upset, frustrated respond by letting them have this moment, let them verbalise their feelings without any punishment, humiliation or guilt. This is a time to show your child empathy, consider not just your feelings but the thoughts, feelings, and reactions behind your child’s behaviour too. Portraying a calm exterior will defuse the situation a lot quicker than trying to fight in with a battle of spiraling, negative emotions.
Nonetheless, this is no easy task and is a really tricky concept to get your head around. Responding instead of reacting is a big part of mindful parenting but to others, it can often seem weak, even ineffective. However, the rewards you will reap later in life from this style of parenting will show in abundance. Your children will learn that it’s safe to show their emotions, will talk openly to you about their feelings, and will come to you in times of need. You see, mindful parenting allows us to understand our children’s emotional needs, which in turn builds a closer, more resilient bond between parent and child. What we have to remember as parents is our children are not their flare-ups. Their outbursts are often emotionally led by anger, frustration, tiredness even. These hosts of emotions can play havoc with a child’s emotional guidance system. It’s a struggle for little people to master control of their temperamental behaviours but guide them with love and kindness and they will soon become pros at it. Remember, it’s our job as parents to calm their little minds, not present them with more chaos. I’m going to cover an array of behavioural issues and how to deal with them more mindfully in the next few weeks… but for now here are some conscious ways of how we can respond to our children instead of reacting to them:
Will you just stop crying!
You look upset, is everything ok, do you want a hug?
Will you just get away from me!
I’m feeling a little frustrated right now, I’m going to take five minutes out to calm down.
That’s life young lady – you don’t always get what you want.
I can tell you are upset with my decision but let me explain the reasons behind it (if your child doesn’t want to hear why, walk away and be calm until they do).
Your sitting at the table until you’ve eaten all your dinner
If you’re not hungry now don’t worry, I can heat it up later.
Stop whinging, ask me like a normal child
Can you ask me that question in your happy voice, not your whinging one.
Mindful parenting isn’t always about managing difficult behaviour, just as importantly, it’s about treasuring the loving, joyful family moments too. This parenting style has so many benefits for children and parents alike; using this method of parenting has been gaining traction as a way of improving happiness and well-being within families for a while now. Studies have shown conscious (mindful) parents engage in more positive and less negative parenting styles which were then linked to more positive, loving behaviour in children. This meant fewer tantrums and less meltdowns. Being a mindful parent means growing and developing as your child grows and develops too. Parenthood is a steep learning curve, but that doesn’t mean being mindful is impossible!
During the first six months of a baby’s life, breast milk or infant formula milk is ideal. It is truly all that they need, and it easily sustains healthy growth and development. Plus, feeding your baby in this way is wonderful for bonding and emotional development. Just think of how they nestle into you and trust you implicitly. It is amazing.
So when the time comes to start weaning your baby towards a diet that includes solid food, it is completely understandable that parents (and often particularly mothers, although not exclusively) feel slightly apprehensive. You will have had six months of a feeding routine that will now change, and that can be difficult for everyone. Before it was enjoyable, but now? Who knows? There are so many questions to worry about as well; which foods should be avoided? What are the best foods for a good level of vitamins and minerals? Is it possible to have a vegetarian diet for your baby? And so much more.
Signs of Weaning-Readiness
The best time to even start thinking about weaning is when your baby is six months old. Weaning much earlier could be a problem for your little one’s immature digestive system, and no one wants that! When your baby can sit up on their own, and hold their head up (making it easier for them to swallow), then you can look at their hand-eye coordination. If your baby can pick up small pieces of food and bring them to her mouth, it is likely they are ready for weaning.
Baby’s Nutritional Needs
Weaning does not – and should not – happen fast. The idea behind it is that you gradually reduce the amount of milk you give your baby and replace it, bit by bit, with solid food. It should all be done gradually. The first part of weaning is less about feeding and more about allowing your baby to try different textures and tastes. It also gives them a chance to practice the technique of eating.
It can get messy, and it can feel frustrating. Why is baby spitting everything out? Why won’t they swallow? Do they like nothing at all? The thing is, it’s not that. Not really. It’s more about discovering new tastes and needing to get used to them. He or she may indeed like the taste, but their initial reaction could still be to spit it out at first. As a parent, your job is to persevere – the little one will soon get the hang of it.
Before weaning, your baby will only ever have tasted milk – it’s sweet and creamy. So anything that is not sweet and creamy (and to begin with, anything that is not milk in general) will taste strange to your baby. That doesn’t mean it tastes bad to them, but it does taste different, and that’s especially the case when it comes to bitter or sour foods.
What’s more, it’s all part of human evolution. Instinctively rejecting bitter foods is a survival mechanism, as it stops babies from swallowing toxic substances (poisonous berries, spoiled milk and so on). Having said that, this can be ‘overwritten’ to some extent – and it should be. A baby’s likes and dislikes are not set in stone – that happens much later. At this early weaning stage, they can be ‘programmed’ to taste and eat most things. Leaning towards what a baby seems to like can be a self-fulfilling prophecy; thinking that a child prefers sweeter tastes, and therefore offering them those flavours, can ‘programme’ them to actually only like those flavours. They will develop a taste for one type of food over another, and this then can become difficult at a later stage when they are seen as ‘fussy’. The problem with this – or rather the main problem, as there are a number of them – is that healthier alternatives can often be rejected too.
As parents, it is our job to help our children taste a variety of different types and flavours of food so that they have a well-rounded diet. It is much healthier for them. One way to ensure that they try all types of food even when they do seem to be leaning in preference to a certain type is to combine the food that they seem to prefer with a contrasting flavour. Combine naturally bitter or sour foods with those that are naturally sweeter, and they will go down a lot easier. Resist the temptation to add any sugar or salt to your baby’s meal – it really is not necessary.
Babies are naturally curious, and their senses are how they explore the world before they are able to get up and move by themselves. Their sense of taste is vitally important, and it is essential to nurture that sense from as early on as possible. So, let our recipe section on our website be your guide, let it help you to create and offer your little one tasty, nutritious meals that expand their taste habits and excite their taste buds in a way that standard baby food simply cannot do.
What is important to remember is that there is no need to be worried if your baby seems fussy, or doesn’t eat much when you give them a meal. Milk (either breast or formula) gives your baby everything they could possibly need to be happy and healthy. This includes all the vitamins and minerals, fats, protein, and carbohydrates that a child up to the age of 12 months needs. By the time they reach one year old, cow’s milk is a fine alternative, because they will also be eating well-balanced meals that make up any deficit. This is why, when weaning begins, if the baby doesn’t eat much then there is no cause for concern because they are getting everything they need from your milk, or the formula you are giving them.
Another bonus to breast milk, as an aside, is that it contains many enzymes and antibodies that will boost your little one’s immune system, and this can protect them from not only illness, but also allergies1.
A Note About Allergies
A personal or family history of food allergies, or an early diagnosis of an allergy in the baby him or herself, can lead parents to worry that any food they give their child early on in the weaning process can trigger further problems. And there are some foods – peanuts, eggs, milk, wheat, seeds, and food that contains gluten – that are particularly problematic. If you are worried, it is best to offer just a small amount of the food to your baby at first. Leave a gap of around three days to ensure that there are no allergic reactions, and then introduce a different food. If you try too many foods at one time and your baby does suffer a reaction, it will be difficult to tell what ingredient caused it.
Signs to look out for when checking for allergies are hives, dry skin, swelling, coughing, wheezing, nasal congestion, and breathing difficulties.
A Mini List of ‘Worrisome Foods’
As tasty as it is, honey shouldn’t be given to children under the age of 12 months. That’s because it can contain bacteria that little ones can’t fight off very well, and it can lead to a serious illness known as infant botulism. As well as that, it’s also really high in sugar, so it’s not ideal for tiny teeth.
Eggs, in general, should be fine, but raw or undercooked eggs can lead to salmonella food poisoning.
Too much salt in a baby’s diet can make their kidneys unhealthy, and it is even linked to high blood pressure, strokes, stomach cancer, and osteoporosis as they get older. Good, healthy eating habits developed at an early age will help to prevent these diseases.
There is a long list of problems that link back to too much sugar in your baby’s diet. Tooth decay, obesity, diabetes, heart disease… It’s just not worth it, for them or for you.
Although grapes aren’t an allergen (usually), they can be a major choking hazard. For very young children they should be peeled and mashed.
If you want to give shellfish to your baby then just make sure you cook it thoroughly as it does carry a high risk of food poisoning. If you are at all worried, seek advice from a healthcare professional – and that’s especially important if your baby has asthma, eczema, or any other kind of food allergy.
Go At Your Own Pace
Every baby is different; each one is totally unique. And that means that every weaning experience is different and unique too. Babies will all be ready to try different tastes and flavours at their own pace, so don’t get too worried or stressed out about things. Just relax and go with the flow (and whatever you do, don’t compare yourself or your little one to what anyone else is doing).
The one thing to bear in mind when weaning begins is that you should offer your child as many different tastes as possible in the first month or so. As mentioned earlier, they are still getting all their essential nutrients from the milk they are having, so if they don’t eat all – or any – of their meal, it’s not a problem.
Just like with anything, there are some things that your baby will respond to positively, and some that will appear to offer a more negative reaction. This is fine – but don’t give up just because you might get a shake of the head and a screwed up face; every taste is brand new, and can be very strange. That doesn’t mean that it’s not going to be okay eventually. Giving up at the first sign of a bad reaction means that the child will never have the chance to get used to the food that you are offering, and in many cases, it really is a ‘try, try again’ situation! Studies (including the fantastic ‘Variety Is The Spice of Life: Strategies for Promoting Fruit and Vegetable Acceptance During Infancy’) have shown that a baby needs to try a new flavour between eight and 15 times before they can really determine whether they do or do not like it.
In the above-mentioned study, mothers were asked to feed their baby green beans every day for eight days. Whether the baby ate the beans straight away or refused them entirely, it didn’t matter. The point was to simply try to give them the beans. At the end of the eight-day process, it was determined that the babies who had had the beans every day went on to eat more of them afterwards. It showed that babies can discriminate between flavours, and that they are generally willing to eat something even if they rejected it the time before (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18222499).
Over the following weeks we will be adding an array of baby food to our recipe page, but in the meantime, why not try these delicious starter foods.
Basic Vegetable Purees
Root vegetables are a fantastic way to begin weaning your baby. Little ones like the taste because they are sweet, and parents like the fact that they are packed full of nutrients.
Perhaps the most popular – for adults and babies – of all the root vegetables has to be the fantastic carrot. Sweet and delicious and jam-packed full of anti-oxidants, dietary fibre, and a multitude of vitamins (especially vitamin A which is essential for enabling a healthy immune system, promoting growth, and boosting vision, although it also contains much vitamin C which is fantastic for maintaining teeth, gums, and connective tissue). One carrot provides your baby with everything he or she needs to stay healthy and thrive.
1 medium carrot
Make sure the carrot is thoroughly washed to remove any nasty extras you don’t want, and peel. Steam (either for 20 minutes in a steamer or you can use the microwave – just put the carrots in a microwaveable bowl, add a tablespoon of water, cover, and cook on high heat for around 6 minutes until tender). Puree until it’s nice and smooth and add breast milk (or formula) to create the perfect creamy consistency.
One carrot makes 4 portions, and it can be frozen.
Butternut Squash Puree
The great thing about butternut squash is that it is easily digestible, which means it is an ideal food for weaning. Just as with carrots, butternut squash is high in vitamin A, so it helps with eyesight and skin. It also contains natural poly-phenolic flavonoid compounds (A and B carotenes, cryptoxanthin-B, and lutein). Once ingested, these clever little compounds become vitamin A, boosting the healthy aspect of the butternut squash even more. Basically, when you add in all the minerals that a butternut squash includes (such as iron, zinc, copper, potassium, and phosphorous), you can tell it’s a ‘super food’ to give to your baby.
½ butternut squash
Peel the butternut squash, chop into cubes, and steam (use a steam for 20 minutes or so, or place in a microwaveable bowl, cover with a tablespoon of water, add a lid, and cook on high for around 6 minutes). Puree the squash and add as much breast milk or formula as you require to give it a creamy texture.
Half a butternut squash gives between 8 and 10 portions (whatever isn’t used can be frozen for another time).
Similar to carrots in their sweetness, these fabulous veggies are full of starch and fibre, vitamins C, E (a natural antioxidant), and K (excellent for blood clotting, and therefore healing wounds faster). Parsnips also contain folic acid, thiamin, pantothetic acid, copper, calcium, iron, potassium, and manganese, all of which contribute to healthy bodies and minds.
Peel the parsnip and chop. Steam for around 20 minutes in a steamer, or alternatively use a microwave (pop the parsnip into a microwaveable bowl, add a tablespoon of water, cover, and cook on high heat for around 6 minutes). Once cooked, puree to a smooth consistency, adding as much breast milk or formula as you require to get the perfect creamy texture.
You should get up to 6 portions from one parsnip, and you can freeze whatever you don’t use for future use.
Although perhaps not as common in the kitchen or on the table as its other root vegetables cousins, sweet potatoes are excellent when it comes to nutrition and healthy properties. They are full of vitamins, minerals, and anti-oxidants, and because they are high calorie foods they are great for weaning.
1 medium sweet potato
Wash and scrub the skin and then dry it thoroughly. Prick it all over with a fork. Pop it in the oven for about 45 minutes at 200oC (180oC fan, 400oF, gas mark 6) until it’s soft. Once cooked (and slightly cooled), split the skin and scoop out the inside. Mash it until it’s lovely and smooth, adding breast milk or formula to achieve the right consistency.
Not just for Hallowe’en, the pumpkin is an all round brilliant vegetable to use for weaning since it is full of anti-oxidants, minerals (copper, calcium, potassium, and phosphorous), and vitamins (vitamin A, B, B-6, C, and E).
1 small pumpkin
Peel the pumpkin and chop. Steam on the hob for about 20 minutes (until tender), or steam in the microwave for 6 minutes (again, until tender – it may need more time depending on your microwave). Puree the pumpkin until smooth, adding breast milk or formula until you’re satisfied with the consistency and texture.
A small pumpkin can make up to 10 portions, but since it can be frozen you won’t waste anything.
You might wonder why we suggest trying your baby with vegetables first, when it’s more likely that they will enjoy – and therefore eat – fruit, thanks to its sweeter taste. Well that’s exactly the reason; getting your baby used to eating his or her greens is the hardest part or weaning, as a baby’s taste buds need to get used to the taste of the vegetables. Once that is mastered, it’s time to move on to sweeter things.
Apples are an amazing fruit. Not only do they taste great, but they have absolutely everything that your baby needs for good health in mind and body. Apples give a range of healthy vitamins and minerals including anti-oxidants and phytonutrients, and they really do ward off a number of nasty diseases by boosting the immune system.
1 small eating apple
Wash the apple thoroughly, peel, core, and chop. Pop the chunks into a saucepan with a small amount of water and bring to the boil. Once boiling, turn the heat down and allow to simmer until soft (about 5 minutes or so). Once cooked, puree until smooth and add breast milk or formula if you choose to (this isn’t necessary, but you might want to for flavour and consistency).
One small apple makes about four portions.
Bananas are amazing fruits. Packed full of vitamin B6 and vitamin C, as well as copper, potassium, and manganese (which is fabulous for strengthening bones), they not only taste incredible, but the texture is already lovely and soft, so they are easy to prepare and digest.
½ small banana
Mash the banana with a fork, making sure you get rid of all the lumps. Add enough milk (both breast milk and formula work equally well) to give it a lovely smooth texture.
This just makes one portion, but it’s so easy to do that it’s not a chore to make more when you need to.
Pears tend to get a little forgotten when thinking about fruit, which is a shame as not only do they taste great, they are super good for you and the little ones too. Pears have loads of minerals (copper, iron, potassium, manganese, and magnesium), as well as folates (where folic acid comes from), and riboflavin (essential for red blood cell production).
1 small pear (make sure it’s ripe)
Wash the pear, then peel and core it. Pop the whole thing into a saucepan with a little bit of water, and then bring to the boil. Once boiling, turn down the heat and simmer (covered) for around 7 minutes. Once soft, puree and add breast milk or formula should you wish to.
One pear makes about 4 portions.
Mango – possibly the most summery of fruits – is vitamin filled, juicy, and delicious.
1 small mango
Wash the mango and then peel it in order to get to as much of the flesh as possible. Cut it away from the centre stone and puree everything.
One mango should get you 6 portions.
Avocados might not be everyone’s first choice, but they shouldn’t be forgotten since they are rich in dietary fibre, minerals, nutrients, and vitamins. In fact, they pretty much have everything your weaning baby could want.
1 medium avocado (check to make sure it’s nice and ripe)
Simply mash the flesh of the avocado until it’s as smooth as it will go, and then add breast milk or formula to get it to the perfect consistency.
For more superfood inspiration check out our baby food section on youtube!
The world in which our children are growing up in is vastly different to the one we found our feet in. Children today face so many new and varied pressures that just didn’t exist when we were navigating the tricky terrain of childhood, and so it makes sense for us as parents to be as switched on as we can be. We need to be taking an active and mindful interest in our children’s lives, and we need to be aware of the ways in which we can keep them safe too. With many under 16s now owning a smartphone, tablet and/ or computer it really is crucial for parents to know. How to keep kids safe online. This week we’re looking at ways we can do this, and reasons why it’s so important. Please do get in touch with your thoughts too.
Why keeping kids safe online is so important
The internet is amazing. When we were growing up, we didn’t have instant access to such a wealth of knowledge, information and opportunities to be social at the touch of a button. It’s one of the most amazing and innovative creations of the modern world and our children are so lucky to have it. Those who can remember the days of tape loading games and how long that used to take will know exactly what I mean! But with the wonders that it brings, there are inevitable pitfalls too.
The internet is, quite frankly, a HUGE place for our children to be visiting. There are so many areas of the web that we don’t know about, and so many ways that our children can become vulnerable without us even knowing. The digital world changes so frequently and so rapidly that it can be really hard for parents to keep up with what their children are doing. Because of the nature of these changes, certain screen guarding procedures may not yet be in place, and this can mean your child isn’t always safe online.
What does being safe online mean?
We advise our children not to speak to strangers at the park and to always let you or a teacher know if they are being bullied; the same rules apply to online activity too. Sometimes it’s only too easy for kids to get ‘duped’ by online personas who aren’t all that they claim to be, so having an awareness of the ways in which your child might be vulnerable is so important. Read on for more tips on how to keep your child safe online.
Understand what your child does online
Your child will most likely go online to connect with friends and to browse the internet for information or to play games. Your child is likely to use Google, Whatsapp, Instagram, Snapchat and even sites such as Facebook and Twitter too. Do you know how to use these sites too?
Lots of children also chat via other sites such as games or YouTube, and actually can browse for literally anything online. That’s quite a scary thought!
Keeping kids safe
If the thought of your child being able to access almost anything online makes you sweat, then you need to know how to keep them safe while they’re online. A complete blanket ban of the internet is not going to go down well, and isn’t necessary either. There are so many learning opportunities online for your child that you really don’t want them to miss.
Stay safe while gaming
You need to know what games you child is playing. Some are not suitable for children and may contain disturbing images or concepts. Some may contain abusive material directed towards others and some have chat room facilities that your child will be able to access freely. This means that they can speak to anyone, around the world, and conversations aren’t always monitored. Some children find certain games addictive and when this happens, other areas of their life can be affected.
If you’re concerned, always check the game’s suitability (age rating, reviews, or take a look for yourself), and know how to block and report if you need to. It’s also a good idea to educate your child and be certain they know not to share information and to let you know if a game has upset them.
Always activate safety settings, and update parental controls regularly. Check your child’s browsing history to make sure they haven’t been able to access inappropriate material and talk to them about what they have been doing online.
Keep the conversation going
It’s so important to keep talking to your child so that they always feel able to come to you if something isn’t right. And while we know its essential that your child trusts you, it’s also reasonable for them to know that you will be checking their phone and/ or tablet regularly to ensure they are staying safe online. Just a quick scan of messages and photos is suffice, but do it regularly and et your child know that passwords for all sites must be shared too.