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Useful Tips for Taking Care of Your First Born Baby

Useful Tips for Taking Care of Your First Born Baby

Congratulations on becoming a parent! Welcome to an awesome, hilarious, challenging, wild ride. My husband and I had 3 kids within 19 months, and I’m not going to lie, those first months with the twins are pretty much a blur. The first weeks with a new baby are a mixture of more love than you ever imagined possible, over-the-moon joy, and complete, total exhaustion.

Here are some tips from my friends and I to make the first months with your first born baby easier.

Items to purchase

1. More isn’t always better. “You don’t need all the stuff they tell you to buy. Keep it simple,” advises Jennifer Thorson of Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

2. Hand-me-downs are great. We’ve inherited tons of clothes from friends whose kids outgrew them. As our children outgrow them, we pass them along to other friends who are having babies. This has saved us — and our friends — so much money, and has been especially nice when the kids are growing fast and going through different sizes quickly.

Outings with your little one

3. Get out of the house with your baby. “Don’t be afraid to do things with your kids, even when they are teeny tiny. Bring them everywhere. They will get used to being out and about,” advises Cassidy Bjorklund, a mom of 3 in Moorhead, Minnesota.

4. Fit baby into your life. If you like to travel, continue to travel. Sara Hagenbeck, a mom of 3, shares some of her favorite advice. “The best advice I received was to fit your baby into your life — don’t change your life for your baby…If you travel, travel with baby. If you’re outdoorsy, bring baby with. Then picture you traveling with the special light/sound machine, wipe warmer, giant special toys, bottle warmers…all those extras you realize you don’t really need. From day one at home, bed time has always been simple. Put the baby on his or her bed, no lights/vibrations/music, no toys, because we travel to grandparents houses, hotels, etc. It makes life so much easier that our kids ‘fit’ into our lives!”

5. Bring your child many places. Alison Krueger, a mother in Mapleton, North Dakota, has enjoyed bringing her daughter just about everywhere. “While creating a schedule is helpful, don’t be afraid to go off of schedule to be able to experience things with your child. Take them anywhere and everywhere you can. You learn so much about your child and yourself by experiencing all things. I’ve loved to watch Lia grow and love that at a young age she could hold conversations with adults. She has grown to be a curious and fun child with all she’s gotten to experience with us.”

6. Stroller rides are awesome. All 3 of my kids loved, and still love, stroller rides. Taking them on stroller rides has benefits for parents, too. Getting some exercise and fresh air feels great.

Sleeping

7. Sleep when baby sleeps. “Sleep when they sleep. You’ve gotta get some rest or you won’t do anybody any good. The baby’s going to wake up every two hours, even in the middle of the night, so sleep when they sleep,” says Jason Brookshire, a father of 2 in Hawley, Minnesota.

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8. You’re better off rested. Missy Conrad agrees with catching some zzz’s when you can. “Sleep when baby sleeps! Easier said then done, I know. But you’re so much better off rested.”

Feedings

9. Be flexible. Lynette Triebwasser, a Hawley, Minnesota mother of 3 (including a set of twins), has this advice for parents: “Follow “routine” and not a rigid schedule. Babies are flexible if parents are flexible. The routine can travel with you easily. Also if nursing — nurse as long as it it mutually agreed upon by both parties. If you nurse 2 weeks, 2 months or 2 years your baby got what they were supposed to get. Don’t let anyone else tell you how long is the “correct” amount of time — or if it’s even the right fit for you.”

10. You’re not a failure if you quit nursing. Christy Ambrose, a mom in Fargo, North Dakota, offers encouraging words to new moms: “If nursing doesn’t work for you, it doesn’t mean you’ve failed. Nursing is frustrating and hard, and can be really painful. And you will probably cry. And all of that is normal, even if it doesn’t seem like it should be that hard, it is! Never let yourself feel like you’ve failed, because as long as you are doing your best, you are doing amazing!”

11. If you want to nurse your baby, seek help. Lactation consultants in the hospital are very knowledgeable and know many tricks to make nursing more manageable.

Soothing your baby

12. You’ll learn by trial and error. All 3 of my kids have needed different things to soothe them. You’ll get to know your baby’s cries and how your baby is best soothed, but it can be stressful to figure out at first. I found the book The Happiest Baby on the Block by Harvey Karp, MD, to be incredibly helpful.

13. Stock up on pacifiers. If you’re going to use pacifiers, buy lots of your baby’s favorites. They often get dropped on dirty floors or lost, and having pacifiers available around the house, in your vehicle, and in the diaper bag is very helpful. You don’t want to be scrambling to find one when you need it.

Get professional medical advice

14. Getting an eye exam is important. Get their eyes checked. This is actually recommended in the first year or less but not communicated very much. Can have a large impact on their development,” says Kara Dietz, a mother of 2 daughters in Fargo, North Dakota.

15. Call your doctor. Touch base with your baby’s doctor or nurse with medical questions or concerns. When you have non-urgent questions about your baby’s health, write them down, so you remember to ask your doctor at your baby’s well-child checkup.

Connect with others

16. Parenting classes can be a great way to connect with other parents and learn great information too. Take a new mom class! Amma Maternity in the Twin Cities is amazing!” says Callon Siebenahler of Shakopee, Minnesota. Rachel Butkowski-Payette agrees. “A new moms class is a must,” she said. 

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17. Offer encouraging words to other parents. Kristen Halden, a mom in Hawley, Minnesota, says: Don’t be afraid to ask for help. It really does take a village! And know that everyone is just doing their best like you so support each other, even if it’s an ‘I’ve been there too!’ when they have a tantrum-throwing toddler at the Target checkout!”

Do what works best for your family

18. Everyone will have advice for you. You don’t have to follow it. Elizabeth Hoekstra, a mom from Hawley, Minnesota, says: “Remember, YOU are the parents. Many people will tell how you should raise your kids, but that’s the kicker, they are YOUR kids. Raise them the way you feel works best for your family.”

19. Make your own rules. Don’t follow the “rules” of how to do this parenting thing. There’s no reason you can’t make your own rules and own way of doing things,” is advice offered by Kaila Jones of Twin Valley, Minnesota.

20. Trust your instincts. Go with your gut,” says Kristi Krueger Roscoe, a mother from Fargo, North Dakota.

21. You’ll do just fine. When asked what advice she has for new parents, Missy Daggett, a mom in Alpharetta, Georgia has some great words. “I’ve been asked this question often and my response is always the same: ‘Shredded cheese is easier to sweep up if you let it dry out first; you’re going to do just fine.’ I think it’s important to share that we all struggle and second guess ourselves, but each mom has to figure out what works best for their family.”

Avoid comparing

22. There is more than one ‘right’ way to do things. Audrey Kankelfritz, a mom in Fargo, North Dakota, has helpful advice for parents: “Don’t stress out about your children’s sleep schedule, eating habits, etc. I often questioned myself to wonder am I doing this the ‘right’ way. Honestly, there is not just one ‘right’ way but many. Every child does things a little differently and develops at their own pace. Do not compare your child’s schedule or habits to another. Raising a child is an adventure; you learn what’s best for your children as you go and as you get to learn their personality and abilities.”

23. Each child is different. Kim Benscoter, a Detroit Lakes, Minnesota mother, reminds us of this with her advice: “Try not to compare your babies growth or development with other babies. Each little one grows, learns and creates their own little self at their own rate.”

Document memories

24. Keep a journal. Aja Joseph, a mother in Burnsville, Minnesota, wishes she would’ve taken more time to journal. She says, “Take the time to truly savor every moment. It sounds cliche, but the stages go by so quick. As a new mom, you are often exhausted and sometimes just trying to get through the day. The fact is that one day they will be much more independent, and when they don’t need you to help them potty, feed them, or wipe their mouth, you will miss it! Take the time to journal about each day’s experience, even just a few minutes. So much happens that you will forget if you don’t record it. I wish I done this more diligently because my kids say and do the darnedest things daily!” 

25. Videos and pictures are great keepsakes. Kelly Binfet, a mom in Fargo, North Dakota, “Take lots of real photos in albums and video!” I agree. We got a video camera from my parents as a baby gift, and I love grabbing it and recording everyday moments and special occasions.

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Let others help

26. If you have a partner, let him or her help with baby. Hold your tongue instead of constantly correcting when he or she does baby-related tasks. There’s no perfect way to parent, and if you’re overly critical, the other parent will feel inadequate.

27. Accept help from others who offer a helping hand. When people offer to help you, whether it’s to bring meals over, clean your house, run errands, or hold baby while you take a shower, let them. When people want to help but aren’t sure how, give them specific directions about what you need.

28. Hired help can be great. When our twins were babies, my husband and I hired a college student to come over and clean our house on a regular basis. It was awesome. Then, after the twins went to bed, we didn’t need to spend so much time on these chores.

Other tips to make life easier

29. Childcare can be hard to find. “If you are going to need a daycare start looking as soon as you know you’re expecting,” says Gabe Hagenbeck, a dad in Moorhead, Minnesota. 

30. Don’t stress about keeping things perfect. Ask for help if you need it! Don’t feel like you have to do it all alone. Don’t stress about having a clean house and keeping everything perfect like other ‘super moms’ because they don’t have it all together like they want you to believe,” says Mandy Runyan, a mother of 2 from Park Rapids, Minnesota.

31. Stock up on items ahead of time. Before our twins were born, my husband and I stocked up on many household items we would need in the upcoming weeks for ourselves, such as toothpaste, soaps, and paper towels. This prevented us from having to run a bunch of errands in those first few weeks.

32. Take a shower and put on some clothes you like every day. This helped me feel refreshed and somewhat human during those initial weeks of massive sleep deprivation.

33. Bring a change of clothes with you…for you! When I brought my newborn with me to meet my friend’s new baby, my little one had a massive blowout all over my jeans as soon as we walked in the door. While I had packed several outfits for my infant, I hadn’t packed a backup outfit for me. I learned my lesson and brought clean clothes for myself after that, and still do, even now when my youngest is 19 months old.

34. Don’t rush childhood. “Don’t rush your kids to grow up. This includes once they get to the “preschool” age. Just let them play, and learn how to play with other kids. There is plenty of time later to learn ABCs and 123s…learning how to play and experience things is more important. Don’t be a helicopter parent,” advises Angie Frederick, a preschool teacher in Fargo, North Dakota.

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35. Be patient while they learn. Jodi Schultz, a mom from Moorhead, Minnesota, has these tips for new parents: “Remember that they have to learn everything. Just because you as an adult think something is easy, they know nothing from birth but how to cry and eat and sleep. Don’t get frustrated and expect them to ‘act older’ than they are.”

Take time away

36. Take time away from baby. Meg Barker, a mom in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota, had this to say: “Every baby is different. Relax and enjoy the simple moments. Do not forget to take time for yourself and/or date nights.”

37. Go on date nights. Brittaney van der Hagen is a mother in Fargo, North Dakota. Her advice? “Don’t forget to take care of your relationship with your spouse/significant other. It’s so easy to push that to the side when a baby comes. It’s important to continue to find time for your hubby and vice versa. It doesn’t have to be fancy. Dinner. A movie. A walk around the block! Our motto: Date night is cheaper than a divorce!”

38. Don’t lose your sense of self. It’s easy for parents to become so absorbed in parenting that they lose sense of who they are. I believe it’s absolutely necessary to have interests outside of parenthood, and it is possible to continue to follow your dreams while still being a very hands-on, amazing parent. Whether it’s setting some time aside to do a hobby you love, spend time with friends, exercise, or do work you love, I believe being passionate and excited about something other than your child helps improve both your lives.

Enjoy the journey with your first born

39. Put things into perspective. Heather Stephens, a mom in Fargo, North Dakota, advises new parents, “Keep a perspective on things. Having a newborn not the way parenting is forever. Children move through developmental stages quickly, even though some days feel like forever. Every stage has it’s good, bad and ugly.”

40. Enjoy the awesome journey that is parenthood. As difficult as the sleepness nights and adjustments to welcoming a baby into your life can be, life with kids is an amazing adventure every day, and parenthood is truly awesome. Andria Spaeth, a Grand Forks, North Dakota mother, echoes this sentiment, stating, “Remember that life does not END with baby being born. It’s just the beginning and its better than before.” I definitely agree.

Do you have additional tips you’d like to give to new parents? I’d love to hear them!

Featured photo credit: Newborn Grip/Jason Pratt via flickr.com

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Dr. Kerry Petsinger

Entrepreneur, Mindset & Performance Coach, & Doctor of Physical Therapy

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Last Updated on January 12, 2021

Signs of Depression in Children (And How to Help Them to Overcome It)

Signs of Depression in Children (And How to Help Them to Overcome It)

Children, just like adults, can be depressed. Sometimes seemingly normal children with no major life issues can become depressed. It is the result of a chemical imbalance in the brain that causes clinical depression to occur. There are specific signs that you should recognize in your child if they are depressed. Getting them help and treatment is crucial to their mental wellness.

In this article, we will look into the signs of depression in children and how parents can help them to overcome it.

Signs of depression in children

The DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder) is the widely accepted instruction guide that professionals utilize for diagnosing mental disorders. The DSM characterizes a Major Depressive Episode as depressed behaviors that consistently last for two weeks or longer. Therefore, if your child has been “down in the dumps”, feeling hopeless or having sadness for more than two weeks, it should be cause for concern and investigated.

Below are signs of depression according to the DSM manual. The individual must have at least five of these behaviors present for a period of two weeks or longer to be officially diagnosed as having MDD (Major Depressive Disorder). Below is a summary/generalization from the DSM manual:

  • Feelings of deep sadness or depressed mood that last most of the day (for two weeks or more). For children they can present as irritable rather than sad.
  • Diminished interest in activities (again majority of the day or all the time).
  • Significant weight loss (not through dieting), or a decrease in appetite. In children, they fail to make expected weight gains while growing.
  • Difficulty sleeping (insomnia).
  • Either a slowing of psychomotor abilities/actions or an apparent agitation of these psychomotor abilities. This means that they either have moments that lack purpose and seem to be done because of agitation and tension or there is a significant slowness/retardation of their speech and physical actions.
  • Fatigue and loss of energy.
  • Feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt every day.
  • Difficulty thinking, making decisions, or concentrating every day. This may be reflected in their grades.
  • Preoccupation with death and dying or suicidal thoughts.

Please note that if your child is suffering from the loss of a loved one and is processing through the stages of grief, it is normal to have these signs of depression. If they seem to be stuck in the depression stage, then it is time to pursue grief counseling to help them along in the grieving process.

However, if they are not suffering from a bereavement or a medical condition that would cause the above symptoms, then they should be taken to a professional for possible diagnosis and treatment of MDD (Major Depressive Disorder).

How to help your child with depression

Depression is not to be taken lightly. Especially if suicidal thoughts are present. The child’s feelings and emotions are real and must be taken seriously. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), suicide is the number two cause of death for individuals between the ages of 10 and 34.[1]

Professional help is recommended if you believe your child fits the criterion for MDD (Major Depressive Disorder). You can take your child to their paediatrician for an evaluation and referral. Depending on the severity of the symptoms, they may benefit from medication such as anti-depressants.

Most professionals do not dispense medication as the first remedy for depression. Instead therapy is the first line of defense against depression, with medication being paired with therapy if the therapy is not enough or the symptoms are severe enough.

Testing

There are assessment tools that professionals can utilize to help in properly determining whether your child is depressed. The three tools used in assessing depression in children are:

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  • The Children’s Depression Rating Scale (CDRS)
  • Children’s Depression Inventory (CDI)
  • Clinical Global Impression (CGI)

Taking your child to a professional mental health counselor, psychologist or psychiatrist can help ensure proper testing and assessment occurs.

Therapy

There are many types of therapy available today. It is important to find a professional that specializes in childhood depression and the treatment of such.

Cognitive behavioral therapy is one of the leading therapy methods in treating childhood depression. For younger children, play therapy is useful in treating childhood depression as children are often able to better communicate through play than conversation alone.

What parents can do at home to help their depressed child

Besides seeking for professional help, there are a couple of things that parents can do at home to help their depressed child:

1. Talk with your child about their feelings in a compassionate and empathetic manner.

It can feel high pressure to sit face to face and ask your child about their feelings. However, going on a walk, playing a board game or playing alongside your child (chose whichever is age appropriate for your child) can allow them to relax and open up about their feelings.

Ask your child open ended questions that require more than a simple yes or no to engage in more meaningful conversations. Never judge while they are being open and honest with you because it will inevitably cause them to shut down and move away from being open with you.

It is okay to allow for periods of silence during the conversations because sometimes the child is processing their thoughts and emotions during your time together. You don’t have to fill the space and entire time with talking as silence at times is helpful.

2. Provide activities that help them relax and de-stress.

For smaller children, there are simple ways to help them relax.

Provide play opportunities that they find relaxing such as coloring, painting, working with Play-do or clay, or playing with sand and sand toys. Again, find activities that interest your child and are age appropriate are helpful in making them relaxed.

3. Limit screen time.

Technology is not helpful in making your child less depressed. It can often be an escape that keeps them from further opening up about their feelings and emotions.

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Limit time in front of the TV, laptop, smart phone, video games and tablets, etc. Any electronics that seem to prevent your child from face to face interactions should be limited. Ask Dr. Sears cites that researchers have found kids who have higher levels of screen time are at greater risk for anxiety and depression.[2]

Provide alternate activities to replace the screen time such as hiking, crafting, drawing, constructing, biking and playing outside, etc. Some children may be so dependent on their screen time as their source for entertainment that they may need you to participate in alternate activities alongside them in order to get engaged in the activities.

You can’t simply tell your child to go outside to play if they are suffering from depression, lack friends and are used to sitting down and playing video games each day after school. Go outside with your child and do a nature hike or take your child to a playground and have fun together to get them engaged in these alternate activities.

4. Promote outdoor time and physical activities.

Encourage your children to take part in activities that especially involve nature such as nature hikes. Do these activities with them to help them engage in the activities. Again this is an opportunity for open conversations to occur and quality time to take place.

5. Help your child when problems and difficult tasks arise.

Assist them by helping them break down the task into smaller and more manageable parts. Children with depression often have difficulty taking on large problems and tasks and find them overwhelming. Helping them by breaking down the task into smaller and more manageable tasks will assist in helping raise their confidence when the small tasks are mastered.

Small tasks mastered lead to bigger tasks being mastered over time. It is a process over time, patience and a willingness to work alongside your child. This does not mean doing the task or taking on the problem solely yourself. Many times all the child needs is for you to break down the larger task into smaller more manageable tasks and for you to patiently talk your child through the completion of these smaller tasks.

6. Help your child reduce life stress.

When children are depressed, they have greater difficulty handling life activities in general. Cut back on activities that cause stress to increase and look for ways to help reduce stress in your child’s life.

7. Foster a positive home atmosphere.

Reduce or eliminate negative attitudes, language and conversations. Also avoid raised voices, passive aggressive behaviors and any form of physical violence in the home.

Make your home a safe haven for your child instead of an atmosphere that is ever volatile (in words, emotions or physically). Make it a calm environment that makes your child feel safe and secure mentally, emotionally and physically.

8. Help your child see the positive in life situations.

Point out the positives in a situation rather than the negatives. Help them see the bright side of any situation.

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Be a model of seeing the positive in life by speaking words that are uplifting, encouraging and positive. Resist the temptation to voice negative thoughts that come to mind as your child can feed off your emotions and words.

9. Believe your child when they talk about how they are feeling.

Listen to them patiently and take their words seriously. Do not discount or minimize their feelings. Express empathy and compassion when they do open up about their feelings. Help them utilize “I feel” statements in expressing their emotions.

10. Keep watch for suicidal behaviors.

Such behaviors include your child/teen researching this topic online, them giving away their possessions and a preoccupation with death.

Seek professional help immediately with the presentation of suicidal behaviors or thoughts. Keep this number on hand and use it when in doubt: National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Phone Number 1-800-273-8255.

11. Keep all prescriptions, alcohol, drugs and weapons locked and away from children and teens.

This is a given for all children, but even more imperative for children who are depressed as they have an increased likelihood to abuse drugs and alcohol. They also have an increased likelihood to attempt suicide. So keep weapons and tools such as ropes and knives that can used for suicide out of the child’s ability to use.

12. Spend quality one-on-one time with your child.

Make the time during your day, every day, to spend quality time with your child. You may have limited time and cannot provide an hour or more a day to dedicate to one-on-one time with your child, but you should provide a minimum of 20 minutes a day with your child spending quality one-on-one time together. Try the suggested activities listed in point #3.

13. Be an encouragement and supporter of your child.

Show love and not frustration or anger because of the situation and your child’s condition. Help keep your attitude positive so your child can also see the positive.

Provide daily words of affirmation that are not based on end results (such as a grade or a win) but instead praise the effort they put forth. If you praise the outcome, they will be disappointed when their efforts don’t pan out. If they are praised for their efforts regardless of the outcome, their confidence is built based upon something that they can control (the effort they put into things).

14. Help your child to live a healthy lifestyle.

Sleep is a very important factor in your child’s mood. Not getting enough sleep can cause an entire day to be upset. According to Sleep Aid Resource, children between the ages of 3 and 18 need between 8 and 12 hours of sleep each night:[3]

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    Ensure your child is eating a healthy and balanced diet, getting physical activity/exercise daily and plenty of sleep time.

    15. Help your child foster positive relationships and friendships with their peers.

    Set up play dates for your younger child and encourage older children to invite friends over to your home.

    16. Talk about bullying.

    It can be one of the causes of your child’s depression, so discuss their life outside of home and their interactions with their peers. Help them recognize bullying and discuss how to handle bullying properly.

    17. Help your child follow the treatment plan outlined by their doctor, counselor, psychologist or psychiatrist.

    Make sure you know the treatment plan that your child’s health care professional has outlined for child. This may include counseling session recommendations, medications and recommendations to follow through with in the home. Completing the plan will help provide optimal results for your child in the long run. A plan doesn’t work unless it is followed.

    18. Recognize that professional treatment takes time to show results.

    Don’t expect results for the first few weeks. It may take a month or longer, so be patient and understanding with your child.

    Depression in children is curable

    Depression in children can happen for a variety of reasons. It is quite treatable.

    Professional help is recommended if your child can possibly be diagnosed with a depressive episode. There are interventions that can be implemented in a professional setting, at home and at school. The key is having a plan of action to help your child.

    Ignoring the problem or hoping the depression will just go away is not a good plan. Treatment is imperative to curing depression in children.

    The first step is talking to your child’s paediatrician to get the ball rolling. He or she will refer you to specialists in your area that can help your child overcome and conquer their depression one day at a time. With you by their side, each step of the way you will get through it together and it is quite possible for your relationship with your child to be strengthened in the process as well. That can be your silver lining or positive outlook on the situation at hand.

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] National Institute of Mental Health: Suicide
    [2] Ask Dr. Sears: It’s a Virtual World: Setting Practical Screen Time Limits
    [3] Sleep Aid Resource: Sleep Chart

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