Friday, August 29, 2008

Favorite Product #25

This week's favorite product is the Epic Dental Xylitol Mints. I know you may be thinking mints? On a preemie blog? Really? But yes I am talking about mints. These mints are specifically designed to help prevent cavities. As a person who had numerous dental problems that weren't entirely my fault, I was very interested in these mints. I ordered some for my son a couple of years ago. As I'm sure many of you have experienced first hand, getting small kids to brush or to have their teeth brushed effectively is difficult. They wiggle, they squirm and they just don't want to have it done.

The great thing about these mints is that they taste good so my son thinks he is getting a treat. We give him a couple with his vitamins in the morning. I do try to be as avid a tooth brusher as possible however using these mints helps me feel a little bit better about the whole thing.

Adults can use them too. Epic Dental makes mints, gum, toothbrush and toothpaste. The Epic Dental site offers some great information on how their product works as well as tips for improving dental hygiene in kids. I would encourage you to check it out!

Happy Brushing!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Finding fun toys with objects in your house

Most parents can be tempted to purchase all of the latest and greatest toys for their preemie. Those toys are fun however if you are looking to save some money or just want to try something new, take a look around your house for things that you already have. Many household items can be turned into entertaining things for your preemie quickly and easily. Here's a list to get you started:

1) Tissue paper - this is a great item for preemies. Tissue paper can be used to play peek-a-boo, crumpled up for a nice sound effect game or ripped apart.

2) Pillows - small pillows can make for great fun. Lay some on the ground and make an obstacle course. Throw the pillow in the air and try to catch it. Practice pushing and pulling the pillow.

3) Paint brushes and water - water is always fun (in the right place). Grab some old paint brushes and head outside. Let your preemie "paint" the sidewalk and then watch it dry. Repeat again and again.

4) Empty containers - clean out any container that is clear and put some small toys/items inside. Let your preemie shake the container and watch the items go back and forth.

5) Simple ball drop - when preemies are first learning how to put things into a small hole/shape - it's easiest to start with one shape like a circle. Take an empty oatmeal container and cut a circle shape in the top. Use ping pongs (or any small type balls) and let your preemie practice dropping the objects in and then taking them out.

6) Wooden spoons/pots and pans - this is a classic game that is still fun. Pull out an old pot or pan and let your preemie bang on the bottom with a wooden spoon. If your preemie is older, let him/her pretend to cook with you in the kitchen

Simple Mom had some other great suggestions of cheap or free toys. Check it out for additional fun.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Favorite Product #24

This week's favorite product is the Mega Blocks 123 School Bus

I absolutely love this product. Honestly I find it a little bit funny because it is a school bus with attachable train like cars on the back. The important thing is that kids love this toy. Both my son and now my daughter fell in love with this school bus/train the moment they played with it. This toy is great because your preemie can move it around like a car but it also has large lego type pieces on top. These lego pieces easily attach and come off so even little ones can have great fun stacking and pulling them apart.

Here are some great ways to encourage development with this toy:

1) Pushing and pulling - show your preemie how the school bus can be pushed and pulled around. Sit across from your preemie and push the bus towards him/her. Encourage him/her to do the same. Make it a fun game to play. At first your preemie may just want to pick up the bus and check out the wheels or hand it back to you and that is okay!

2) Stacking - stack the legos on top of each other. Tell your preemie what you are doing and then encourage him/her to do the same. These blocks easily attach together so after a little practice your preemie should get the hang of it.

3) Same/matching and sorting - Once your preemie understands that things are the "same" or "different", use the legos to see if your preemie can put all of the legos together based on color. First practice sorting and then stacking them.

4) Numbers/counting - the lego blocks also have numbers on them so older preemies can stack them up by number. There are also blocks that have a specific number of items on it (i.e. 2 apples, 3 pencils, etc.). Honestly by the time my son was old enough to get the concept of counting he had long outgrown this toy however it's a great way to encourage your older children to play with your preemie together.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Developmental Post #20

The developmental post for this week is focused on helping your preemie stack blocks. Stacking blocks can be a fun but difficult skill for preemies to learn. My daughter has currently figured out that blocks can go on top of each other but she hasn't quite mastered getting them to stay.

Here are some ways to get your preemie to start stacking blocks:

1) Make blocks readily available - Make blocks a part of the toy options that you provide to your preemie. If you don't have any yet, I did a post about my three favorite type of blocks here. To help encourage stacking, I prefer to use either of these blocks: The Alphabet Peek A Boo Blocks from Fisher Price and Parents Counting Pal Soft Blocks. The soft blocks are big but easy to stack and squeezable. The Fisher Price blocks are a good size for little hands to hold on to however they are slippery.

2) Encourage simple playing with the blocks - my daughter loves to bang things together and blocks are a favorite banging toy. By playing with blocks on his/her own, your preemie will become comfortable with them.

3) Learn by example - Stack blocks with your preemie. Let him/her knock the blocks over. Stack them back up again.

Once your preemie starts getting the concept of stacking, he/she may need a little help. Our developmental therapist just gave me a great tip to help master stacking: add velcro to the blocks. With the velcro, the block will easily stay without requiring a perfect stacking job. You can use sticky velcro or glue some on. Remember to put velcro on the top and bottom of the block - use opposite parts of the velcro for easier sticking to other blocks.

Happy Stacking!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Life In Our Preemie World

Have you ever noticed that no matter how far your preemie has come, you can often find yourself thinking of the beginning?

This past Friday I had to take Olivia to Stanford for some testing. One of them required sedation so after it was done we had to stay in the PACU recovery area until she was fully awake. Even though she wasn't there for something serious and she came out of sedation fairly quickly, just being in the room surrounded by monitors, vents, nurses, etc. brought me right back to the NICU. Right back to the moments of fear and worry.

Thankfully this time I had a beautiful little girl to hug and take home right away.
Are there any specific things that can trigger a trip back to those NICU memories for you?

Favorite Product #23

This week my favorite product is geared towards organizing (or at least trying to) all of your preemie's toys. My favorite thing for holding toys is a large Fabric bin from Target.

When I had my son I developed a fairly bad case of Developmental-toyitis. Each time that our developmental therapist would bring something new to the house and explain how it helped encourage various developmental milestones, I figured I had to get it. I couldn't deprive my son of something he needed to learn, right? If only I had realized how easily kids learn with or without the fancy toys. But that's another story. Our daughter has inherited those toys (and more) and I quickly found that they were taking up too much space. I bought a few of these fabric bins from Target and divided the toys into each bin. Each week one bin came out of the room and that was it. At the end of the week, we swapped it for a new one. This was a great way to keep the toys new for our daughter and make our living room look less like a preschool. I also like the fabric bins because they are flexible - baby toys don't all nicely fit into square boxes so having the ability to toss them into the box easily is a definite bonus.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Developmental Post #19

This week's developmental post is focused on the developmental milestones of preemies who are 6-8 months old. Previously I have done posts for 3-5 months old and 0-2 months old.

If your preemie is 6-8 months old (adjusted), you can start to look for these developmental milestones:

Large/Gross Motor:
- Can sit up straight when in a high chair
- When she/he is on his/her stomach, can reach for a toy
- Can roll from back to stomach
- Can sit alone for one (1) minute
- Can crawl forward on stomach
- Can bounce up and down in a supported standing position

Small/Fine Motor:
- "Scoops" up a small piece of food using all fingers
- Can bang two objects together
- Holds a toy with fingers and thumb - without the touch touching his/her palm

Social/Play Skills:
- Holds and looks at a toy for at least one (1) minute
- Will explore toys (waves, squeezes,bangs, etc)
- Plays peek-a-boo with a cloth
- Smiles and reaches for self in mirror
- Claps hands in imitation

- Vocalizes consonant sounds
- Repeats same syllable 2-3 times (ma-ma, ba-ba, da-da)
- Imitates sounds that he/she already knows

Ways to optimize your preemie's development at this age:
- Put your preemie on his/her back and place toys out reach on one side to encourage him/her to roll over onto his/her stomach
- Let your preemie explore his/her environment. Place (clean and safe) toys in his/her mouth
- Encourage banging and sound production
- Continue talking, singing, smiling and laughing with your preemie

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Favorite Product #22

This favorite product post is actually dedicated to the preemie clothes found in RedSparks.

RedSparks is a fabulous online store devoted to preemie and newborn clothing and toys. The shop was started by the parents of a preemie. You can read their story on the site. What I love about their preemie clothing is that they feature adorable designs that you would also see on newborn sized clothing. Preemies need cute stuff too! Take a look at these pictures - there is some serious cuteness going on:
RedSparks also sells clothes for bigger kids too. Have fun shopping!

Favorite Products are featured weekly on this blog. To check out past entries, click here.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Prevacid Savings

Calling all Parents of Preemies on Prevacid - did you know you can save up to $25 each time you fill a prescription for Prevacid?

Prevacid has a Beyond the Burn savings program that allows you to save up to $25 each time you refill your prescription. The program is free - all you have to do is submit some information and then they send you a savings card. The pharmacy will treat the card as a secondary insurance. Our insurance did require us to pay $25 each time so this program was love at first sight for me. I got the card yesterday and pretty much did a happy dance at the pharmacy counter when all I was charged was the tax for the medicine.

I hope some of you can take advantage of this program. It is actually for adults as well so pass it on to anyone you know who takes Prevacid. They do offer some nice tips, recipes, etc for helping stop reflux through dietary measures as well.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Developmental Post #18

This developmental idea/project comes courtesy of my sister. She just had a baby (full term) and yesterday she was telling me about a little project she made for him. I thought it was a great idea that would work well for preemies so I wanted to share.

As you probably know, when babies are small they can only see black and white. They like to look at high contrast pictures. Images such as checkerboards, circles, simple animal faces, etc. are a great way to keep a preemie interested and looking around. Here are some great, inexpensive ways to provide your preemie with some fun things to look at.

At home:
1) Paper plate faces - my sister took a black pen and drew simple happy faces on some paper plates and then hung them on her son's swing. This is a fast way to give your little one something to look at.

2) Paper mobile - create a simple mobile to hang over your preemie's crib, swing, diaper changing area or bouncy seat. Click here for some easy designs and instructions. Or create your own - you don't need to be an artist to draw faces, squares and circles for your little one to look at.

In the NICU:
When my daughter was in the NICU I cut out squares of paper with simple black and white designs on them. I covered each one in contact paper and then taped them to the sides of her crib. She really liked looking at them and I felt good being able to provide something simple and fun for her while she was in the NICU. Ask your preemie's nurse what is allowed in your NICU.

Developmental Tips are part of a weekly series. To read more developmental tips and ideas for preemies, click here.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Book Recommendation

I just finished reading a book that you might be interested in. It's called I Will Not Be Broken by Jerry White.

The author is a recognized leader of the Nobel Peace Prize-winning International Campaign to Ban Landmines, and co-founder of Survivor Corps (formerly Landmine Survivors Network). In 1984, Jerry lost his leg—and almost his life—in a landmine accident. He has endured the pain of loss and the challenge of rebuilding.

I Will Not Be Broken is a book devoted to helping people overcome a life crisis. I have to be honest with you. When the Survivor Corp's offered to send me a copy to read/review, my first thought was "this isn't right for me or my readers." Just to make sure, I read the first couple of chapters and found out more about the concept of the book. I quickly realized that this book WAS a good book for me and other preemie parents. Having a baby who is born premature is certainly a life crisis and the after effects of it can stick with you for a long time. There are a lot of books about prematurity but many of them don't deal with the personal feelings and deep impact that it can have on parents and other family members. There is a tremendous amount of guilt, confusion, anger, sadness, etc. that comes with having a baby born too soon. I definitely think this book can help parents get past the devastating effects of having a premature baby and the issues that come with it.

I really enjoyed reading this book. Jerry has put together five (5) steps for overcoming a life crisis. In between Jerry's own perspective and comments on the steps and how to get through them are stories from other survivors. The ability of these survivor's to not only just get on with things but to really live life after a crisis is truly inspiring. I felt motivated and encouraged just be reading their stories. The steps that Jerry discusses are:

  1. Face Facts - preemie parents have to do this step pretty darn fast. Whether you get 3 months or 3 minutes to "prepare" for a premature birth, it doesn't really hit you until you enter the NICU and see your little one hooked up to monitors, ventilators, feeding pumps, etc. You don't get time to take it all in and really digest it because right away you are there trying to make the right decisions for your little one.

  2. Choose Life - I've noticed that a lot of the time parents of preemies find themselves retreating from the world. Many people don't understand what you are going through and sometimes there can be too many things to deal with. It's important however to try and move past this and choose to be a part of the world. Take care of you and take care of your little one with the help of others.

  3. Reach Out - This is also important for preemie parents - finding a way to reach out. Whether it's through a hospital support group, an online message board, other parents in the NICU - finding a way to connect can help yourself and others through the painful process both in the NICU and at home.

  4. Get Moving - This is a tough one. Especially when your preemie is in the NICU. Try to keep going with your life. Make new goals and plans. Find a way to move forward (even if your little one is taking a step back at the moment).

  5. Give Back - I firmly believe in this step. Giving back can be a really great way to feel like you can help other parents and babies. Whether you volunteer for the March of Dimes, make hats for babies in the NICU or get involved in some other way, giving back can really help you feel better and move forward.

If you would like to find out more information about the book or the author, you can go here. Also, the author Jerry White is going to be on ABC's Good Morning America this Thursday August 7th at 8:45am. I would encourage you to listen in and see what you think.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Life in our preemie world

A couple of weeks ago we took the kids to ride on Thomas the Train. If you have Thomas fans in your house and have never been - I highly recommend it. They have a life size model of Thomas and you get to ride behind him on regular train cars. In addition to "riding" Thomas they also have crafts, trains to play with, jumpy houses, etc. Dominic has been a Thomas fan for several years so this was our third year getting to ride however it was Olivia's first year and I really wasn't sure how she was going to handle the experience. It turns out I didn't have to worry at all. She loves the motion of trains and was very interested in watching the beautiful scenery around us.

So interested. So intent. Loving every minute. Now that's what I call a fun day.

What do you like to do with your family?

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Favorite Product #21

This week's favorite product post is dedicated to baby/infant bathtubs. I've featured my personal favorite as well as one of our reader's favorite bathtubs.

My daughter was born 4 months early and was very small however once we started using a feeding pump for her feedings, she quickly gained enough weight so that she was the size of her actual age vs. her developmental age. The problem? Developmentally she was very far behind (esp. in gross motor) so by the time she was big enough to outgrow the baby bathtub she wasn't anywhere near being able to sit up on her own.

This bathtub came to the rescue. One side has a sloped side for bath time "lounging" and the other side has support for sitting straight. It also comes with a newborn sling for the top however I never used it as my daughter was too old/big for that when I got the bathtub. Although it seemed awkward at first (to support the lounging there is a raised portion on the bottom) it really did work. My daughter could take her bath without needing my constant support which made it much easier to get her washed up and encourage her to play in the water.

This next bathtub comes from one of our readers - Martha. She recommends the Clean Water Infant Tub with Built-in Thermometer by 4Moms

I love the concepts behind this bathtub. It has a built in thermometer so you can tell how hot/warm/cold the water is at all times. Once we get our little preemie into the bath it's often hard to remember to check the water temperature to make sure it isn't getting too cold. The other cool thing about this bathtub is that you can constantly have the dirty water flow out and clean water flow in. The water goes through the thermometer part first so you know that any water coming in is not too hold/cold. What a nice way to keep your preemie warm and clean. Thanks for the suggestion Martha!