INFANT HEALTHY DEVELOPMENT

PART I

Hello again! Hope everyone is enjoying their summer. I’m somewhat enjoying this summer because I have always had a love/hate relationship with this season. Let me tell you why…I love it because when the sun is out, it looks so beautiful. It makes me want to go out and just enjoy the weather. On the flip side, I hate it because I can’t be outside in the sun because the UV rays are usually too high, and it drains my energy and that flares up my lupus. Here’s a bonus reason if I’m being really honest with you and myself, I don’t like being too hot. I can’t and never could really stand that feeling. Once the temp is over 80 degrees, I feel like I’m going to lose it, and I always felt that way. I don’t know if that has anything to do with growing up in San Francisco where we didn’t have too many extremely hot days or maybe that’s just me thinking that. I guess it doesn’t really matter, right? What matters is that I don’t like being too hot. I get sweaty, itchy, and my skin begins to burn which makes me grumpy and irritated – truly not a good combination. I think I might be a little too transparent. The point is, I don’t like it when it’s too hot and now you’ve been warned…LOL. How many of you can agree with me or do you enjoy the hot summer days when the temperature reaches 95 degrees or more? When you don’t have a choice but to run your AC or maybe you wish you had an AC so you have the fan running constantly and have your blinds closed trying not to let the sunlight into your house trying to keep it cool? I’m sure you know what I mean. My mom used to tell me to close the blinds in an attempt to keep it cool inside and she still says it now with the AC on. Well enough about the weather, let’s move on to the topic at that gives me great joy…babies! Yes, the next topic is about babies, well actually babies in utero and mothers. This will be part one of a series of blogs about the healthy development of infants.

MY FIRST ENCOUNTER WITH INFANTS

I have always loved babies, long before I became a mother. I could remember around the age of 6 or 7, my Nene (maternal grandmother) was watching my younger cousin which was her niece, and she would allow me to help her. That was my first interaction with a baby. At the time, my mother did not have any other children, I was an only child (maternally), so it was normal that I wouldn’t know anything about babies. My first cousins and I were all around the same age, so it made sense that I had not been around any babies. Now the cousin that Nene was watching was a little girl under the age of one and she taught me how to change her diaper, how to hold her correctly and how to give her a bottle. As she got older, she showed me how to feed her table food; I do not remember Nene giving her baby food. I also learned how not to hold her so much because that was what I wanted to do. Nene showed me how to put her on the floor and allow her to play and that I could get on the floor and play with her as well.

The next interaction I had was years later with my baby sister Jalyssa and she and I are 14 years apart. Nene watched Jalyssa as well, but I was able to do a little more with Jalyssa because I was the summertime which meant I was out of school, and I was a also a teenager when she was born. My mother had a C-section and somehow developed a terrible neck spasm and needed a lot of help which I was all too eager to provide. I was thinking that I would finally be able to put the skills I had learned from Nene to good use. I changed, fed, played with, and put my sister to sleep. Looking back, nurturing came so easy to me. Additionally, I was also helping with the laundry for my sister and my mother while completing my own. I don’t think I really liked doing my mom’s laundry, but for some reason, I loved and still love washing baby’s clothes. Anyway, even though I knew what I was doing and had learned from the best, I still needed a little help from Nene. I needed help developing my caregiving skills more than where they were, at least until the newness of my sister wore off and my mother was better and wanted her baby back. Which actually worked for me because I was ready to go back to being a teenager and no longer wanted to be a babysitter/caregiver. Now, I shared this information with you to give you my background experience with infants, pre-education and pre-motherhood. This just gives you a glimpse into a little of my childhood experience with infants and how I gained a love for them and learned, hands on how to care for them.

UNDERSTANDING DEVELOPMENT

Years later, I wasn’t working and during this time of unemployment, I decided to care for an infant as a favor for someone. While caring for this child, I noticed something that just didn’t seem right developmentally. At this point in my life, I had only completed couple of years at the community college and that included only one child development class which I’m sure was Intro to Child Development, I’m sure it wasn’t enough to make any diagnosis. However, I knew something just wasn’t okay with this baby. The infant was approximately 9-10 months old and would gag on food like oatmeal due to difficulties with chewing. I also notice that there were other milestones that the child was not reaching that a child for this age group should have met. I knew I was not an expert and the worst thing I could have done was compare this child to my own children because my twins were premature, and all children are a little different and can be a few weeks behind or ahead. However, one thing I knew was that children should be able to chew by the time they are 10 months old, which led me to assume that this child’s food must have been constantly mashed up before feeding and maybe it was for fear of the infant choking. Although I can understand the fear, and a little fear is okay; however, too much fear will interrupt the child’s development, and that’s what appeared to be happening with that infant. The alternative was that that the infant had some delays, which I doubted at the time…let me explain. I began to feed the infant food that required chewing and I did not give food that could be swallowed easily. The infant just needed to work on developing the chewing muscles and that’s what I worked on. The infant did gag for a bit, but the more I worked with the infant, the better things became. I really wanted to speak with the parents about it, but some information you just know would not be very well received, so I never said anything other than what the child was able to eat and how well the infant was doing. Within a few weeks, the child had reached the developmental milestone regarding feeding.

Since then, I completed my Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology and Bachelor of Arts degree in Human Development, Early Childhood Development and I previously worked as a Family Support Specialist where I taught child development to new mothers after they came home from the hospital. It was while I was in this position that I became a Certified Trainer in Infant and Toddler Care. Which leads me to my main goal of this blog, part 1 of the Healthy Development of Our Infants. I know I have already been talking, but that was me giving you my background which began my love of infants and my experience pre-education with an infant not meeting an important milestone. Now I’m going to talk about the “Healthy Development” of infants in utero until delivery because that is different than just plain “development.”

So, what does it mean when one says healthy development of the baby? Well first of all, I believe it all begins with the mother. She must be healthy and taken care of for her infant to be on the right track for healthy development. When mom is pregnant, she should not be stressed because the baby can feel all that mom can feel. Let’s talk about when a woman first finds out that she’s pregnant and she decides to keep the baby; whether she is married or not; whether the man stays, or he leaves. From this moment on, she must make the decision for herself and that baby that she is carrying to take care of herself, physically, emotionally, and psychologically because she wants to (1) carry the baby to term, and (2) do her best to give birth to a heathy baby. Now let’s remember, God is the one in control, but we must still do our best to take care of ourselves so that we can say that we did what we were supposed to do during the duration of the pregnancy.

Prenatal care is very important during pregnancy. Most people think that it’s just to check the baby, but it’s also to make sure the mother is okay as well. I have three children, that came from two pregnancies, and I will tell you, those prenatal visits were very important. I went to monthly prenatal visits both pregnancies, but with my daughter, I had one ultrasound visit at around my six-month mark. With my twins, I had monthly ultrasound visits to ensure healthy development. I will say, I hated those monthly appointments for a few of reasons. These are the reasons: (1) the parking lot did not have an elevator and I always had to park above level 8 with a toddler. This 2-year-old refused to walk up or down the stairs, so I had to carry her. Good thing she was very petite and weighed under 25lbs. (2) I had a drink a ton of water and could not go to the bathroom until the ultrasound was over…remember, I was carrying twins, not fun. (3) My second trimester was in the summer. So, the bright side of it was that my doctor appointments were in San Francisco, so it wasn’t too, too hot.  My husband, then boyfriend was at work, so I attended those appointments alone. I know some might say he should have taken off work, but let me tell you, my hormones are different when I’m pregnant, I’m not a very nice person and I don’t like certain people around me very much and he was one of those people. Saying all that to say, I didn’t like the appointments, but I knew they were important, and I made sure that I was present for each one. So please make sure you attend all your appointments, including all of your lab work whether you like needles or not, it’s very imperative. You need to know if you have gestational diabetes or anything else so you can adjust accordingly and immediately, for your sake and the baby’s.

Another thing that is important, prenatal vitamins. Please make sure you take your prenatal vitamins daily; it’s needed because they provide what you and your baby both need. Also, if you are on medication, please do not stop taking your medication until you speak with your health care provider first. I know as mothers, we immediately begin to worry about the medication harming the fetus/baby, but if you have a chronic physical or mental illness, you must also be concerned about your own safety as well. Please speak with your doctor first. However, if you are planning your pregnancy, please speak with your health care provider about what will need to happen with your medication if you decide to get pregnant. By having this conversation, you will already have a plan in place.

PREPARING FOR BABY

According to the National Institute of Health (NIH) (2017), there are some actions women can take to prepare their bodies for the carrying of the fetus/baby. The ideal thing to is prepare themselves pre-pregnancy and prenatally (NIH, 2017). The NIH (2017) states that for a woman to prepare pre-pregnancy, she should do the following:

  • Create a plan for her life reproductively
  • Increase daily folic acid, taking minimum 400 micrograms (one of the B vitamins)
  • Ensure all immunizations are up to date
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Be sure to keep medical conditions under control
  • Avoid alcohol, drugs, and cigarettes
  • If there a diagnosis of depression, anxiety, or any other mental health conditions, please get assistance

 

Lastly, the NIH (2017) reports that prenatal care is also very essential for expectant mothers, which includes checking mom’s weight, physical examinations, and urine samples. Having consistent prenatal visits, the NIH (2017) states women can:

  • Decrease the risk of complications during their pregnancy
  • Decrease the risk of complications in the fetus and infant
  • Alcohol and substance tobacco smoke has been indicated to increase the possibility of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) and fetal alcohol spectrum disorders
  • Some medications are forbidden for women to take during pregnancy such as, dietary supplements, acne treatments, and herbal supplements.

TIME FOR BABY

Now it’s time for the mom to go to the hospital because she is in labor. While mom is in the hospital, she should be calm and not stressed. The family that SHE decides to ALLOW to be at the hospital with her must not add emotional pain to the physical pain that she is already feeling. Additionally, that partner and/or family member that is there to provide support for her must almost ensure that the nurses and staff does not cause any undue stress to her either. I know you may be thinking that “nurses are there to provide help and support” but please believe me when I say that there are some that can cause unnecessary stress.

Quick story/example: When my younger sister gave birth to my nephew Amari, I went to SoCal to provide support to she and her husband for a few days. I arrived the day after my nephew was born and went directly to the hospital, luggage in hand (pre-pandemic). While at the hospital, my sister had shared that she was having difficulty nursing and was still waiting for the lactation specialist to come and assist her with nursing Amari. In the meantime, she was concerned about him not eating, so she advised the nurse to give him formula. However, every time he had a bottle, he would spit up after feeding. What I had explained to my sister is that he may have an intolerance to the “milk-based formula” that he was ingesting and that he may need to have a non-milk-based formula like “soy” or something similar since my children had gone through a similar situation with the formula. When the nurse arrived in the room, me being the very vocal person that I am decided, along with my sister’s sister-in-law, decided to advocate for my sister and nephew. We chose to do this because my sister was exhausted, she had not had much sleep within the last 48 hours and my brother-in-law had left the hospital to go home for a moment. I believe that I was the one that said something first. I explained to the nurse that Amari was spitting up continuously and I was certain it was the formula, and my sister wanted his formula changed to a non-milk-based formula. The nurse proceeded to say that she needed to contact the doctor first and ask if it was okay to change his formula and it could take up to 12 hours before we received a response. My rebuttal was, I don’t understand why you would need to contact the doctor to change formula for my sister’s child. She doesn’t want him on a milk-based formula because she believes it’s upsetting his stomach and you are saying that he has to keep drinking this formula until you hear from the doctor about a decision that his mother just made? That doesn’t make any sense to me. She’s his mother and she made the decision to change his formula so that he will possibly stop spitting up. In addition to this, my sister’s sister-in-law was saying a few things as well. The nurse then stated that her shift was ending, and she would pass the message off to the next nurse. A little bit later, the next nurse came in, we explained the situation to her, she did not know what was going on which meant the previous nurse did not share the information with her. What this new shift nurse had done was exactly what we wanted and what the previous nurse should’ve done, she changed Amari’s formula and his stomach eventually settled.

I shared that story to show you that mothers can deal with unnecessary stress in the hospital and even when family attempts to be there advocate, respectfully, sometimes it cannot be avoided. However, that situation my sister encountered was unnecessary and could have been avoided if the nurse would have just changed the formula. Just honor the mother’s wishes within reason. I could voice my reason why I believe that nurse treated my sister the way she did and why so many other Black/African American mothers encounter the treatment that they do when walking into labor and delivery, but I’ll save that for another blog. However, I will say this, the stress that my sister was feeling impacted or should I say it really affected my nephew emotionally. That’s why support is very important for mothers during pregnancy and after.

Pre-pregnancy, prenatal, and the birthing process are the first steps to ensuring that women are on the right track to doing their best to have a healthy baby. This is just the first part of healthy development, the next step will be when the baby enters the world and we as parents, godparents, and grandparents begin to develop this baby. Our job is to ensure that the baby is on track to meet all their milestones within the correct timeframe by doing what is necessary, in a stress-free environment, which I will discuss in part 2 of Infant Healthy Development. Everyone take care and love you all.  Until next time…

References:

National Institute of Health (2017). What is Prenatal Care and Why is it Important? https://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/pregnancy/conditioninfo/prenatal-care#

Information to Read:

Fetal Development: Stages of Growth (2020). https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/7247-fetal-development-stages-of-growth

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