Friday, September 19, 2008

Some Milestones Worth Pushing For

Yesterday, I wrote a bit about some milestones you shouldn't worry too much about. In fact, in a lot of cases, those milestones were things worth putting off- often for safety and convenience reasons.

Today, I want to address a few milestones worth pushing for, things that I (and the experts, in some cases) feel are important developments for our children to achieve. While there are lots of important steps our kids must take, here are three biggies:

  1. Letting go of the pacifier- Studies now show that pacifiers are good for babies. There is evidence that sleeping with a pacifier may help to prevent SIDS and pacifiers are especially important for preemies who sometimes have only this means of fulfilling the sucking reflex (since many early preemies cannot eat by mouth, at least for awhile). Many experts now suggest that you let your child hold on to the pacifier, particularly at night, for as long as necessary. That's all well and good. But I firmly believe (and there are a lot of speech therapists who agree with me) that the pacifier needs to come out when a child is starting to talk. It is nearly impossible to understand a toddler trying to speak around a paci and it's not good for the child who's trying to learn how to form letter sounds. When your child starts talking? Ditch the pacifier except for naps and bedtime.
  2. Getting off the bottle (and the sippy cup)- There is no magic age for this. Many experts will suggest that a baby should be completely off the bottle by age one, the same age they can begin drinking cow's milk. The age for sippy-weaning is really pretty vague. Both bottles and sippy cups serve a purpose. But recognize when that purpose has been served. I firmly believe that children should be completely off the sippy by age 4. It's better for their teeth. It prepares them for settings with their peers. If drinking from an open cup is still too messy/challenging? Use a straw. Straws present less chance of aspiration (often a concern for preemies) and are socially acceptable even as an adult. And in my humble opinion, there is never a good reason to put soda in a bottle or sippy cup. I can't be swayed on that one.
  3. Leaving the lovey in bed- Yesterday, I addressed the comfort that children can feel from having a lovey. It's actually an encouraging thing that our little ones can feel that attachment and security. Those are great things! But it's also important as parents that we teach them how to feel those emotions without the object in hand. There's really no harm in finding comfort from an object like a stuffed animal or blanket and it can be very helpful in soothing boo-boo's. By the time our children are headed off to preschool or play-group, however, I think they need to be able to leave those things at home or, at the very least, in the car. It's a big step in learning how to cope with the outside world. And it's an important one. I want my little ones to always know they can seek comfort, to always know they have a safe place to fall. I also want them to know that Dolly doesn't have to be there for those things to happen.
I truly believe that we stress over giving these things up more than our children do. I know I fretted endlessly before weaning my son from the bottle, fearing he'd never sleep again. You know what? He did just fine. It was me making a big issue out of it. I think we have a better chance of success if we try very hard not to let our reservations and concerns get in the way. Children can pick up on our emotions, no doubt about it.

Enjoy your kiddos! Cherish each phase and don't push too hard... but do be the guide and encouragement our children need to make those important steps forward. They need you to be confident in them.

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