Sunday, January 24, 2010

More Sweet Babies

Our little cutie-pies just keep coming!

William's mom, Tracy, isn't blogging yet but maybe we can coax her into sharing a photo with us...

Rozie is just the prettiest thing ever! I'm warning you though, don't visit if you are hungry because her mommy has some of the yummiest looking treats on her blog and you could blow your diet just coveting them.

This handsome boy made an early entrance, beating his due date by ten weeks. He is a strong fighter with great big giant blue eyes.

LC Boom Boom, or rather Princess Pudge, has an adorable new little brother. His mom, Ch, has one of the funniest blogs out here. So go check him out and enjoy.

If you would like our community to know about the arrival of a child with Down syndrome, please send an email to ds.mama with the baby's info and an email address or blog/website address of the baby's mom or dad.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Communication 101

sam_teleParents look forward to hearing that first word... “dada” or perhaps “mama”. And when it comes, we are thrilled because we know that our child has connected words to objects, and that the rest of our spoken language is just a matter of time. But it is important to remember that speech is just one component of communication, and usually the last piece to be mastered.

The first communications between mom and baby begin at birth with cries, rooting, facial expressions, and eye contact (and maybe even before birth since we know that a newborn can recognize his mother's voice). While these first methods of communication come naturally, for babies with Down syndrome the presentation might be fainter or appear later than expected. For example, the smile is one of the first communication signals a baby gives us and it is important to realize that babies with Ds might smile later, less frequently, and less boldly than other children. The difference between a parent’s expectations and a baby’s skills can disrupt the mom’s ability to interpret her baby’s signals, making it harder for a harmonious relationship to develop.

What’s a Mom To Do
Like we do with all new love relationships, spend time studying your baby’s expressions and movements. Become sensitive to whatever communiques your baby is giving and respond to them accordingly with both words and gestures. It won’t be long before your baby figures out that he is the cause of these positive results. And so begins what we call “communicative intent”, using communication with the intention of affecting the environment.

Irene Johansson, author of “Language Development in Children with Special Needs”, suggests tactile intervention in the form of newborn massage several times a day. This provides the opportunity for the caregiver to communicate with the baby while the baby is experiencing a physical stimulation that heightens his awareness.

It is imperative to encourage a baby’s desire to communicate. The best way to do this is to be very responsive to him when he initiates any of the natural communiques of requesting and protesting. Don’t let him cry it out or make him wait if you can help it. Reward him with a smile, caress, or song whenever he is looking at you, kicking his feet or reaching out. Don’t worry about spoiling your baby by always giving quick and direct feedback. You cannot spoil a newborn with too much responsiveness or attention. And patience is a virtue that can be practiced after your child learns that communication is power.

jmphoneBabies learn a lot about communicating by watching you do it. Research has shown that babies are predisposed to face watching. You can encourage your baby to look at you by keeping him close to eye-level in a carrier, or in a babyseat that is up on a table. If your baby doesn’t have the strength or coordination to watch you, hold her in a position that gives good support to her head and neck. While you are gazing at each other imitate any facial movements she makes, or stimulate her by making noises and expressions. Babies with Ds initiate less often, so take the lead and start a “conversation” whenever you get the chance.

Turn taking
Another important part of communicating is taking turns. You can work on this with your baby by pausing while speaking to him, as if you were listening to his response. You can also practice turn taking by shaking a rattle and then helping your baby to shake his rattle, back and forth several times. This builds the expectation of response, teaching your baby that communication results in response, or rather having your needs and wants met in some way.

Performative Communication
Performative communication is defined as the “speaker’s” deliberate, conscious, and goal-oriented use of communication (speech, signing, picture cards, body language, etc.)(Snyder 1978). Irene Johansson’s book is a week by week program for providing your baby with communication intervention that begins at birth. She makes a great case for why you would want to use her model (which incorporates massage, structured sounds, movement, and more) to help your baby develop strong communication skills.

I did not have this book when Summer was a newborn, and it wouldn’t have mattered because I do not have the discipline to follow such a structured program. However, that said, I have used some of the suggested program for the last year, and believe that for a caregiver who can do it, there would be worthwhile benefit.

Your Turn
Have you posted about a communication topic? Let me know and I will link to you.

To Love Endlessly: Communication
Face the Sunshine: Sign on...

Picture credit: Marissa from To Love Endlessly
John Michael from Monkey Musings

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Toothfairy Gone Mad

Since she comes to collect precious baby teeth when they fall out, I am guessing the toothfairy has something to do with making those little tooth buds while babies are cooking in utero. Surely the fairy dust she sprinkles on the gums of babies with Down syndrome must be quite magical because it causes some interesting tooth development.

Babies with Down syndrome often have their teeth come in late (nursing mothers stand up and cheer!) You can expect your baby’s teeth to arrive in any old order they choose, including perhaps not at all for some teeth. (Uh, maybe that fairy got a little too wild with her wand...) And, some teeth may be irregular... as in extra sharp, big, small, or even funky shaped.

What does all this mean (aside from that the toothfairy needs to stop partaking of fairy dust before going to work)? Not much for the under 10 months crowd because tooth eruption tends to be delayed in children with Ds. Babies without teeth can still eat anything that can be mashed by powerful gums and that includes soft well-cooked meats. Your baby can still hurt you by biting you with her gums (nursing mothers can stop cheering now.)

mam_toothbrushOnce your baby’s teeth start arriving, sometimes molars first as was the case with Summer, you should brush them after meals and bottles. (Uh huh, fun fun.) There are lots of baby toothbrushes out there to choose from. Our pediatric dentist recommends the Mam Training toothbrush ($5.99 at as part of a set) and I find it easy to use. It has a long handle and a rounded brush on one end, as well as a gum massager on the other. And don’t forget to floss your baby’s teeth (more fun). I prefer to use floss rather than the fancy new disposable flossers that are out there mainly because it is easier to maneuver around with it in a wriggly baby’s mouth. Good luck finding kid-friendly flavored floss at the drugstore... I score the bubble gum variety when we take the older kids to the dentist. However, since babies with Ds tend to enjoy strong flavors, cinnamon or mint probably works just as well.

There is really no pressing reason to visit a dentist prior to age three (unless some teeth do not come in) but you may want to start shopping for a pediatric dentist who has experience with children who have Ds. We visited a dentist at 15 months because there were signs that teeth might be missing. The dentist confirmed this to be true and suggested X-rays at age two. (We won’t need to do that because she got them for Christmas.) So aside from blog research, some incorrect dental conclusions, and a fancy toothbrush, I can’t think of any good reason to go back before age 3... unless of course, that the toothfairy comes back around and does something crazy with her wand.

Your Turn
While you are here, please take the tooth poll located over in the upper left column. If you leave me a comment saying that you participated in the poll (or that you would have if your baby already had that first tooth :-), you will be entered into the Winter Giveaway. The winner will receive a First Years Star Teether, a NUK straw cup, and bubblegum flavored dental floss. (You are invited to take the poll even if you aren’t interested in the giveaway.)

Saturday, January 2, 2010

More 2009 Babies

I know you guys think I have been distracted by eggnog and mounds of Brie cheese... too distracted to get out the rest of the 2009 birth announcements... but I swear it isn’t so. I actually have been suffering (for the last month) through the worst computer quagmire ever. For now, everything is behaving so I will present to you a bunch of new darlings to visit and oooh & aaah over.

Prayer is Always Free

Schye Family

Living Life with E's

Cindy the Artist

The Baby Who Chose Us

If you would like our community to know about the arrival of a child with Down syndrome, please send an email to ds.mama with the baby's info and an email address or blog/website address of the baby's mom or dad.