Fighting the Word Gap

Increasing baby's vocabulary increases later success

baby's vocabulary

Thirty million is a big number, it’s a lot of money, a lot of people, a lot of anything. Imagine it in terms of a child’s vocabulary. Imagine if your child heard thirty million fewer words by the age of three than the child sitting next to her in school. Imagine how that would affect her vocabulary. 

Research shows that up to 98% of words used by a three-year-old are directly derived from their parents’ vocabulary.  They also found that the number of words the children learned varied greatly among socio-economic lines, with children from professional families hearing approximately 30 million fewer words over a child’s first three years. 

Aimee Ketchum

Aimee Ketchum

Aimee Ketchum is a pediatric occupational therapist working in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and pediatric out-patient. Aimee is the owner of Aimee’s Babies, a child development company. Aimee is also certified as a yoga instructor, a baby massage instructor, and early child development educator. Aimee is currently one of the five finalists in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Word Gap Challenge with her Word Gap App. Aimee lives in Lititz, Pennsylvania with her husband and two daughters.

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You Can Do It — Baby Wearing

Baby Wearing

When my older kids were babies, I often used a Baby Bjorn carrier to hold them while I was doing housework or taking a walk, but it didn’t work well for newborns, and it put a lot of strain on my back. When they were older, I used a metal-frame hiking backpack, but you can imagine how comfy that was, and being so big and cumbersome, it was hardly like throwing a cloth sling in the diaper bag to use on the go.

After the birth of my fourth child in 2004, a friend sent me a Moby Wrap. She promised I was going to love it, but trying to put it on felt like advanced calculus to me. It seemed more complicated than I was willing to grasp.

Secretly, I felt like a bit of a failure. I admit that I didn’t try very hard, but my unwillingness to learn made feel inferior to all the awesome moms I saw toting around their little ones, snuggled against them in beautiful cloth wraps or ring slings.

It turns out all I needed was a good teacher. Thanks to my buddy Tanya Taylor, I was a baby wearing ninja with our sixth child! Tanya makes her own wraps under the brand Baby the Baby, and she walked me through it, step-by-step using a Smart Water bottle as the baby.

Contact your local midwives and ask if they know of any baby wearing groups in your area. We have quite a few here in the Gulfcoast Florida region. These groups can you practice with different types of wraps and offer all sorts of helpful tips, including how to breastfeed in a wrap.

In case you’re interested, here is an article by Dr. Sears on the benefits of baby wearing.

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of six kids (ages 4 to 18) with #7 due in August and one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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You Can Do It — Understand Your Baby’s Cries

Crying newborn

It’s “You Can Do It Wednesday,” and today we have an amazing practical tip for parents of newborns.

A number of years ago I watched a fascinating episode of The Oprah Winfrey show that introduced me to The Dunstan Baby Language, which is basically a hypothesis that there are universal infantile vocal reflexes in humans that cause five basic sounds, each with unique meaning, used by infants of all cultures before the language acquisition period.

The hypothesis was developed by a former mezzo-soprano opera singer from Australia. Her name is Priscilla Dunstan, and she says that she has a photographic memory for sounds and that this, combined with her years in the opera and her experience as a mother, allowed her to recognize certain sounds in the human voice.

Priscilla Dunstan

Priscilla Dunstan

 

She released a DVD set in 2006 called The Dunstan Baby Language. The two-disc set covers the five universal words of the language, methods of learning how to recognize the vocalizations and sounds, numerous examples of baby cries from around the world to “tune your ear,” and live demonstrations of newborn-mother groups experimenting with the language.

Between 0–3 months, infants make what Dunstan calls sound reflexes. She says that we all have reflexes, like sneezes, hiccups, and burps, that all have a recognizable pattern when sound is added to the reflex. There are other reflexes that all babies experience, and when sound is added to these, a distinct, preemptive “cry” will occur before the infant breaks into what Dunstan calls the hysterical cry.

Dunstan states that these preemptive cries can indicate what the baby needs (food, comfort, sleep, etc.). But if they’re not answered, she says, they escalate to the hysterical cry, which is much less discernable. As the infant matures past 3 months in vocalization, the sound reflexes are replaced with more elaborate babbling.

Although her theory has not undergone rigorous lab testing, we couldn’t find any real criticisms of it.

The Five Basic Newborn Cries

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of six kids (ages 4 to 18) with #7 due in August and one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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Baby Wearing Ninja

Baby Wearing

Originally posted in February, 2012I can hardly believe it took SIX kids for me to fully embrace and enjoy the art of wearing my baby! (They make great accessories, you know – LOL) Sadly, my first five missed the physical and emotional health benefits of being securely snuggled next me for a good portion of the day. But like I said in my last post, I’m experiencing a whole new education with this little guy.

If you’re interested in reading more about the benefits of baby wearing, check out this article.

I used a Baby Bjorn carrier with all the others, but it didn’t work well for newborns, and it put a lot of strain on my back. When the kids were older, I used a metal-frame hiking backpack, but you can imagine how comfy that was, and being so big and cumbersome, it was hardly like throwing a cloth sling in the diaper bag to use on the go.

After the birth of my fourth child in 2004, a dear friend sent me a Moby Wrap. She promised I was going to love it, but trying to put it on felt like advanced calculus to me. It seemed more complicated than I was willing to grasp.

Secretly, I felt like a bit of a failure. I admit that I didn’t try very hard, but just my unwillingness to learn made feel inferior to all the awesome moms I saw toting around their little ones, snuggled against them in beautiful cloth wraps or ring slings.

It turns out all I needed was a good teacher. Thanks to my buddy Tanya Taylor, I am now becoming a baby wearing ninja! Tanya makes her own wraps under the brand Baby the Baby, and she’s got a host of videos like the one below to help moms figure it all out. Although this video talks about nursing your baby in a carrier, it’s also a good demonstration of how to front wrap.

Here inSarasota, we have three different baby wearing groups that each meet once a month. I am so excited to try all different kinds of wraps and techniques and learn from the veteran wrappers.  If you don’t have a group in your area but would like one, contact a local homebirth midwife and see if she would let you host it in her office. That’s what Tanya did, and now it’s grown to three meetings in different locations and extends through the entire natural birthing community here.

If you love to wear your baby, tell us about your favorite wrap.

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of six kids (ages 4 to 18) with #7 due in August and one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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This Baby Did What?

potty

Welcome Matthew James Junior! Our sixth child was born on January 27, 2012, and in so many ways, he has been surprising. For starters, our first five children were all born in the 38th week. Now, I admit, I encouraged a few of those births, but this little guy had us hanging in suspense, finally making his debut more than a half week late, which felt like nearly three weeks late to us.

We planned a water birth at home and rented an Aqua Doula from our midwife, but knowing that it takes a couple of hours to fill the Aqua Doula, and that my labors tend to be quick (for baby #5, my water broke at 10:00, and she was born at 10:10), we knew we would need to fill the tub before labor started. Subsequently, we filled (and emptied!) the tub four times in the month of January. My kids have become siphoning experts!

It was a fairly typical birth for me. Labor started at 1:35am, and he was born at  3:03, but my water didn’t break this time, and the pressure at the end was much more intense as a result. The kids gathered around the tub (except our oldest, who is autistic and would be bothered by the noises, people, smells and sights of birth), and when the pushing began, the midwife put a flashlight in the tub so they could watch their brother enter the world.

Seth (our third child) wrote a journal entry about the experience. I copied it below.

Once the placenta was delivered, the midwife found a few interesting things. For starters, he had a knot in his cord.

Cord Knot

He also had a battledore placenta, which occurs in only 7% of births.  Instead of the umbilical cord being attached in the center of the placenta like this:

Placenta

Baby Matt’s umbilical cord was inserted at the margin of the placenta. When the midwife held it up, it looked like a giant tea bag.

Supposedly this rare formation could lead to low birth weight. Maybe that’s why he was only 8lbs 10oz (bahahaha!). See, I told you this little guy is surprising.

The timing of his birth was bittersweet. Sweet, of course, because our precious boy was finally here, but bitter because Jody and her girls, who had been planning to attend the birth for months, were in the midst of a crisis and couldn’t come.

Jody’s husband had what seemed at first to be a heart attack. They later learned it was pericarditis, but it was a terrifying experience for their family, and we were distraught knowing they were going through it and we couldn’t be there to comfort them. They too were distraught, knowing that we were experiencing the birth of our last child, and they couldn’t be here to witness it. All around, it did not go down the way we had hoped. But thankfully, Jody’s husband is doing very well, and we’re all one big happy family again.

The birthing team left later that morning, and we all went to sleep. When we woke up, it was time to confront the first meconium poop, but as part of my new education with this baby, we had prepared his bottom with olive oil. It took six babies to learn that I shouldn’t put anything on a baby’s skin that I wouldn’t eat. Who knew? Then again, it turns out I’m not going to need any kind of diaper ointment after all.

So, in the next few blog posts, I’ll share our new experiences, including baby wearing, sign language, amber necklaces, and the biggest and most exciting change of all…infant potty training (or EC, as we call it)! I’ll include pictures and videos…we’re working on those now. Check back in the next few days. I promise you will be intrigued, and perhaps even entertained. Here’s a sneak peak. This was taken when Matthew was about 2 weeks old.

potty

Seth’s Journal Entry

Hi my name is Seth, and I am writing this because my mom is in labor. I am so excited. My mom is making really weird noises. The noises are getting louder and louder. My dad put a warm washcloth on her head. Priscilla,the midwife’s assistant, said the baby is getting closer. I am going to get one of my toy dolls named Jeero. My mom is pushing. I see his head. It is a little bit scary and hard to watch. I see him. He is beautiful  (and a little bit dirty). He popped out. He made it. I love him. He is small and cute. I adore him and love him. I can not believe I was him once. I shot out of mom, now I will shoot out of a tree or something. Right now it is baby and mommy attachment time. He is nursing right now. He was born at3:03am. The water is gross. Before he came out there was a strange fart noise. The baby is out, but mom asked us to sit down until the placenta comes out. I am happy crying. I cut his cord. The placenta is out. It looks like a giant tea bag. I will get to feel the placenta (with gloves). We did a placenta exam and found a knot in the cord and a super rare thing with the placenta called a battle door entry.

By Seth Stahlmann, age nine, born April 22, 2002

 

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of six kids (ages 4 to 18) with #7 due in August and one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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