Archive for the ‘New Moms’ Category


Nursery essentials for every new mom

Posted by Lorain County Moms

By Trae Bodge,

Baby on the way? In addition to all the clothes, diapers and bottles you’ll need, you’re going to want to outfit your nursery with essentials that are as cute as they are practical. Make sure the space is comfortable for you and your baby — you’ll be spending a lot of time in there.


Prior to making any purchases or creating a registry, ask your friends what nursery items they recommend. There is no better resource than someone who has been through parenthood already!


Another good source of information is Sandra Gordon’s book “Save a Bundle: 50+ Ways to Save Big on Baby Gear” ($12.99, In it, she provides more than 100 ways to save on baby products, from forgoing unnecessary extras to suggesting the quantities and sizes of essential items. Gordon is also the author of the eighth, ninth and 10th editions of “Consumer Reports Best Baby Products” ($4, And “Baby Bargains” by Denise and Alan Fields ($11.16, gives new parents real-world advice about what products are worth it and what products are duds.


Once you and your little one can kick the co-sleeping habit, a crib is a must-have. The Delta Room in a Box ($259.99, is an incredibly practical solution for baby room furniture. It includes a crib that grows with your baby as well as a changing table that converts into two bedside tables. How cool is that? The changing table even has shelves that are great for keeping stacks of diapers handy.

You’ll also want a changing-table topper so your child remains comfy during the changing process. I like the tasteful options from Oilo ($29-$69, There are several different colors available to match any decor.


You’ll need diapers and wipes at the ready, and a fantastic way to store them is the Bobee Diaper Caddy and Wipe Dispenser ($49.99, This clever storage container mounts to the wall, keeping diapers and wipes within reach without taking up precious storage space! The unit is white and can be customized with fun decals. It fits all sizes of diapers and prepackaged wipes.

Diaper Genie ($19.99, … enough said! This nifty container securely stuffs diapers away from even the most sensitive of noses. And you’ll appreciate the one-handed closing mechanism, which allows you to keep a hand on your little squirmer.


You’ll definitely want a comfy spot to sit and feed the baby, so a glider is a must. Walmart has a nice selection. My favorites are the Status Veneto Gliders ($219.88,, which come in several colors to suit your decor and have a matching ottoman to rest your weary feet on.


There will be no shortage of medicine dispensers, pacifiers and thermometers, so you’ll need a cool place to store them all. The Stash Multi-Room Organizer ($22, is available in white, orange or turquoise, and it’s the perfect receptacle for all that stuff. The PVC-free organizer can rest on a dresser or hang on a wall. Mommas: You may want to consider getting a spare one of these for the bathroom. It’s great for makeup, brushes and jewelry.

Now, what about all the other stuff like toys, books and clothes? The Delta changing table mentioned above will store a few necessities. But trust me, you will need even more. The IKEA Expedit Series ($39.99, features shelving units in several different colors with drawers, doors and bins in any combination you choose.

If you’re short on seating and need even more storage, try an ottoman like the Hello Kitty Kids Storage Ottoman ($49.99, It’s adorable and practical.

Toss all those dirty onesies in a sweet and colorful hamper like the Kids Line Willow Organic Hamper ($36.99, Dirty clothes deserve a pretty place to live, too.


Unless you plan to be in the room next door to the baby’s at all times, definitely consider a baby monitor. When my daughter was younger, the monitor my husband and I used was a simple audio unit, but I always envied my friend’s video monitor, the Summer Infant Day & Night Baby Video Monitor ($69.99, I loved how she could watch her baby sleep soundly without having to run up the stairs several times a night.


I would normally recommend both a night-light and a humidifier, but the Humio ($69.95, is a two-for-one! This stylish bottle-shaped humidifier releases a pleasant mist into the room that counteracts the negative effects (namely dry skin and irritated sinuses) caused by your heating system’s dry air. Because the air from the Humio is cool, you don’t have to worry about your little tike injuring himself if he touches it. The Humio also has a receptacle for essential oils like lavender, which can serve as a sleep aid. And it comes equipped with a night-light.


A white-noise machine can help mask outside clamor, allowing baby to sleep soundly and peacefully. I like the Travel Tranquil Moments Alarm Clock Sound Therapy Machine ($99.99, because it functions well and is travel-size so you can take it with you wherever you go. Your baby will be grateful — and so will you — to hear familiar sounds while you two are away from home.

Trae Bodge is a beauty and lifestyle expert who writes for — the online magazine of RetailMeNot, the largest online coupon site in the United States.


Baby gear you should snag for gifts to new parents

Posted by Lorain County Moms

By Fauzia Arain, Chicago Tribune

Looking for a gift for the new parents in your life? Check out these lovely recommendations that will pamper both baby and mom and dad:

Dream machine

The Serenity Star by Aden + Anais aims to be a dream for both baby and parents. The sweet star is a multipurpose gizmo that offers a feeding diary, room temperature indicator, sound machine, night light and clock.

Details: $89.95;

Well-rounded slumber

Put your little prince or princess to bed in a gorgeous Ellery Round Crib by Restoration Hardware’s Baby and Child line. The streamlined yet whimsical design would look lovely in a corner or in the center of a nursery, and the Antique Grey Mist finish is gender neutral for future baby considerations.

Details: $1,249;

Carried away

When errands or activities beckon, and parents need their hands, a great carrier is the answer. The beloved BabyBjorn has been a go-to for years now, thanks to its comfortable design and adjustability. Choose from the popular original design, the “active” carrier, the “miracle” (which touts especially ergonomic styling) or the sturdy “comfort” variety.

Details: $79.99-$184.95 retail (deals commonly found online); ,

Feeding time

You no longer have to travel with a tub of formula, bottles and the constant search for filtered water. Mixie’s brilliant design lets you fill bottles with exact amounts of formula and water — in separate compartments — and release the formula into the water with a push of a button at feeding time.

Details: $18.95 for a 4-ounce bottle, $21.95 for an 8-ounce bottle;

Clean and cuddly

We’re all a bit more careful about beauty products these days, so why should baby care products be any different? This seven-piece Better Bath Time Gift Basket from Burt’s Bees Baby line helps parents make bath time natural and cozy. The set features an organic cotton robe, hooded towel, two washcloths, Baby Bee shampoo and wash and nourishing lotion.

Details: $40;

That’s a wrap

They say you can never have enough blankets to welcome baby home. A four-pack of soft, breathable cotton muslin swaddles (47 by 47 inches) from Aden + Anais is a great start. We love the variety of colors and patterns available, especially the playful Jungle Jam print and the refreshing B Jeweled collection featuring beautiful, bright tones rarely seen in baby products.

Details: $49.95;


Woman who inspired ‘What to Expect When You’re Expecting’ is now expecting herself

Posted by Lorain County Moms

By LEANNE ITALIE, Associated Press

NEW YORK — Welcome aboard the mother ship, Emma Bing.

The woman who was her mother’s inspiration for writing what millions of pregnant women consider their bible, “What to Expect When You’re Expecting,” is now pregnant herself and joining the family business.

Bing, 29, is due on her second wedding anniversary, Feb. 18, and guess who’s going to be in the delivery room.

“Are you kidding me? Of course,” Bing’s mom, Heidi Murkoff, gushed Thursday. “I wouldn’t miss it.”

Bing, who lives near mom in Los Angeles, will be blogging her pregnancy and parenting experiences, along with fashion and beauty advice, for her fellow millennial moms on, starting Friday.

Murkoff wrote the book proposal for “What to Expect” while pregnant with Emma, her oldest of two, and delivered it to her publisher the day she went into labor. The book came out in 1985 and now has more than 17 million copies in print, spawning several more about the early years of parenting, eating healthy while pregnant and even a prequel, “What to Expect Before You’re Expecting.”

The work of the 53-year-old Murkoff, including a foundation that helps pregnant women in the developing world, earned her a spot on Time magazine’s list of 100 most influential people in the world last year. She was also executive producer of the movie inspired by the book, aptly named “What to Expect When You’re Expecting.”

Is Murkoff her daughter’s go-to source on all things pregnancy?

“I wouldn’t have it any other way,” Bing said. “I’m not going through this without her.”

Murkoff said Bing hits her up for advice eight to 10 times a day in text, email and phone calls. “I was finally, like, don’t you have a book?”

The answer is yes, of course, but Bing finds herself asking mom about everything from appetite to stomach pains, anyway, then running to “What to Expect” to confirm her answers.

“It’s really funny,” Bing said. “It’s like I forget who she is.”

Bing is married to Russell Ali, a guitarist and music producer, who, by the way, will also be on hand for the birth.


Emma Bing’s content on What to Expect website:


Simple baby-proofing tips

Posted by Lorain County Moms

By Robert Nickell, McClatchy-Tribune

It’s always “safety first” in my household. As a new parent, you want to ensure everything is just right before you bring your new baby home from the hospital. And then, as your baby grows into a curious toddler, you’ll have a whole new set of things to consider to keep your child safe and sound.

Mrs. Daddy Nickell and myself naturally worry about the safety of our children, and whether traveling or at home, she often takes herself down to baby level to assess rooms and situations. It is amazing the things she has found while crawling around a hotel room floor; she recommends a “better safe than sorry” approach to baby proofing, and that’s certainly served us well!

Following suit behind Mrs. Daddy Nickell, it is always important to view your surroundings from your baby’s level – the floor. You can then see dangerous small objects that could be harmful to a crawling baby or toddler. While on the floor, look for things like:

  • Dangling cords from curtains or blinds
  • Loose objects – strings, pieces of fabric, pills, earrings, etc.
  • Sharp objects – pencils, tacks, staples, etc.

As well, when positioning the crib and installing items around the crib, make sure all cords, strings and loose items are out of your little one’s reach.

Now that you’ll be sharing your domain with a curious child who tends to put anything and everything into their mouths, you will need to put locks on many of your cabinets and drawers with sharp objects like knives and scissors. You’ll also need to baby-proof cupboards that are at your child’s height and reach that contain things like medications, cleaning products, insecticides and alcohol. No matter how safe you try to be, something could still happen, so be sure to keep the phone number for the poison-control center on hand.

We have an “emergency binder” in our kitchen that contains everything from insurance cards to individual allergy lists. I recommend everyone keep an “emergency binder” in a handy place – they alleviate a great deal of stress when a babysitter or caregiver is around, too.

It’s important to remember that your baby’s immune system is much weaker than yours. As a general rule of thumb, never use any sort of pesticide or chemical near or around your child, as inhalation of these vapors can be harmful and detrimental to their well being.

I know that you will do your best to provide a safe and enjoyable home for your child. Keep in mind that safety precautions will change as your baby grows and develops; you’ll need to reevaluate monthly.

Be informed and stay safe out there!

Robert Nickell, aka Daddy Nickell, father of six, offers his five cents-worth of advice to expectant and new parents. Daddy Nickell is the founder of, delivery room duds and daddy gear for dads, and the blog where he covers topics about parenting and the latest baby and kids gear, all from a dad’s perspective. Read more at


How to soothe your crying baby

Posted by Lorain County Moms

By Robert Nickell, McClatchy-Tribune

We all know babies cry for many reasons. As a proud daddy to six kids between the ages 12 months and 26 years old, I’ve learned a great deal about soothing fussy babies over the years – most importantly that it takes a magic touch.

And, by magic touch, I mean a great balance of confidence, nature, and I hate to say, but just good old-fashioned luck. I’ve put together a few helpful tips that have worked for me, and I hope will work for you too.

Meet the Basic Needs.

Often times, babies will cry because one of their basic needs is not being met. I always check the basics first: Does baby have a wet diaper? Is baby hungry? Does baby have a temperature? Once you rule out the basics, make sure the baby is swaddled snug and tight, and hold the baby with confidence, so they feel very secure; I hold my baby close to my neck and chest.

Remain Calm.

Sometimes it’s hard to stay calm when your baby is crying in your arms and you don’t know why. If your anxiety levels go up, it’s not going to help calm and soothe your baby. Your baby will be able to see and feel your discomfort and possibly become more distraught and upset. Take a few deep breaths and remain calm.

Buy the Tools.

I use the techniques given by Dr. Harvey Karp who is the founder behind “The Happiest Baby” books, classes and DVD. The various holds, sounds, and methods that he suggests will give you an edge on the unknown called “luck.” I have utilized Dr. Karp’s techniques many times as they are tried and true – and bottom line, it works.

Whatever Works.

As you know I have six children, and they’re all extremely different. Even as babies, each one responded to different techniques of soothing and calming. I have tried walking in circles, swaddling and reswaddling, putting them in the car for a drive, or the stroller for a walk, pacifiers, blankets, and talking in a soothing voice. However, the four “S’s” as suggested by Dr. Karp are my first line options to soothe my baby, so like I said before – buy his book.

It can be overwhelming and concerning to listen to your baby cry, but sometimes it’s important to do just that. Babies cry differently depending on what they’re asking for or trying to convey, so try to pay attention to your baby’s cry and see if you can’t pick up on the subtle changes and clues. When in doubt, when soothing a fussy baby take a step back, be calm and be patient.

Robert Nickell, aka Daddy Nickell, father of six, offers his five cents-worth of advice to expectant and new parents. Daddy Nickell is the founder of, delivery room duds and daddy gear for dads, and the blog where he covers topics about parenting and the latest baby and kids gear, all from a dad’s perspective. Read more at


Top 10 things every new dad should know

Posted by Lorain County Moms

By JD Roberto,

Advice for dads-to-be that’s more useful than anything else they’ll hear. Period. Share this article with your partner. He’ll thank you later.

  1. You’ll sometimes think you made a huge mistake. It’s normal every now and then to secretly wonder why you ever had a kid in the first place. Forgive yourself these occasional moments of self-doubt and, from time to time, let yourself mourn your pre-parenthood life. These moments will be short-lived.
  2. Babies + Travel = Not the mess you’d expect. Most people are intimidated by the idea of boarding a plane with an infant, but this is, in fact, the best time to hit the road. At three months old, a bottle or boob is all that’s required to keep them entertained. They have few needs and fewer opinions, so there’s no difference (for them) between Cozumel and Cleveland. Go get a tan while you still can.
  3. Buy a rechargeable, cordless hand vacuum. Much of your time will be spent getting things off the floor. At first, it will be all manner of bodily fluids, but soon enough, you’re going to be dealing with everything from Cheerios to banana slices. Later, the list will grow to include things like glitter, dirt, forgotten bacon and pretty much anything that can be shredded by small hands. And the clunky upright is too annoying to drag out four times a day.
  4. It’s perfectly acceptable to make an entire dinner in the microwave. That’s it.
  5. Act like a grown-up. One of the most heartbreaking sights is that of a parent and their young child in a shouting match trying to see who can out-tantrum the other. Children are an endless source of joy, but only when they’re not being an endless source of frustration. Breathe deeply and never let yourself escalate to the level of irrational fury that your little one occasionally inhabits. A 2-year-old has the right to act like a child; you do not.
  6. Accept all offers to babysit. Repeatedly. There’s a weird lag time between when a child is ready to be left with someone (which is pretty much once they can bottle-feed or go four hours between nursing) and when the parents are ready to leave them (which is often much later). Fatigue and frustration are cumulative, and you need a break long before you realize you need one. Your wife may (or may not) protest, but do your best to talk her into letting you take her out on a brief date. Everything looks more manageable and more joyful after a good meal and a glass of wine.
  7. Hand-me-downs are more than OK. Not only are secondhand baby things easier on the wallet and the environment, it’s a lot less agonizing when you find yourself on the fourth outfit of a craptastic kind of day (which, trust me, you will).
  8. Make time for the other relationships in your life. Not only is it important for your child to know there’s more to the world than you catering to their every need, but you’re also teaching them a very important lesson about what it means to have a full, loving life. Seeing you in the role of good friend or devoted spouse is a way for your kids to learn what it means to actually be a good friend or devoted spouse.
  9. There’s no such thing as using too many wipes. There’s no prize for using every last corner of a towelette, and it’s shockingly difficult to get the smell of baby crap off your hands. At three cents per sheet, everybody’s hygiene and gag reflex are well-served by the generous and preemptive use of wipes.
  10. You’re not the “backup parent.” You’re a father. You’re a full, equal partner in turning a small, fragile sack of fluid and bones into a loving, decent, healthy citizen of the Universe. Never let the fact that other people aren’t sure what to do with a man between conception and Little League fool you into thinking that you’re anything less than critical to every step of the process. Be informed, aggressively involved and as in love as you’re capable of letting yourself be.

You can catch writer and TV personality JD Roberto on “The Better Show,” a nationally syndicated talk show (check local listings), on Twitter @jdroberto and on his blog at For pregnancy and parenting advice, tools, photos, and more, visit


Tips for baby’s first outing

Posted by Lorain County Moms

By Robert Nickell, McClatchy-Tribune

Well the big day has come. It’s time to take the baby out of the protected household for the first time and into the world. This seems especially scary when you’re a first time parent. So far the few trips to the doctor have not been that bad, but now you’re getting ready to go to grandma’s house two hours away; or perhaps on an airplane, or even just the first venture to the park. What if you forget something? What if the baby’s needs are not being met? What if someone coughs on the baby? Should you carry the baby in a sling, use the stroller, or hold the baby in your arms? Do you have enough diapers, food, and supplies?

I’ve put together a few survival tips that should help you and your baby have a successful first outing.

Be Prepared: In my world – thanks to Mrs. Daddy Nickell, we come fully prepared! She has a “Plan for the worst and hope for the best” mentality that hasn’t failed us yet. .. We have found that being extremely prepared helps alleviate a bit of stress and pressure, so we can focus entirely on the baby. First things first: Pack a diaper bag with all of the essentials and then some. A burp cloth, diapers, wipes, hand sanitizer, ointments and creams, a blanket, an extra onesie, rattle, pacifier and a bottle. Having all of these items organized and easily accessible in your diaper bag will help you and baby enjoy the outing a bit more.

Have a Plan: Make a plan ahead of time, so you know what to expect and what to prepare for. Always allow ample time for changes; remember to be flexible. Whether you and baby are going out for coffee with a friend, making a run to the grocery store to pick up dinner, or just going for a walk in the park _ be prepared for a few hiccups along the way. Your new baby might need to stop to eat, have a diaper change, cry for a bit, etc. Remember, baby always comes first, so if you need to reschedule or make a change – go ahead and do that guilt free.

Enjoy Each Moment: It might not be easy, but be sure to enjoy each and every moment. From the very first outing on, time is fleeting. It will go by quickly, so take lots of pictures and make incredible memories as often as possible along the way.

Robert Nickell, aka Daddy Nickell, father of six, offers his five cents-worth of advice to expectant and new parents. Daddy Nickell is the founder of, delivery room duds and daddy gear for dads, and the blog where he covers topics about parenting and the latest baby and kids gear, all from a dad’s perspective. Read more at


Teaching children about love

Posted by Lorain County Moms

By Robert Nickell, McClatchy-Tribune

Every February, supermarkets and stores nationwide adorn their aisles with heart-shaped trinkets, red and pink ribbons and lots of chocolates. And each year, around that time, I am reminded how important it is to continue teaching my children about love.

With six kids spanning in age from 8 months to 25 years old, I’ve found it possible and helpful to teach love through the following three ways:

Example: The age-old saying, “lead by example” remains true even when teaching about love. You can talk about it all you want, but your children will learn the most when they watch you engaging, developing and strengthening loving relationships. The feelings of love and compassion should be extended past your family to show a greater sense of care and selflessness with every interaction you encounter throughout each day.

Contact: Sharing in personal contact is an excellent way to help your children learn about love and showing love in relationships. Have them volunteer their time within their community if they are old enough. Spending a day at a homeless shelter, a soup kitchen or even an animal shelter will help children develop a greater sense of kindness and compassion. If you have young children, encourage them to physically help a friend or a sibling by lending a hand and helping with whatever is needed.

Practice: It’s not always easy, but it’s important to lead your children to a life of positive, loving relationships. Keep in mind it may be a difficult thing for your children to learn too. There will be instances when they don’t act in an appropriate manner, and you need to be there to help them learn from those moments. Keep practicing, and in time, your child will build and strengthen loving relationships and you will be reminded of your great successes in life and parenting.

Remember to lead by example, encourage contact and interactions and keep practicing — that goes for you and your children!

Robert Nickell, aka Daddy Nickell, father of six, offers his five cents-worth of advice to expectant and new parents. Daddy Nickell is the founder of, delivery room duds and daddy gear for dads, and the blog where he covers topics about parenting and the latest baby and kids gear, all from a dad’s perspective. Read more at


Babymoons: Plan a quick getaway before parenthood begins

Posted by Lorain County Moms

By Zach Mack, McClatchy-Tribune

Preparing for the birth of a child is one of the most exciting things that can happen to a couple. Even if it’s just testing paint swatches in the nursery, lots of time and energy is spent getting everything ready for the big day. And while the preparations themselves may seem hectic, they pale in comparison to the duties that come along with caring for a newborn infant.

This is why the trend of “babymooning” began to catch on in the mid-2000s. A quick, romantic trip is a great way for couples spend an intimate weekend together before the arrival of their child. Mothers and fathers-to-be treat themselves to pampering spa treatments, cozy rooms, and relaxation in a last hurrah before parenthood begins. Being the hotel experts, we rounded up some of our favorite hotels for the perfect babymoons. Because take it from us when we say that happy, relaxed parents make the entire process easier.

Mount View Hotel & Spa in Calistoga, Calif.

Heading to a small B&B is a win/win for expectant couples: the vibe is more relaxed, the atmosphere more romantic and the service personalized. The Mount View Hotel & Spa takes it a step further with the “Oh Baby!” welcome package: for $270, each parent is treated to a 50 minute massage (including a pre-natal option), a box of chocolate truffles, sparkling cider, two souvenir champagne flutes and a special shirt that helps expectant mothers massage their baby. Need more? The package also includes a $10 “craving card,” where hotel staff will fetch mothers-to-be anything from olives to Oreos from local stores. While we can’t suggest that couples partake in the wine tasting tours that dominate the area, we’re fairly confident that you’ll appreciate the calm surroundings of northern Napa Valley.

Mandarin Oriental, in New York City

The New Yorker’s unofficial ethos is “do it right or don’t bother at all,” which covers everything from jaywalking to Japanese food. It should come as no surprise, then, that hotels such as Mandarin Oriental, New York have gone to great lengths to provide expectant mothers with the care and service they need. The on-site spa (arguably one of the best in the city) caters to pregnant guests with a specialized 80-minute maternity massage. Therapists meet with clients beforehand to tailor the massage to their needs. The procedure itself makes use of specialized pillows and lotions with the ultimate goal of helping the mother-to-be feel comfortable again. Once done with their treatments, couples can take advantage of Columbus Circle: they’re just steps away from some of the most celebrated dining in New York at Per Se and Masa, as well as some serious high-end shopping.

The Parker Palm Springs, in Palm Springs, Calif.

When it comes down to it, Palm Springs is one of those destinations that seems like it was designed with expectant mothers in mind. Sure, it’s in the middle of the desert, but it’s only a short drive away from L.A. (or a short flight from major cities on the West Coast). The town’s wellness vibe perfectly suits babymooning couples looking for more poolside relaxation that sightseeing or activity. The Parker Palm Springs may be one of the best options in the area: guests can purchase a $200 spa package to be used towards a pre-natal message for mom as well as a massage for the dad-to-be. You can spend the rest of your weekend sipping free lemonade in a poolside cabana, swinging in your patio hammock or warming up by a fire pit. And with Jessica Simpson recently babymooning at the property, you never know who you’ll end up stretching next to in yoga class.

THEHotel at Mandalay Bay, in Las Vegas, Nev.

Before you get up in arms with this suggestion, remember that not all trips to Sin City have to be like “The Hangover.” Vegas is only a five-hour drive or quick flight from L.A. and can provide the much-needed change of scenery expectant couples crave. We recommend THEHotel at Mandalay Bay: it provides easy access to all that Vegas has to offer – you know, the killer dining, endless shopping and outrageous spas – all tucked quietly steps off of the crazy bustle of the Strip. If the massive rooms and pool area isn’t enough, the phenomenal on-site Bathhouse Spa should be reason enough for babymooning couples to book here. And of course, we won’t tell if dad sneaks off for some quick blackjack while mom-to-be is taking a nap.

Rosewood Tucker’s Point Hotel and Spa, in Hamilton Parish, Bermuda

Just because you’re on the East Coast doesn’t mean you can’t have an island babymoon. Consider Bermuda: Flight times are short (just two hours from New York or 90 minutes from Washington, D.C.), making it ideal for expectant mothers who are craving a secluded beach but can’t stand the idea of a long-haul flight. Tucked away from Bermuda’s busiest attractions, the Rosewood Tucker’s Point is ideal for couples looking to steep themselves in luxury. It has an expansive private beach, three luxurious pools and a 12,000-square foot spa that offers a Mother-to-Be Massage (amongst myriad other indulgent treatments). Not only are rooms spacious with million-dollar views, but the bathrooms are very expectant-mother-friendly with walk-in showers and large soaking tubs. Babymooners can also take advantage of the 24-hour concierge, Sterling service, and the four on-site restaurants.

The St. Regis Hotel Monarch Beach Resort, in Dana Point, Orange County, Calif.

While the name is a little misleading (the beach is actually a mile and a half away), the hotel can provide expectant couples with an insanely relaxing pool area and an atmosphere that’s in tune with surrounding nature. The hotel no longer offers specific babymoon packages, but a $400 package for the award-winning Spa Gaucin can get both mothers and fathers-to-be a massage and other treatments (prenatal massages are offered, naturally). Throw in a few nights in a posh Ocean View Room to sit in the large soaking tubs, relax and gaze out over the ocean while sipping sparkling cider on your balcony. Not a bad way to spend some time before the baby arrives.


Study: Babies try lip-reading in learning to talk

Posted by Lorain County Moms


WASHINGTON — Babies don’t learn to talk just from hearing sounds. New research suggests they’re lip-readers too.

It happens during that magical stage when a baby’s babbling gradually changes from gibberish into syllables and eventually into that first “mama” or “dada.”

Florida scientists discovered that starting around age 6 months, babies begin shifting from the intent eye gaze of early infancy to studying mouths when people talk to them.

“The baby in order to imitate you has to figure out how to shape their lips to make that particular sound they’re hearing,” explains developmental psychologist David Lewkowicz of Florida Atlantic University, who led the study being published Monday. “It’s an incredibly complex process.”

Apparently it doesn’t take them too long to absorb the movements that match basic sounds. By their first birthdays, babies start shifting back to look you in the eye again — unless they hear the unfamiliar sounds of a foreign language. Then, they stick with lip-reading a bit longer.

“It’s a pretty intriguing finding,” says University of Iowa psychology professor Bob McMurray, who also studies speech development. The babies “know what they need to know about, and they’re able to deploy their attention to what’s important at that point in development.”

The new research appears in this week’s issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. It offers more evidence that quality face-time with your tot is very important for speech development — more than, say, turning on the latest baby DVD.

It also begs the question of whether babies who turn out to have developmental disorders, including autism, learn to speak the same way, or if they show differences that just might provide an early warning sign.

Unraveling how babies learn to speak isn’t merely a curiosity. Neuroscientists want to know how to encourage that process, especially if it doesn’t seem to be happening on time. Plus, it helps them understand how the brain wires itself early in life for learning all kinds of things.

Those coos of early infancy start changing around age 6 months, growing into the syllables of the baby’s native language until the first word emerges, usually just before age 1.

A lot of research has centered on the audio side. That sing-song speech that parents intuitively use? Scientists know the pitch attracts babies’ attention, and the rhythm exaggerates key sounds. Other studies have shown that babies who are best at distinguishing between vowel sounds like “ah” and “ee” shortly before their first birthday wind up with better vocabularies and pre-reading skills by kindergarten.

But scientists have long known that babies also look to speakers’ faces for important social cues about what they’re hearing. Just like adults, they’re drawn to the eyes, which convey important nonverbal messages like the emotion connected to words and where to direct attention.

Lewkowicz went a step further, wondering whether babies look to the lips for cues as well, sort of like how adults lip-read to decipher what someone’s saying at a noisy party.

So he and doctoral student Amy Hansen-Tift tested nearly 180 babies, groups of them at ages 4, 6, 8, 10 and 12 months.

How? They showed videos of a woman speaking in English or Spanish to babies of English speakers. A gadget mounted on a soft headband tracked where each baby was focusing his or her gaze and for how long.

They found a dramatic shift in attention: When the speaker used English, the 4-month-olds gazed mostly into her eyes. The 6-month-olds spent equal amounts of time looking at the eyes and the mouth. The 8- and 10-month-olds studied mostly the mouth.

At 12 months, attention started shifting back toward the speaker’s eyes.

It makes sense that at 6 months, babies begin observing lip movement, Lewkowicz says, because that’s about the time babies’ brains gain the ability to control their attention rather than automatically look toward noise.

But what happened when these babies accustomed to English heard Spanish? The 12-month-olds studied the mouth longer, just like younger babies. They needed the extra information to decipher the unfamiliar sounds.

That fits with research into bilingualism that shows babies’ brains fine-tune themselves to start distinguishing the sounds of their native language over other languages in the first year of life. That’s one reason it’s easier for babies to become bilingual than older children or adults.

But the continued lip-reading shows the 1-year-olds clearly still “are primed for learning,” McMurray says.

Babies are so hard to study that this is “a fairly heroic data set,” says Duke University cognitive neuroscientist Greg Appelbaum, who found the research so compelling that he wants to know more.

Are the babies who start to shift their gaze back to the eyes a bit earlier better learners, or impatient to their own detriment? What happens with a foreign language after 12 months?

Lewkowicz is continuing his studies of typically developing babies. He theorizes that there may be different patterns in children at risk of autism, something autism experts caution would be hard to prove.