Discover the secret of childhood from 0-3 year old:

0-6 months

The Power Of The Mobile

Thursday, June 9th, 2011 12:39 am | By Stephanie Woo

I’m sure you’ve seen those store-bought mobiles with singing, dancing, blinking animals, princess and cars. You might even have one. Boxes advertise that it stimulates the baby’s vision and hearing, and without my mother’s advice, I most certainly would have bought three.

My mother Ms. Lam says, the infant, who recently came out of the dark, lightless womb, is already over-stimulated by EVERYTHING new, bright and moving around him. Does he really need an electronic device to further stimulate his vision and hearing? Just lying there at home in his crib or on the floor is more than plenty. My brother Alfred told me he bought an electronic mobile when he and Cynthia had their first child. At the time, he thought to himself, “What a great toy, baby Lauren loves it because she stares at it all the time!” It took a lot of education for him to realize she couldn’t help but stare at it all day long, like someone under hypnosis! It’s probably just a couple steps up from putting your baby in front of a TV.

THE PURPOSE OF A MOBILE, I LEARNED, IS TO BE TOUCHED, not just looked at. To achieve this is a big deal for a little baby. It is, like Maria Montessori says, the first time he can affect his environment.

Here are Ms. Lam’s instructions to make the right mobile:

  • Mobiles should be SIMPLE
  • Use clips to clip things to a rod
  • Never put more than ONE THING on it
  • When you start, clip something very light that moves slightly on its own
  • As the babies grow, make mobiles that won’t move unless they touch it
  • Mobiles that ring or make sounds are particularly attractive
  • Make mobiles in primary colors: red, blue, yellow. Babies are less interested in things that are silver or gold
  • Put a mobile up for 15-20 minutes (or shorter) and take it down when the baby loses interest. If you keep a mobile in her face all the time, she won’t see it at all.

My Implementation

I took some tissue wrapping paper from a baby gift we got. I cut up the bottom so it was stringy and clipped it to the mobile (see picture).

Mackenzie was 9 weeks old was I first showed her. I didn’t get any response from her the first day. The second day, when I put up the mobile, I can tell she was interested. She kept looking at it. Because the tissue paper is so light, it moves every time she breathes, which keeps her interested. Babies notice the tiniest little movements. The first time she reached out to touch the mobile, I was soo excited!!

Brooke’s favorite toy is a small owl plush that has a bell inside its stomach. She was never interested in mobiles when I first put it in front of her, unless I was there playing with her. But a couple weeks later, I remember I left her with the owl mobile as I went about cleaning the house, and suddenly I heard ringing, and I knew she was interacting with the mobile! It’s still her favorite toy at four months.

My girls’ interaction with the mobile has evolved over time. First she starts by looking at it very intently. And then one day, she starts pawing at it. Now, at four months, she will grab it and pull on it. If I want to keep her quiet for 20 minutes to finish the dishes or a conversation, I will leave her lying on her mat with a mobile. When she starts whining, I’ll just change a mobile and she’s good for another 10-15 minutes.

I’ve noticed that multi-dimensional mobiles are the best. I made sure the mobile wasn’t just a plastic toy. I used things that had a smell, made a noise when you touched it (like a crumply piece of paper or a ringing bell), different textures, different colors, etc. It’s important to vary what you give the baby (not just plastic baby stuff), but also things from our everyday surrounding.

Things I’ve used as a mobile

  • small colorful plush toys that ring or rattle when you touch it (most successful with my kids)
  • a rose (M loved looking at it, especially after I hold it close to her nose)
  • a plant twig
  • different colored ribbons tied to a rod
  • colored paper snowflakes
  • a row of yarn balls that go from light yellow to dark yellow
  • lemon slices strung up with a string (unsuccessful)
  • a row of paper dolls holding hands
  • jingle bells bracelet (they liked this)
  • origami crane with a bell attached to it
  • a small spoon

How to hang a mobile

I learned that mobiles have to be in the right position. Make sure it is hung so that it’s

  • high up enough so the baby can see it
  • low enough so he can touch it when he reaches out
  • doesn’t trail on his body
  • a little to the left or the right, which usually works better than straight up
  • not hanging above his nose, or else you’ll make your baby cross-eyed!

How To (Not) Rock Your Baby To Sleep

Thursday, June 9th, 2011 12:37 am | By Stephanie Woo

Brooke and Mackenzie are 4 ½ months. Two weeks ago, I hired a new nanny from China who has been nannying for five years in the US. On the third day she started working with us, Brooke fussed a little bit before her morning nap. My nanny immediately picked her up and rocked her to sleep. Brooke fell asleep in her arms. I didn’t say anything but I made a mental note because in my house, we never rock our children to sleep.

Another time, she told me that babies like to drink milk before sleeping, so as soon as Brooke started fussing before her nap, the nanny started feeding her some milk. In my observation, this did not shorten the fussing time. I could tell that the nanny was experienced and I didn’t say anything once again.

Sunday and Monday came (nanny’s days off) and it was just me and the kids. Again, Brooke was fussy before her nap. I just let her fuss and eventually it became full-out crying. I let her cry for 3 minutes and then went in, picked her up, patted her until she became calm and then put her down again. Lo and behold, she started screaming again. So I let her cry for another 3 (LONG, it’s so hard to listen to your baby cry) minutes, went in and did the same thing. I did this 4 times in total, till she finally fell asleep.

The next day, she was fussy AGAIN at nap time. I did the same thing. This time, she fell asleep after 2 times. And then that afternoon, I left her on the play mat and she fell asleep by herself, no fussing at all.

The funny part, when the nanny arrived the next day, Brooke did the same thing again. Babies are smart, they know who’s around – who will spoil them and who will not. I told the nanny to leave her to me. It was clear it was just gonna be mommy! And she quickly fell asleep – no rocking, no milk.

I had to have a conversation with the nanny about the whole thing. From her point of view, she, being my employee, didn’t want me to think she was leaving the baby to cry. I reassured her that in this household, it was okay to employ our strategy: if the baby fusses before sleeping (and it’s clear she is not wet, hungry or needs to be burped and that she is really just tired or fussy), let her cry for a few minutes, pick her up to comfort her, then put her straight down. No rocking, no milk, nothing. Just put her down and repeat if necessary. A couple days later, Brooke was back to her old self: we put her down in her bed and she puts herself to sleep.

I want to raise independent, happy children. When babies can put themselves to sleep, they are learning to be independent, without needing an adult to fall asleep. And this makes for happier babies.

Baby Beds

Thursday, June 9th, 2011 12:35 am | By Stephanie Woo

In our family, we don’t believe in cribs. I’ve never seen any of my 6 nieces or nephews in one. Cribs confine babies to small spaces and hinder their movement and development. It also restricts a baby’s vision because they cannot see clearly past the wooden poles. All they have is an empty white ceiling to stare at. No wonder babies will stare at a mobile all day long, because they have nothing else to look at. Parents believe mobiles are great for developing their baby’s vision – it is, if that’s all they have to look at!

Night bed

Up to four months, our babies slept in baskets and co-sleepers at night mainly because we lived in a tiny 400 sq ft house and didn’t have much space to work with. The basket and co-sleeper were fine when they were tiny infants, but I could tell it was cramping their style. And it wasn’t until I put them on their own mattress that I saw just how cramped they were. 

As soon as we moved to our new 1200 sq ft house, we put them to sleep on a twin mattress. I saw just how much space a baby needs to move around, even in their sleep. I couldn’t imagine Mackenzie turning 360 degrees in her sleep until I witnessed it! When you don’t give them space to move, they don’t. But when they have the space to exercise, they do and it really helps their development. 

I have found that since they’ve been sleeping on the low floor mattresses, their overall movement has increased and improved. The other morning, we found Brooke (5 1/2 months) had ‘crawled’ off the mattress (we put a thick rug next to the mattress so it wouldn’t hurt if they fell). I figure she probably put one limb down and then gravity helped the rest of the way, but, in either case, she wasn’t crying, instead she was working hard making her way somewhere (we think perhaps to the candy store) but never made it there before we caught her! 

Day Bed

The first two months, the babies spent most of their time in our bed or on the living room sofa, which is where I spent most of my time. At 3 months, as they started moving more and more, we devised a day ‘bed’ (mat) on the floor for them that consisted of two thick wool blankets, some towels and a regular bed sheet on top. It was about 5’ x 3.5’. Whenever they were awake, we would put them on this mat on their tummy. As they’ve grown, their mat has grown to 8’ x 3.5’. This mat gives them ample room to move around.

At four months, Mackenzie had slithered 5 feet from one end of the mat to the other end. At five months, Brooke slithers around the perimeter of the mat in a circle. I think having room to move helped their development whereas many babies at this age are still confined to mother’s arms, cribs, swings or baby car seats and never get a chance to move much on a open, flat, hard surface, which is what they need to move properly.