Pack it up: lunchbox ideas for kids

It’s so disheartening to open your child’s lunchbox at the end of the day and find a sad, uneaten Vegemite sandwich and a bruised apple still rolling around in there. To make lunch fun, and much more tempting, try these delicious ideas:

  • Pinwheel sandwiches Make an event of dull ham and cheese sandwich. Simply cut off the crusts, roll up the sandwich and cut into several round pieces to make them look fun;
  • Cookie-cutter sandwiches Use cookie cutters to cut the kids’ sandwiches into shapes. What child could resist a dinosaur jam sandwich or elephant cheese sandwich?;
  • Mini muffins They are always tempting, so make a savoury version. You can hide veggies, like grated zucchini and carrots, in dish they’ll never question; and
  • Mini pizzas Use leftovers to turn one meal into two. Make mini pizzas using dough, pita breads or English muffins for dinner, add a few extra and slip the leftovers into a lunchbox the next day. The added bonus is that kids love to help make pizzas and will enjoy being involved in choosing ingredients.

You could take a trick from another nation. Japanese school children take pride in their daily bento box, which has many compartments filled with small servings of food. This type of presentation can be super appealing to children. Small servings ­– some cherry tomatoes, a couple of slices of cheese, some grapes or slice fruit – also mean that if they’re fussy and reject one option there are more from which to choose.

If you’ve got some great lunchbox ideas, particularly for fussy eaters, make sure you share them with us.

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The tricks for road trips

The holidays are coming up, which means the dreaded road trip is also upon us. Here we’ve come up with some great tips to keep the whole car happy:

  • Break the journey into intervals. Young children can get very restless sitting in the back seat for long periods. Split the trip up in manageable sections, planning spots along the way for a lunch break, visit to a playground or a stop at a local tourist attraction.
  • Research interesting locations. Are there any landmarks along the way? A Big Thing, special view or sculpture can be a something to watch for out the windows or a great excuse to get out of the car and stretch your legs.
  • Bring loads of snacks. Generally, there aren’t many options for buying healthy food at freeway truck stops. Avoid fast food restaurants by packing a lunch and snacks ahead of time. Putting snacks in mini containers or small bags will keep the hunger pains at bay and also keep those in the back seat entertained.
  • Keep spare clothes, wipes and tissues close at hand. The back seat can get very messy, especially if children are eating. It’s likely something will spill over a car seat or get smeared over a window. Having easy access to tissues, wipes and another set of clothes can help things nice. You don’t want to be digging through the boot to find a dry t-shirt on the side of a freeway.
  • Come up with some attention-grabbing games. Older children can get involved in I Spy or letter games using number plates, while younger children can be entertained searching for farm animals or cars in a particular colour.
  • Make sure baby is comfortable. If you are travelling with an infant our Organics Travel Nestis perfect for the car seat. It provides a snug, cozy environment when out and about. When you’re not in the car, the Travel Nest can be unzipped to provide a comfortable mat for baby to lie on.

If you’ve got any great road trip tips, make sure you let us know about them.

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Get ready for Christmas

If you have friends or loved ones with a new baby this festive season, we’ve got you covered.

Here are a few things you can do for a brand-new parent to make it truly the most wonderful time of the year:

  • Deliver dinner. We all know that there is nothing better than Christmas lunch or dinner, so why not deliver a plate of turkey and fixings to a new mum? Give her a break from the hospital food and at the same time remind her that she is in your thoughts.
  • Lend a hand instead of a gift. During the festive season, offer to look after any older kids for a few hours since there is nothing better than a ‘silent night’ (or day) for a new mum. You could also offer to give the house a quick clean. Chances are new parents will appreciate the small break way more than something material.
  • Fill up the fridge. Imagine the joy of coming home to a fridge and pantry full of Christmas goodies, especially if the new mum has spent some time eating hospital food. Think lots of seasonal fruits, Christmas treats and staples or even pre-cooked meals.
  • Prepare a home spa day. Chances are Mum is not going to want to leave the side of her new bub nor the comfort of her home. Instead, pick up a couple of face masks, some cucumber, green tea and a good chick flick for a cheap and simple way of making her feel like a star.

Tell us what you’ve done for new parents to ease them into parenthood. What would you have loved someone to do for you?

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Meet Tess

When gorgeous Tess was born at 28 weeks, she weighed only a little more than a kilogram. She made her world premiere at Melbourne’s Royal Women’s Hospital via emergency caesarean because her mum, Tania, had HELLP syndrome, a variant of preeclampsia.

While it was a surreal time for Tania, who was critically ill and transferred to intensive care at Royal Melbourne Hospital, while Tess remained at the Royal Women’s Hospital. Her rock was her partner Matt.

“To this day I do not know how he kept it together,” Tania says. “He visited both his girls at our respective hospitals, did milk runs as I was expressing, liaised with specialists at both hospitals, and all this while working and caring for his son at home.

“Looking back I remember the faces and the extreme kindness of the nurses. Now time has passed I have forgotten their names, but their touch and words echo in my world today.

“Oh, and I remember watching Lisa Mitchell on Australian Idol. She was 16 at the time and the vision of what I hoped for my beloved Tess, who at this point I had not even held in my arms.”

Tess clearly has music in her sights, as you can see from her enjoyment of a night out at Carols by Candlelight.

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Fighting flat head

It is relatively common for babies to be born with misshapen, or uneven, heads. Flat head syndrome, known as plagiocephaly, can develop while the baby is still in the uterus, during birth or, more typically, after birth when a baby spends time in the one position in their cot placing pressure on the skull.

The problem develops because the bones of a newborn bub’s head are soft and pliable. Fortunately, in many instances, it can be corrected by ensuring your baby’s head position is varied whether they are asleep or awake.

Simple things to do to help prevent your baby developing plagiocephaly include:

  • Change sleep positions. Alternate the position of your baby’s head between the left and right sides when you place them on their back in their cot to sleep. If you notice your baby automatically turns their head to the right, ensure their head is turned to the left the next time they have a sleep;
  • Change their view. Be aware of visual stimulation – babies like to gaze at fixed objects such as windows, toys or wall murals, so change what they look at by placing your baby at alternate ends of the cot to sleep. Also try moving the cot to a new position in the room;
  • Take some tummy time. Give your baby plenty of time to play on their tummy or side when they’re awake. Again, alternate locations so they don’t fixate on one object; and
  • Break holding patterns. When cradling your baby, try to alternate the arm in which you hold them. The same goes for when you’re breast feeding.

In many instances, using these counter positioning techniques can help, but if you have any concerns about the development of your baby’s head, check with your maternal health nurse, paediatrician or other health professional because more severe cases may need to be treated using a correctional helmet.

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How to find a babysitter

Leaving your baby at home for the first time can be hard enough. You’ve watched over them since birth and now you’re going out alone, even if it is only for a few hours.

The only thing that can put your mind at rest is knowing you left them in safe, caring hands. Finding the right occasional babysitter or permanent nanny, however, can be a daunting experience for all members of the family.

If at all possible, you should start by fishing from your own pond. Often someone you know personally, like a family member or close friend, will be more than willing to look after your kids on the odd occasion. While this isn’t an option for all families, knowing that your children are with someone you trust does give you that extra bit of reassurance. Sort out an agreed rate at the outset, or at least buy them a nice bottle of wine for afterwards.

If you have limited family support or are looking to take on a permanent carer, you can try searching online. There are obvious dangers in this approach, so we’ve come up with a few ways to ensure you pick a suitable and safe carer.

Safety first. Never give out personal details online. Things like your street address, your children’s names, or their schools or day care centres can all be used for a sinister purpose.

Check the facts. Make sure you choose a nanny or babysitter who has had a working with children check and recent police check and has attained a first aid certificate. Always ask them to provide evidence of this. If you are wary about the validity of these documents, there are a few great websites you can use (our favourite is Green ID) to check the verification of a person’s identity.

Interview away from home. Arrange to meet potential candidates in a local café or park – it’s a more relaxed environment for everyone. Make sure you have a list of questions and give them some scenarios to talk through to determine how they would act in certain situations.

Make it a family affair. Don’t be afraid to bring your children and partner along to the initial interview or second chat. The whole family will need to get along with the new carer, so you need to know if there’s an obvious problem before you make a final decision.

Ask your child(ren). If they are old enough, ask your children what they think of each candidates and which one is their favourite. We often underestimate the wisdom of children, but perhaps they will pick up on qualities you can’t.

Talk about the future. We all know kids need stability, so ask candidates about their plans for the future. There is nothing worse than you and your children falling in love with a nanny and then them leaving after six weeks.

Here are some of the best websites you can use to help find a babysitter: Find a Babysitter, My Super Nanny, Rock My Baby, We Need a Nanny and Babysitters Now.

Have you found a nanny or babysitter online? What are some of your tips for parents looking to find a new carer?

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Meet Mac

When he was born at 29 weeks, handsome Mac weighed just 1673 grams. He arrived into this world at the Mercy Hospital for Women when his mum Brooke, a type 1 diabetic, was admitted to hospital due to a premature rupture of the membranes.

It was a stressful and surreal time for Brooke and her supportive partner Glen, with Mac staying in hospital for a further seven weeks.

“He was my absolute rock during the pregnancy, labour, delivery and the ongoing torment of having a premature baby,” Brooke says. “Glen wiped my brow, gave me water, tested my glucose levels, helped manage my insulin pump and even put Vaseline on my lips after each contraction.

“The nursing staff at the Mercy are amazing. Premmies arrive into this world struggling to survive, they are hooked up to machines, they stop breathing and as a mother you hope that their next breath won’t be their last.

“A fully trained nurse sits with your child 24 hours a day, monitoring and caring for them when you are at home sleeping. They are amazing people.”

Just weeks after taking Mac home from the hospital, he was back at three months of age for a double hernia operation, which was extremely hard for Brooke and Glen to deal with, especially because Mac had already overcome so much hardship.

When Mac turned two his ‘magic’ paediatrician felt he was ready to take on the world. Now he’s a curious, determined, strong and kind four-year-old who towers over most of the kids his age.

If you would like to nominate a premmie baby you know to be featured as our Earlybird of the Month, we would love to hear from you. Please email lynda@earlybirds.com.au

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Prenatal Infection Awareness

The International Prenatal Infection Awareness campaign is an initiative aimed to educate pregnant women on how to prevent infection and keep their unborn babies safe and healthy.

Infections during pregnancy are one of the top risk factors for premature labour, and

many are preventable. Some common infections include Group B streptococcus, chickenpox, toxoplasmosis and fifth disease.

Group B streptococcus Also know as group B strep, this bacterial infection is harmless in adults, but can lead to pneumonia, meningitis or a blood infection in newborns. Most women will be tested during the second half of their pregnancy for infection and, if it is detected, IV antibiotics can be administered during labour and delivery.

Chickenpox It’s a common viral infection that affects most children, but a vaccine is given to most at about 18 months then again at four years of age. If you’re thinking of becoming pregnant, and aren’t sure about your vaccination history, you can have a simple blood test to check your immunity. If you’re not immune and not pregnant, the vaccine can be administered. However, if you are not immune and currently pregnant, it is safest to stay away from anyone with chickenpox until your baby is born. It can be critical for a foetus if its mother catches chickenpox during or after her twentieth week of pregnancy.

Toxoplasmosis This common infection can be very dangerous for an unborn baby, causing serious conditions such as blindness and brain damage. If you are pregnant, there are several things you can do to prevent toxoplasmosis, including not eating undercooked meats, peeling and washing raw fruits and vegetables before eating, washing your hands thoroughly and immediately after handling raw meat, and avoiding changing of kitty litter boxes.

Fifth disease About half the population is infected by this common childhood illness whose most common symptom is a rash on a child’s face. Less common ones are fever, sore throat, headache and joint pain. Most unborn babies are not harmed if the mother is infected while pregnant, although, because it is transmitted by blood, there is a chance it could be transferred through the placenta. For that small percentage, there’s an even slimmer chance of foetal anaemia, inflammation of the baby’s heart, miscarriage or stillbirth. Pregnant women can prevent the infection by washing their hands thoroughly and by not sharing drinking glasses with anyone infected with the illness.

Handy anti-infection tips

 Always wash your hands, after:

  • Using the bathroom;
  • Gardening or touching soil;
  • Being around sick people; and
  • Changing nappies.

If you have any concerns, see your obstetrician or doctor.

 

 

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Meet William

In March, parents Emma and Ben welcomed William after Emma was induced due to growth lag. William unfortunately developed a temperature within 21 hours of birth and was eventually diagnosed with bacterial meningitis which, when contracted in utero, is a rare occurrence. He spent a further three weeks at the Orange Health Service.

He’s certainly a little fighter: during his NICU stay he endured four lumbar punctures, a myriad of cannulas and catheters, and was fed antibiotics intravenously.

Emma says she was surrounded by so much love and support from her family and friends at the time, and the nurses in the special care nursery were absolutely brilliant.

“He was the only baby in the special care nursery, so he had lots of attention and the nurses grew really attached to him,” she says. “My mum kept everything running as normal at home with my eldest son Lachlan, and she also visited Will and I at the hospital most days.

“Will was exceptionally strong under the circumstances.It seemed that each procedure was more distressing for me than it was for him.”

Will is now a healthy baby who loves cuddling with his brother Lachlan. The next challenge for Emma is getting used to having two vivacious boys under two.

If you would like to nominate a premature baby you know to be featured as our Earlybird of the Month, we would love to hear from you. Please email lynda@earlybirds.com.au

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Meet the expert: Safe sleeping

Name Yvonne Amos

Area of expertise Yvonne is the national marketing and communications manager at Red Nose (formerly SIDs and Kids).

What are your most important tips for putting a baby to sleep safely?

There are six ways to ensure your baby is sleeping safely and to reduce the risk of sudden and unexpected death in infancy:

  • Sleep your baby on their back;
  • Keep their head and face uncovered;
  • Keep your environment smoke free both before and after your baby is born;
  • Ensure they have a safe sleeping environment both night and day;
  • Sleep your baby in a safe cot in your room; and
  • Breastfeed your baby if you can.

What is the best way for parents to get some extra information on safe sleeping if they are concerned? 

If parents or carers have questions about safe sleeping they can download our free Safe Sleeping app from iTunes. The app also includes valuable information about safe wrapping and tummy time for your baby. Our website also has information statements and FAQs covering a range of topics, including co-sleeping, room sharing, safe wrapping and how to set up your baby’s cot. We have also launched a cot-to-bed safety smartphone app and brochure that provides information on transitioning your baby from a cot to a bed.

Our information is also available in Hindi, Chinese, Arabic and Vietnamese and can be downloaded at the Red Nose website.

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