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Baby Steps: Milestones through 18 Months

0-4 Months: Noggin Know-how

Peanut. Beach ball. Construction cone. Because an infant's head is soft and malleable -- making it possible to pass through the birth canal -- it can resemble many things post-delivery. Don't be alarmed: Many newborns have asymmetrical noodles. However, too much time in one position can result in positional molding, where your baby's head stays uneven long after the birth-related lopsidedness evens out. The Mayo Clinic offers a few tips for offsetting positional molding:  

Change direction 
Alternate the direction of your little one's face while she's sleeping. Do not use a pillow or other soft bedding to keep her head in place.

Hold your baby 
If you hold and support your baby's head while he's awake, it will relieve the pressure induced by infant seats, car seats, swings and carriers.  

Lay her down 
Place your baby on her back to play. Make sure the surface is firm. Keep close supervision, and if you must leave the room, bring your baby with you.  

Get creative 
Consider moving the crib occasionally to give your baby a different vantage point. Or, while playing on the floor, position your baby so that he will have to turn away from the flattened side of his head to look at the rattle, book or toy you're holding.  

5-8 Months: Beating the Bogeyman

By now you've certainly seen your baby scared, whether in response to an unexpected noise, a stranger, an angry tone of voice (hey, you're not the first mom to let loose on her partner!), or even the sights and sounds from an action-packed TV show. Unfortunately, those experiences can come back to haunt her and give her nightmares -- the terrified, piercing scream will be hard to miss.  

Want to say goodbye to the bogeyman? If your baby's had a passing fright, chances are the bad dreams will subside in with time. But if exposure to the source of his terrors continues, he is likely to keep having bad dreams. If you can't remove the offending object or event (like thunder or a fire engine), help him adjust by showing him that these things won't hurt him. Calmly soothe and remind him that he's safe. He may not exactly understand the words, but he'll get the message from your actions. And soon enough, sweet dreams will return.  -- Anita Sethi, Ph.D.{C}

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