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Winterize Your Baby

Winterize... His Ears

Germs enter the middle ear through the nose, so clearing those little nostrils is the best way to protect his ears, too. Also make sure to:

Sit him upright during and after feedings Drinking while reclined makes it easier for milk to travel through the eustachian tube to the middle ear, where it becomes the perfect culture medium for bacteria to grow and thrive. Upright eating also enables the stomach to empty faster, cutting down on reflux, a common gastrointestinal condition that can lead to ear infections (when stomach acid flows back up into the throat and eustachian tube). I recommend feeding your baby at an angle of at least 30 degrees (you don't want to be able to look up his nose) and keeping him upright as much as you can for 30 minutes afterward.

Keep a close eye on colds Ear infections often follow common viral infections, so watch for fever and signs of ear pain when your child has the sniffles: crying when you lay him down, frequent waking at night (not from hunger), increasingly thick mucus, a change in his sucking style or a refusal to feed, and drainage from his eyes or ears. Ear pulling is not a reliable sign of infection; babies play with their ears frequently, especially when they're teething. If you suspect an ear infection, visit the doctor right away to find out if your baby needs treatment; children under 2 are often given an antibiotic.

Winterize... Her Nursery

Your baby's sleeping environment plays a large role in her health. Besides never smoking near your baby or in the house, follow these room-rescue tips:

Use a vaporizer Sleeping with closed windows and central heating can really dry out your baby's airways, which are even more bothered by dry, still air than adults'. When the heat goes on in your home, so should a vaporizer. I prefer warm-mist vaporizers over cool-mist humidifiers because the heat sterilizes the water, which means your baby breathes cleaner air. Also, a warm-mist vaporizer can keep a small bedroom comfortably toasty (energy-saving bonus: you might be able to turn the drying central heat down as a result). Cool- mist humidifiers will do the trick of adding moisture to the air, though, so they're better than nothing. A word of caution: Warm-mist vaporizers can pose a burn hazard. Be sure to put yours away before you get your little early bird out of her crib in the morning and after her nap. Also take care to clean it according to the manufacturer's instructions.

De-fuzz her room Allergens such as dust and mold trigger your baby's body to produce fluid, which can build up in her nose and middle ear, leaving her vulnerable to infection. Children with allergies tend to catch more colds during the wintertime, but everyone has an immune response to allergens; move stuffed animals and other fuzzy things away from your child's bed while she sleeps. A HEPA-type air purifier may also help.

Curb your pets Animal dander is another common allergen; keep the cat or dog out of the nursery to avoid stimulating your baby's immune response. Some research, however, shows that children who are exposed to furry pets during infancy are at lower risk of developing asthma, so there's no need to limit contact between your pet and your child entirely.

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