Tip #13 What can my newborn hear when she’s born?

January 9th, 2012 → 11:43 am @

In Holland, babies hearing is generally checked by a nurse that arrives at your house, usually at a very inconvenient time (I mean, when isn’t during that first week at home with a newborn???) with a sound machine. All of my kids tested positive for good hearing so I’m not sure what would have happened if that hadn’t been the case.  She was in and out in 15 minutes and that was the end of it.

However my youngest daughter Julia did have trouble hearing sometime around her 2nd birthday, though it may have been earlier.  I just added up her “not talking much” and “hard to understand” to being #4 and communicating in other ways.  The specialist checked her ears and saw some red (I’m sure he used a more medical term which I can’t for the life of me remember at the moment) which he said could be causing a change in hearing. He said that he would re-check after the summer as ears often cleared up after a good old fashion dose of heat. And they did. Her speech improved but she’s left with a number of sounds that she just can’t pronounce very well.  The old habits are hard to get rid of.  She is bilingual, English and Dutch and I can tell you that there are some seriously strange sounds one has to learn to speak the Dutch language! Still – she’s getting there with the help of a speech therapist.

The funny thing is that she speaks perfect French…

Here is the answer from my book:

Newborns can hear pretty well though the middle part of their ears are still full of fluid. Their ears are still in an immature stage. Because they heard your voice in the womb, they are apt to respond to you more than others. They also respond better to high pitch, clear and loud voices which is why we tend to automatically speak loudly and clearly when talking to our baby.  In many countries babies have their hearing checked before leaving the hospital. Double check that this was done in the first weeks as a delay in recognizing and treating hearing problems (even delayed by a few months) can lead to speech delays.

Babies 0-6 months &Blog &My kids

Turning 4 means starting school in NL

December 12th, 2011 → 11:50 am @

My daughter will be 4 in a couple of weeks. It’s a huge milestone in this country as it’s also the day that you start school.  We don’t have a September start for everyone. The kids literally roll in on their 4th bday.

It means that the teacher has a group of 4-5-6 year olds that work together and help each other. When a new 4 year old starts, he/she is assigned to a “bigger” kid who helps them understand how the system works. It’s like a buddy system.

The class is a combination of pre-kindergarden and kindergarden. The kids are split into “youngest”, “middle’est” and “oldest”. The “oldest” group starts getting ready for grade 1 and most kids take about 2 years to get there. Some stay longer, some leave before that time.  Grade 1 is a September start. That means, for example, that my daughter who is starting school now will likely take 2,5 years to get to grade 1 instead of a short 1,5 years. She’ll be an “older” grade 1 starter. (They like to label here…) which I think only has benefits.  Who wants a 10 year old heading to high school?

It works. I must say that when my oldest started school I found this a bit weird. Like anything unknown, I questioned the idea of having such a diverse age group in one class. Now, I think it’s a good system. The kids aren’t at all busy with getting to Grade 1. This gives the school and parents a chance to have a good look at the child in question to determine if he/she is ready for the next step without there being any stigma attached to it.

But – I did mention that my youngest is starting school. I think the consequences of this are much bigger for me then they are for her.  She’s super ready (she says). That’s what I will write about in January – when she’s officially in school.  This week she’s just “practicing”….


Blog &Daily Life &My kids

Tip #10 When will my newborn’s umbilical cord fall off?

December 5th, 2011 → 11:56 am @

I must say that I was not at all prepared for a lot of this stuff.

While expecting my first, I was mainly focussed on the giving birth part, what was going to happen to me (loss of freedom, controle etc. - I got over that the minute he was born...), my work, what last name our baby would get and a whole bunch of other non-baby stuff.

Luckily….   I already knew how to change diapers and dress babies –  being the oldest of 6 I’d had my fair share of experience – but the umbilical cord – NO idea…



Here’s the answer from my book:

I never thought of my belly button as being the thing that connected me to my mother but since I’ve had babies it has become a more awesome part of my body… Once the umbilical cord has been cut there is a piece that still hangs on the newborn’s stomach. This will eventually fall off, usually between 8-14 days, at which point a scab will form and slowly heal itself and turn into a real belly button.  Make sure to keep it dry and clean during this process. Keep your baby’s diaper off the cord (and the scab) by rolling the diaper underneath it.  Many suggest sponge baths until the cord falls off to avoid infection. If the cord does get a bit wet, gently dry it off.  Once it’s fallen off you can bath your baby normally.  If you see signs of an infection, see your doctor.

Babies 0-6 months &Blog &My kids

Tip #8 My newborn has a yellowish tint to her. Is this OK?

November 28th, 2011 → 11:59 am @

This is what I experienced:

Two of my kids had jaundice. My first was born 18 days late (yes, they let it go that far in NL). We were still in the hospital when he turned a yellowish shade so he was given light therapy but was allowed to stay with me. They put what looked like a heating pad on his skin, underneath his pyjama. It was bright light. Couple of days and we were good to go…  My third child Olivia, was however was a different story.  We were sent home a couple of hours after she was born (another typical Dutch thing) – I hadn’t had any complications so off we went. The next day she was very yellow… I had a nurse come over and check on her and we were immediately sent to the hospital.  Olivia had to go into intensive care, naked, with eye patches on and some seriously intense light. That was hard, going back to the hospital and having to let her go.  I remember looking around and seeing the other kids in intensive care and thinking – phew… we are the lucky ones.  They let me spend the night at the hospital but we didn’t sleep together. Took her almost 3 days to return to a normal color and we’ve never looked back.

The other 2 remained pink, except for the occasional yellow face paint that’s impossible to get off. It leaves exactly the yellowish tint that the other 2 had as newborns.

Here’s the answer in my book:

This yellowing of the skin is called jaundice and it affects more than 50% of newborns. Jaundice appears in the first couple of days on the face then on the body and usually disappears on its own during the first weeks.  It can be worse in breastfed newborns in the first days so be sure to feed very often to maintain hydration. Depending on the severity, it may be necessary to stay in (or go back to) the hospital so that your newborn can be given a type of light therapy (phototherapy) treatment.

Jaundice is caused by an excess of Bilirubin which is normally taken out of the body by the liver. In utero, the mother’s liver did the job but after birth it can take the baby’s liver a little time to catch up and take over the process during which time jaundice can occur. This type of jaundice is called “physiologic”.  It can also develop in the second and third week in breastfed newborns via a different mechanism. See a doctor but keep breastfeeding. If you are at home and concerned, see a doctor immediately as untreated jaundice can be dangerous.


Babies 0-6 months &Blog &My kids

Tip #7 Why on earth is my baby crying???

November 20th, 2011 → 12:10 pm @

Boy did I ask myself this question many times, especially when my son Adam was born. He cried every night around 11pm for about an hour. No idea. My husband would take over and walk around with him, I couldn’t handle it – wanted to cry myself as I was unable to make him stop.

There are so many reasons why babies cry. It’s the only way they can communicate when they are born.


Now my kids communicate like this…

Here is what I wrote in my book about it…

A question you will ask yourself more than once in the next years.  Babies cry when they are hungry,  need a diaper change, are tired, are too hot or too cold etc. It’s the only way they know how to tell you that something needs to happen.  There are other reasons for babies to cry of course including various forms of discomfort such as cramping, colic or being sick.  If your baby has cramps she will usually stretch out or close her fists. As time passes you will learn to hear the difference in types of cries. Most important is to stay calm. Your baby can feel your stress…

Babies 0-6 months &Blog &My kids

Tip #6 What kind of routine should we create for our baby?

November 17th, 2011 → 12:11 pm @

When my first child was born, I had no idea that we needed a routine. My only focus was feeding him, feeding him and feeding him. He ate all the time and of course, always wanted to be held, which meant that I literally didn’t even have time to make myself a sandwich.  I’ve learned a thing or two since then…

Here’s the answer that is written in my book:

Routine and rest are very important things to give your newborn. Routine doesn’t mean that at a particular time of day something has to happen, more that you keep a rhythm in your patterns. For example: Baby wakes up, change diaper, drinks, is awake, tummy time, sleeps.  Repeat.


In Holland we get what is called “kramzorg” which translates to “someone that comes to your house to take care of you and your baby for the first 7 days after birth”. They help with breastfeeding, take temperatures, teach you the basics, tidy up and make you a sandwich. They come for about 4 hours a day.  I think this was put into place because many Dutch women give birth at home, so they never enter a hospital and often don’t have any contact with an actual doctor – it all goes through the midwives unless there are complications or indications that things might not go well.  I think it also has to do with keeping new moms out of the doctors office as they are being taught by someone less expensive. I’m sure there is a financial reason why they come to your house for 7 days – there usually is in NL.

Still, regardless of the reasons, with the right person (we had 2 wrongs and 2 rights), it can be really helpful.  I’m the oldest of 6 and brought some of that experience with me when I had my first born so didn’t need help with some of the basics (like dressing, diapers, bathing).


When I had my 4th child (above), with 2 others at home and 1 who just started school, my “kraamzorg” stepped up and did things that weren’t “required” such as sorting closets, helping with the other kids so I could get some sleep, cleaning, pick ups etc. I loved her.  It was the first time that I accepted that I needed to recover with bed rest and sleep.

But this whole post is about Routine. It’s the most important thing I learned. Keep a flow, keep it restful, let your baby know what to expect…

And don’t worry if you’re out and can’t keep the Routine. It’s about most of the time.

Babies 0-6 months &Blog &My kids

Big plans

October 19th, 2011 → 12:32 pm @

I had big plans to post at least a couple of tips a week. Every day would be even better… Course I forgot that the kids are home all week and by the end of the day when everyone is in bed – I am totally done. So – for this week … no tips. I’ll be back at it on Monday morning sharp!

Here’s a pic of me and the kids on the bus home from the Library and Science & Technology museum…


Balance &Blog &Daily Life &My kids

Julia and the Groceries

October 12th, 2011 → 12:36 pm @

Here’s Julia and the Groceries. Or should I say – The Groceries and Julia!


Blog &Daily Life &My kids

A Bicycle Built for 6

October 10th, 2011 → 12:37 pm @

I have a magnificent bike – including myself, there is room for 6!  Five kids and me.  I have 4 kids but often a friend joins us on our way home from school. Even though my 3 oldest have their own bikes, the girls in particular often opt for a rid.  I see it as part of my built in daily exercise program!

I can get a week’s worth of groceries in the bike + 2 small kids (Ok, they are a bit squished).  I can put my neighbor’s table and chairs in my bike to borrow for a party rather then lugging them by hand.  I can throw all of the school bags and most of the kids in there to get to school in a hurry. I can put my youngest’s bike in my bike if she has gotten tired or I’ve gotten fed-up of waiting…

I love my bike.  A guy who only made bikes that “fit” the person’s personality built it. After many talks we came up with my perfect bike.  A box built big enough for 4 kids, seatbelts and a baby bike seat in the front for when my kids needed the support (it’s gone now).  It’s grey on the outside, orange on the inside. The box is made of wood. Black leather seat, silver frame and a recent addition of an extra seat on the back makes it complete.

In total I have 5 bikes… one bike is in Amsterdam so that when I take the bus in (20 minutes), I have a bike to use in the city. It has 2 kid’s seats on it – one of the front that I use for my bag and one of the back that I sometimes have my youngest in when we are in town.  I have 2 other “normal” bikes… one I share with my husband which he uses to get to the bus stop, bring the kids to school etc. It has one seat on the back. I use it when I’m on my own.  The other bike doesn’t have any extra seats on it… it’s used for guests and I use it if we are going out for diner in the village so I don’t have to use my big box bike (which makes a lot of noise if it’s not full!).  Then in the garage I have my good old 20 year old LL Bean cross bike.  I use that in the summer time when I feel like some biking exercise.  Mostly it’s in the garage…

We also have a ton of bikes by our doorway.  Friends always bring their used bikes here since we “must” always have “use” for them but recently I’ve had to give some away. Now we have about 2,2 bikes per person living here…

Balance &Blog &Daily Life &My kids

These are my kids

October 9th, 2011 → 12:40 pm @

These are my kids. All but the youngest are in school. The youngest goes to daycare 2x a week which is when I work on my books. She starts school in January on her 4th birthday which is less than 3 months away.  I think I’m ready for this next step – I am looking forward to more time to work, exercise and generally to get things done but it will be strange after 8 years of intense baby’ness to have an empty house during the week.  Sounds like piles of time – but let me tell you a bit about the school schedule in Holland…

In Holland, kids start school when they turn 4 – On their birthday – so turning 4 is a kind of rite of passage here.  Pre-kindergarden and kindergarden are called Group 1/2 here. The kids are all in the same class and are split into group called “youngest, middle, oldest” when they are doing certain activities. The oldest take care of the new kids on the block and the new kids get enough attention because they don’t all start at the same time. It works. Once they are in the “oldest” group they start getting ready for Group 3 (grade 1) which starts in September as do all of the other grades.

The school days: They begin at 8:30, lunch from 12:00-13:15, End 15:15.  My kids stay over for lunch as do most.  On Wednesdays school end at 12:15 and on Fridays at 12:00. Once you are in grade 3 (group 5 here), you also go to school on Friday afternoon.

The holidays: 1 week in October, 2 weeks at Christmas, 1 week in Feb, Easter break, 2 weeks in May, 6 week Summer break.  Plus there are at least another 5 national holidays and the required PD days.

How do people do it here? Well there are a lot of kids that go to after-school programs and most parents work part time so that one is home to pick up the kids. Usually a mix of the above.  In our house – I pick up the kids every day after school…

Blog &Daily Life &My kids