Monthly Archives: June 2010

Changing Your Finances with a New Baby

A significant amount of preparation goes into getting ready for a baby. This may range from finding all the supplies – furniture, clothing, and diapers, for example – and getting a child’s room ready. But, this is only part of the picture when planning and getting ready for a child. Another significant portion is adjusting your finances to meet both your child’s and your own needs. A recent story in the Boston Globe reports that a child will cost at least $250,000 between birth and 18 years of age. Parents wanting to plan for their child’s education and their own retirement and life insurance should take note of the points mentioned in the article.

The author of the Globe story follow a couple planning for a child to a financial advisor. While the couple has acquired several hand-me-downs, they have their own and their child’s financial needs for the next 20 to 40 years. In consulting a financial advisor for these matters some points to meet both needs include:

• Budgeting the amount for each need. In the case of this couple, this includes life insurance, college, retirement funds, and the immediate financial needs of owning a child. Living on a middle-class income of about $60,000, two individuals should be able to put away a few hundred dollars each month for all of these.
• Consider inflation for long-term planning. Prices, as you know, change over time, but the money in your checking and savings accounts doesn’t.
• For college, consider a 529 savings plan. In addition to your savings, this plan will also assist to meet your needs for your child’s education in 18 years.

As this article indicates, your spending and saving habits should change when you become a parent – not only for your child’s immediate and future benefits but also for your own.

Common Chemicals and Your Baby

In the past, we’ve talked about organic or natural baby products being free from common chemicals, such as BPA and PBDEs. Such chemicals may be ingested by a child or stay in his or her environment, where he or she sleeps for about 70 percent of the first year. If you’re unsure about which products contain these chemicals – BPA, phthalates, formaldehyde, and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) – a recent article on CNN.com discusses the risks associated with each and which common products contain them. Generally, all four are linked to behavioral issues, brain development, and cancer. The article can be read here but, in terms of you and your baby, here’s a condensed version:

• BPA. We’ve talked about states banning bottles, and other baby products with chemicals for children under three years of age, but this is only a small percentage at the moment. BPA may be found in plastic bottles and can linings and has been linked to cancer risks and behavioral development issues, as the chemical mimics estrogen hormones. If you’re looking for an alternative, go for stainless steel or glass-only products – nothing made from plastic or with a plastic lining.
• Phthalates. As far as baby products are concerned, phthalates are commonly found in shampoo, vinyl items, and soft plastic toys. Considered to have endocrine-disrupting effects, phthalates has been linked to the development of ADD/ADHD in children. As an alternative, look for non-soft plastic items or find those advertised as “phthalates-free.”
• PBDEs. This group of chemicals is commonly used as flame retardants in items ranging from foam to fire retardant fabrics and clothing. It also accumulates in dust over time and may affect brain development. To avoid these chemicals, find baby mattresses that are free from PBDEs and don’t purchase fire retardant sheets or clothing, unless they’re made from wool.

Nurturing or Forcing: Should You Assist With Getting Your Baby to Certain Milestones?

All parents are excited when their children reach certain developmental milestones. But, one debate in parenting recently has been waiting or encouraging these milestones. After all, parenting has become a competition, to a degree, with a child reaching certain developmental milestones, be it rolling for the first time or getting early admissions to an Ivy League college, becoming a parent’s bragging rights. To counteract the competition, some parenting experts simply advise waiting – all children will reach various milestones at their own pace.

A recent press release for the Similac Infant Nutrition Panel gives information for a parent advice resource that may or may not encourage competition, depending upon how it’s used. The press release describes the Similac Infant Nutrition Panel as providing resources for parents to help their children reach certain milestones. A little bit of encouragement never hurt, right?

The line between encouragement and forced development seems somewhat blurred in the information listed in the press release, however. Similac describes various parenting tips to get babies to certain milestones. For example, the press release discusses the introduction of nonverbal communication skills through hand gestures like waving and nodding, with one introduced one at a time. Crawling and rolling, on the other hand, is encouraged through nutrition.

Similac seems innocuous enough on the surface. But how such resources are used is ultimately up to the parents. For example, parents can incorporate these tips into their daily routines with their infant and toddler children. After all, a child needs to communicate, crawl, and roll over by some point and encouragement is always helpful. But, like using infant stimulation toys, too much is never too good, and pushing your child to reach these points may end up backfiring. Essentially, a child should reach these physical milestones at his or her own pace – no matter how fast or slow other children reach them – and parents should provide reinforcement and encouragement.

Ban on Drop Side Cribs

They’re somewhat pervasive as a design, but 2009 saw a significant recall of drop side cribs. We reported about the drop side crib recall for Stork Craft products earlier this year, which included about two million cribs pulled from shelves due to infant deaths. But, with several similar cases and recalls occurring over the past 10 years, the government has decided to ban drop side cribs, according to a recent story from the Washington Post. Although this design has been used since the 1940s, the government is now deciding to ban them by the end of 2010.

More specifically, drop side cribs have caused 32 infant deaths since 2000 and seven million models have been recalled due to associated strangulation and suffocation hazards. In all cases, the movable side manages to become detached and falls down, trapping the child face-first into the mattress. This can occur if the drop side isn’t installed correctly by the parents, but it can also happen if the hardware keeping the side in place fails. This risk is heightened even more for cribs sold second-hand or handed down from other parents or relatives.

What would this ban mean? According to the linked Washington Post article above, retailers of baby products and furniture will no longer be able to sell such cribs. Other establishments catering to parents, such as daycares and hotels, also wouldn’t be able to use them, either. In all cases, those found selling or using drop side cribs would face penalties. Crib manufacturers, on the other hand, have decided to find better methods for dropping a side down in the design for better access to the baby. One instance, as mentioned in the article, is a drop gate, with a side that folds down. Such designs are in the works, although, at some point, an alternative will appear on the market.