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Looking Good

baby getting his first hair cut

Ericka McConnell

Keeping your baby or toddler neat and clean requires more than baths and constant clothing changes (though there's certainly that). Hair, nail, and tooth care often require mildly unpleasant sensations (pulling, cutting, brushing). Is it any wonder your wiggly baby or on-the-go toddler has far better things to do than sitting still for these indignities? The good news is there are lots of ways to either involve or distract your child in order to get the job done. Surely some will work for you!

Most kids love their bath but hate the shampoo, specifically the rinsing phase. There are various tricks for getting soap off their head:

Encourage her to look up so she tilts her head back by...
* Putting decals on the ceiling
* Hanging a shower toy, preferably one that talks or plays a song, from the shower-curtain bar

Give your child a sense of control by...
* Letting him hold a towel over his eyes when you pour water over his head
* Buying a visor made for just this purpose
* Giving a countdown before you start pouring so he's prepared

Avoid the rinsing problem by...
* Using a washcloth to get the soap off
* Suggesting she go underwater like a scuba diver. Let her wear swimming goggles or a mask if you have them. If soap still remains, run your hand through her hair on the last "dive" to remove it
* Letting her have a turn pouring water on her head

TIP:
When brushing hair, you'll pull less if you start at the bottom and work your way up. To cut down on tangles, use conditioner and braid your daughter's hair before she goes to bed.

We all know how to use a nail clipper -- but babies are squirmy, their nails are tiny, and clippers are sharp. Try clipping when your child is asleep or after a bath when nails are softer. Push the tip of the finger in to expose the nail. Squeamish parents may choose to use a nail file instead. Toddlers in an uncooperative sort of mood present an even bigger challenge. Valerie Plowman, of Wellsville, Utah, says that having her 2-year-old count each clip does the trick, as well as asking him to be brave (counting and being brave are two things he loves to do, she says).

Even before baby's first tooth has sprouted, you can set the stage for healthy habits. Once or twice a day, wipe her gums with a piece of gauze. You'll get her used to the routine of cleaning inside the mouth and help prevent bacteria from building up in her gums. As soon as a few baby teeth erupt, you can switch to a soft toothbrush. You don't need toothpaste yet; if you want to use it, choose one without fluoride (until your child is 4), and squeeze out just a pea-size amount. To get your child to open wide, try this idea from K. Bley, of New York City: "My 16-month-old daughter and I play a game. We each hold the brush and sing 'Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.' Every time she pulls the brush out of her mouth, I stop singing. I start again when she puts it back. She loves the game."

Cold and flu season is upon us. Your biggest weapon in the fight against germs? Keeping hands clean. Everyone should wash up before eating; after using the bathroom; playing outside; handling pets; and whenever hands look grimy -- in other words, all the time. The biggest mistake (grown-ups are guilty too) is not washing thoroughly. Use liquid soap and rub hands for 20 seconds, about as much time as it takes to sing the Happy Birthday song twice or the ABC song once. Then don't forget to dry hands completely!

"I was so tired of seeing Gabriela's hair in her eyes. She refused to keep the barrette in her hair, so one morning when she was sitting on my lap, I grabbed the scissors and cut her bangs! I'm not known for having the steadiest hand. I have to say, if you looked closely, you could see where it wasn't totally straight, but most people didn't notice. Gabi was thrilled to be able to see!"
Suzanne Heigel, Levittown, New York

"I didn't think anything about getting my 1-year-old son's hair cut since my other two children love it. But it was a complete nightmare! He whipped his head around in all different directions while kicking, shrieking, and crying. The hairdresser had me put him on my lap and give him a lollipop to hold while my older son blew bubbles. Dominic didn't calm down until we were in the car on the way home. You would have thought someone chopped off his arm, not his hair!"
Mary Parra, Phoenix

"My oldest son's first haircut went better than expected. We took him to a corner barbershop, and he sat right in the chair and let the barber cut away. In 10 minutes he went from a head full of bright red curls to almost a buzz cut."
Lisa Shenton, Farmington Hills, Michigan

What to Wear for Special-Occasion Photos

Keep in mind that you'll get a better picture if your child is relaxed. A scratchy dress, starchy shirt, or stiff shoes may not put your kid in the best of moods. Still, if that supercute but not-so-comfortable crinoline (or blazer and bow tie) from Great-Aunt Susan needs an occasion, go for it. Just be sure to click fast -- you should be able to get at least one good shot within five minutes, right?

To keep your child looking pulled together for a family dinner or holiday party, here are some pointers:

* Rethink turtlenecks and sweaters. It's easy to become overheated in a crowded room. And kids hate to feel constricted.

* Skirts tend to bunch up, but a diaper cover can save the look.

* A cotton sweater vest paired with khakis is comfy but dressy for a boy.

* Soft, non-itchy knits are easy to care for and comfortable to wear.

* Bring an extra set of clothes, and don't forget a bib!

Copyright © 2007. Used with permission from the November 2007 issue of American Baby magazine.

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