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How your baby's growing
Researchers believe that your baby can now understand all the basic sounds that make up his native language. Between this time and 6 months of age, he'll develop the ability to make some of these sounds, which means you may hear the words you've been dreaming about, namely "mama" and "dada." While child development experts say it's too early for your baby to connect those sounds with you, that won't make hearing them any less exciting.
You can encourage your baby's attempts at communication by mirroring or imitating his expressions and sounds. He may try to imitate you, too. Say "ba" and he may try to say it back.
Reacting when your baby makes noises or tries to say something will help him learn the importance of language and better understand cause and effect. It's great for his self-esteem, too: He'll begin to realize that what he says makes a difference.
- Learn more fascinating facts about your 4-month-old's development.
Your life: Getting back to exercising
Unless your doctor has told you otherwise, your body's ready to exercise. Even now, though, your joints and ligaments may still be loose from the effects of pregnancy, so go easy at first, perhaps with a low-impact exercise class.
If you're nursing, don't worry – exercise won't affect your ability to breastfeed or the composition of your breast milk. For your own comfort, though, you might want to pump or feed your baby before high-impact activities such as running, and wear a bra that provides plenty of support.
You can also involve your baby in your new workout routine. Put her in a stroller or baby carrier when you go for a walk, or in a baby seat or crib so she can watch you riding a stationary bike. You may want to look for a gym that has a nursery so you can work out while your baby's supervised close by.
Find ways to fit exercise around your busy life. Consider workout videos you can use when your baby is quiet or sleeping. If you drive to work, park a little farther from the office and squeeze in some walking, or look into a lunch-hour program at a nearby gym. If you pick something that's simple and convenient, you'll be more likely to stick with it.
Don't be hard on yourself, though. While it's healthy to care about your body, getting in shape takes time. You'll undo all the great mental benefits of exercise if you stress too much about your appearance. Your body did an amazing thing when it created your baby – give it some credit, too!
Learn about: Ear infections
What's an ear infection?
An ear infection – also known as acute otitis media – happens when viruses or bacteria and fluid become trapped behind your baby's eardrum. The resulting infection causes swelling, pain, and usually a fever. Ear infections are very common – more than half of infants will have at least one by their first birthday.
What are the symptoms?
- Apparent lack of hunger: Ear infections can make chewing and swallowing painful.
- Tugging persistently at an ear, although sometimes babies do this for no reason at all.
- Fever, which can range from 100 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit.
- A sudden change in mood, particularly following a cold. Pressure in the ear can hurt, especially when a baby's lying down (such as when he's eating or being put to bed), making him irritable.
- Ear drainage, which may be yellow, white, or even slightly bloody.
- Diarrhea: Ear infections are often caused by a virus that also affects the digestive system.
How is an ear infection treated?
Ear infections usually go away on their own, given enough time. However, many doctors will prescribe an antibiotic to avoid a worsening ear infection and to give the baby comfort sooner. Your baby's doctor may also recommend infant acetaminophen to relieve the pain and fever, which usually fade within two days of starting the medicine.
To prevent frequent ear infections:
- Keep your baby away from tobacco smoke, which can weaken the immune system.
- Continue breastfeeding if you're already doing so. Studies show that breastfed babies are less likely to have ear infections.
- Be sure your baby has had all his vaccinations, particularly his pneumococcal and flu shots, which have been shown to reduce the incidence of ear infections.
- Minimize your baby's use of a pacifier, since some studies suggest that using one may lead to more ear infections.
- If your baby attends a large daycare center, consider switching to one with fewer children. This will reduce his exposure to the cold germs that can trigger ear infections.
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