Fighting The Flu Through Vaccination

“When we think of the major threats to our national security, the first to come to mind are nuclear proliferation, rogue states and global terrorism. But another kind of threat lurks beyond our shores, one from nature, not humans – an avian flu pandemic.” – Barack Obama, June 2005.

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I remain a proponent of vaccination irrespective of the controversies that keep coming up. I think anybody who has seen a child with a tetanus infection will be. India continues to have killer infectious diseases and though I admit that there is a need for the health
ministry to delve into the storage and administration of vaccines with a little more vigilance I cannot agree with withholding any of the mandatory vaccines. The Indian Academy of Paediatrics makes recommendations only after a review of current published literature on various parameters that include need for the vaccine, its efficacy and safety. Having said that I do acknowledge that there are contentious issues involved – we cannot inject a plethora of microorganisms and chemicals into the bodies of our young children without considering the strain on their immune systems. Therefore, while certain vaccines are imperative, others can be administered as per the physician’s recommendation.

The vaccination for influenza falls into the second category. Flu is a seasonal occurrence and yet pandemics occur because a virus emerges and starts spreading easily because we have no pre-existing immunity. This is one characteristic of the flu virus, which mutates rapidly into new forms. So we have H1N1, H3N2 and so on. Sometimes two flu viruses can attack the same animal and their proteins get mixed up and re-assorted to form new forms. That is why we can never predict what the next pandemic will bring forth-a benign selection or a lethal one. Once a fully contagious virus emerges, its global spread is inevitable. Countries might, through measures such as border closures and travel restrictions, delay arrival of the virus, but they cannot stop it.

A flu vaccine takes two weeks to produce an effective protective response in the body. Protection decreases by about 50% over the next six months (the decrease is less for older adults), and remains stable for two to three years. Antibodies made by the immune system in response to vaccination with one strain of influenza viruses can provide protection against different, but related strains. But eradicating flu altogether is not possible.

Serious side effects with modern vaccines are extremely unusual. Some people experience a slight soreness at the point of injection, which resolves within a day or two. People who have never been exposed to influenza, particularly children, may experience one to two days of a slight fever, tiredness, and muscle pain.

What does this mean in terms of choice?

Vaccinations will not protect against all forms of the flu unless the same viruses that are contained in the vaccine infect the child. Considering the nature of the flu virus, this is not likely to happen. Since we do not know which virus will attack next we cannot be complacent thinking that since we have been exposed to milder attacks we are protected from danger. Other precautions cannot be sidelined during the episodes just because a child has been vaccinated. But vaccination can offer some protection from the flu becoming life threatening and from being prolonged.

There are certain vulnerable groups in whom influenza has a propensity to become lethal. Annual vaccination is compulsory for them, so that even if they are infected, the infection will not become life-threatening. This group includes:

  • Children under age two (but not under six months of age where the immune system is unlikely to produce a sufficient response by itself)
  • All people 65 years and older
  • Residents of nursing homes and chronic-care facilities (regardless of age)
  • Adults and children who have chronic heart or lung problems, such as asthma, heart malformations
  • Adults and children who have chronic metabolic diseases, such as diabetes and obese children
  • Children and teenagers who are on long-term aspirin therapy
  • Children with blood related disorders
  • Pregnant women who will be in their second or third trimester during flu season or women who are nursing
  • Anyone who is immunocompromised (HIV-infected persons, cancer patients, organ transplant recipients)
  • Anyone in contact with the above groups, such as teachers, care givers, healthcare personnel, and family members
  • Travellers to foreign countries

For the others, it is a question of choice based on finance and the surrounding environment. Anyone wanting forego the discomfort and inconvenience of an influenza attack may receive the vaccine by choice. Simply put, you lose nothing by vaccinating your child but you cannot expect complete protection from influenza. I haven’t vaccinated my ten month old with a flu shot yet but she will get one before she enrols in her playgroup.

Re-published with permission from the blog of ParentEdge, a bi-monthly parenting magazine that aims to expose parents to global trends in learning and partner with them in the intellectual enrichment of their children. This blog was written by Dr. Krishna Mahathi holds diplomas in Pediatrics and in the management of allergies and asthma.

Image courtesy: Google Images

What to Do when Kids Ask Tough Questions

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Kids ask questions. Whenever they want, wherever they like. They ask because they are curious. They ask because they think you know.

If they knew that they can get those answers somewhere else, they would do that. (Let us face it, sooner or later that is bound to happen.)

The reason why we get irritated with kids and their questions is that, often, we do not know the answers. In addition we do not want to admit that we do not know. Either to the kid or to ourselves.

But there is a nice way out.

Let us imagine a scenario – my grandson has asked me a question about the stars. And I do not know the answer.

“Arhan, Thatha does not know the answer. What should we do?”

“I don’t know”

“Should we ask Amma about it? Or should we look up some book? Or may be the computer?”

“Computer?”

“OK, let us check the computer.. “

We sit together and I enter his question in my search window in the browser. As I type I keep talking about what I am doing.

“I now open my laptop and I click on this red, yellow, green and blue button. (That is the Chrome Icon). And now I have to type your question here..”

We search couple of sites and let us say we found what he wanted. The matter need not stop there.

“OK when Daddy gets back from work we will tell him about your question & how you found the answer. Shall we do that?”

“Yes”

“Will you tell him? Sometimes Thatha may forget things.”

“OK I will tell him.”

“What will you tell him?”

The experience is still fresh in his mind and Arhan would describe what we did, in his own words. Therefore he will remember it well

I could follow this up with a question to Arhan that evening, for which Arhan has no answer. So I ask “What do we do? You want try the computer?”. If he says yes, ask him tell you what to do.

Every time a child asks a question, there is a great opportunity to bond with the child and discover something together. It will be a shame to miss it.

Re-published with permission from the blog of ParentEdge, a bi-monthly parenting magazine that aims to expose parents to global trends in learning and partner with them in the intellectual enrichment of their children. This blog was written by Sridhar Ramanathan, Strategic Innovation Coach.

5 Tourist Places to Visit in India with Your Children

 

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It’s December and holiday season is here which means it is family vacation time! It is time to pack yours and your children’s bags and head out for an adventure. Vacations are a great way for you to de-stress and bond with your kids and at the same it can be a great learning experience for them. Learning about a new place, new language, new food and new culture will be exciting and enriching for them. They will even get a great topic to write about in their next essay assignment – ‘What I did over my winter break’! But, more than anything else vacations are a great way to reconnect with your family – school, work and other chores usually take up so much of our time and effort that is difficult to find room for special family moments. A trip is a great way to make up for lost time. There are no distractions on a vacation – just you and your family having a gala time!

So, here is a list of places that you can head to this December:

1) Pondicherry: If you are looking for a place that is quiet, pristine, and beautiful and has beaches, then Pondicherry is the place for you! It was host to the largest French colony in India which means this place has a rich cultural heritage as well. Your kids can have fun while getting to learn something new! Visit the Sri Aurobindo Ashram for a spiritual experience where you can learn about the great guru’s practices and vision. And when it comes to food you must go to the quaint French restaurants and cafes!

2) Kanyakumari: Also known as Cape Comorin, Kanyakumari lies at the southernmost tip of India and is one of the most popular tourist destinations. Famous for pilgrimage, its temples are well-known all over the world. People don’t just come here for religious or spiritual purpose, but also to witness the beauty and the stunning architecture of the temples. Make sure you watch the spectacular sunset and sunrise during this month!

3) Kullu Manali: If you want to experience true winter with snow fights, snow angels and snow sports, then head to Manali. Bathed in snow, the Himalayas makes for a magical tourist destination. The snow-capped mountains will take your breath away! Have an adventurous holiday with your family with rafting, paragliding, rock climbing and skiing.

4) Puri: One of the Char Dhams, Puri is a great destination place for some spiritual learning – for you and your children as well. Not only is it a great place to learn about our heritage with historical temples and shrines, but it is also a great place to revel in the beauty of nature. Especially in the month of December, this city is full of greenery. Beaches are an added benefit! A must-visit place is the Chilka Lake which is the biggest inland salt-water lagoon.

5) Jaipur: Old forts, palaces and other heritage structures – experience India’s rich culture in this beautiful city of Rajasthan which is known for its hospitality. This pink city is also known for its great shopping and delicious food! Make sure you visit Jantar Mantar, Hawa Mahal and JalMahal for an exotic trip!

Teach Your Kids How to Handle Money

downloadIt is never too early or late to teach your child about the value of money. If they can count and are getting pocket money, then it is time to introduce them to money values. Money usually involves decision-making and teaching them how to save, what to invest on early on will help them make wise investment choices later on in life. No matter how young (in fact the sooner you teach them about money the better it is), every child needs to learn how to handle money responsibly. Impart the basic knowledge and let them decide on their budget (with your supervision of course!). Give them a free hand once in a while as well – let them indulge. They are kids after all!

Nowadays children are quite knowledgeable; they know what an ATM is for, they know that their parents get salary for the work that they do and they are also aware of how much the latest gadget costs. They might not grasp the full extent of the ‘money system’, but they know enough. And as parents, it is up to you to show them the right path. Even banks have started saving accounts for children – you can teach them about savings by opening an account for them first.

Here are some other tips to help them learn about the value of money:

 1) Don’t just give them pocket money every week with no strings attached. Ask them to do chores around the house – this way they will learn that you have to earn your money. By working hard for their money, it is more likely that they will not be reckless with it. In addition they will respect your decision when you don’t buy them everything that they ask for.

 2) Teach them to divide their money into parts – a part to spend, a part to save and a part to grow. For the grow part, you can offer to put in a certain amount of money for every ‘x’ amount of money your child puts in.

 3) Help them learn the difference between needs and wants so that they can make good decisions when it comes to spending their money.

 4) One way to help them save is to match their savings with a certain amount of money. If there is a toy that they really want, tell them you will put in the rest of the money if they can save ‘x’ amount themselves.

 5) When you give them allowances, give them in denominations – this way it is easier for them to divide the money for savings and expenses purpose.

 Allow them to make their spending decisions even if sometimes they are making the wrong choice. This way they will learn the value of money by making their own decisions – present the pros and cons to them and then let them be the best judge.

The Gandhian Approach – The Non Violent Way to Discipline your Child!

Aparna Samuel Balasundaram is a USA- Licensed Psychotherapist and Parent and Child Expert with 10 years of experience in the USA. She is the Founder of Life Skills Experts and the Life Skills 360¡ System that enables parents and teachers to raise happy, confident and successful children. Visitwww.LifeSkillsExperts.com for more information.

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Am sure that as each of us look back into our childhood we can share a story or two of how we were punished by our parents or teachers…many of us remember that chalk piece that came flying at us, the duster that was thrown, the knuckle and the scale method, the slap on the face and the list goes on! When I work with parents many say that while they were not emotionally traumatised by these experiences, they would NOT like the same treatment meted out to their children. Yet, many of them fall into the same trap that their teachers or parents fell into! The  intentions may be good but since we don’t know better we fall back on old patterns. Many parents have confessed that when they hit their child they feel guilty and often try to make up by indulging their child with expensive toys, candies or gadgets and this only leaves the child feeling more confused.

Parents, help is on its way! Here are three tried and tested methods of disciplining your child, without you needing to scream, hit or getting your blood pressure up! I like to call it the ‘Gandhian Approach!’

Let them face the ‘Natural Consequences’ -These are the times when you let your child see what will happen if he does not behave (as long as it does not place him in any danger). For example, if your toddler keeps throwing her toys on purpose, she will soon learn that these toys break; or when your teenager refuses to put his clothes in the basket for a wash, he will soon learn that he has run out of clean shirts to wear! When you use this method, don’t give in and rescue your child (by buying new toys for your toddler or picking up your teenagers clothes for wash). Your child will learn best when they face the natural consequence of their behaviour be it broken toys or dirty clothes!

Time-Out- This is a technique that works well when a specific rule has been broken. It works best for children from 3 to 6 years of age. In this technique you send your child to a corner or any other quiet place, as a ‘Time Out’ to give your child time to think about their behaviour, what they have done wrong and what they can change. A rule of thumb is 1 minute of time-out for every year of your child’s age (for example, a 4-year-old would get a 4-minute time-out). Once your child is ready to apologize or  talk let them out of time out [even if it is before 4 minutes].When the time is up, do not lecture or ask for apologies. Talk to your child and discuss the behaviour and set a plan for how this should not happen again. At times like these, I especially encourage parents to remind their children that they love them, and that it is their behaviour and not them, that is the problem.

Withholding Privileges- This technique works best for older children and your teenagers. In this technique your child learns that they ‘earn’ a privilege when they are responsible about what is  expected of them, be it finishing their homework, studying for an exam or keeping their room clean. A privilege that is valued by the child, such as watching television, ‘face booking’ or  playing video games, should be removed for an agreed upon time [for example the weekend or a week], if the child does not keep their end of the bargain!

So, go ahead parents try these techniques, be patient and do not give into the temptation of falling back into old patterns! You will see the stress and decibel levels reduce at your homes! Happy Parenting!

Re-published with permission from the blog of ParentEdge, a bi-monthly parenting magazine that aims to expose parents to global trends in learning and partner with them in the intellectual enrichment of their children.

Ten Effective Ways to Equip Your Child With Numeracy Skills

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Numeracy skills play a big role in a child’s life. Literacy and education are incomplete without numeracy skills. Children below five years old are at their peak and this is the time when they can absorb and retain basic numeracy skills more efficiently. And as they grow learning numbers becomes easier for them.

So what are numeracy skills?

Simply put it is the ability of a person to use and understand numbers which include knowing basic subtraction, addition, division and multiplication. Many a time in life, one faces mathematical demands and basic numeracy skills are what get us through. The lack of knowledge of numbers can have a negative impact on our lives.

So, start early and equip your child with the much needed numeracy skills. Make numbers fun for them and the best part is you can teach them anytime and anywhere!

Here are some tips that can make learning math fun and simple for your child:

1)      Games are the best way to teach them mathematics at home – cards, dominoes and other board games like Ludo and Snakes & Ladders that involve counting can come quite in handy.

2)      Ask your kids to count their pocket money at the end of every month. How much did they get, how much did they spend and how much did they save?

3)      Make going to school also a game of mathematics. Your school starts at 8:00 a.m. You need to reach by 7:45 and your home is 30 minutes away. So, what time do you need to leave to reach by 8:00? Let them figure these out on their own and in the meanwhile learn too!

4)      While travelling ask your children to notice car numbers and to add them up as quickly as they can.

5)      Get a packet of Gems and empty the contents. Let your child count how many candies of each colour are there. For example how many reds and how many yellows. Which colour is more and by how many numbers?

6)      You can do this with laundry as well – ask them to separate the whites from the colours and count how many are there in each category.

7)      Help them memorize your phone number and show them how to dial it on the phone.

8)      Mark important dates on the calendar and help them count how many days left until the next important day.

9)      Measure your child’s height every month and ask them to calculate how much they are growing and compare the height to other people in the house. Who is shorter and who is taller?

10)   Also help them learn about shapes while reading a book, or playing in the park or while visiting places.

A few simple tips to keep in mind and you can help develop your child’s numeracy skills!

To Praise or Not to Praise

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I have grown up on a diet of healthy praise. Especially from my father

In many families praise does not come easily to people. Even if something is good, it would be treated in a matter-of-fact manner.

Let me give you an example. My mother was a good cook. On some days her sambhar would simply be out of the world. We kids would praise the sambhar and say “Good”.

However my father would say “Oh, our daughter & son-in-law are coming for lunch is it?”

Whenever my sister and her husband came home, the sambhar was indeed special. Hence this would be the way we would all tease her ‘special’ sambhar on an ordinary day.

My mother would laugh it off but I could make out that she was really pleased.

For a long time I thought that praise was natural in all families, but soon discovered it was not so. For instance in my classmate’s family his father would never praise anything my friend did, even if it was outstanding.

His father belonged to the school which said “Never praise your son to his face, because it will go to his head.”

There is a theory that if we praise a child often, he will get used to the praise and start craving for it. Therefore the child will start doing things just to get that word of praise.

I beg to differ. If our praise is authentic, and well communicated then I do not believe that any child will get ‘addicted’ to praise and crave for it.

Take a look at this situation.  My wife and I are on a visit to our daughter’s place. It is a Saturday morning and starts in a nice leisurely way. Her husband is busy fixing something in the garage and I am playing with her two sons (6 & 4).  My wife is in the kitchen chatting with our daughter. Our daughter gets a call from her friend to check whether they could drop in that evening; it seems fine. When the visitors arrive in the evening – husband, wife one kid (6 years old), we are all at home. Within minutes our grandsons take the kid to their play room and get busy. I am curious to see what they do so I excuse myself and go to the play room to observe the kids. There is a lot of play, sharing, some fights, but on whole the kids seem to have fun.

After the visitors leave, I ask our grandsons

“So was that fun?”.

They shout a cheerful “Yes” in a chorus.

Then they tell me what happened and how they played etc.

“I wish I was a kid too” I said.

“Why Thatha?”

“So I can have so much fun playing with you.”

Both the kids came gave me a big hug.

When the kids went back to their play our daughter asked me “Did you notice what happened?”

“No. What happened?”

“When you said ‘I wish I was a kid, so I could play with you’, you acknowledged that they are nice kids to play with.   But you said it with feeling and they could make out you meant it.”

“How do you know?”

“That is why they gave you a big hug, Appa.”

“OK, but I am not getting the hang of what you want to say.”

“It is just this. Praise is not about words. It is a genuine acknowledgement of someone’s good work. It is a reinforcement of their belief in doing the right things. Kids do a lot of good things instinctively. All we have to do is to let them know that they are doing right.”

“So praise is good?”

“Of course praise is good when it is genuine and authentic. As long as you don’t make it as part of some carrot & sticks formula.”

So to praise or not praise is NOT the question.

The question  is “When to praise and how to praise authentically”

Re-published with permission from the blog of ParentEdge, a bi-monthly parenting magazine that aims to expose parents to global trends in learning and partner with them in the intellectual enrichment of their children.

Top Five Books You Should Read to Your 3 Year Old Baby

 

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Don’t you just love the moments when you can curl with a book and read to your child? But, you may wonder what good might reading do for your baby who is barely 3 years old.

Here is the fascinating thing. Reading to your baby from such a young age will actually help him/her develop listening skills. They might not understand what you are saying but the sound of your voice can be quite stimulating for their growth. And as they grow, reading will become an inherent part of their lives.

What’s more…it is also a great moment of ‘bonding’! Create warm fuzzy memories of a great book that will make you and your family laugh, cry, gasp, wonder – something that you and your child will reminisce years down the lane.

Here are some great choices of books for your 0-3 year old baby:

1) Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown

A beautiful children’s story with dreamy illustrations, this book is perfect when you are trying to put your little one to sleep. Read out in your most soothing voice and wish everyone – the room, the moon, the clock, the socks, the chairs etc. – a goodnight!This classic modern children’s literature has been a best-seller for years and has been putting babies to sleep for generations!

2) The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

Distinctive illustrations and a sweet storyline have made this book “one of the greatest childhood classics of all time.” It follows the story of a caterpillar that eats everything on its way and finally grows into a beautiful butterfly! This beautiful picture book is a must for your baby’s early collection.

3) Pat the Bunny by Dorothy Kunhardt

This book was way ahead of its time. Not only did it tell a story and entertain children, it also had ‘touch and feel’ elements to it – it was unique then, it is unique now! This interactive book will have your children quite excited and fascinated. On one page they can pat the fake fur of the rabbit and on the next the ‘scratchy face’ of their dad. No wonder ‘Pat the Bunny’ became one of the fastest selling books ever!

4) Corduroy by Don Freeman

Every child wants his/her toys to come to life and take them on a fun adventure! Well, here is a story of a very lovable teddy bear that comes to life and explores the wonders of the department store. With a happy ending, this exciting journey of a teddy bear is definitely going to win your child’s heart!

5) Freight Train by Donald Crews

With larger and easy-to read texts, this book is a great way of introducing words to your children. Beautiful and bold illustrations make it even more exciting for toddlers. The Freight Train is a great book to read to your child (especially if they love trains). You can make train noises while reading it to them and have a whole lot of fun! Choo Choo..!

Tips to Make Your Child’s Birthday More Special

 

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Birthdays are always special. It is that time of the year which brings out the child in everyone. No matter what your age, everybody wants to get pampered and get that special attention!

And as a child the excitement is more! As parents it is up to you to make their day extra special and memorable – give them something that they will cherish all their lives.

So how can you do that? Besides a huge birthday bash there are things that you can do right from the beginning of the day.

First of all take a day off from work – let your child know that nothing is more important than him/her and work can take a backseat when it comes to their special day!

This is how you can start their day:

1) Quietly wake them up at 12:00 midnight (something children don’t do normally so it can be quite exciting for them!) and wish them happy birthday and tell them how special they are. Then tuck them back in and kiss them goodnight.

 2) Prepare a special breakfast for your child. Whip up their favourite pancakes and put a smiley face. With chocolate or maple syrup write happy birthday on their plate.

 3) Dress them up in new clothes and head to an orphanage, an old age home or a pet shelter. Let them start the day on a good note. Birthdays usually involve getting gifts from people and sometimes kids can get cranky when they don’t get what they want. Not only will they be more grateful for what they have but they will also share the gift of love and laughter with others who aren’t as fortunate.

 Make them proud of themselves on their special day!

 4) You can then take them for a movie or to the park for some special family time before the party begins and all your friends come over.

 5) Buy a range of small inexpensive gifts and arrange a treasure hunt. It will be a fun birthday activity! Save the best gift for the party.

6) While you and your spouse may have arranged for everything for the party, leave some things to do for your child as well. He/she can decorate the party hats or the balloons – a fun arts and crafts thing to do. They can proudly display their art work at the party later!

 7) Then comes time for the birthday party – have fun games, great food and nice music organised.

8) Once it is all over and all guests have gone home you will be left with a tired yet a very happy child. Tuck them in and don’t forget to tell them how special they are.

 Have a great birthday for the apple of your eye!

Tips for Travelling with Your Baby

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The thought of travelling with your baby can bring nightmares to you. Your baby may be the apple of your eye, but let’s face it he/she is definitely a handful. That too at home! No wonder then travelling with your baby seems like an intimidating task!

So, to ease your worries we have some really effective tips for travelling with your baby. Trips and getaways need not be a thing of the past. By overcoming some of hiccups and with strategic planning your travelling days can be back!

So, the first thing you need to remember while travelling with your baby is to make sure you pack all the required items. This includes basic items like baby clothes, few toys, milk bottles, pacifiers etc.

A travel crib, portable baby chair and stroller are also good choices to take along!

When it comes to food, carry your baby’s formula in an air-tight bag or their favourite cereal and porridge. Even though you might get it in stores, there are chances you might get stuck in some place where there are no stores nearby!

Besides food and other essentials, pack necessary medicines for flu, stomach bug, fever and other common illnesses.

This holds good especially during road trips.

While travelling with your baby via car, make sure you pack enough snacks for them. Take frequent rest stops and get out of the car. This way you can take enough breaks to feed your baby and give them a rest from sitting in the car. This will help your baby not get cranky!

Now when you are travelling with your baby in a plane, make sure you feed them during take-offs and landings – this helps ease the ear-pressure off.

Flights can get real chilly sometimes, so dress your baby with in layers. Carry extra clothes (warm ones) with you, just in case.

One of the most helpful tips while travelling with your baby via plane is to book an extra seat. You can bring your car seat along and strap in your baby safely and conveniently.

If your baby gets cranky, hold him and walk on the aisle, feed him (window seat is preferable here) and play with him. Don’t worry other passengers are not glaring at you! They probably understand and some of them might actually offer to babysit!

If you are travelling with your baby to your parents’ house or a friend’s house, then you can have the whole house at your disposal – creating a home here away from your home will be easy!

But, if you are staying at a hotel, try to get a bigger room – where you can have a changing station and a feeding station for your baby. A play space will be a bonus!

The best way you can enjoy your vacation while travelling with your baby is by giving your partner breaks. Take turns to take care of the baby and let the other person enjoy some ‘me-time’ to relax or explore.

So travelling with your baby will not be a problem anymore. In fact it can be the most memorable experience of your life and you find so many ways to bond with your baby on a trip!