Don’t Know How Many Heartbeats Per Minute Your Baby Is Beating? Shame on You!

Hi Folks! Coming soon: the latest gadget EVERY parent (who is suffering from crippling anxiety that will only get worse if they buy things like this) will need! The “Exmobaby” is a onesie that monitors your baby’s vital signs. As its website says:

Each and every garment in the Exmobaby line includes sensor technology that monitors baby’s vital signs and movement. The fully integrated capabilities built in to the clothing and apparel deliver wireless communication and evaluation of baby’s condition throughout the day as well as during critical night time sleep.

Parents of newborns receive text messages (SMS) and email alerts on their mobile phones, personal computers and other devices. These show up automatically in real time as baby’s movement and vital signs change. No extra or constant monitoring by parents, caregivers or relatives is needed. The Exmobaby product line does all the work.

Because how DARE you sleep through that “critical night time” without monitoring your baby as if he were in the ICU? What are you, some kind of “I Need My Sleep, Too” freak? How incredibly selfish –and, of course, DANGEROUS!!! — L

How did parents relax without 24/7 texts from their sleeping babies?

“Worst-First” From Birth

Hi Folks! Got this letter I liked a lot. It’s from a reader named Kimberly Anderson, who describes herself as “a cheerfully misanthropic mom of three in Lexington, Kentucky.” — L

Dear Free-Range Kids:  I have a six month old. I also have a 4 year old and a 6 year old. Now that I’m a Free-Ranger I’m noticing something about all this baby gear that I didn’t the first few times around. Everything is covered with WARNING labels forcing terrifying thoughts into your head at every turn!

Carseat: FALL HAZARD! Ditto the Bouncy Seat. Stroller: STRANGULATION HAZARD! Baby Gym: ENTANGLEMENT! And the biggest downer, the big DROWNING HAZARD sticker ruining the playful mood at bath time. First I tried turning the bath around so that the sticker wasn’t in my view, but it really was a hazard trying to bathe the girl left-handed. Next I tried to rip the sticker off, but that sucker is really on there.

All this to say that NO WONDER parents are afraid of the highly unlikely worst when they’re reminded of it multiple times a day from the minute they get baby home. I’m just waiting for the day the WARNING sticker is applied directly to the baby before you’re allowed to leave the hospital. – K.A.

Lenore here: It’s that potent combo of fear of lawsuits and fear of worst-case-scenario that makes companies warn, warn, warn. But I totally agree: It habitates parents to thinking that if they’re not envisioning the death of their child, they’re not doing their job right. 

WARNING: Baby in pram! Anything could happen!

Don’t You Step on This Blue Swede (or her shoes)

Hi Readers — Forgive the belabored headline. Here’s a story one of you alerted us all to in the post below this one:  A Swedish woman left her baby outside a Massachusetts restaurant for 10 minutes while she ordered inside. Someone saw the boy, called the cops and the cops called Department of Child and Family Services to file a report of “potential abuse or neglect.”

Now, I know that leaving your kids outside is common in Scandanavia and uncommon in the States. But as Pentamom put it in a comment:

If I were empress of the universe, when someone came across a well-cared for looking baby left in a stroller outside a decent-looking establishment in broad daylight, and reported it, the cops would say, “Ha! Another European! I’ll find the parents and speak to them about it” and that would be the end of it. Only if the conversation with the parents gave the cops something to worry about, would it go beyond that.

Not only do I wish Pentamom (or me) WAS the empress of the universe, I wish that she (or I!!) could change this country into one where we DO trust our babies to be fine for a few minutes outside, because we all look out for one another, rather than all distrusting one another.

On another, but related, note, I am up in Canada filming my TV show (that still is looking for a few more overprotective families to participate), and what do I see FIRST THING as I sit down to eat my breakfast in the diningroom where the TV is, of course, blaring? “Body of 3 year old found in Missouri.”

That’s right. The local Toronto news is reporting a dead child found in another country.Because beyond traffic and weather, that is what sells. And that is why it seems crazy to leave a child unattended anywhere, ever. When all you hear about, day in and day out, is children meeting gruesome ends, that is what you come to expect:   Sadness, shock, psychos (and sometimes Swedes). — L.

No one at my side? I must be officially abused and neglected!

Never Post a Baby Photo on Facebook?

Hi Readers — It’s nice to hear of sanity taking root!

Dear Free-Range Kids:  I just had my first child 6 months ago and I never thought I’d even have to worry about Free-Range Kid topics until he was at LEAST 3 years old, but I was wrong.

I posted an adorable picture of my son on my facebook page 2 days ago of him having tummy time on a towel; diaper free.  Lo and behold, this morning in my message box on Facebook I have a concerned ex-co-worker warning me about the dangers of putting naked pictures of my child on the internet and that pedophiles could get ahold of the photo.  I don’t know how I would have responded a few years ago.  Perhaps I would have sheepishly said I was not worried and in the back of my mind wondered if I was right.  Thanks to you and this wonderful community of fearless parents this was my response:

Oh, you can’t see his front bits. I’m not worried. Perverts can make
something sexual out of ANYTHING. Even feet, or eating cake. We lock
our doors at night, try not to drop our baby on his head, and don’t look
for babysitters on Craigslist. Most sexual abuse happens with family
members, friends, and teachers/ religious leaders, etc. So the best
thing we can do for Ari is make sure that growing up he feels comfortable
talking to us and is raised to fearlessly express his boundaries. In
addition, crimes of that nature in this country have actually
gone DOWN in the past 20 years. I respectfully appreciate your concern
but life’s to short to deprive my family members of that cute little
tush. — A Less-Worried Mom

Hey baby! It's nice to see you (here, on the internet).

A Bouncing Bundle of Kidnappable Joy

Hi Readers! Feeling a little sane and optimistic today? Shame on you! It is your DUTY, as an AMERICAN to live in a state of CONSTANT FEAR for your children starting the minute they pop out! To that end,  here CNN explains how to avoid the scourge of baby snatchings.

Well, maybe scourge is not exactly the right word. Eventually the network admits that baby snatchings happened all of once last year, and three times the year before (in a country where about 4 million children are born annually). But, hey! That’s no reason to EVER let down your guard. Because “HALF” of all these snatchings — i.e., I guess, half of the baby last year — occur in the mom’s own room! So please, new mom, for God’s sake never go to the bathroom “EVEN FOR A SECOND” (thanks, CNN!) without bringing your baby with you, or summoning someone to GUARD the little snatchable.  Because your distrust of EVERYONE at ALL TIMES must NEVER LET UP!

What happens when you DON’T pay close enough attention? Well, if it isn’t immediately clear to you, you silly sap, here’s a note from a reader that should open your all-too-trusting eyes:

Dear Free-Range Kids: Speaking of doctor craziness. 3 weeks ago I gave birth to my 3rd child. I thought I had seen it all, until they gave me a card with several blood dots on it. They gave me a sealed sample of my newborns blood “in case he gets taken, you have a DNA sample for identification.” Um… So congratulations on your baby, here’s a DNA sample for the foregone assumption that one day he’ll be kidnapped and killed. WTH? Why are we so freaked out that we’re providing DNA samples at birth now? It wasn’t done 5 years ago when I had my last baby. Culture of fear. — A Reader in Oregon

So, new  moms, here’s the drill: GUARD your baby at all times. SUSPECT EVERYONE of nefarious motives. ASSUME your baby is the focus of the world’s evil intentions. And remember: Your darling could STILL end up in a ditch.

But don’t forget to coo at their tiny little toes! — L.

There’s No Place Like Outside for the Holidays

Hi Readers — As a week of no school looms, here are some ideas for outdoor fun from Heidi Ahrens, a Colorado mom of two very active Free-Range girls. Heidi runs the website and social network community OutdoorBabyNetwork. You may also find traces of Heidi on NYC streets where she once played.

Me? I love Idea #4: How fun would it be to give out hot cider on a cold day? Fun! — L

Top Six Holiday fun Outdoor Activities by Heidi Ahrens

Don’t stay cooped up inside during the holiday season. Get some fresh air, play with the kids and introduce them to a new way of exploring their world:

1. Long Route: Go outside and walk to a local park or coffee shop but travel a different route then you are used to.

2. Do a transportation puzzle: This is an activity that families can do together to compare distances between two points. Your child selects a destination that she will go to using two different modes of transportation. Then she compares the two.

3. Giving and Collecting: Talk to your child about helping out and being generous. Go for a walk and have your child collect leaves, pebbles or recyclables. Go back home and have your child decorate these findings by, say, painting on the stones. Then have your child return these items in special spots outdoors for other children to find. [Sez Lenore: I love the idea of other kids finding hand-painted stones!]

4. Hot apple cider stand: This can be set up outside your house one day over the holidays to warm people up. No need to charge any money. The cider can stay warm in an insulated cooler or coffee urn.

5. Giving Tree: Have your child create little gifts to hang from a tree near your house. Then visit the tree every day to see what items were taken, or to observe people while they inspect the tree.

6. Races: The weather has been strange all around the country. Take inspiration from a blog post on OutdoorBabyNetwork and let your children go outside and explore even if the weather if frightful. If they need encouragement to stay engaged, have them try out funny contests, like who can bounce a ball in the rain the longest, or float the most cork boats in a puddle, or make the most snow angels.

Offering time in a natural setting where your child can have time to be free will make your holiday so much more enjoyable and meaningful. Head out in a park, a forest, a bike trail, a backyard or even a city street. — Heidi

Because Crawling is Just Too Hard

Hi Readers — When I go around giving my Free-Range Kids lectures, at some point I hold up a pair of little knit things that look like mini sweat bands and I ask the audience, “What are these?” And when I finally inform them, “Baby knee pads,” they shriek in disbelief. (At least, the ones who aren’t shrieking, “My mother-in-law just gave us those!”)

Since when do kids need knee pads to crawl safely? Aren’t babies born with built-in knee pads called “baby fat”? Isn’t that why their knees adorably dimple?

Well, now it turns out that knee pads aren’t the only product cashing in on…er…deeply concerned about the transport difficulties facing our littlest loved ones. This company is charging just $32 for a pair of high-friction baby pants that will help kids crawl.

That’s right: Just $32 for a tiny pair of pants. Because this generation of babies is helpless without us buying them new and expensive products. Thank God for credit cards or our kids would never make it across the floor. (The fact that these pants are sold up to size six is the topic for another discussion, but I am sarcasm-ed out.) — L.

The “Worst Place on Earth” To Lose Track of a Baby?

Readers — This is a non-story about a mom who got her baby’s stroller onto the D.C. metro but then the doors closed before she could get on.

Ritual infant sacrifice time?

Surprisingly, no. Instead, the strangers gathered round the (sleeping) baby, alerted the authorities and got the stroller off at the next stop, where yet more people protected the tyke. All of which prompted one bystander to say that she felt terrible for the mom because this was,  clearly, “the worst place in the world to lose a baby.”

Worst? Where a crowd of people took care of the child, alerted the mom and made sure everything was fine?

Do you think maybe we can quit thinking of every surprising or untoward situation involving kids as ALMOST a disaster, or a disaster NARROWLY THWARTED, or something that was SOMEHOW terrible, please?

Thanks! — Lenore

What A Wallet Photo Proves About Humanity (Something GOOD!)

Hi Readers — In response to the story somewhere below, about “Annie’s Mailbox” spreading the belief that a family decal on a car could delight, incite and invite predators, another reader sent in this wonderful study about wallets.

Yes, wallets. Researchers in England “dropped” 240 wallets outside, to see which ones would be returned. Forty of the wallets contained a baby picture, 40 had a family photo, 40 had a picture of an elderly couple and another 40 had a puppy pic. Then there were 40 with a receipt from a recent charity contribution (but no photo). And the final 40 had nothing special in them at all. All of the wallets contained the same business cards and identification, none held any money.

Result? The ones with the baby picture had the highest rate of return! They were sent back almost 9 out of 10 times. The return rate was next highest for the puppy, then the family, then the elderly couple. The charity receipt and wallets with nothing special in them at all had the lowest rate of return.

What the researcher, Dr. Richard Wiseman (perfect name!), concluded from this is that, “The baby kicked off a caring feeling in people.” He added that, in evolutionary  terms, this just makes sense: We are genetically coded to care for our young and seeing pretty much any baby jump starts that feeling. (It’s not like we’re coded only to care for a handful of particular baby faces, which happen to be our own offsprings’. Any young faces make us feel protective.)

Let’s remember this hardwired connection to all kids when we think about the world. More and more, especially with the advent of GPS for backpacks, and laws keeping adults without kids off of playgrounds, and restrictions on the photography of random children, and advertisements that suggest predators are all around, we are being brainwashed into believing the world is awash in perverts and it’s the rare adult who does not harbor creepy feelings for children.

This is the exact opposite of the truth. It is a lie that is making us suspicious, disconnected, miserable, pliant and frightened. We must fight to help each other  — and especially people who don’t visit this site — remember that the vast majority of  humans would rather HELP children, than hurt them. — Lenore

We are hardwired to love and protect young 'uns.

Baby on Board…and Likely to Be Decapitated?

Hi Readers — Here’s a note from today’s mailbox. The lesson? If you can dream up ANY DANGER, no matter HOW RIDICULOUSLY REMOTE, you can try to scare a parent. It’s easy! It’s fun! It’s our new national pastime! — Lenore

Dear Free-Range Kids: I’m currently pregnant with our first child, due in October. I’ve already aligned myself with Free-Range Kids, and I’ve been getting a kick out of how anti-Free-Range the pregnancy and infant industry is. It’s scary.

We had our first prenatal class, put on by a nurse at the local health unit. Awesome class. But they had some funny advice. Apparently it’s recommended NOT to have the Baby on Board signs suction cupped inside your vehicle as they become a projectile in an accident. And they can “decapitate your infant”. The nurse said that. Seriously. My husband and I laughed and now the other pregnant couples probably think we are child decapitators with a car full of projectiles (water bottles, sunshades and baby mirrors were also on the naughty list).

I get it. I do. No one wants to see a baby hurt because of something we didn’t think of. But why do we need to think of everything? The only time a tiny yellow sign will become a dangerous flying object is if you are in an accident. Maybe we should be more concerned about driving safely and less worried about what we have suction cupped to our windows. — Mom to Be