Archives for January 2015

The Best Books for Infants

The Best Books for InfantsLike breastfeeding, reading to children is one of the most important things you can do for their development.  Reading not only fosters a later love for reading, language development and interest in knowledge, but also allows you and your tot to spend precious time together.  This bond over books can begin as soon as your baby is born.  Don’t wait until later in infancy to begin a regular reading routine.  Your little one will benefit from hearing your voice and words, even if she cannot understand them.  Early infancy is the time when babies learn to recognize their native language and even pick up on the cadence of conversations and stories, as well as accents.

When your baby is a newborn, it doesn’t matter what you read because, as we already established, she doesn’t even know what you’re saying yet.  It’s more about exposure to words.  So feel free to read the newspaper or your favorite novel to your baby – she won’t know Shakespeare from Mother Goose.  Sneak in an enthusiastic tone once in awhile and you’re all set.

As your baby becomes more aware and can focus on pictures, you’ll want to accumulate some books with age-appropriate content.  Board books, colorful picture books, lift-the-flap books, pop-up books and sound chip books are all terrific choices for infants.  As for content, we have a few suggestions to begin your infant reading list:

The-Very-Hungrey-Caterpillar-by-ERic-Carle1The Very Hungry Caterpillar (by Eric Carle) – With bright, beautiful pictures and simple text, this story of metamorphosis is a great first Earth science lesson for babies.

Baby Bear, Baby Bear, What Do You See? (by Eric Carle) – Another Eric Carle classic, this is a terrific introduction to colors and animals with a familiar mother/baby theme.

Ten Little Fingers, Ten Little Toes (by Mem Fox) – Counting, rhyming and a global message are all part of this sweetly penned relatable story about babies around the world.

Mommies Say Shhhh! (by Patricia Polacco) – Animal sounds may be some of the first “words” your baby will say and this book has them all, including comforting words from mothers.

peekaboo bedtimePeekaboo Bedtime (by Rachel Isadora) – Everyone has a bedtime routine and this playful toddler makes his very fun as he sneakily says goodnight to his family and home.

Farm (by James Brown) – Another animal favorite, this book features several versions of  images of the same animals that will pique the interest of babies whose developing eyes best see in contrast.

The Poky Little Puppy (by Janette Sebring Lowry) – As one of the most popular Golden Books of all time, this classic tale of a curious puppy is heart-warming across generations.

Toot! (by Leslie Patricelli) – Potty training may be far away, but teaching your baby about natural bodily functions and sounds in a fun and silly way is a lesson they can grasp.

goodnight moonGoodnight Moon (by Margaret Wise Brown) – Another beloved classic, this simple story about saying goodnight will evolve with your baby as she’ll learn to point to objects and probably eventually memorize the text.

We hope you and your baby find hours of pleasure reading together.  Remember, there is no need to buy every book on our reading list.  In fact, bringing your baby to the library to check out books is a great activity, and you can start teaching your little one about the wonderful treasure your local library can be.  Plus, many libraries offer free story times, another excellent outing for your infant.

Happy Reading!

The Science of Fatherhood

Moms get a lot of credit for being hard-wired care givers and for having motherly instincts.  But the truth is that dads have inherent parenting traits too.  Today we’re exploring the science of fatherhood and how men are built to be great dads.

The Science of FatherhoodThe Biological Clock Ticks Both Ways

Yes, it’s worse for women but men’s fertility weakens with age too.  Male fertility decreases by about 5% each year.  Unlike women, it is feasible for men to conceive well into their golden years, but the chances of birth defects increase greatly.

Pregnancy Symptoms

Couvade Syndrome is the phenomenon that men experience many of the same pregnancy symptoms as their pregnant partners.  From nausea, sleeplessness and weight gain, to anxiety and mood swings, men can suffer from it all.  This sympathy turned empathy is a physiological condition.  Studies show that men’s hormone levels change – less testosterone and cortisol – along with their partners.

The Meaning of Cries

A baby’s cry may bother a mom more than it does a dad, but they can equally recognize what the cries mean.  Knowing a cry is less about instinct and more about time spent with the baby.  If either parent spends at least 4 hours with the baby a day, he or she is likely to recognize the reason for the wailing.

Risky Business

Dads are less likely to coddle their children than moms, which makes for a good balance on the parenting spectrum.  During playtime, dads are more likely to encourage children to take risks.  Developing reasonable-risk taking habits early can help children face challenges later in life.  And it doesn’t mean dads aren’t nurturing, it just means they nurture different, and equally important, aspects of development.

The Science of FatherhoodBetter Grades and Better Behavior

Children with involved dads are more likely to have higher IQs, get better grades, have better behavior and make good decisions.  Research indicates that present and loving fathers are excellent role models and children strive to please their fathers.  So a father’s love may encourage better academic and behavior performance.

Egalitarian Parenting

Even if parents take on traditional gender roles, demonstrating blurred lines helps children evolve past stereotypes, raises their ambitions and makes them more well-rounded partners.  When fathers chip in at housework and mothers work outside the home, children learn that they can truly do it all and become anything they want to be.  This is especially true for girls.  When fathers help maintain their domestic lives, girls have greater career aspirations.

Dads and Daughters

Loving fathers help daughters have a better body image, self-confidence and improves their romantic relationships in the future.  Strong father-daughter relationships show girls how to trust and depend on a male figure and learn how men and women should treat each other.  This translates into more confidence and stronger self-worth as adults and as they enter relationships with men.  Also, having a strong father figure in the lives of both boys and girls usually leads to less risky sexual behavior.

Dads Make More Money

A study out of New York found that dads make more money than men without children.  Kids are expensive, of course, and most parents feel great responsibility for providing for their families.  This makes them strive harder in their jobs to bring in more money.  Dads tend to be more confident and command better pay.  How much more?  Dads make up to 40% more than non-dads.

There you have it, dads are scientifically hard-wired to be the amazing creatures that they are!  And we’re so glad they are!

Pregnancy and Your Feet

Shoe lovers everywhere may want to avert their eyes! This will be tough to read…

Pregnancy is a time of wonderful, natural and slightly bizarre new experiences. Not only are expecting mothers undergoing peculiar cravings, out of control hormones, and growing bellies but, even stranger, growing feet! Soon enough those adorable little Louis Vuitton’s will be too tight to wear and cushiony, less attractive flats will take their place.

But my feet stopped growing years ago, you say. How could they possibly start to grow now?

Pregnancy and Your FeetWell, as most pregnant women come to realize, walking around with an extra 25-40 pounds can be hard on a woman’s legs and feet. The extra weight can lead to edema, a very ordinary condition in which the superfluous fluid your body retains will be collected in your tissue. Edema will cause your feet to swell and can make getting around difficult and, sometimes, even painful.

However, there is a second, more predominant reasoning behind the apparent growth of pregnancy feet. Relaxin, a hormone that loosens up your pelvis joints to make room for your baby, causes the bones in your feet to spread by loosening your ligaments. So despite what it may seem, don’t think of your feet as growing. Think of them as relaxing, by way of relaxin.

Most women will notice their shoes feeling tight around their second trimester, with a steady increase towards the end of their pregnancy. Although the swelling of your feet will most likely lessen around a month following delivery, the foot spreading of your loosened ligaments will not. The majority of women will usually go up a foot size and remain that way, so be prepared!

If you’re an adamant shoe lover, relax with the knowledge that at least you’ll have to buy a few pairs during your pregnancy. They may focus a little more on comfort rather than style, but with all that swelling the latter won’t seem to matter nearly as much as it used to. No matter what, do not simply squeeze into your old shoes. This can cause numerous issues, such as bunions and corns.

In the end, just remember that it may be best to hold off splurging on those designer heels until you’re done having children. Because no matter how gorgeous they appear on your feet right now, if you intend on having another baby, experienced moms will tell you: your feet will only continue to grow. So, honestly, maybe it’s best to just start focusing on all the adorable shoes you’re going to buy your little one instead!

Home Birth

Home BirthWhile not many individuals take the time to consider it, childbirth has not always been the safe and clean experience it has become. Throughout history, women have gone through strange, painful, and alarming procedures to safely deliver their children. These processes have greatly changed over the course of time and, in reality, it was not until the 1900s that the majority of women chose to birth their children in clinics.

This tradition continues today, where most expecting mothers choose a safe, sanitized hospital with an experienced staff to assist them. To many, this seems the only appropriate option. Why? Because it can be reassuring to know that a practiced, qualified medial team is there if you need them.

But despite this relatively new and popular custom, it is important to remember that as the years progress, our knowledge progresses with them. Our understanding of childbirth and the anatomy of the pregnant woman have only expanded, giving an increasing number of women another new option: a safe, well-planned home birth.

Exactly how it sounds , a home birth is the decision to go through labor and childbirth at home rather than the hospital. There are many risks and benefits associated with this option and we have gathered the following information to help you see if it might be right for you.

Benefits of a Home Birth

First and foremost, a home birth gives you the option of including those you love in the process. By surrounding yourself with family and friends, you will have numerous helpers, a familiar and comfortable environment, and constant support and encouragement. In addition, you will be able to wear your own comfy clothes, eat and drink, shower, walk around, watch television, read, etc. Basically: your house your rules!

Dissimilar from a hospital birth, a home birth will immediately provide you bonding through breastfeeding. This is an important necessity as it will not only help a new mother stop bleeding, but will transfer necessary disease-fighting antibodies from mother to baby.

Furthermore, although this is not always a first thought, a home birth can cost about 60% less than a hospital birth. This extra money can help you purchase all those diapers, baby clothes, baby books, and everything else you’ll need!

Risks of a Home Birth

No matter how carefully screened, planned, and prepared you are, anything can go wrong during childbirth; and while the risk of infant death has dropped dramatically over the years, it is still double the risk to give birth at home rather than at a hospital.

Potential problems can arise that require medical attention and both mother and child could be rushed from home to the hospital. Some of these problems are: labor is not progressing, placental abruption takes place, the umbilical cord prolapses, there is vaginal bleeding besides a bloody show, the placenta is not delivered, your baby is having trouble breathing, your baby shows abnormal signs of distress.

With such serious risks, the importance of an experienced midwife or doctor to assist you is more than a desire – it’s a necessity.

Home Birth Suggestions    

If you have decided that a home birth is right for you, there are a few steps to consider taking!

  1. Interview and choose experienced, qualified healthcare professionals to assist you through the process of your home birth. The midwives, nurse-midwives, or doctors that you speak with should all be certified and share the same philosophy on birth as your own.
  2. Consider hiring a doula (a trained labor assistant) for the big day!
  3. Create a birth plan in order to solve the following questions: where will you experience labor and delivery, will you use anything to cope with the pain, will you partake in a water birth, do you intend to breastfeed your baby immediately following delivery, what non-healthcare individuals will be assisting, and so on and so on. Discuss your plan with your chosen healthcare providers and make sure to ask what supplies you will need to have on hand. This could include anything from towels to a protective floor covering.
  4. It is essential to choose a pediatrician to examine your baby within 24 hours of their birth.
  5. Write out a backup plan just in case a transfer to the hospital becomes necessary.

With careful screening, preparation and execution, a home birth can be an amazing experience for an expecting mother. It is important to note, however, that home births are only ideal for those who have low-risk pregnancies that include the helpful involvement of a qualified midwife or doctor to assist them. Life-threatening issues can occur and, when that happens, the delay in medical care could put lives at serious risk. Properly understanding the benefits and risks of a home birth can help you decide if it truly is the right choice for you.

 

Monthly Baby Photos: Priceless Artwork of your Precious Baby

Monthly Baby Photos: Priceless Artwork of your Precious Baby

A picture’s worth a thousand words.  Before the moments of your baby’s infancy slowly drift away, you may want to find a creative way to celebrate each exciting stage of that most precious first year.

Taking monthly commemorative photos with your baby can be super fun and make priceless artwork and treasured memories for a lifetime.  Many parents choose to make a collage of their baby’s first year by photographing their little one while indicating their age.  There are many creative ways to stage your memorable first year collage, but there are a few key components you’ll want to keep in mind.

  • First, pose your baby in a similar way each time to show a progression.  Your baby grows tremendously in her first year.  To show this physical growth on camera, make sure you can see her full body in comparable ways in each month’s photo.
  • Indicate how much your baby has grown in an imaginative way.  You can purchase removable month-by-month fabric stickers that are easy to apply to a onesie or baby t-shirt.  You can create a sign with your baby’s age using paper or a chalkboard.  Or try using other objects like blocks, wooden or plastic letters, balloons or stuffed animals to indicate your baby’s age.
  • Remember, your baby won’t be able to sit up for quite some time.  Use a bed, large cushions or a big armchair to lie or prop your baby for the first 5-9 months until her muscles are strong enough to sit.
  • Most people choose a solid background and keep it consistent for each month’s photos.  But you can also change the background each month to a variety of patterns or colors.  You may want to use backgrounds that indicate the season.  For instance, flowers for spring, beach gear for summer, colorful leaves for fall, a winter scarf.
  • Add in objects that indicate what your baby likes to do at each stage.  Is she obsessed with her binkie at 3 months?  Include it in the photo.  Maybe she and your dog bonded at 5 months – let the dog be in that photo.
  • Have fun with your photo sessions and don’t expect too much out of your baby.  People make entire professions out of infant photography so don’t get upset if your photos don’t turn out perfect.  Sometimes those imperfect moments are more iconic than a flawless smile every time.
  • Once the entire 12 months are complete, you can frame the treasured keepsake for your own home and also give them as gifts to grandparents.  You and your loved ones can enjoy the first year of your baby’s life over-and-over again with this wonderful first year collage.

Here are more fun ideas on how to create great monthly baby photos:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stretch Marks

Stretch MarksWhat are stretch marks?

First of all, what exactly are stretch marks?

Stretch marks, or striae, are small, uneven stripes in the skin that occur when your body is growing too fast for your skin to keep up. This phenomenon causes your skin’s elastic fibers to break, resulting in unsightly lines and marks. While anyone can undergo stretch marks due to a sudden and rapid weight surge, pregnant women usually see them appearing on the abdomen towards the end of their pregnancy when their skin is stretching to accommodate a growing baby. Although, while the tummy is the most common, they may also appear on the breasts, upper arms, buttocks, thighs and hips.

Depending on your skin color, stretch marks may appear pink, reddish-brown, dark brown or purple; and while they will later fade, they will never completely disappear.

Will I get stretch marks?

Many women stress over the possibility of stretch marks when nearly 90% of women will see them appearing around their sixth or seventh month of pregnancy. Expecting mothers may try as many prevention techniques as they like but the fact remains that the majority of women will get them.

Over the years, research has begun to suggest that genetics play a significant role in striae. Ask your mother and keep an eye on your sister: if either one has stretch marks chances are you will have them as well.

Additionally, the more your skin is forced to quickly expand during pregnancy, the more likely you are to develop stretch marks. This is why mothers carrying multiples, or mothers with an excess of amniotic fluid, will usually see them.

Can I prevent stretch marks?

Unfortunately, all the prevention creams, lotions and oils claiming to thwart stretch marks have never been proven realistically effective. Your body will continue to grow and your skin will stretch with it accordingly. However, expectant mothers can attempt to stay within the recommended amount of weight gain, usually between 25-30 pounds, and gain it slowly rather than hurriedly. If your skin is given enough time to catch up with your growing body, there is a slim chance you can reduce the amount of stretch.

If I do get stretch marks, what can I do to get rid of them?

No matter what practices or products you try, your stretch marks will never entirely vanish. But, if they are still bothering you after you’ve given birth, there is no harm in setting up an appointment with your dermatologist to discuss your options.

It’s important to note that stretch marks are considered a cosmetic matter, so your insurance probably won’t cover any costs associated with a cosmetic treatment option, such as laser treatment to fix the skin’s elasticity and color.

Expecting and new mothers should remember that some topical creams and lotions may not be healthy to use while breastfeeding your child.

 

Prenatal Yoga

Prenatal YogaAs your pregnancy progresses, aches, pains and a latent fear seem to be progressing with it. Soon that adorable baby bump will be a ninth month old pregnant tummy that’s read to pop; and then you’ll undergo contractions, labor pains, child birth and, of course, motherhood. Anxiety-ridden questions begin swirling around in your head – will child birth hurt, will something go wrong, am I cut out to be a mother, will all this stress somehow hurt my baby?

Instead of letting your concerns overpower your excitement, consider trying one of the most relaxing, deep-rooted practices for soon to be mothers: prenatal yoga. This well-established exercise focuses on toning your mommy muscles, improving your balance, keeping you limber, bettering your circulation, and educating key breathing techniques.

Yoga classes will generally begin by teaching you to rejuvenate your pregnant body through the core inhalation and exhalation method called ujjayi pranayama (ooh-jah-yee prah-nah-yah-mah). Ujjayi shows you how to fill your lungs while tightening your throat and breathing through your nose. It is believed that controlled breathing will bring positive changes to your emotional, mental, and physical health as a mother. Unlike alternative breathing techniques, Ujjayi is performed through all poses, assisting you in releasing any repressed feelings or sensations.

Instead of allowing your fears to take over, this helps to maintain a balanced, consistent breath to relax your mind and focus completely on the present moment. When fearful, your body produces more adrenalin and less oxytocin, the hormone that helps your labor progress. Ujjayi will teach you to relax and dismiss the urge to tighten up due to pain or fear. This, in turn, will help you face the physical and mental demands of labor, childbirth, and motherhood.

Besides offering numerous health benefits such as lower blood pressure and improved breathing rates, prenatal yoga also provides the opportunity to become a part of a pregnant community. With other mothers undergoing the same or similar experiences in an encouraging, compassionate environment, you will be given regular motivation to continue your exercise.

Keep in mind that you will need to take common exercise precautions due to your pregnancy. Speak with a qualified prenatal yoga instructor or your doctor before beginning a class to make sure your experience will be safe and beneficial.

Our Favorite Newborn Apps

Modern parenting is an amazing thing.  With the thousands of inventions designed to help meet our baby’s needs, keep our baby happy and maintain our own sanity, it makes us wonder how anyone survived without modern parenting luxuries.  And with the mobile age fully in swing, some of the best gadgets to help us care for babies come in the form of apps.  These ingenious inventions add no bulk to your diaper bag, are completely portable, make us smarter and better parents and are often the difference between total chaos and “I’m supermom.”

Today we’re sharing our favorite newborn apps to help you keep your new life with baby on track:

Our Favorite Newborn Apps

Courtesy of Baby Tracker Nursing App

Nursing App – Baby Tracker Nursing App

Put away the nursing journal and pull out this simple app for breastfeeding tracking.  This priceless invention records feeding times, how long your baby nurses and which breast is used during feedings.  It keeps a record of your breastfeeding sessions that you can easily share with a pediatrician or lactation consultant.  Plus, it works for multiples because it allows you to track up to 6 babies at a time.

Growth App – Growth App

This aptly named app is an easy-peasy way of keeping up with your baby’s growth patterns.  After each pediatrician visit, you can enter your baby’s weight, height and head circumference, and let the app graph it for you the same way your doctor does in the office.  The app will show your baby’s growth curve, and also show you templates from the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control to see where your baby falls in comparison to other babies around the country and the world.

Shushing App – Baby Shusher

It’s shocking for babies to leave the warm comforts of your womb where they are used to the constant rhythmic sounds of your heartbeat and body.  Now that they are in the real world, they may long for the sounds of home.  Using the Baby Shusher app, you can provide them with a calming shushing sound that adjusts to the volume of their cries to help soothe your baby and encourage sleep.

Our Favorite Newborn Apps

Courtesy of Best Baby Monitor

Monitor App – Best Baby Monitor

Without having to purchase a bulky device, this app allows you to use your iphone as your monitor.  Simply put an iOS device or Mac in your baby’s room and the app will pull up a live camera feed.  You can even talk to your baby through the app, and it will log your baby’s cries, laughs and snooze time.  Perhaps the best part is that you can monitor your baby even when you’re not home.  Rather than asking the babysitter for an update on your baby’s sleep, you can watch it yourself via your phone.

Leaving the House App – Baby Pack & Go

Avoiding explosive parenting “landmines” is often dependent on being prepared. This app keeps a list of everything you need to bring to leave the house with your baby (and older children too) to ensure you’re never without a diaper, burp cloth or binkie.  We all know that just getting out of the house with baby is tough enough so this app relieves the need to remember all the little things you need on-the-go.  It also works well if you travel away from home often with your baby.

Our Favorite Newborn Apps

Courtesy of DayOne App

Journaling App – DayOne App

Who has time to write in a baby book when you’re busy taking care of a baby and the rest of your family?  Use this intuitive app to jot down milestones, exciting adventures and record memories.  You can even include photos from your day.  This precious journal will be a keepsake that won’t eat up your time or cause you lots of anxiety and frustration along the way.

Restroom Finder App – Sit or Squat Restroom Finder

Whether you are about to burst or you need a clean place to change your baby’s diaper, this app is invaluable when you’re out-and-about looking for a restroom.  Not only will you be able to review a map of the closest restrooms, you may also get photos and a “sit or squat” review on the cleanliness of the space.  This is also great when potty training, as toddlers often don’t have the capacity or understanding for holding their bladders for too long.

We hope you find these modern parenting newborn apps helpful.  Happy Apping!