Archives for January 2016

Signs of Labor

As you get closer to your due date, you may be curious about signs of labor.  While some are very obvious, others are so subtle that many moms mistake them as other pregnancy symptoms.  Today we’re taking a look at signs of labor so you can have a better sense of how it may feel when your little one is about to make her appearance into the world.

Obvious Signs of Labor

The obvious signs of labor are those that we all associate with having a baby.  These include heavy contractions, when your water breaks, loss of your mucus plug and dilation.  Faux contractions call Braxton Hicks can begin as early as the second trimester but these are not a sign of labor.  During early labor, you may feel small contractions every 20 to 30 minutes that are similar to menstrual cramps.  This may cause your back to hurt as well.  As labor progresses, contractions usually get closer together. When contractions are around 5 minutes apart and very intense, you are in active labor.

signs of labor__1452884988_50.243.196.179Your water breaking is another obvious sign of labor.  Usually membranes rupture and amniotic fluid slowly drips, which is often confused with urine and may actually cause you to urinate uncontrollably.  Only 10% of women experience a dramatic gush of fluid when their water breaks.  Once it happens though, you should get to the hospital right away even if you show no other signs of labor.  Your baby is not longer protected by the amniotic sac and is more susceptible to infection.

Loss of the mucus plug that closes off the cervix may result in a bloody show and is a sign that labor is not far off.  Not all women lose their mucus plug or it may not be noticeable.  Besides blood, some women see a stringy mucus-like discharge.  Also, dilation measured in centimeters is a sign of labor although it is only one that medical professionals can really gage for you.  When you are 10 centimeter you are fully dilated and your baby should have the space needed for birth.

Impending Signs of Labor

While the obvious signs of labor usually mean your baby will be born within a day or two, some more subtle signs of labor may tell you that labor is not too far off.  Being aware of these impending signs of labor can help you recognize them when they come.  Two welcome signs of labor are when your baby drops and you can breathe better.  In preparation for birth, your baby will begin to descend in your pelvis at around 36 weeks.  This takes pressure off of your ribs, lungs and diaphragm, helping you breathe better in your last weeks of pregnancy.  Unfortunately it may also mean you feel the need to urinate more because your uterus is now sitting on top of your bladder.  But, of you can enjoy a deep breath of fresh air again, your baby’s probably on the way.

In the final few months of pregnancy, your cervix will begin to thin.  This is another impending sign of labor.  The thinning of the cervix is known as effacement and your doctor may begin to measure your percentage of effacement during your 8th and 9th months of pregnancy.  You may also experience more Braxton Hicks contractions as your cervix thins as there seems to be a correlation between the two.

Many women experience a burst of energy as labor draws near.  This may seem contrary to what you experienced so far in pregnancy, especially during the third trimester when your body is working overtime for you and your baby.  However, the nesting urge to get your home and all your affairs in order before your baby arrives is driven by more energy and concentration during this final stage.  Do be careful not to over-exert yourself and save some much needed energy for labor and once the baby arrives.

We wish you a safe and healthy delivery!!

8 Ways to Help Decongest your Baby

When your baby is congested, her sweet coos may sound more like a cargo truck as she struggles to breathe through her nose.  While it may or may not bother your baby to have the sniffles, it’s always better to try to clear congestion.  Today we’re sharing 8 ways to help decongest your baby.

1 – Saline Drops

Saline drops help thin out the mucus clogged in your baby’s nose so it will drain easier.  You can buy drops meant for infants and toddlers that have a small nose nozzle or you can put the saline solution it in a bulb syringe.  Your baby may not care for the process, but it will likely help when combined with other decongestion measures.

2 – Breastfeed

Breastfeeding helps give your baby phenomenal nutrients including antibodies that will help strengthen her immune system.  Also, drinking breast milk will keep your baby hydrated, which is critical for relieving congestion.  You’ll probably both enjoy the extra snuggles during sick days.  Be sure to find a comfortable nursing position for your baby that allows her maximum breathability while breastfeeding.

3 – Cool Mist Vaporizer

Cool mist is best for breaking up nasal congestion.  It adds moisture to the air, which is what your baby’s little nosey needs.  Steam works as well if you only have a warm mist humidifier or you can run a hot shower and sit in the bathroom while your baby breathes in the steam.

8 ways to decongest baby__1452884262_50.243.196.1794 – Remove the Mucus

Chances are, your baby isn’t going to blow nicely into a tissue.  Aggressively removing your baby’s mucus helps keep airways clear although your baby may despise it.  Most parents either love or hate the bulb syringe.  Here are some alternatives to removing the mucus:

  • Wet cotton swab
  • Boogie wipes
  • Nasal aspirator (like snotsucker or other similar products)
  • Oogiebear nose cleaner

5 – Pat your Baby’s Back and Give a Nasal Massage

Help your baby break up some of the congestion by giving her a few love pats on her back.  Then gently massage her nasal cavities from the outside just around the bridge of her nose and nostrils.  This may encourage the mucus to loosen up and eventually drain.

6 – Prop your Baby

Place a slender pillow beneath your baby’s mattress to slightly prop her up for easier breathing while she is sleeping.  This relief can make the different between a restful night and being up several times with an uncomfortable baby.  Never place a pillow in the crib with your baby if she’s less than 12 months as this could be a suffocation hazard.

7 – Give Probiotics

Consult your pediatrician about giving your baby probiotics to help boost her immune system during times of congestion.  Probiotics are typically safe for most babies and can be diluted in a bottle of expressed breast milk.

8 – Use Onions

This may seem strange but it can really work.  Slice an onion and place it near your baby’s crib.  The sulfur from this odoriferous vegetable can draw out mucus and other unwanted fluids from your baby’s nose.  It may not smell pleasant but your baby probably won’t even notice.

We hope these 8 ways to decongest your baby help quickly clear up your baby’s sniffles!

5 Times Not to Stop Breastfeeding

5 times not to stop breastfeeding__1452884175_50.243.196.179Weaning your baby is big decision and one that you will have to negotiate with your baby.  The terms of your breastfeeding relationship are unique to your special bond and weaning should not be taken lightly.  Many new moms mistakenly stop breastfeeding when it becomes challenging due to illness, baby’s habits, baby’s age, scheduling conflicts or other circumstances.  However, most of these are not truly signs that breastfeeding must end.  Today we’re pointing out 5 times not to stop breastfeeding.

First, we should go over the healthcare recommendation for breastfeeding.  The American Academy for Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding exclusively for the first 6 months of your baby’s life.  They also urge mothers to continue breastfeeding until at least one year of age even after introducing other foods into your baby’s diet.  The AAP recognizes many benefits of breastfeeding beyond a year for both babies and mothers too.

With that said, there are many times when moms unnecessarily wean rather than working through some common breastfeeding challenges.  These are some common examples of times not to stop breastfeeding:

When your baby has a cold:  Just like you, when your baby has a cold, he may not feel like eating much.  He may also find it difficult to breathe while breastfeeding when his mouth is sucking and his nose is clogged.  But breast milk is actually the best nutrients for your baby during a cold because it contains essential antibodies to help your baby fight off illness and infections.  Try to clear your baby’s nose with an aspirator and saline mist before feedings to help him breathe while nursing.  Also feed on demand as much as possible, even if this means short frequent feedings rather than longer scheduled feedings.  Your baby will likely give you signs as to what he needs to help him feel better so be hyper aware of his cues.

When your baby gets teeth:  Many moms dread their babies getting teeth and use it as a reason to stop breastfeeding.  In actuality, teeth should not be a reason to wean and many babies and moms continue breastfeeding comfortably through many teeth ruptures.  In fact, breastfeeding may soothe your baby as teeth are breaking through.  This uncomfortable time can cause ear and nasal congestion that are relieved through sucking.  If your baby does bite your breasts with his new teeth, make him unlatch, tell him “no, biting hurts mommy,” and then continue feeding.  Stopping the feed temporarily each time your baby bites will help him learn not to repeat that behavior.

When you get mastitis or clogged ducts:  The common breast infection known as mastitis, as well as clogged ducts, can cause pain in your breasts.  However, the best solution is to continue breastfeeding or pumping through the pain.  Mastitis and clogged ducts both cause a blockage in one or more channels through which your breast milk flows.  You need to clear the path by continuing to express milk.  Use warm compresses or lanolin cream to alleviate pain or soak in a warm bath when possible.  Despite a few days of discomfort, weaning at this time is not necessary.

When your baby goes on a nursing strike:  Nursing strikes can happen for many reasons but they don’t mean you have to stop breastfeeding.  Many moms mistake a short nursing strike as a sign their babies want to wean.  Rather, it may be something completely unrelated that is causing your baby not to want to breastfeed.  LaLecheLeague says most nursing strikes last 2 to 4 days and some common reasons for them include: baby is sick or in pain, nursing positions are uncomfortable, baby has been separated from mom, baby is distracted, a change in routine or schedule and baby’s needs are not being met.  Instead of weaning, try to identify the cause of the nursing strike and address it directly.  Also, continue to offer the breast as much as possible to encourage your baby to get back on track.  Usually babies rediscover their love of breastfeeding (and cuddle time with mom) after a few short days.

When you introduce solids:  As the AAP guidelines indicate, breastfeeding should continue after introducing solids.  Breast milk will continue to be the main and best source of nutrients for babies who are just getting the hang of eating new foods.  It takes some babies awhile to learn to appreciate solids and actually swallow them.  While you may breastfeed less often, your baby’s appetite will continue to grow as he gets older and bigger.  By offering both breast milk and solids, your baby will be getting a healthy diversity of nutrients and flavors to become a wholesome, balanced eater.

Before you stop breastfeeding, make sure you are weaning for the right reasons.  Only you and your baby can make that important decision together.

The Dangers of BPA: BPA and Babies

Earlier this week we discussed the dangers of BPA as it pertains to pregnancy.  Today we’re taking a deeper dive into how BPA can affect babies, and how to avoid excessive exposure for your little one.

As a reminder, Bisphenol A is a chemical used to harden and protect plastics and cans.  Studies show that BPA can cause cognitive, behavioral, respiratory and reproductive problems in babies and children when exposed in utero or after birth.  Specifically, preliminary research shows that BPA has been linked to reduced brain function, birth defects, asthma, ADHD, heart conditions and cancer.  BPA mimics hormones, especially estrogen, and may alter sex hormones and reproductive organs in children and young adults leading to male and female reproductive disorders.

BPA baby__1451439964_108.89.137.58If you look around your house, you might start stressing over all the plastics you have and how it can harm your baby.  Fortunately, after research was released about the dangers of BPA for babies and the elevated levels of BPA found in babies, most leading manufactures started making baby bottles, sippy cups, baby food containers, pacifiers and other baby feeding products BPA-free.  Although the Food & Drug Administration does not regulate the use of BPA, it encourages manufacturers to go BPA-free.  Many have followed suit as evidenced by the baby products industry. Most toys, even plastic toys, are not made with BPA.

Parents should be vigilant about purchasing baby products that are BPA-free and also following washing and usage instructions.  Many baby products are not dishwasher and microwave safe.  Using them incorrectly, especially heating them to extreme temperatures may cause seepage of chemicals from plastics – whether that is BPA or other chemicals.  Also, discard any bottles, cups, pacifiers and other plastics that are ripped, torn or cracked.  Not only can bacteria breed in these small spaces, but chemicals are released when the interior layers of such items are exposed.

Breastfeeding is a great way to reduce BPA exposure to your baby.  You can avoid potentially BPA-laden formula containers and bottles by breastfeeding.  For this reason, along with the many amazing benefits of breast milk for your baby, exclusive breastfeeding is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics for at least six months and continued breastfeeding until at least one year is encouraged.

bpa_free__1451439562_108.89.137.58While breastfeeding, take similar precautions about BPA as those during pregnancy.  Everything that you consume is passed to your baby in some way through breast milk.  If you plan to pump breast milk for your baby, ensure your breast milk is equip with BPA-free tubing and breast shields.  In addition to bottles, breast milk storage containers should be BPA-free to avoid contamination.

Hidden sources of BPA include the handle of pacifiers, receipts, CDs, DVDs, plastic kitchen utensils, plastic wrap, medical devices and dental sealants.  While your baby may not come into contact with all of these sources, it is good to be aware of them for your own protection and that of your family.

BPA is practically everywhere and avoiding it completely is not reasonable.  But knowing where it is lurking can help you make every effort to protect your baby from the dangers of BPA.

The Dangers of BPA: BPA during Pregnancy

BPA pregnancy__1451439521_108.89.137.58You’ve surely heard some of the hype about BPA.  But is there really cause for concern?  Actually, yes.  Bisphenol A or BPA can be a harmful chemical that enters the bloodstream with some dangerous side-effects, especially during pregnancy.  Today we’re taking a look at the dangers of BPA during pregnancy and later this week we’ll examine how BPA may harm babies.

What is BPA?

BPA is a substance that has been used for nearly half a century to harden plastic containers, prevent rust in tin cans and deter bacteria.  It is widely found in food containers and beverage bottles.  Although it was designed to help protect and seal food and drinks, the chemical leeches from the containers into the items it is containing.  This contamination then enters our bodies and remains in our bloodstreams.  The Centers for Disease Control estimates that over 90% of Americans have BPA in their bloodstreams.

What are the Dangers of BPA?

The dangers of BPA stem from its ability to act like hormones, especially estrogen, in the body and interfere with the proper function of the endocrine system that doles out normal hormones.  Hormones are required to maintain body processes and are particularly important during pregnancy.  Pregnancy hormones are responsible for creating a nurturing and sustainable environment for babies to grow and thrive inside their mothers.  When hormones are off kilter, complications may arise during pregnancy and beyond.

Small levels of BPA are probably not terribly harmful.  However, during pregnancy, moms-to-be should take precautions to protect the development of their babies.  While a baby is growing in the womb, even small doses of BPA may have large consequences.  Research shows that BPA may lead to miscarriage, low birth weight or birth defects, and have greater implications on the baby once it is born.  BPA may be responsible for brain, behavioral, respiratory and reproductive disorders in infancy and later in life.  For mothers, BPA exposure during pregnancy can lead to insulin resistance (a threat that is already elevated during pregnancy) and increase body weight, both risk factors of type 2 diabetes.

The Food and Drug Administration has indicated some concern over the affects of BPA however no legislation has been passed preventing its use.  Some states and cities have taken matters into their own hands and outlawed the use of BPA in products made in their jurisdictions.  The US government is supporting more research on the potential dangers of BPA, including BPA during pregnancy, and encourages manufacturers to use BPA-free containers.  Unfortunately, sometimes the alternatives to BPA are just as dangerous as BPA itself.

How to Reduce BPA Exposure during Pregnancy

During pregnancy it is important to limit exposure to BPA as much as possible; however some exposure is unavoidable in our modern lives.  Whenever it is feasible, select fresh or frozen foods over canned foods, or look for foods contained in glass jars or cardboard cartons.  Acidic foods and beverages are more likely to leach BPA than other items.  Also, water bottles marked with recycling codes “3” or “7” probably contain BPA where as other numbers are less likely to have BPA.

bpa_free__1451439562_108.89.137.58Also, be vigilant of how you store food.  Glass containers are the best choice.  When you have to use plastic containers, make sure they are BPA-free and follow washing instructions.  Many plastic containers are not dishwasher or microwave safe.  Throw away any plastics that are chipped or cracked.

Here’s a little known fact about BPA:  it is also found in thermal paper like receipts.  Handle receipts as little as possible to avoid skin absorption of BPA and wash your hands after you do touch them.  Don’t use hand sanitizer until you’ve washed as that can actually increase absorption of BPA rather than reduce it.

Now that we’ve explored the dangers of BPA during pregnancy, stay tuned on our blog for our discussion of BPA and babies later this week.

Items in your Wardrobe that you can wear during Pregnancy

Pregnant woman smiling and holding her bellyEvery woman grows in different ways during pregnancy.  With your expanding belly, you may notice other areas of your body softening to make your body more suitable for carrying a child.  This expansion may eliminate most of your wardrobe during gestation.  However, there is no need to abandon everything you loved wearing pre-pregnancy.  Today we’re sharing items in your wardrobe that you can wear during pregnancy.

Long Shirts:  At the beginning of your pregnancy you can probably wear most of your shirts.  As your bump begins to protrude, you’ll need a little more fabric to cover it up.  Go through your wardrobe and pull out all of your longer shirt including t-shirts, tanks, blouses and oxfords.  These are terrific options during pregnancy.  Some of your slimmer fitting tops will hug your belly to really show off your bump.  Other styles may need a belt below your bustline to help create a waterfall effect over your budding tummy.  These will look great over a pair of maternity leggings.

Belts:  Speaking of belts, you may miss wearing your favorites during pregnancy.  But consider a different way to don your belts.  Empire waist is the look of choice for many expectant moms.  Belts that may have fit your waist pre-pregnancy, might be better suited to create an empire-waistline during pregnancy.  Just be sure you don’t buckle too tightly as your ribcage is expanding and you certainly need room to breathe.

Super-Stretchy Yoga Pants:  If your exercise pants have a tight, restrictive band with little give-and-take throughout, put them away for postpartum.  But if yours are more relaxed and super-stretchy, keep wearing them as long as possible during pregnancy.  Many yoga-style pants can sit nicely below the waistline and offer room for the added blood supply in your body to circulate through your legs.  Other yoga pants come equip with fold-over fabric.  You can use this like a maternity band and stretch it over your belly to keep your pants up.

Flowy Dresses:  Breezy dresses for summer or winter can easily accommodate a baby bump.  Depending on the style, you may want to add a belt to create a more flattering maternity silhouette.  Do be sure your dress is not too short as your belly will make the front hemline even shorter.  Shorter dresses can be paired with maternity leggings for a trendy look.

Some Pants and Skirts:  Maternity bands or the old elastic button trick can keep you in some of your regular pants and skirts for longer.  Both allow you to wear your bottoms unbuttoned by securing them in place.  A maternity band is a tubular piece of elastic fabric that sits over your entire pant or skirt fastener and right below your belly.  Or you can simply use a piece of elastic or button extender to keep your pants up while undone.  Be sure to wear longer tops to cover the area.

Accessories:  Snazz up any basic maternity outfit with your signature accessories.  While you may have to abandon some of your favorite wardrobe pieces temporarily, accessories should fit anytime including jewelry, scarves, hats and purses.  Make yourself recognizable with your trendiest statement accessories during pregnancy.

Cardigans, Blazers and Oversized Sweaters:  A simple cardigan or blazer should fit throughout pregnancy although you’ll probably need to wear them open.  This will offer an adorable peek-a-boo look at your baby bump.  Cardigans and blazers can add a zing to your outfits, especially during chiller months.  Oversized sweaters are also terrific as maternity wear with maternity leggings or jeans.

The Truth about your Pregnancy Glow

You’ve probably heard that expectant moms have a pregnancy glow.  You may have even received that very compliment yourself.  A pregnancy glow or added radiance may seem somewhat ridiculous at first thought, but the truth is, you may really develop a natural glow during pregnancy.  We’re explaining the science behind it today.

During pregnancy your body is changing in many ways.  Along with your growing baby bump, your blood supply is growing too.  When all is said and done, your blood volume can increase by as much as 50%.  That’s a lot more blood that usual flowing through your body.  Blood provides a river for nutrients, oxygen and water to reach every inch of

Portrait of the young happy smiling pregnant woman

your system.  While you may not always feel invigorated by this extra blood, it can contribute to your pregnancy glow.  More blood means that blood is more visible at the surface of your skin, creating a rosy, fuller and more youthful look.

In addition to more blood, your skin is producing more sebum oil too.  You may not find oily skin to be an asset, but it actually may be.  While a shiny, greasy complexion is not desirable, a little excess oil can help moisturize your skin and add a healthy sheen to your face and other areas of your bodily skin.  Moisture makes skin softer and smoother for a younger looking and more toned appearance.  Of course too much oil can lead to acne, pimples and other unwanted facial blemishes.  But hopefully your pregnancy hormones are good to you and create just the right amount of additional sebum for a gorgeous pregnancy glow.

Your hair may also contribute to your pregnancy glow.  During pregnancy, the cycle of hair growth and loss changes. Typically around 85% of your hair is growing at a time and 15% is resting.  After the rest time, your hair falls out and then new strands start to grow from those follicles.  However, when you are expecting, estrogen causes more hair growth and less resting and hair loss.  This increases the volume of your hair, which may help you style it in new and interesting ways.  Plus, a little extra oil can keep your hair moisturized and luminous with a magnificent shine.

And finally, beyond the physical changes that may lead to your pregnancy glow, your excitement, anticipation and positive attitude about welcoming a new baby can radiate from within.  Smiles, laughter and even day dreams about your sweet bundle of joy can leave you with an overall happier aura.  When you exude delight, you tend to glow, particularly during this very special and sacred time in your life.

Enjoy that pregnancy glow and congrats on your upcoming baby!

How to Wash Baby Gear

washng baby gear__1451439095_108.89.137.58Keeping baby gear clean is an important part of ensuring your baby remains healthy.  While some exposure to germs is good to boost the immune system gradually, an overwhelming dose of pathogens can get your baby sick.  It is vital to wash baby gear – including clothes, bibs, burp cloths, sheets, carriers, seat covers, blankets, swaddles and other surfaces where your baby spends time – periodically to help reduce your baby’s contact with harmful germs.

Today we’re breaking down the best way to wash baby gear in several key categories:

Clothes, Burp Cloths and Sheets:  These items can usually be washed in the same manner as you’d wash any other clothes or sheets.  Some families choose to use a baby detergent for newborns and young infants to ensure a less abrasive formula free of dyes, fragrances and chemicals.  Others toss baby items in with the rest of the family’s clothes, especially if they already use a natural detergent in their household.

Be sure to wash ALL baby clothes, sheets and anything else that will touch your baby’s skin before using them.  Manufacturing, shipping and sitting on store shelves can leave various residues, chemicals and other unwanted substances that could be dangerous for your baby.  For convenience, most parents choose not to buy too many baby clothes that require hand-washing, but for a few special items, be sure you’re using a soap-free hand washing detergent.  If you find your baby has particularly sensitive skin, consider replacing your laundry detergent for one that is hypoallergenic for at least a few months.

Bibs and Swaddles:  While these items are also machine-washable, be careful with their Velcro.  It can snag other items in your wash and cause runs and fraying.  Be sure to close the Velcro straps before washing and consider separating them into mesh bags to keep them away from other clothes.

Nursing Bras:  When you are breastfeeding, what you wear will also touch your baby’s delicate skin.  Plus, nursing bras have extra clasps that should be protected.  The best approach is to hand-wash your nursing bras with other delicate baby items.  If you need to machine wash them, put them in a machine-safe lingerie bag on a delicates cycle and never run them through the dryer as this can cause pieces to melt, bend or misshape.  Instead, hang to dry.

Blankets:  You’ll probably want to hand-wash your nicer baby blankets or even dry-clean them every now and then.  Be sure you select a dry cleaner that uses a baby-friendly formula.

Seat Covers:  Many car seats, bouncy chairs and swings have removable fabric covers that can be easily washed.  But parents often forget to wash them!  Take the time to wash them several times a month according to their washing instructions.  Many are machine washable and can be line dried.  This also goes for highchair and shopping cart covers and any nursing covers that you may keep in your diaper bag.

Play Spaces and Toys:  Many play spaces cannot be tossed into the wash but should be wiped down regularly.  Between normal germs we track in, drool and spit-up, play spaces can get icky pretty quickly.  This includes play mats, chairs and swings, plastic toys, bath tubs and bath toys, etc…  As your baby gets older, she will put more and more things in her mouth, even things you would not expect.  Use natural cleaning formulas or ones that are marketed as baby-safe to ensure you are not introducing harmful chemicals into your play space.  If you have other babies over to play often, keep a spray bottle of cleaning solvent or a container of wipes nearby to wipe things down easily after playtime.

Stuffed Animals:  Definitely wash new stuffed animals before handing them over to your baby.  You can usually put them in a gentle cycle in the washing machine and line-dry them or hand wash them.  Every month or so, round up the stuffies and wash them to ensure they stay clean enough for all your baby’s snuggles.

 

The Linea Nigra

It’s rather exciting when your baby bump starts to grow.  As you’re glowing from the bliss of pregnancy and starting to get some attention for being an “adorable pregnant lady,” all the sudden you notice this strange line forming on your belly.  Has a tape worm invaded your body and stretched perfectly across your precious bump?  Did your skin stretch so much that it’s splitting in two?  What is that line?  It’s the linea nigra, translated to “black line,” that often appears during pregnancy.

The linea nigra is a dark vertical line about 1 cm wide that stretches from near your belly button area to the pubic bone.  It begins to show around the mid-point of pregnancy when the belly begins to significantly expand and skin is stretched tightly.  The truth is, the line has always been there but it is usually known as linea alba or “white line.”  linea nigra__1451438733_108.89.137.58During pregnancy, hormones cause many skin areas to darken including the linea nigra, areolas, upper lip and other facial skin hyper-pigmentation known as “the mask of pregnancy.”  Although medical professionals are not exactly sure why the linea nigra appears, one theory is that the placenta creates a hormone that affects melanocytes, which leads to skin darkening.

While it may not be the most desired beauty mark you’ve ever had, the linea nigra is completely normal and doesn’t affect your health or the health of your baby at all.  Up to 75% of women get the linea nigra at some point during their 9 ½ months of pregnancy.  It tends to be more pronounced on women with darker skin although it can occur on all skin types and people from any background.  The linea nigra usually fades gradually until it returns to its normal skin-tone color a few months postpartum.

Sun exposure can darken the linea nigra and other hormonal skin pigmentation issues during pregnancy.  It is best to keep your belly out of the sun as much as possible and wear sunscreen when you do plan to be bare belly.  Never use whitening creams during pregnancy or even afterwards, especially if you are breastfeeding.  Trust that the linea nigra will fade over time.

Some experts believe that a diet rich in folic acid can reduce hyper-pigmentation during pregnancy, including the linea nigra.  Folic acid is an essential nutrient during pregnancy anyways and is found in most pre-natal vitamins.  It can also be found in foods such as whole grains, citrus fruits and cruciferous vegetables like kale, spinach and cabbage.  Some women claim that massaging pure lemon juice into your belly after childbirth helps reduce the appearance of the linea nigra due to its acidic content.

The bottom line is that the linea nigra is a normal part of pregnancy and there is not much you can do about it.  Rather than see it as a negative, try to view it as a badge of honor for this exciting time in your life.

Natural Home Remedies for Colds and the Flu

Cough cough.  Sneeze sneeze.  Sniffle sniffle.  With all the wonders of winter, it is also the season for colds and the flu!  As you’ve probably come to realize, when any one member of the family is sick, it is no fun for anyone.  Between treating symptoms and lack of sleep, one sick family member can plague the entire household.

When you’ve got a baby in the mix, natural home remedies for colds and the flu may be the best way to go.  Babies cannot tolerate medications like older children and adults, and if you are breastfeeding, you certainly need to be conscious of the medications you are taking that can transfer to your baby through breast milk.

Before resorting to medications try these natural home remedies for colds and the flu:

Hydrate:  Drinking plenty of liquids is essential when fighting a cold or the flu.  Water and water-based juices, fruits and vegetables help you flush out pathogens that can be causing your illness as well as mucus causing congestion in your ears, nose, throat and chest.  If you are breastfeeding and your baby is sick, offer extra feedings to help keep your little one hydrated, especially if she has been vomiting.  If your baby is close to 12 months old and your pediatrician gives you permission, you may be able to give your baby some water in between feedings.

Drink Hot Herbal Teas:  All-natural decaffeinated herbal teas give you a boost of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that can help your immune system fight colds and the flu.  Plus, drinking in hot beverage can help clear your sinuses.  Take small sips if you feel nauseous.  Do be careful which teas you select if you are breastfeeding as some may be too strong for your baby.

home remedies__1450659948_108.89.138.209Eat Chicken Soup:  Prescribed for centuries by Dr. Mom, there may be some truth to this age-old home remedy.  Beyond the nutrients of the soup – hopefully protein, fiber and vegetables – leaning over a hot bowl of soup and breathing in steam may relieve your congestion.  If anything, you’ll be getting much-needed sustenance to help strengthen your body as it works hard to fight off whatever is ailing you.

Take a Hot Shower:  Similar to hot tea and chicken soup, standing in a hot shower can help drain your sinus cavities to relieve pressure and congestion.  Hot water can also soothe aches and pains throughout your body so consider soaking in a hot bath after your shower.  For little ones not ready for showers yet, steam up your bathroom and then sit with them in the room for 15-20 minutes.

Use a Humidifier:  It can be terrifying to listen to your little ones’ coughing and labored breathing so do everything you can to make it easier for them to breathe.  Humidifiers are terrific for babies and children to moisturize their nasal cavities and help ease distressed breathing.  Also, be sure to suck up excess nasal mucus with an aspirator often throughout the day.

Gargle with Salt Water:  Help eliminate post-nasal drip and soothe a sore throat with a salt water rinse.  Use warm water and regular table salt and gargle several times throughout the day.  This easy natural home remedy can help ear congestion as well.

Suck on a Lozenge:  There are many cough drops and throat lozenge options and most of them actually work at calming a sore throat.  Those with added Vitamin C and other antioxidants will help your immune system too.  Some cough drops contain menthol or other powerful natural nutrients so do be careful not to overdo it if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.  Never give a baby or child a lozenge, however.  Even older children should be supervised when sucking on anything.

Try a Natural Serum:  Sambucol, oil of oregano and apple cider vinegar can be added to your water to help neutralize your infection.  These natural substances have antimicrobial properties that work with your immune system to fight off colds and the flu.

Rest:  With life’s many obligations, resting may be the hardest natural remedy to follow.  After all, your role as a parent doesn’t stop when you’re sick.  But do try to take it easy by getting extra sleep, not exercising and doing sedentary activities.  If necessary, schedule a babysitter to help with your kids so you can get better faster.  When kids are sick, it is often hard to get them to settle down but think through some less active, quiet activities you can do together such as crafts, puzzles and board games.

We hope these natural home remedies for colds and the flu help you and your family this winter.  Cheers to your best health!