How to Prepare an Older Sibling for Bringing Home a New Baby

How do you gently tell your only kid that it’s time to make room for a new baby? Just like this.

Let me start with a “not-so-cute” story. My friend had just given birth to her second child. One day she was in the restroom. She overheard her three-year-old whisper to his friend “Mamma is in the bathroom, let’s put the baby in the dog house.”
A second pregnancy always seems unremarkable. There is always a “I’ve done this before” feeling except for one big niggling worry: How will I explain to my older child that someone is coming along who will steal not only their toys but also their parents’ love and affection and how will I make my child actually love this new person?
Here are a few tips which I hope will make this major milestone in a parenting life a wee bit easier.

The pregnancy project

Breaking the news

When do I bring up the big topic? This question will torments you since the time the pregnancy kit shows two red lines. Around 12 weeks is an ideal time to share the news. For toddlers less than two years old it is okay to delay the news until the third trimester, as they will not be aware of what is happening until the tummy grows.
The older kids need to be prepared earlier. Break the news gently. Make sure both the parents are present. You can say “Mamma has a baby growing inside her. You are going to be a big brother/sister” or “We are so proud of you that dada and mamma have decided to give you a little baby.”
Be prepared for three different kinds of reactions because curiosity is different in different minds.
1 | Absolute disinterest. This doesn’t mean your child hasn’t understood what you said. It just means he needs the situation to be more tangible before he gives it any importance.
2 | Range of questions. How are babies born? Did you swallow the baby? Be calm and answer all questions thoroughly.
3 | Sadness. If your child is sad on hearing the news tell her/him it is okay to be sad. If you acknowledge their feelings it is easier for them to accept it and be more open it with you.

Show and tell

Children love hearing about their newborn period. Take them back to those days. Show them their old albums and videos to explain how babies behave. You can say “See how Mamma always held you, Mamma will also hold our new baby like that.” Take them to see other little babies so that they start interacting with other babies. Read them age appropriate books about newborns so that they know what to expect: crying a lot, pooping a lot, and sleeping a lot. Always use “your little brother/sister” while referring to baby #2.

Include your child

Make sure your first child is a part of your pregnancy at all times. Include them in picking names and decorating the nursery. You can take your child for the scans to hear the baby’s heart beat. You can even make your child talk to your tummy. All this will make the birth of a new child an exciting reality for him.

Daddy time

If you live in a nuclear family and your first born is used to the mother doing most things for him, make it a point to have daddy spend a lot of time with your child. Feeding, bath time, and playtime with daddy are all things which should be a part of his routine before the little baby comes along.

The hospital stay

The days you are in the hospital and your older child is at home is crucial in the formation of his opinion on the younger one.
Explain to him how it will be, who will take care of him, who will sleep with him. Make sure his routines are followed.
The first visit should be with family only. Make sure someone else is holding the baby when your older child walks in. Introduce the younger one to the older child and can cuddle them together. It is a good idea to have a gift ready from baby #2 for your older child. It could be anything from a Big Brother T-shirt to a Big Brother soft toy.

Happy homecoming

Homecoming is another bridge you have to cross. Again, see to it that someone else is holding the baby so your hands are free to hug and cuddle your first one.
If your first one has to sleep in another room or another cot, make sure this transition is done way before your delivery.
Do not schedule anything new like toilet training or child care at this time. Remember, his emotions are already in turmoil and following an established routine is the best way to deal with it.

Breast feeding

Your child will be very curious about breast feeding and this is also the time when most tantrums are thrown because you will be having the new baby for long lengths of time without being able to cater to the older one. Explain the process of breast feeding. You can involve the older one in getting the pillow or changing diaper and make sure to schedule some interesting activity during your breast feeding times. If your child throws a tantrum, be firm and say that you will deal with his problem only after breast feeding.

Sibling showdown begins

Visitors

You can pre-warn most visitors to include the older child in their conversation. Most thoughtful visitors will also get gifts for your first born. If at all someone says “what a beautiful baby,” be diligent about saying something like “yes, now we have two beautiful babies.” Your first born should not feel alone during these times.

Regression

It is normal for a jealous older sibling to start regressing to gain attention. Thumb sucking, toilet accidents, nightmares may all restart. Remember these are all temporary. Be empathetic but firm about rules. Keep telling them about the “big child advantage.” They are older, so they can eat ice-cream, play in the park, etc.

Allow frustration

Expect tantrums and tears. Say “I know you feel it would be better if your little brother wasn’t there. I know you feel Mamma doesn’t love you but mamma loves you so much.” Give words to their feelings. Make it easier for them to share it with you. Praise good behavior at all times and ignore tantrums.

Time alone

Having another child is not about dividing the first born’s allotted love. It is about giving him more. Make no compromise on having time alone with your older child. It could be buying groceries, taking him to his favorite restaurant, or bedtime story telling. Make sure baby #2 is nowhere around during these precious moments. Encourage your child to share his feelings with you all the time.

Play favorites equally

Say “Mamma and Dadda love you both so much” or “You both make us so proud.”

Help

Finally, don’t hesitate to ask help when needed, accept help when offered, and offer help when required.
All this may seem overwhelming, but from someone who has “been there done that” with two little mischief makers and seen hundreds of women doing this as a pediatrician, let me tell you: It’s all worth it.
And on the days you are frustrated, want to pull out your hair, and feel all this is a mistake, just remember there will come a day when your two little munchkins will be best friends and will rely on each other physically, mentally, and emotionally. So happy parenting.

I Count My Blessings Every Day

I count my blessings everyday, all three of them, because they made me a mom. They gave me a role that is so unforgiving and yet so wonderful at the same time. I could not imagine my life any other way than as a parent to my two daughters and rambunctious son.
I count my blessings because I was never able to get pregnant on my terms. I suffered some losses, and then hit a stride of fertility, only to enter this recent home stretch the same way I began it – with loss. I would love my family planning years to end on a high, but that may not be in the cards for me and my husband.
But it’s okay. I am lucky to have three kids and am more than fortunate when it comes to my everyday life. Despite the dull ache of loss that comes with habitual miscarriages, I get to be happy. I know too many wonderful women who only see the sad side of pregnancy.
Even though my miscarriages outnumber my live births, I count my blessings because I still got to experience it all. Labor, delivery, gestational diabetes, and even an emergency c-section would all make it onto my mothering curriculum vitae. I wear breastfeeding, jaundice, mustard-seed poops, thrush, multiple ear infections, and too many nights of falling asleep in a recliner like badges of honor.
I count my blessings because the hardships and the successes that come from creating little humans make me a better person. I take less for granted. I know that things are not meant to be perfect. Without the heartache, how would I feel the true happiness that comes with raising kids? The hurt puts life into perspective – especially a mothering life full of temper tantrums, bathroom accidents, and frowny faces from teachers.
I count my blessings because I worked hard for my kids. I went through seven nauseous first trimesters, and more, to get them and raise them. But what I went through is a casual sprint race compared to the marathon event that can be infertility. I did not face down years of doctors and multiple procedures to come out at a loss or with no answers. I had a few misfortunes that became book ends to the greatest moments in my life.
I count my blessings because there are so many would-be parents who can’t enjoy a success story, men and women who have tried everything, yet never get to hold that newborn against their bare chests. They don’t get to fail or succeed at strapping a wailing infant into a car seat. They won’t wake up five times in one night to peek into a crib and see their miracle son or daughter.
I count my blessings because, even though the losses hurt, life continues on for my family. It is going by at such a fast pace that my kids have me spinning in circles. I don’t have time to dwell on the “what ifs” of it all. The moving forward is wonderful. It doesn’t mean I don’t hurt, but it does mean there is always a reason to be grateful.
I count my blessings because every single person on the planet has a sad story. The sad stories make us stronger and give us character. But I choose to not make them the defining moments of my life.
I count my blessings because I can. I get the happy endings along with the occasional melancholy plot. When it comes to the story of my life, I am not indentured in tragedy. I have had hiccups and roadblocks, but no mountainous pitfalls.
Motherhood is hard work, but it is great work. I feel privileged to experience it. I count my blessings because I am blessed.

ICP: the Pregnancy Complication We Almost Missed

ICP affects 6,000 pregnant women a year. Without an internet search, this story could have turned out differently.

At my 34-week appointment, my doctor was upbeat, reassuring me that, unlike my first pregnancy that resulted in my water breaking a few days shy of 37 weeks, this baby was on track to make it full term. I left convinced there would be no scramble to the hospital, even as I directed my husband to put the infant car seat in the car that evening – just in case.

The night that everything changed

It wasn’t sudden like my water breaking in the night, but an itchiness on the soles of my feet that left me in tears and taking Benadryl just to fall asleep. I wasn’t alarmed by the itchiness – more annoyed than anything else. Over the past few weeks, I thought I had been dealing with overly sensitive skin during pregnancy, changing my moisturizer twice, stopping the use of any bath salts or bubble bath, even adding athlete’s foot medication to our grocery list as I scratched mindlessly in the evening. This never phased me, despite the fact there was no obvious rash.
The next morning everything was fine and I continued about my day, only to have the itching return that evening again – this time to my arms and wrists. This time, I tried a topical Benadryl solution to no avail, while my husband was convinced there was a flea infestation in the house I was overly susceptible to. I, on the other hand, did what every millennial does – I googled it.

Itchy feet during pregnancy: Know when it’s dangerous

I hadn’t even fully typed out my query when itchy hands and feet pregnancy third trimester popped up as a suggestion. I clicked it. Itchy Feet During Pregnancy: Know When It’s Dangerous was the top result.
The article talked about how itchiness that starts mainly in the hands and feet could be a serious condition called Obstetric Cholestasis or ICP. Essentially this complication is caused when pregnancy hormones cause the liver to shut down and bile is released into the mother’s bloodstream which is potentially fatal for the baby past 36 weeks.
The next morning, I called my doctor, gave them the symptoms I was having (without saying I Googled it) and they brought me in for an appointment and blood test immediately. I’m thankful they all but diagnosed it without waiting for the bloodwork to come back, and I walked out of that appointment with a prescription, the first of my bi-weekly non-stress tests scheduled and only one question “when did you Google this?” (I consider this a valid question since just thinking about being itchy causes me to itch.)
Over the next five days, the itching calmed down, or only started when I thought about it (or maybe it was constant and I just didn’t notice it as much as those first two nights). I laughed slightly to myself thinking that I had fallen for the “Doctor Google” trap, and tried not to obsess about when the blood work would come back in. The test took five days to come back because these blood tests are done at only a few labs across the country, but as soon as I got a call from my doctor herself, instead of a nurse, I knew it was bad news.
My bile acids were four times the amount they should be, in addition to irregular liver test functions, which put me in the severe category. Thanks to diligent research on the condition and a very active Facebook group, I wasn’t surprised when the doctor started talking about when they would induce me. The problem with ICP is that the bile acids in your blood can affect the placenta, causing preterm labor, breathing issues, fetal distress, or (in up to 15 percent of untreated cases) stillbirth. The longer you carry a baby with ICP, the higher risk of these complications, even on medicine and monitoring with ultrasounds and non-stress tests.

“If you don’t feel the baby move …”

I told myself that my doctors knew exactly what they were doing. There was no hesitation with the diagnosis or the treatment. It was exactly what was supposed to be done, but the next two weeks were full of worry based on one piece of advice. “If you don’t feel the baby move more than four times in an hour, go to labor and delivery immediately.” Seriously? What if I stopped paying attention to the baby? What if I got busy? I found myself waking up in the middle of the night, not to itch, but just to make sure I felt her move. It was exhausting.
ICP affects 6,000 pregnant women a year. Without an internet search, this story could have turned out differently. I’m thankful for women who have shared their stories. I’m thankful for my doctors who believed me right away when I didn’t fully believe it myself. I read stories about people who are bloody from scratching, who say the scratch is not a normal scratch but something more.
Not always. Mine was normal except for those two nights that had me Googling. Itchiness of any form, especially on your hands and feet during the third trimester can be cause for serious alarm, and I hope my story will help inform more people about it.
Note: My daughter was born completely healthy and happy when she was induced at 37 weeks.

How You Decide to Become a Mother: A Letter to My Child-Free Self

You are going to take a walk one evening, just before you turn 30, and by the time you get home, you will have made the decision that will change your life.

Here is how you are going to decide to become a mother.
You are going to take a walk one evening, just before you turn 30, and by the time you get home, you will have made the decision that will change your life.
It will be one of those glorious, languid, late-summer evenings when the light spills, golden, over everything. You will walk, slowly, through your neighborhood, and from the houses around you, through the open windows, you will see them, and you will hear them – families, sitting down at kitchen and dining-room tables. Low voices and higher ones, laughter, shouts. The clink and scrape of cutlery against dishes. Arms reaching across tables, passing food from one hand to another.
And as you see and hear all of this, you will experience the following revelations, which seem so obvious, it is almost painful to recall them:
1 | I miss my family and wish I could go back to being a kid at my parents’ table.
2 | But I can’t go back to being a kid.
3 | So if I want to experience that again some day.
4 | It will be as the parent, and not as the child.
And suddenly you will get it in a way that you never got it before. And all your years of being absolutely, completely, 100 percent sure that you did not want to have children will evaporate in the humid summer’s air.
Because up until this point, you were pretty sure that when people said they really wanted to have children, they were either lying, or crazy.
Children were, in your experience, chaotic, messy, demanding, and willful. Nothing you had seen about any individual child seemed to align with the statements of parents that having kids was a good experience, let alone a transcendentally wonderful one.
But it will suddenly become clear – strikingly, frighteningly clear. And by the time you make it back home on that summer night, you will have moved solidly out of the child-free camp, and into much less comfortable territory.
There will be people who will be – if not shocked, then at least surprised by your change of heart. To your child-free friends, this is something akin to an atheist suddenly declaring she has found Jesus, so you can expect some backlash. There will even be those who will suspect you must have secretly wanted kids all along. But you will know that this isn’t true.
When you were a teenager and couldn’t imagine having kids when you grew up, you meant it.
When you were 20 and working odd hours and living in a shady apartment, and said you could never imagine being someone’s mom, you meant it. When your best friend told you she was pregnant and your heart dropped out of your stomach and all you could say was “really?” you really were horrified for her.
But then you will take that walk – and everything will change.
It is not going to be easy. Wanting something, no matter how desperately, doesn’t make it easy. (Think of any crush you ever had.)
For one, being pregnant isn’t going to be much fun. Strangers are going to touch your stomach, you’ll be tired all the time, and for another thing, did you know you’re not supposed to eat lunchmeat?
Childbirth will go pretty well for you, but – there’s really no easy way to tell you this – it’s going to mess you up. Physically, psychologically and emotionally.
Parenting a newborn will be precisely as hard and exhausting as you imagined it would be, only you will also discover a deep well of anger within yourself, and find yourself whisper-screaming at your four-month-old daughter, “JUST GO TO SLEEP! FOR THE LOVE OF GOD! JUST SLEEP!” at 3 a.m., more than once.
And – there’s no easy way to say this, either – you won’t love her right away. It’s going to take a while. In fact, it’s going to be one of the biggest leaps of faith you will take in your adult life.
But you will get through it. You will get through all of these things, and I can tell you this: There will come a day when you will be sitting around the kitchen table with your family, while the late summer sun spills golden across the grass.
You will be smiling and laughing and talking, the sounds of your voices mingled with the clink of silverware floating out over the evening air. And you will look around the table at the faces of the people you love – at the faces of your family – and you will say to yourself, “Yes. This is it. I’m home.”

How Parental Stress Impacts Kids

From the time they are in the womb until they are young adults, our kids can pick up our stress and anxiety.

If cold and flu season teaches us anything, it is that kids pick up everything. This is not limited only to germs, though. From the time they are in the womb until they are young adults, our kids can pick up our stress and anxiety.
We have a vital, instinctive, and emotional connection to our children. This connection allows us to sense when they are in trouble, what we need to do to help our baby when she cries, and how to protect them. It is this connection that fosters our parent-child bond and allows us to pick up on their insecurities, needs, and desires. This bond gives us what we need to care for our children, while ignoring the fact that we are exhausted and overwhelmed.
This connection also goes the other way as well. Through this connection, our kids pick up on our stress and anxiety throughout their lives. A child’s mirror neurons, which they will later use to develop the skill of empathy, causes them to be sensitive to our state of emotions. They mirror our stress, without even realizing it, and release their own stress hormones.
These mirror neurons help us read other’s emotions. While this is a good thing for our relationships, it can also have negative impacts on us – especially when children are exposed to stress and anxiety.

Today’s stress

Parents and children today are facing stressors that past generations did not face. We deal with hectic schedules, lack of sleep and rest, overworked parents and children, school stressors, bullying, cyber bullying, anxiety over marriages, health, finances, and our attempts to balance it all. We are trying to help our children grow into responsible adults, while also trying to enjoy their childhood.
Children today experience higher levels of stress, anxiety, and mental health problems than ever before. Many parents overfill schedules in an attempt to give their children the best possible childhood they think they need. Kids have more homework and intense social lives. All of this adds up to stress.

The impact of stress

Stress is more than just a word. It is a chemical reaction within our bodies that causes us to release our fight-or-flight hormones. This stress response can be beneficial when we are in danger or need to react, but constant stress over smaller issues can cause problems and make our responses overdramatic.
Allowing our bodies experience too much stress can have dramatic effects on our health, from heart disease to allergies to autoimmune diseases to mental health problems. During pregnancy, these hormones can cross the placenta as well. Researchers have found that high levels of stress during pregnancy are correlated to children with ADHA and other behavior issues.
We are born with specific DNA codes, and our biology plays an important role in who we become. But just as important, if not more, is the environment in which we live. While we are born with a specific DNA sequence that defines who we are, the environment in which we are raised can greatly impact our brain development.
Specifically, trauma during childhood can cause developmental problems in the gray area and hippocampus area of the brain, which can result in immune problems, health problems, social issues, addiction, and other developmental problems later in life. Additionally, through the process of interaction with our caregivers and environment, our brain’s neuron connections can be heightened or harmed.
Research has shown that the expression of our genetic makeup, or what genes are “switched” on or off, can vary based on our interactions with our natural and social environment. Therefore, our natural and social environments play a large role in determining our health, development, and personalities.
Although stress is often a factor in our physical and mental health, it is, of course, not the only precursor. Daily life, diet, exercise, and other aspects of our lives can contribute to our health problems.

The good news

We are ultimately in control of our lives and our choices. We can take the necessary steps to manage stress, build resilience, and help our children deal with their own stressors.
We can create a healthy and loving environment for our children. We can choose to make time for connection and foster loving relationships. We can walk them through times of stress and model examples of how to effectively handle stressful situations.
Bottom line, we are our kids’ most important allies and can use our innate connection to them to help guide them on their journey.

I Don’t Regret My Birth Plan: Notes From the Forever C-Section Mom

We all have the ideal plans for how we’re going to raise our kids and how they will turn out. Then life happens.

The pregnant woman sitting next to me at the park talks jubilantly about her upcoming birth and the way she hopes her labor plays out. I smile and nod, feeling excited on her behalf. I have four children, and the birthing days are solidly behind me.
“Did you write a birth plan?” she asks me.
“Yep. Every time.”
“What happened?”
I hesitate, always hating the answer. “I had three C-sections.”
I am the ultimate cliché, the woman who detailed her plans for birth, going slightly over the recommended limit of one page for a birth plan. My husband and I took a birthing class and watched “The Business of Being Born”, taking notes for later reference. I dreamt of unmedicated birth, immediate skin-to-skin contact, and going home quickly after labor.
Then, for three separate reasons – breech baby, three-weeks-overdue baby with no signs of labor, identical twins with TAPS – I was taken to a sterile OR to be sliced open, my children removed from my body that was numb from the waist down. I baked under the heat of the OR lamp while still shivering and wondered what I had done wrong. I was handed my babies before I promptly puked. Still, I attempted to cradle them in shaking arms, my body wrecked from all the medication.
It wasn’t until I needed a procedure to obtain a sample of my endometrial lining that l learned I have a defective cervix, one that simply will not dilate. It was a painful discovery, both in a physical and emotional way, but I chuckled maniacally thinking of my still-saved birth plan stored on my computer.
How the hell was this little discovery supposed to make me feel?
A friend said I should be grateful. In countries where access to C-sections isn’t promised, I would have likely been dead, an obstructed labor taking my first daughter as well. I tried on gratefulness and truly did feel thankful that all of my births ended well. However, I still felt like a fool, a woman who felt humiliated by my own body and its betrayal of me.
I’ve had a year to absorb the defective cervix news, and in that time, my feelings have changed. Today, my decision to write birth plans makes me proud. I’m glad I did it, that I trotted into my doctor’s office each time with my wishes spelled out in ink. I’m glad I was educated about childbirth, that I went from knowing nothing about having a baby to researching and planning for months for the birth I felt was right for me.
It was my first step towards mindful parenting, the process of weighing all my options and settling on what I believed was the ideal outcome for our family. Of course, the ideal didn’t pan out, but having a plan in the first place gave me a jump-off point to work from. What could we salvage from the plan? How could we adjust? What was best for everyone when the circumstances shifted?
This lesson, it turns out, is one that every parent will have to learn at some point. We all have the ideal plans for how we’re going to raise our kids and how they will turn out. Then life happens. We regroup. We save what we can. We find ways to be thankful along the way and fully grasp that none of this was ever truly in our control. We keep trying.
I also gained experience in standing up for what I believe is best for my kids. When I planned to VBAC with my son, I received a variety of responses. People laughed at me. They expressed shock that I wasn’t signing up for another C-section without a fight. Many questioned if VBACs were even a thing and if I was endangering my son by trying.
I held my ground.
I now do this regularly when people question my decisions to homeschool, to not dress our twins in the same outfits, or to try gentle discipline instead of spanking. I didn’t successfully VBAC, but I knew it was the chance I wanted my son to have, so I tried to give it to him. I wouldn’t take that back.
Writing a birth plan prepared me for looking ahead and making conscious choices. It taught me that I don’t have to follow the crowd or someone else’s way of doing things. I can chart my own course and do everything possible to navigate the experience and land where I want.
I can also live through it when life inevitably has other plans.

I Wouldn’t Wish Labor Pains on My Worst Enemy, But I Would on My Husband

Without the benefit of actual experience, it’s impossible to develop the true understanding that empathy requires.

I wouldn’t wish labor pains on my worst enemy. But I would wish them on my husband.
To be fair, I don’t have that many personal enemies. The mean girl in high school? Ex-boyfriend? They don’t deserve 12 hours of back labor that leaves them feeling like their hips are stuck in a vice. That jerk who cut me off in traffic? I hope she never knows what it’s like to vomit between blood-curdling screams.
The blinding pain, the all-encompassing agony – I don’t think anyone should have to go through that.
Except my husband.
What I wouldn’t give for him to experience labor just as I did.
Here’s the thing. He’s a good husband. The best, really. This isn’t some personal vendetta against him. It’s not like he was off romancing a mistress while I sweated through contraction after contraction. He held my hand, told me how well I was doing, and texted family with updates for hours.
And I hated him for it.
It was the same throughout each of my pregnancies. I was grateful when he gave me a foot rub, but what I really wanted was for him to know what it felt like to have swollen, throbbing feet. Sure, he was sympathetic as he hoisted me out of bed each morning. But I would have preferred that he fully understand the humiliation I felt at not being able to accomplish such a simple task myself.
When my breasts ballooned to triple their normal size, I was grateful for the cooling cabbage leaves he ran out to get (even if they were purple and stained my chest). What I truly needed, though, was for him to know what it was like to have a tiny life solely dependent on something you still weren’t quite sure how to give them.
My husband doled out sympathy for every pregnancy, birth, and postpartum ailment that came my way. But what I really needed was empathy.
Everyone knows that empathy is the trendy version of sympathy. It’s the one you are supposed to offer. But without the benefit of actual experience, it’s impossible to develop the true understanding that empathy requires. My husband could believe me when I told him my pregnancy and breast-feeding struggles, but he had no idea what they actually felt like.
Unfortunately, even talking to other moms doesn’t often provide us with the deep understanding we so desire. Conversations tend to head in one of two directions.
The “I had it way worse – why would you even complain?” exchange:
You: “I was in labor for 16 hours and pushed for another three.”
Playground mom: “Oh I wish I was in labor for only 16 hours! I was in active labor for six days, had back labor the entire time, and one contraction that lasted a solid 24 hours. I pushed for five hours while on a conference call for work. You don’t know how lucky you are!”
Or the “I can totally relate! Except I can’t.” exchange:
You: “Bed rest is really mentally and physically difficult for me.”
Other playground mom: “Oh, I know how you feel! My husband would cook me breakfast in bed on Saturday mornings and, honestly, sometimes I just kinda got bored laying there waiting for him. So hard, but such a blessing!”
You: No comment.
We crave someone who can fully share our experiences, and in turn, validate what we have been through. At the same time, we want recognition of the pain and difficulties that are uniquely ours, without having them watered down by comparisons.
More than wanting to be understood, even, we want to be appreciated. And on some level, we know that even the most sincere “thank you for all that you do” feels a bit inadequate when we think of all the aches and pains we didn’t even bother to clue our partners in on.
My husband will never fully understand what I went through with each of my pregnancies and births. But he knows the rest of the story: the sleepless nights with a child who wants to be walked up and down the halls, the panic the first time you rush your child to the E.R. with an undiagnosed allergic reaction, the pride and nerves you feel when they first hoist a backpack onto their shoulders and wave good-bye.
Occasionally my blood boils when I think of how he technically didn’t have any parenting responsibilities between the moment of conception and the moment of birth (and enjoyed a significantly lighter workload than me for the first few months thereafter). But the more years that come between the birth of my first son and the present day, I realize what a small percentage of parenting that truly was.
My husband might not ever be able to grant me true empathy. But I’ll be okay as long as he believes me when I tell him how difficult it all is.
And, yes, I plan on telling him about it for many years to come.

Quebec City: a Babymoon With Parisian Charm Without the Cross-Atlantic Haul

Many women dream of taking a babymoon to Paris. But a transatlantic flight and a high price tag aren’t always ideal. Enter Quebec City.

Many women dream of taking a babymoon to Paris. Feasting on pastries at a small café. Taking a sunset stroll along the River Seine. Savoring the last drop of culture before the late night feedings and endless diaper changes begin.
The thought of sitting on a plane for eight hours, flying across a body of water with no place to make an emergency landing often knocks the City of Lights off the trip list.
Enter Quebec City, Canada – A babymoon destination with all the flavor of Paris but no anxiety or swollen legs.
Quebec City is a short flight from the East Coast and Midwest. United Airlines and Air Canada offer direct, two-and-a-half hour flights from Chicago, Newark, New York City, and Philadelphia. Many connecting flights are available through international gateways such as Toronto and Montreal. Once you arrive, a taxi cab can whisk you to the historic downtown in less than 30 minutes.
A 240-year-old agreement between Britain and France helped preserve French language and culture in the now-Canadian province of Quebec. From its winding cobblestone streets to its elaborate cathedrals, Quebec City, the provincial capital, bursts with European charm.
Cafés bustle with French-speaking wait staffs. Quaint hotels provide a romantic ambiance. The sweet of smell of crepes permeates the street. It’s no surprise that Old Quebec City is on UNESCO’s World Heritage List.
There are no shortages of hop-on, hop-off buses to take you all around the city. Without having to walk, moms-to-be can take in the Place Royale, the Plains of Abraham, and all the other historic sites Quebec City has to offer. With no fixed schedule, you can make your way around town as slow as you want.
Pregnant ladies can also take in the sites from the water. Several companies offer guided sightseeing cruises up and down the St. Lawrence River. The best part? A complimentary brunch or dinner buffet is often included.
What you can’t drink in wine, Quebec City makes up for in food. From high-end bistros to hole-in-the-wall cafés, Quebec’s cuisine is an expecting mother’s delight. The insatiable pregnant appetite will not be disappointed. Sweet and savory crepes. Fresh seafood. Deep dish meat pies. You can even find a simple grilled cheese sandwich made with shredded gruyere and cherry chutney.
If the baby is craving something on the not-so-healthy side, many restaurants serve poutine, Quebec’s signature dish made with French fries and cheese curds topped with brown gravy. For dessert, you can treat the baby to Pouding Chomeur, or “Poor Man’s Pudding.” It’s a heavenly soft yellow cake, served warm, doused in maple syrup.
You can also take a trip out of the city. A popular day-trip offers two key amenities for pregnant women: a bus ride and chocolate. Several tour companies operate four-hour tours along the charming Beaupre Coast. Stops typically include the breathtaking Montmorency Waterfall, the legendary Basilica of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré, and the historic Albert Gilles Copper Art Museum.
Minimal walking is required, and to a pregnant lady’s delight, many tours stop at the Chocolaterie de l’Ile d’Orléans, where you can sample Belgian chocolates, and at the Chez Marie bread oven, which is famous for its homemade bread with maple butter.
Perhaps the best reason why Quebec City is a top babymoon destination: Its must-see list isn’t overwhelming. If you’re there for a few days, there’s no reason you can’t justify a late afternoon nap.

2017 ABC Kids Expo Editorial Round-Up

Our directed mission at this year’s ABC Kids Expo: to uncover smart, useful, innovative brands making a positive impact on parents’ lives.

Like conscientious messengers returning to our tribe from the far reaches of the desert, we’re here to tell our tales from the 2017 ABC Kids Expo in Las Vegas. Our directed mission: to uncover smart, useful, innovative brands making a positive impact on parents’ lives.
In no particular order, here are 10 standouts that caught our eye:
 

Kudo Banz kid behavior reward system Kudo Banz kid behavior reward system

KudoBanz

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There is a ton of well-founded research and data that supports the use of positive reinforcement combined with recognizing good behavior when it happens. It’s considered one of the most effective methods for improving a child’s behavior. Sticker reward charts are a great way to implement this action.
Kudo Banz is stepping up the game, however, with a fun, wearable reward system that’s always with you. The 1, 2, and 3 on the wristband have attachable “Kudos” that come in a wide variety of characters, from dinosaurs to superheros. This shows your child their progress and motivates them to earn their next Kudo with good behavior.
Tech Bonus: Once they reach the third level, your kids can open the accompanying app and scan the Kudo to unlock their personalized reward wheel and move up a level in the Kudo World. This keeps kids motivated over the long term.
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Lilu hands free breast pump

Lilu

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For mothers who pump, an astonishing 62 percent are unsatisfied with the way their pumps work according to the Journal of Human Lactation. Chief complaints include: discomfort, pain from pumping, as well as insufficient and slower milk extraction than when breastfeeding. Additionally, 66 percent of moms massage their breasts while pumping in an effort to express more milk.
Lilu is the first pumping bra to offer hands-free, automated breast massage, enhancing your pumping session and boosting your production. Little inflatable pockets generate massage and compression motions that gently stimulate milk flow from further back in the breast toward the front. This enables mothers to extract up to 50 percent more milk per session in a shorter period of time, all without needing to use their hands.
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Cake Maternity nursing bras

Cake Maternity

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Few people understand that nursing bras have a lot to do with breast health. Cake Maternity is on a mission to educate women and ensure breast health during this delicate time in a mother’s life. Part of every consumer experience addresses why and when it’s best to be fitted, as well as what bras are recommended by stage.
Cake understands that the pregnancy and breastfeeding journey isn’t easy and, even more importantly, that mothers are women first. It’s with this mindset that Cake respects and celebrates the uniqueness of each mother’s body. Cake products are fashionable, functional, and resourceful, reinforcing a woman’s essential selfhood after the birth of her baby.
This maternity and nursing bra company is setting a new tone and raising the stakes for the whole industry.
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Purill Step Stool from Hasegawa LaddersHasegawa Ladders

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Feeling around on top of the fridge for extra breastmilk-storage bags, or reaching that recipe book on the top shelf of the pantry, or helping your toddler reach the sink to brush his teeth…all these daily tasks could use a little boost.
Sure, you could go to Lowes and buy a step stool used by painters and contractors, but do you really want a clunky eyesore cluttering up your HGTV-styled home? (Okay, you have a kid, so it’s probably a mess, but you still appreciate and aim for a thoughtful aesthetic.)
Why not go for an upgrade and try the Purill Step Stool from Hasegawa Ladders. This brand has been creating beautiful, home-friendly ladders and step stools in Japan since the 1950s. Now available on the U.S. market, their designs are sexy, durable, fun, and colorful.
The Purill Step Stool is the ideal family friendly option for a little lift at home. It’s like a new pet that you don’t actually have to take care of.
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Malarkey Kids

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Beware the Munch Monster! This nocturnal beast can easily be identified by its massive amounts of drool, cranky disposition, guttural whelps, and a masochistic gnawing of its own fingers and hands. Have you ever had a run in with this creature?
When your baby begins to cut that first tooth, you, too, will encounter the “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” tendencies of your sweet child. While time is the ultimate cure, the Malarkey Kids Munch Mitt will ease the struggle.
This wearable teething mitten textured for chewing is sensorially crinkley, aesthetically interesting, and helps prevent drool-induced dry skin. Avoid the knock-offs, because there’s only one true Munch Mitt.
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Love Bug Probiotics

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Our bodies are full of bacteria, both good and bad. Probiotics are the good version: live bacteria and yeasts fundamentally necessary for a healthy gut. Pasteurization and refrigeration trends over the last 50 years have practically eliminated probiotics from the typical American diet and, in some cases, even added antibiotics, which kill off the good bacteria.
Probiotic-rich food sources such as yogurt and kombucha can help restore our healthy bacteria count and lead to a stronger immune system, improved digestion, increased energy, healthier skin, and weight loss. Love Bug Probiotics takes your family’s gut health to a whole new level.
This company has developed a robust line of products containing only the best probiotic strains. Their scientifically backed expertise has crafted supplements targeting specialized needs and health concerns, including products aimed at prenatal health, urinary health, tiny tummies, symptoms of IBS, and cold and flu.
Protect and nurture the health of your whole family with Love Bug Probiotics.
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Kizingo Kids spoons for kids to feed themselves

Kizingo Kids

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Kids who can successfully self-feed are less likely to become choosy eaters and are more adventurous in their eating, trying a greater variety of foods. They’re also less likely to overeat.
U.S. obesity rates have tripled over the last 30 years, so it’s more important than ever to create positive eating behaviors at a young age. Research has shown that the crucial period for establishing good eating and food habits begins when kids are learning to self-feed. Patterns created during this period influence eating behaviors into adulthood.
Traditional kid-sized utensils are a poor match for little hands, so Kizingo Kids has developed an innovative tool that helps children learn to self-feed successfully. Curved by design, these spoons promote independence and encourage mealtime success.
Kizingo Kids spoons are beautiful, affordable, and they come in both right and left hand models.
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OneBerrie bath blanket

Oneberrie

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Bathtime is a fun, special way to connect with your baby. But when you’ve both had enough and are ready to dry off and head to bed, your infant’s slippery little body can make for a treacherous and oftentimes very wet experience.
Instead of pinning a towel between your chin and chest or even between your teeth, Oneberrie has an innovative new solution: a towel that buttons around mama or papa’s neck, freeing both hands and keeping everyone dry and happy.
The towel adapts to grow with your baby as well. For newborns, wear the towel vertically to wrap him from underneath. For infants, wear the towel horizontally to wrap baby up like a burrito. And you’ll win the day with your toddler by letting her wear the playfully designed towels like a superhero cape!
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Swipensnape diaper cream dispenser

Swipensnap

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Diaper rash ointment is a necessity when faced with 8,000-plus diaper changes before your little one is potty trained. The process seems simple enough, but it takes two hands, and some ointments and creams are oily or sticky, requiring you to wipe your hands clean before touching anything or getting your baby dressed.
Swipensnap has created an affordable applicator that attaches to most tubes of ointment. It’s soft and flexible, allowing for even distribution on your baby’s bottom. The suction cup lid acts as a dock that can be snapped in and out of the applicator, so you can apply the ointment using just one hand and keep you, your clothes, and the changing table, clean!
Perhaps most importantly, this means your free hand can protect your baby from rolling off the changing table.
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CocoonCam baby camera and appCocoon Cam

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Imagine you’ve just returned home from the hospital with your new baby, the most precious creature in your parent universe. Newborns spend most of their early hours at home sleeping, and you spend many of those same hours just staring in awe at the newest member of your family, watching every tiny breath.
For those moments when you need to step away, and as your child continues to grow, baby monitors can help keep tabs. Some monitors deliver sound and video to you in another room, while others are baby-wearable devices that track vital signs. But how would you sleep with a device attached to your ankle? And what happens to the expensive onesie with built in vital sign technology when the inevitable diaper blowout occurs?
Enter the surprisingly affordable Cocoon Cam. Created by engineers from Tesla and Apple, Cocoon Cam uses computer vision technology (much like that used in a self-parking car) to create a real-time visualization of your baby’s breathing activity. The breathing graph is sent to your smartphone along with instant alerts, so you’re always aware if anything needs your attention.
You will get a good night’s sleep, knowing your little one is safe, sound, and protected.

Every Mother Deserves a Doula: The Benefits of a Supported BIrth

Supported birth is not just a luxury – it is a complete and utter necessity.

I’m 24-years-old, lying flat on my back in a stiff hospital bed. I’ve been forced here by a nurse who told me that regardless of what my doctor had said, “it’s hospital policy.” I’m entangled in wires, attached to monitors. Gray machines are beeping at me. I’m growing more uncomfortable, being held like a hostage in my own body, and I haven’t even begun to feel the force of my contractions.
“Am I having one now?” I ask naively, when a gentle tightening comes across my belly.
The nurse shifts her gaze to the screen next to the bedside.
“Yeah. You’re having one.”
Within a few hours, being on my back is unbearable. I’m twisting and turning, tying myself in knots. I am not being pounded with one contraction after the next, like I anticipated. I am in constant, unrelenting agony. I am blindsided by it and at a loss for how to manage it.
I sense everyone is angry with me for thrashing wildly, tearing at the bed sheets. But I don’t care because I’m angrier. I’m thinking of the time I spent reading pregnancy books that emphasized how important it was to move during labor, how birthing on your back could make for a longer, more difficult delivery, how your pelvis can’t open when you’re laying flat, and how the risk for cesarean birth increases. I did my research, and here I am, suffering at the hands of someone else’s ignorance. Someone who should know better.
My daughter finally emerges, in the early morning, but not before a doctor picks up a knife a slices me from underneath without warning. I almost yell out “Don’t!” I want to command him, but something, a fear of authority perhaps, holds me back. I don’t yet realize that it will be months before I can sit down without wincing, that my nerves have suffered permanent damage from his deep cut.

The advocate I wish I had

It’s been eight years since my first birth, but I’ll never forget how it felt to be so utterly unsupported on one of the most important days of my life. Yes, my then-partner, now-husband held my leg and said encouraging words. But he’d never attended a birth before. How should he know how to offer labor support? Everyone made it out alive, yes. Is this the only standard by which we measure the experience of giving birth? Escaping death?
No one had seemed to care about my choices, my feelings about my body or my baby, or what my recovery would look like as a result of how my body would be manipulated. There had been no one in the room to help me manage my pain, or to be my advocate when policies that lead to riskier birth were forced upon me. From laboring in bed to the episiotomy I received (a procedure that hasn’t been routinely recommended in over a decade), most of what happened during my first birth wasn’t evidence-based. I knew it at the time, but advocating for yourself while you’re in the throes of labor is practically impossible.
It would be years before I would become pregnant again. When I did, I learned there was a profession called a “doula,” a designated person who provides non-medical support during labor and delivery and in the immediate postpartum. I learned that doulas have the power to drastically improve labor outcomes, from decreasing the rate of cesarean birth by a landslide, to making sure women feel supported, empowered, and comforted during delivery.
Personally, a doula could’ve helped me to achieve an evidence-based birth, rather than one that felt convenient for everyone in the room, but torture for me. A doula could’ve saved me from hours of back labor (the most excruciating pain of my life) by letting me know I had the right to informed refusal (as any patient, even a mother in labor, does). A doula could’ve helped my partner be a better support, or spoken up to hospital staff if medical treatments I didn’t want were being pushed upon me.
A doula could’ve been the light when everything seemed dark and terrifying.

The case for doulas

There is no denying that giving birth in the US has become astonishingly dangerous. From having the worst maternal mortality rate in the developed world, to high rates of unnecessary interventions, to women experiencing birth trauma (PTSD-like symptoms post-delivery), supported birth is not just a luxury – it is a complete and utter necessity. Where you give birth is now the biggest predictor of what kind of birth you will have, and your care provider’s preferences and bad hospital policies dictate outcomes, rather than science.
Why shouldn’t they? A traumatic birth can lead to greater cases of postpartum depression, anxiety, and PTSD. Not to mention, the day a woman becomes a mother is a day she will likely remember for the rest of her life. Only too many of us don’t want to.
Women shouldn’t have to learn the hard way that when it comes to giving birth they need to arm themselves with an experienced person whose sole job is to support her, because often times no one else is (or even knows how). It’s why every single pregnant woman deserves a birth doula. It’s why they should be accessible and covered by insurance without question. And because black women are more likely to die in labor than white women, we especially need to make sure women of color have access to doulas, too.
Research also shows that women’s feelings about their births have more to do with labor support and having choices than specific details about the birth. So doulas shouldn’t be brought on board for one specific type of birth. Rather, they should be a standard for every birth. Whether a home birth, a hospital birth, a planned cesarean, or a VBAC, making doulas the new norm can make women feel comforted and supported no matter what type of birth they plan on having – or end up having.
Regardless of positive outcomes demonstrating the importance of labor support, mothers-to-be are routinely subject to messages that tell them that their choices about their own bodies aren’t important. They are told if they plan for their birth at all they will be mocked by the care provider. The narrative of calling women “controlling” or “unreasonable” for wanting to make choices about their own bodies might be centuries old, but it’s certainly not gone. We hear it all the time, and yes – some providers still hold onto the paternalistic attitude that tells women to lay down and be quiet. We should be pushing back against this harmful narrative, not accepting it so easily. These are our births, our bodies, and our babies, after all.
Supported birth is not our normal. We don’t see it or hear about it often enough. And while hospitals and care providers need better policies, training, and an attitude that seeks to protect women’s choices, we still have far to go. Too often, birthing women don’t receive the care they expect. Labor support can help bridge that gap for every birthing person and every type of birth, too.