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  • Making Mistakes can Speed up the Learning Process with Breastfeeding

    A recent study by the John Hopkins School of Medicine showed that the brain learns motor skills faster by processing errors than any other way. In the past it was assumed that people learned and performed a motor task faster the second or third time around because they had more practice, but this is not the case. Although practice helps, the learning part comes from the brain's processing of mistakes. The brain, which never ceases to amaze and surprise us with its abilities and cleverness, stores memories of motor skill errors in performing a task which it then processes for making adjustments for the optimal outcome. We knew our brains were smart, but this shows that they are even smarter than we first thought as they can successfully automatically critique our every motor action to figure out what works best, sort of like self-coach we didn't even know we had.

    This science can be applied to almost every area of life figuratively and directly to physical areas that relate to motherhood, such as breastfeeding your baby. As we know all babies are different. So although it may be easier to breastfeed the second or third time around, what worked before on one baby (one particular hold or technique for latching) may not be as effective on a different child. It takes trial and error to find out what works for both your baby and you in the breastfeeding relationship. It also takes trial and error to figure out the times of day, amount of time and a multitude of other factors for optimal results in breastfeeding.

    For example, maybe your baby needs to be woken up a little first by having its diaper changed or a layer of clothes peeled off so they are not too hot and more awake. Maybe you need to play with your baby a little first to get them more stimulated. There may be a certain hold that works better at nighttime than daytime. Perhaps you nurse better an hour after dinner or a big glass or water as your milk supply is full. For some moms their best nursing sessions are first thing in the morning when they've had more sleep and restful time for their body to fully replenish their milk supply. There are so many factors involved in finding success in breastfeeding, particularly early on.

    One of the encouraging facts about this study is that your baby’s brain. which is amazingly wired, is also processing the trial and error information and figuring out how they can best feed. That’s one of the reason why its easier to breastfeed a baby with each additional week of life and experience that you stick with it. However, it is helpful to have an expert, such as a lactation consultant, to observe and offer advice on holds and techniques for breastfeeding your baby early on and especially if a problem arises. They can help speed up that learning process by using their expertise to narrow down on what might be going wrong or what adjustments you can try.

    The key is to stick with it and not give up hope when things don’t seem to be going well. With your brain and your baby's brain working together, breastfeeding will get easier. There will come a point when your baby knows all of your queues to nursing without you needing to spend fifteen minutes preparing a nest of pillows and props and mirrors to make sure they are positioned just perfectly. Before you know it you will only need to barely lift your shirt or nursing top ever so discreetly and your baby will know exactly what to do without you needing to pause for a breathe as you talk to a friend.

    Trust in the miracle of your brain with trial in error (and any additional professional help you may need) and nursing will be a piece of cake in no time. Also with all of those calories you burn nursing you can treat yourself to that occasional piece of cake without any guilt!

     

  • My Life as a Mom - Part 3

    I nursed my third baby nursed for 15 months until about the time I started feeling he was going to outgrow me. Looking back on it I realized I did succumb to a bit of social pressure or perceived social pressure. If I had it to do again I would have nursed him as long as I liked. Of course my husband believes our six year old would still be nursing if I didn’t wean him in that second year. However, the idea is to nurse him as long as I, the mother, would like and am able and not someone else tells me he is too big to nurse and should order for himself at a restaurant.

    I was actually quite surprised with how easy the weaning process was for all three of my kids. It always seemed so daunting when I would hear about people weaning their baby in a hurry before returning to work. What I discovered with the process is to do it gradually makes it easier for all, particularly my own body which was used to producing huge amounts of milk. I found that it is a lot less traumatic for the mother to emotionally and physically adjust to the reduced amount of nursing when it is stretched out over a longer time horizon than trying to power wean over a weekend. When weaning is done gradually over time, the baby barely notices and you might even find you want to hang onto that last nighttime feeding a little longer as you bond with your baby before he falls asleep and as you sometimes fall asleep yourself . One of the perks of nursing is that it does help you relax and fall asleep. It is remarkable how smart and flexible babies can be to new schedules and how fast the body can regulate to new supply and demand updates. Nature has made us elastic with our babies’ needs and babies are amazingly adaptable learners to new modes to feeding – although it may not feel that way at first because they have a lot to say about it.

    Looking back today as my youngest is 6, my middle child is 10 and my oldest 12, I am truly glad I was able to nurse all of my children for as long as I did. The first two I was able to continue to nurse after my maternity leave ended and I was working fulltime. It is amazing how you can make things work when you really want to do so.  Once we made it through the very rough first couple of weeks and even months it was a very fulfilling experience (and it did help me lose a lot of baby weight!) It provided me with a lot of bonding with my children and forced me to take my own “time out” of my busy day and evening to unwind with my baby. This was particularly nice when I was working fulltime and our caregiver would feed my baby my pumped milk during the day. The evening feedings when I was at home could be done in person and I could truly bond without a pressing commitment to my baby or hooked up to a machine.  I did find that keeping some interesting magazines around my go-to glider were a must have for daytime nursing. It also feel gave me a sense of competence and completeness that I was enough to continue to provide life and nutrition and comfort to my child. I was equipped with the goods as a mother. However I also know that having the support from my husband and caretakers when I was working fulltime was a big part of that equation as well, particularly when multitasking with other children and work responsibilities.

    Each stage of motherhood holds its own challenges and joys. As soon as you think you have one mastered, you enter the next. I have also found that each stage is less daunting than it seems from the distance. The terrible twos and toddler years can hold their share of stress but can also overwhelm you with joy and fun in firsthand experiencing your baby come into their own and literally start exploring and testing their world. The preschool years can be a big breath of relief as well as trepidation as you maybe for the first time drop off your child at school and leave them there for a period of time with people you have not personally hired and vetted. Even the older kid and tween years are an enriching time of seeing your child become more confident and independent and less in need (or desire) of constant handholding as they bond more with peers.

    Each and every stage holds its surprises and rewards. I have found and continue to find that reaching out for help when you need it is key. If you do not have family nearby (as we do not), finding a neighbor or mom at your school to help with carpooling, trading off on playdates and, if you can afford it, finding the occasional babysitter so you can escape on a date night is important in keeping some sanity and balance in your life. Everyone tells you to enjoy your kids while they are young. Sometimes it’s hard to enjoy every moment, especially when you are tired and sleep deprived. It's easier to enjoy them when you have the support you need to take care of them.  Just remember to be kind to yourself, patient with your kids and say “yes” to help whenever it is offered! You also deserve a mom time out, even if it's just a cup of coffee by yourself or a trip to the mall or bookstore. Treat yourself occasionally to a nursing top or something you like. It will make your whole experience all the better when you are not feeling deprived and your own needs are met. Remember to put your own oxygen mask on first, then are best equipped to meet the needs of your child!

  • My Life as a Mom - Part 2

    Now whoever says that having a 3rd child is no different than having a 2nd is clearly delusional as I was when I entered this pregnancy with that mindset. I observed blissful friends who handled 3rd and 4th babies with a cheerful attitude while flexing stronger biceps. I believed the adage of adding one more potato to the pot was all that was required for one more child to the family (in addition to a new college savings fund that cost more than a whole field of potatoes).  Like most parents of multiple kids, we generally felt we were prepared and experienced for this third time around the block.  We had the gear – strollers, cribs, car seats, clothes, blankets, sippy cups. We knew the drill – schedules, naptimes, feeding and diapering.

    What we forgot was that we were 6 years older than when we had our first and approaching middle age. I was pushing 40 at the time of my 3rd child’s birth and those extra years did make a difference in my energy and ability to bounce back after my pregnancy compared to my earlier pregnancies. Not to mention I had two younger kids to take care of and I didn’t have a nanny or housekeeper to help with everything. So, maybe there was more than age at stake in that extra wave of fatigue this final round.

    The biggest surprise was that nursing did not come easily. For some reason I just assumed it would be easy as I nursed my other two kids for almost a year each. Although I had problems in the beginning with each in terms of milk supply and every kind of lactation difficultly from painful latches to mastitis, I did eventually work through it with the help of a lactation consultant and my OBGYN for a fulfilling and successful nursing experience with both of my children. So to find I had the same exact array of problems with my 3rd was shocking. Once again I found myself at the mercy of baby scales and schedules and trips to the pediatrician’s office to check the baby’s weight gain. In all of my years of school, college and graduate school I never experienced the same degree of test anxiety as that of getting my baby weighed and awaiting my pass/ fail results from my pediatrician. I felt like I was always just barely getting by but working like crazy and pulling all-nighters preparing for the weighing in exam.

    Finally after the help of a lactation consultant once again, a Medela hospital grade nursing pump to help with milk supply stimulation, my husband’s unwavering support with all the other baby responsibilities, and the help of herbal supplements and Reglan to promote milk supply and sheer persistence, we made it through to the other side of nursing the way it’s supposed to be, painless and brainless.  You know the side, where you can nurse anytime, anywhere and everyone is happy and dinner is always warm and on time. I used to be paranoid and modest with my nursing with my first baby, very worried that any bit of skin might peek out or I might offend someone with the sheer act of nursing my baby. Not so with my third baby.  I would nurse in open air at a park, in an airport, on an airplane next to any stranger, at a restaurant and not feel the need to retreat to the tiny bathroom stall for privacy and modesty. Armed with a good nursing bra and sometimes a stylish nursing top, I was good to go anywhere with my baby and feed on demand. Now at last I could enjoy my baby and the perks of not having to pack a bottle

  • My Life as a New Mom - Part 1

    Pregnancy and motherhood is a sacred time in our lives as women. The miracle of growing a human life inside of us is awesome. When I look at my kids and think that they somehow arrived here through my body and have now matured into the full personality individuals they are at 6, 10 and 12 year olds, it is more than I can wrap my head around.

    Pregnancy and motherhood is a journey and a process. You become a mother once you are pregnant, even before your baby formally arrives. Already you are thinking for two, eating for two, even dressing for two in your maternity clothes. You start planning nurseries and logistics around working or staying at home with your baby. If you plan to return to work you begin the process of looking into daycare or nannies or even reducing your hours or maybe working a more flexible schedule.

    I remember going through this whole process as a first time expecting mom more than twelve years ago before my son was born. We explored all options for our son’s care before and after he arrived but finally decided on a nanny once my maternity leave ran out. It was a challenging process of commuting to work, pumping milk while away from my baby and returning home again to care for my child. I missed my baby while at work but also enjoyed returning to my identity as a working person. I appreciated my job more and liked having adult conversations with coworkers and making decisions that did not involve nap schedules or baby feedings. But none the less it was challenging leaving my baby and pumping milk when I would rather be nursing my baby in person.

    When I had my daughter two years later I was able to mostly work from home while my nanny cared for both of my children. I was very structured about separating work from mothering and would literally close the office door to shut out any noise and to physically compartmentalize my professional world during working hours. The only thing that crossed the line was pumping milk, which usually occurred while on mute during a conference call. None the less, I kept my “double life” pretty quiet although I was open with my manager about my arrangement. Sometimes I was able to nurse my baby during part of a lunch break - which literally became my baby’s lunch hour with the rate that my methodical daughter nursed. But, it was a welcome break and a special time of bonding that I felt lucky to have while working.

    When my daughter was approaching two, I quit my corporate job to stay at home with my kids and focus my attention on my new online business. Although it first felt like a vacation to stay at home with my two young children and not have an outside work commitment, I soon found that life as a work at home mom without a clear work schedule, or a schedule that my two under 5 children were willing to go along with, was more challenging than I first thought.

    Joining the ranks of the Stay at Home Moms was not an easy process. Although most were friendly and welcoming at preschool pickups and drops offs, I often felt like a foreigner who was not savvy on the many activities, mommy and me programs, playdate calendars and volunteering that these women could rattle off in detail as part of their daily lives. I observed how they communicated at a faster quicker beat (often frequently pausing midsentence to respond to a toddler’s questions or address a baby’s needs) than work colleagues’ deliberate measured tones and corporate lingo.

    I marveled at how these women could pull off so much while pushing baby strollers, dealing with toddler demands and hefting babies in and out of car seats without missing a beat in conversation or their daily itinerary of playdates, errands, meal planning and even social outings. Often toddlers would troll behind them like ducklings with sippy cups or snack baggies in hand as these fit mamas, often sporting stylish gym clothes in what appeared to be perpetual workout mode, pranced a few feet ahead, always in motion and cheerfully conversing with those in their path. Somehow they were able to seamlessly integrate their kid’s schedules and naptimes into their daily life on the go. Often naptimes were incorporated into errand running while kids were strapped into their car seats or strollers or taken to the park on a "Mom" playdate with another friend with young kids. Meals and snacks were often packed ahead so there was no need to return home, ever.

    By the time I felt I was getting the hang of it to legitimately fake being part of this league of moms was about the time I learned I was expecting my 3rd baby. That's when I found out I was out of my league.

  • Is your Baby getting enough Vitamin D?

    Breastfeeding your baby is a great way to not only bond with your baby but to give them the very best customized nutrition and antibodies that they need to be healthy.  However the one vitamin that you may be lacking in providing through your breast milk is vitamin D. Vitamin D is an important part of both your pregnancy diet while your baby’s bones are developing and your breastfeeding diet as your baby continues to grow and develop.

    If you do not get enough Vitamin D in your diet when you are pregnant your baby may develop a condition called rickets from soft bones. Also by getting enough Vitamin D while you are pregnant you increase your chances of having a healthy, uncomplicated pregnancy.

    While breastfeeding it is important that you eat a healthy diet as your nutrient intake is what feeds your baby the vitamins and minerals they need to be healthy as well. Depending on how much vitamin D you are getting with your diet and sun exposure, you may or may not be providing enough vitamin D for your baby. If you do not have enough vitamin D in your diet, you will need to give your baby a vitamin D supplement (and you should probably a supplement for yourself too).

    Vitamin D deficiency is linked to a number of factors including:

    Not enough sun exposure outside.

    Having dark skin

    Being overweight or obese

    General recommendations for Vitamin D for pregnant women by the Vitamin D Council are 4,000-6,000 IU/day. Researchers found that moms that took at least 4,000 IU a day where more likely to have uncomplicated births and their newborns were likely to have enough vitamin D when he or she was born. Women without enough Vitamin D in their diets were more likely to have premature births, develop gestational diabetes, have preeclampsia and more likely to have a C-Section.

    The Vitamin D Council’s recommended intake of vitamin D for babies is 1,000 IU/day.  If you are getting enough vitamin D as a breastfeeding mother, then your baby is also getting enough vitamin D and does not need a supplement. If you baby does need a supplement you can give them prescription vitamin D drops directly or add them to food or drink for your baby.

    If you as a breastfeeding mother are taking a supplement of 6,000 IU of vitamin D each day, then your baby does not need a vitamin D supplement as your breast milk will have enough. If you are not taking a supplement (or you are taking less than 5,000 IU/day of vitamin D) and not getting a good amount if sun exposure, then you need to give your baby a vitamin D supplement.

    If you are getting a good amount of skin exposure to the sun each day, then you are probably getting enough vitamin D to make your breast milk rich with vitamin D. However most mothers are not able to get enough skin exposure every day to meet this requirement and do need a supplement 5-6 days a week. When you are not getting enough sun exposure for a number of days your breast milk will quickly clear itself of vitamin D unless you are taking a supplement.

    The upper limits for Vitamin D intake is 2,000 IU/day for babies and 10,000 IU/day for pregnant women. So, unless you are over supplementing, it is hard to exceed these limits. Formula milk varies with how much vitamin D in the formula. Most formula milk has between 40-100 IUs of vitamin D per 100 calories. You will need to figure out how much formula your child has a day to add up the vitamin D IUs they are getting. Based on this result you can figure out if you need to supplement your baby with vitamin D or not and how much to supplement. Remember to adjust your supplements as your baby’s intake of formula may increase over time.

    Although exposing your skin to the sun is a great way for pregnant and breastfeeding women to increase their vitamin D supply for both themselves and their babies, you also want to be careful not to burn. Although skin exposure for your baby will increase their vitamin D directly, your baby’s skin is extra sensitive and should not be exposed directly to the sun for at least the first six months, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Even after 6 months you will need to be careful of your baby’s sun exposure, especially in the hot summer months as burns can happen quickly to your baby’s sensitive skin.

    Vitamin D supplements are a good subject to bring up with your pediatrician. However it is also good to educate yourself on this subject as well so you can have a very informed conversation with your doctor on how to best supplement your baby if needed.

  • New Research Supports Vaccinating your Child on Time

    The vaccine controversy has raged for a number of years, particularly with celebrities sharing personal cases of why they have chosen not to vaccinate or why they are in favor of delaying vaccinating their child.  New research may add more fuel to the fire of that argument or at least more support for following wide spread agreed upon practices by the medical community to vaccinate your child in a timely manner as recommended by your doctor.

    Current statistics show that one in eight children have been under vaccinated due to parent’s concern over vaccines and refusing or delaying their child’s vaccines. These parents are concerned that their child may be receiving too many vaccines at one time or for their young age or their child's small size.

    By inspecting the data more closely, it has been discovered that the opposite is true. A recent study published by JAMA Pediatrics found that the risk of an adverse reaction to a vaccine, such as a fever or in extreme cases, a seizure, increased in older toddlers from 16-23 months old, versus younger children 12-16 months old (which is the recommended age range for receiving the vaccine). This research suggests that delaying vaccinations was not a safer choice, as many presumed it might be. Instead the younger children with less well developed immune systems actually had fewer side effects from the vaccine despite having less robust immune system than the older toddler, who was more likely to have a side effect.

    In the editorial written by Dr. Kristen A. Feemster and Dr. Paul Offit , she stated in response to these findings, “vaccines are recommended at certain ages and intervals to optimize the immune response, ensure protection when a child is most at risk for disease acquisition, and minimize adverse events.” Her editorial goes to state that this type of research supports the well-established safety and timing of the current vaccine schedule for children.

    Avoiding the vaccines altogether is even riskier as more and more cases of measles are cropping up across the United States from children and young adults who have never been vaccinated with sometimes fatal results. This is a risk that many parents do not take into consideration when choosing to delay or refuse vaccines as many may think that these older less frequent diseases, such as measles or whooping cough, are no longer a threat. As more parents refuse vaccines, there is a much greater likelihood of a breakout from these older diseases which can quickly become more widespread in an unvaccinated community. The risk is even greater in today’s global economy with diseases passing quickly across borders with people traveling more frequently and with air travel.

    While you are pregnant, this is a good time to do your research and talk with your pediatrician about any concerns in vaccinating your child. If you have not yet chosen a pediatrician, this is the time to interview and choose one that you are comfortable with – remember this is a doctor who you will be visiting quite often in the early months and years of your child's life and perhaps for the entirety of their childhood and early adulthood. This person will be your trusted advisor for many a well-child visit and any time your child gets sick.

    It is important that you do your own research as well with vaccinating so you know where you stand when decision time comes up. Celebrities with well stated public opinions on these matters are just one data point and who are usually not medical experts. So do not give undo weight to their opinion over well conducted clinical research. Your pediatrician is the best place to start if you have any questions or concerns about vaccinating your baby and making an informed decision on your approach to vaccination.

  • The Magic of Maternity Swimwear

    One must-have item that every pregnant woman needs in her wardrobe this summer is a maternity swimsuit that she loves. The criteria for loving it is that you will actually wear it and maybe look forward to wearing it, and that it does in fact fit comfortably and can be worn in the water without coming off or showing through.

    Many expecting women think that they really don’t need a maternity swimsuit, but the truth of the matter is that you will be hotter than hot this summer as you are running on a pregnancy thermostat, which always runs hotter than your normal pre-pregnancy temperature with elevated levels of progesterone flooding your veins. The reason they say you have a “bun in the oven” is because you are in fact cooking and yes, you are the oven.

    There is probably a good chance most of us will be near water at least some point this summer and there is no more relaxing activity or safer exercise for a pregnant woman than going in the pool and actually swimming or even just wading around. Your baby is swimming inside you all the time, so why not join him and her with your own water aerobic workout, swim a lap or two or simply move around in the water and enjoy the buoyancy of a lighter belly at last. In fact it will probably be the only time where you actually feel both cool and weightless, and that in itself is reason to invest in a very nice maternity swimsuit.

    The other misconception pregnant women often have, and myself included for my first pregnancy, is that you don’t actually need a maternity swimsuit. This, my friends, is an 'ole wives tale because either they don’t remember how uncomfortable it was to wear a regular swimsuit while pregnant (including buying one size up which just makes you feel bad and still doesn’t fit just right) or they probably didn’t make maternity swimsuits when those “ole wives” were around anyway. Anyone who has tried to squeeze a second to third trimester body into their pre-pregnancy swimsuit knows that it just doesn’t work and is very uncomfortable. Plus, by the end of those nine months that swimsuit is pretty much shot anyway with spandex that does not spring back into place, ever.

    Maternity swimsuits are really the best invention since sliced bread. Once you try one on, in the right size, you will have a "Hallelujah" moment. Finally, at last, someone got it right! You are not fat and your body is not bigger with the same proportions, you just have completely enlarged Dolly Parton proportions that can often include not only the expected belly and chest parts but also the bottom, just to help balance out that center of gravity in the front no doubt. Plus your breast are extra sensitive, so don't even think about minimizing swimsuits nor does your tummy need any pressure. Be respectful of the bump and honor it, you do have a living being down there after all who is only getting bigger by the minute and needs to breate. Also the thought of restrictive clothing of any kind is both suffocating and nauseating to most pregnant women.

    Maternity swimwear, when done well, is genius. It can have you actually looking good in your swimsuit, maybe even sexy if you allow yourself to admit it. Plus it is made to stretch and stretch and stretch comfortably where needed without falling off in the pool or getting carried away in a tidal wave (not that you should be doing any aggressive wave jumping at this point!)  As a result you can actually save money by not having to buy a new ill-fitting non-maternity swimsuit every 2 weeks or show excessive cleavage or worry about wardrobe malfunctions while enjoying the club pool with mixed company or chasing a toddler in the baby pool.

    Good fitting, well made and deliciously styled maternity swimwear is your right, your privilege for being pregnant in the summer time. It's your reason to get in the pool and move those achy joints while looking good at the same time. Enjoy your pregnancy and your summer with the right maternity swimsuit!

  • Why the French Look so Fit so soon after Pregnancy

    Now we have new evidence not only why French Women don’t get fat but why they bounce back so quickly after having a baby compared to most of us in the United States and other countries.

    In most countries, the US included, women are often sent home ASAP after the baby, sometimes as soon as the next day following delivery. Once at  home women are left to fend for themselves for both caring for their baby, breastfeeding their newborn and recovering from birth both physically and mentally.

    In France, however, women see their gynecologist within the first month of birth for a full checkup and discussion session. They then routinely get twelve half hour sessions with a specialist in postnatal physiotherapy to rehabilitate their pelvic floor and abdominal muscles. This specialist also checks the abdominal muscles for any damage or separation caused during pregnancy and French postpartum women are then given exercises to tone them up.

    Many of us develop “mommy tummy” following delivery that oftentimes never fully goes away. This is the horizontal roll of fat along your stomach that hangs down in two sections if you bend over. The technical name for this is abdominal diastasis and it is often an indication that the abdominal muscles have not fully closed back together again after childbirth. This separation is caused during pregnancy when the front abdominal muscle that wraps around the baby starts to pull apart. In France this abdominal area is checked before women even leave the hospital and they are then given a set of exercises to heal the damage. In most places in the US, women are overlooked in this department and sent home fully oblivious to any damage caused to their abdominal muscles and pelvic floor during pregnancy nor are they given any instructions on what to do about it.

    Oftentimes women unknowingly exercise these stomach muscles too vigorously too soon after birth, like doing sit-ups or running (particularly if they used to be super fit before they were pregnant and are eager to resume their fitness routines), which further contributes to increased separation and damage of this muscle. In France women are shown how to strengthen their pelvic-floor muscles to close the gap and then introduced to more advanced abdominal exercises.

    Knowing this, it is a good idea to ask your doctor to check your abdominal muscles before leaving the hospital to determine if you have any separation and, if so, to understand the degree of it. It is common to have more of a problem if you have had more than one baby or if you had a big baby.

    If you do have a gap ask your doctor to prescribe for you some basic stretching exercises to help to begin closing this gap. Ask your doctor to show you how to feel the gap when you lie on your back so you can also monitor the progress at home.

    Even if we don’t live in France we can at least reap some of these postnatal benefits by educating ourselves on what they are doing so well. We can also speak up to our doctors for the same rehabilitation advice so we can be healthy and happy postpartum and lose the "mommy tummy" for good!

  • Attention Expectant Moms – Drive Carefully!

    Drive Safely! Drive Safely!

    A new study by the Canadian Association Journal cautions that pregnant women, particularly those in their second trimester, have a significantly higher risk of getting into car accidents than women who are not pregnant. Although the cause is still uncertain, it did find the risk of getting into a serious accident rose 42% during the middle trimester of pregnancy.

    Although I usually attribute such news or assertions to stereotypical data skewing, this research does seem to have some valid data behind it to warrant a cause for concern. The study leader, Dr. Donald Redelmeier, told NPR that he suspects the normal symptoms that accompany pregnancy and which may be more pronounced during the second trimester such as fatigue, insomnia and stress, are likely the reason for this uptick in driving accidents.

    This would make sense as numerous studies have shown that fatigue is as big or sometimes bigger culprit than alcohol in many motor vehicle accidents. Also, pregnant women oftentimes have to deal with nausea, morning sickness and even under eating and unusual diets during this time. Physiologically expectant woman have increased hormones associated with pregnancy, namely progesterone and estrogen, which can lead to looser tendons and ligaments, thus further lack of coordination and reaction time when driving a car.

    Now hopefully this study does not give us one more thing to be paranoid about during pregnancy as we already have such a laundry list of “don’ts” but increased awareness and vigilance is not a bad thing. Dr. Redelmeier tells NPR, that telling pregnant women to be careful drivers “seems like incredibly banal advice to give. I realize that. But every one of our crashes in the study could have been avoided by a small change in driver behaviors.” Those small changes included minimizing speed and distractions (not texting or reading email while driving or talking on cell phones while driving) and simply taking care to follow traffic rules could have avoided an accident.

    Maybe skipping that morning coffee has increased the risk as well (they didn’t check out that variable)! In any case, go ahead and grab your keys and drive where you need to go, but just be a little extra careful to pay attention as you do have a baby onboard.

  • Tylenol during Pregnancy may be linked to ADHD

    It seems there are so many rules during pregnancy that it gets very confusing about what we need to take, like Folic Acid, and what we should avoid, like alcohol, caffeine and many pain medications. Now the latest research has uncovered that many seemingly benign over the counter pain relievers, including Tylenol, that are often prescribed to pregnant women, may not be as safe as we thought.

    A new study from Demark published Monday in the journal of JAMA Pediatrics now suggests that over-the-counter pain relievers with acetaminophen when used during pregnancy may be associated with ADHD behavioral problems in children. Although this is new research and the study authors were careful to state that “exhibiting ADHD-like behaviors” is not necessarily the same as being diagnosed with ADHD. All the same, it is cause for concern and for caution in taking medication containing acetaminophen as the active ingredient. This news is especially alarming since Tylenol has long been considered one of the safer medications pregnant women were advised to take for a fever, headache or the many aches and pains of pregnancy.

    If you have taken Tylenol during pregnancy do not panic. The study suggests that the risk is more highly associated with taking acetaminophen for long periods of time and particularly later in pregnancy. The women in the study that reported used acetaminophen pain relieving medications for 20 weeks or more had a 50% increase in requesting ADHD medication in their children later on. It is too early to assume that this is a cause and effect relationship but there is certainly enough evidence to avoid Tylenol and any medication containing acetaminophen during pregnancy if possible or at least to be very cautious in dosage and how long it is taken during pregnancy.

    This study reminds us to be extra vigilant about medications during pregnancy and to be sure to consult your doctor if you have any questions about any medication. No question is a stupid question for your doctor. Also it is important to do your own research on medications in addition to consulting your doctor as studies such as this one are very new and may not have made the rounds to all the medical communities. It is also important to have these conversations with your doctor to inform them of new information that may not have been known when they were in medical school and is not yet common knowledge.

    This study is also a reminder that we cannot assume that what we did prepregnancy exercise-wise, work-wise, or medication-wise is also safe during pregnancy and nursing postpartum. Also, it is a constant re-evaluation of what is best as our bodies are constantly changing during pregnancy, so nothing is static. If you are having pain issues there are many non pharmacological ways you can explore to deal with pain including massages, baths and acupuncture to name a few. While we do not want to be paranoid about everything we do, it is also better to err on the safe and conservative side during pregnancy when in doubt.

    Knowledge is power. It is important to do your own research during pregnancy and make your own informed decision about everything you decide to do. The end of day do not stress over your choices, just know you did the best you could do which is really what parenting is all about. None of us is perfect and guilt gets us nowhere, but informed decisions are the best way we can be the responsible and loving parent for our child that we all want and strive to be.

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