A tribute to preschool wisdom

My family recently relocated with the military (more on that adventure here if you missed it) which means all of our young children went through the sometimes scary and always eventful process of beginning new schools and making new friends in a new place.

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Recently, while driving through our new town to my youngest son’s new preschool, I asked him to tell me a bit about his new friends in class. We discussed his peers in the true little-boy fashion I have come to know and love, which includes standard points like their names, what activities they do together, but also (and more importantly) what superheroes they like, what ninja moves they can do, and the fantastical tales they share about pirates, dinosaurs, outer space, and legos (all of which I’m certain I still don’t completely understand).IMG_6534

But what I found most interesting was his response when I asked him about one boy in particular that he mentioned playing with a lot, even garnering him with his “best buddy” status (which this kid doesn’t throw around lightly, believe. you. me.). Being the nosy mother I apparently am, I asked him what the little boy looked like. Not because it matters at all really, but because for some reason I wanted to see if I could find my son’s new “best buddy” in the class picture, or spot him on the story carpet at drop off. I don’t really know why, I think I was just excited that my little guy had a new friend more than anything else (and I tend to inherently want to know everything about everything our kids do. Sorry in advance to their girlfriends/boyfriends.)  So, I asked our son “what does your new best buddy look like?” and I really wasn’t ready for the preschool wisdom he was about to drop on me.

“I don’t know” he said.  “When I play with him, I look at him, but I just see a buddy. I don’t matter about the other stuff”

His simple, perfect answer hit me right in the chest and actually choked me up. Maybe it was because I was a little sleep deprived from being up with our 1.5-year-old the prior night, but mostly I think it was because he was so. right. on. And I… wasn’t. Because he was telling me, Mom, I don’t care about what he looks like in the way you are asking. All I see is my friend. And just like that, my little preschooler put me back in my place. Does it matter what his friend looks like? No, it doesn’t. Does it matter if I know what his friend looks like? No, it doesn’t. I don’t need to exert one ounce of my potential parental judgment into a classroom friendship that is making him happy.

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As adults, we tend to place so much emphasis on what we look like. In fact, I would even wager to say that we miss out on potential friendships because we can’t get past all of the things we “see” when we look at someone. Clothes, hair, color, shape, size, occupation… to name a few. Just think what we might see if we all looked at each other with a non-judgmental preschool heart. Past the physical qualities that so often define us to focus instead on our commonalities and shared experiences. Like being a mother or a father, a son or a daughter, a person looking for happiness, a person that likes dogs, sports, cooking, (or of course what ninja moves we can do, if only we could be as cool as our kids) or WHATEVER. What if we could “just see a buddy” in the people we meet? I for one, am going to try harder…

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So thank you, to my son for opening my eyes. And thank you, to his friend for playing with the new kid. May they enjoy many days of Batman, shark-hunting, and ninja-kicks together. And may we all bring a little preschool wisdom into our day.

 

fullsizeoutput_658Christiana is a Navy wife and mother of 3 inspiringly resilient military children, attorney and former realtor, world traveler, home renovator and decorator, yogi, fitness enthusiast, and recipe & wine explorer.

Photo credit: Tara Liebeck Photography

 

Disaster Preparedness, Baby & Child

As Hurricane Florence stares down the eastern seaboard and wildfires continue to rage in California, it would seem remiss to ignore that a natural disaster will likely touch all of us in some way at some point in our lifetime. Disaster preparedness is a major issue for everyone, but particularly for those of us with small children. Infants, pregnant/nursing mothers, and young children have particular needs that may not be covered by your standard emergency kit or checklist.

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To save a lot of googling, anxiety, and time (we know you already don’t have any…), we’ve compiled some of the best official disaster preparedness resources and thrown some emergency prep essentials from our own professional and parenting experience in the mix too. Some of these items are simply for comfort, while others could truly save lives.

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Basic Disaster Survival Kit

According to experts at the American Red Cross, a basic disaster supplies kit should include the following items:

  • A supply of water (one gallon per person per day). Store water in sealed, unbreakable containers. Identify the storage date and replace every six months.
  • A supply of non-perishable packaged or canned food and a non-electric can opener.
  • A change of clothing, rain gear and sturdy shoes.
  • Blankets or sleeping bags.
  • A first aid kit and prescription medications.
  • An extra pair of glasses.
  • A battery-powered radio, flashlight and plenty of extra batteries.
  • Credit cards and cash.
  • An extra set of car keys.
  • A list of family physicians.
  • A list of important family information; the style and serial number of medical devices such as pacemakers.
  • Special items for infants, elderly or disabled family members.

You can view and download the complete American Red Cross emergency preparedness checklist here.

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Extras for pregnant moms-to-be, infants and children:

While the Red Cross checklist is a great place to start, “special items for infants” doesn’t exactly help the stressed-mom-trying-to-pack-everything mode we all enter when trying to provide for the safety and welfare of our children in the face of disaster. Luckily, the March of Dimes created an emergency checklist specifically for pregnant moms and parents with small children. They suggest adding the following items to your family’s disaster preparedness supplies.

Pregnant Mothers:

If you’re expecting, your disaster preparedness kit should include basically what you plan to pack in your L&D hospital bag, along with some (admittedly rather scary-sounding) emergency birth supplies, as follows.

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  • Emergency birth supplies (such as clean towels, sharp scissors, infant bulb syringe, medical gloves, two white shoelaces, sheets, and sanitary pads)
  • two blankets
  • closed-toe shoes
  • maternity and baby clothes
  • prenatal vitamins and other medications
  • nutritious foods, such as protein bars, nuts, dried fruit and granola
  • extra bottled water

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For baby & child:

If you have an infant/toddler/small child, think about adding the following supplemental items to your emergency supplies to keep baby happy and healthy.

  • Baby food in pouches or jars and disposable feeding spoons
  • Extra baby blankets, clothes, and shoes
  • a thermometer
  • copies of vaccination records
  • antibacterial wipes and hand sanitizer
  • dish soap
  • a portable crib
  • baby sling or carrier
  • diapers, wipes and diaper rash cream
  • medications and infant pain reliever, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen
  • small disposable cups
  • ready-to-feed formula in single serving cans or bottles

For more information, you can access the full March of Dimes emergency preparedness checklist here.

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Additional Real As A M*ther Essentials

From our collective Real M*ther experience, the following items can also be invaluable for baby, child, and parent during extended power outages and temporary lodging situations that often accompany storms and natural disasters.

Anker cell phone charger

This rechargeable cell phone charger can provide you with extra hours of phone battery life when the power is out. Given all that we rely on our cellular devices for these days, it’s smart to have a way to access important information stored on your phone.

Nursing supplies for breastfeeding moms

Nursing pads, lanolin ointment/coconut oil, breast pump (with batteries and/or manual!) and bottling supplies, nursing pillow and extra blankets. Extra pacifiers.

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Battery powered lanterns

Candles are too dangerous, and flashlights become play-things in our house full of little ones. These waterproof Energizer lanterns are functional, bright, and provide hands-free illumination for a whole room. They also have a nightlight setting for which is great for kids’ rooms at night, and a 350 hour run time. We have three and use them almost constantly for one thing or another.

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Non-perishable kid’s protein sources

Getting your kids to eat is hard enough in perfect weather. When conditions may be challenging (OK, basically anything that involves the refrigerator not working is challenging with kids, but hangry kids won’t help) keep their bellies full with healthy, non-perishable protein sources. Some of our favorites are:

  • Earth’s Best baby yogurt pouches;
  • Nut butters like these Justin’s single-serve almond butter pouches (and don’t forget the Nutella!);
  • Larabars (natural ingredients, but soft enough for little ones to munch);
  • Horizon organic milk boxes (no refrigeration required); and
  • Snap Pea crisps (5g of pea protein per serving!)

Additional medicines for baby & child

Children’s Benadryl, Allergy/Asthma medications (as required), Simethicone drops or Gripe Water for little tummies. Band-aids, peroxide, and Neosporin for slips and falls and bumps.

Battery operated fans

In the hot summer months of hurricane season, the air circulation provided by even a small fan can go a long way to help kids and adults sleep comfortably during power outages. These O2Cool portable fans can be battery operated, no cords required.

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Battery powered sound machine

A little sleep goes a long way for everyone. A comforting song or white noise is a great way to help little ones (and adults for that matter) sleep in cramped, loud, or new environments, and when the electricity is out these battery powered machines can be a big help keeping little ones asleep without draining your phone.

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Comfort Objects and distractions

Stuffed teddy, puzzles, favorite books. Whatever makes your kids feel comfortable, along with a few activities to keep their minds active and away from potential disaster-related anxieties.

Birth Certificates

If you are concerned about damage to your home or potential evacuation, you can avoid a lot of potential hassle by bringing your child’s birth certificate along. Many times, we forget that children need ID in several situations too!

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Your Village

Remember that no matter what your circumstances, no one experiences a natural disaster alone.  Reach out to neighbors, school groups, church groups, and shelters. Get out of your comfort zone and connect. You’ll be surprised how many people are willing to help, and how many you can likely help as well. At the end of the day, we are all the village.

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Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone recovering from, and preparing for a natural disaster. Be safe y’all.

fullsizeoutput_658Christiana is a Navy wife and mother of 3, attorney and former realtor, world traveler, home renovator and decorator, yogi, fitness enthusiast, and recipe & wine explorer.

Photo credit: Tara Liebeck Photography

A Modern Day Village: The Birth Worker’s Inspiration

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I recently had a conversation with a client who is about to be a first time Grandmother. As I listened to her speak about her worries about her daughter’s upcoming birth, her struggles during pregnancies with depression and Hyperemesis Gravidarium, I was completely struck by the feeling of isolation that she was describing in her daughter. She is the only one of her friends pregnant, and although she does have a Fiance, he is  not operating on the helpful wavelength that she needs.

Immediately, my head swirled with questions to find out more.

“Who did this new soon-to-be-mama have to ask questions to other than the doctor she sees once a month?

Why is no one there for her other than her mother? Is the doctor leading her to support groups, mothering circles, moms with prenatal or postpartum depression? What will she do when she actually HAS the baby? If she’s struggling with depression now, who will watch out for the signs/symptoms of it in the postpartum months? Who will help this woman!!!!!!!??????”

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A little voice in my heart spoke up right then.

You, silly. You’re a birth doula. You have all she needs. Help her.

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Almost moved to tears, the words fell out of my mouth reflexively. “I remember those feelings all too well in both of my pregnancies,” I said sympathetically. “It sounds like she could use a birth and postpartum doula.”

The only difference between this mama and me when I was going through those same terrible feelings while pregnant was, I wasn’t actually alone. I had my doula there one phone call away at any moment. I had the cohesion of care between my amazing midwives, my doulas, myself, and my team. I had created my village.

After explaining what a doula is and does to her, (if you still want to know what that is, reference my Demystifying Doulas post here) it occurred to me that in some cases, women have no idea of the need for a village.

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Photo Cred Doulamatch.net

Back in the day, we lived in literal villages that would commune together for the birth of a new village member, and either call the midwife or have one on hand. 9 times out of 10, the birthing mother had a sister, mother, friend, neighbor, SOMEONE, with her until the midwife could arrive to her. Thus, the doula is born. Even female elephants know the importance of gathering around to form an impenetrable barrier of support for the birthing mother. I frickin’ love elephants.

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While modern-day women and birthing communities are certainly bringing doulas back, there is still too large a proportion of women who go unsupported during the pregnancy, birthing, and postpartum process. Why, you ask? Mostly because, they do not know we exist. It is the lack of conversation, or the lack of clarity on our exact role, that I sadly have to believe is one of the main reasons that birth has the potential to be such a traumatic experience for some women.  Having the guidance of your doula to shepherd you into the parenting life with grace, provide you with materials to support you every step of the way, can provide you with your lifeline if when you need it.

A glorious benefit in making the choice to hire a doula is that he/she may in turn lead you to your permanent, modern village.

Truth is, the years of preconception, pregnancy, transitioning to becoming a mother of one, two, three, multiples, etc., can come with many mixed emotions. No matter what your situation turns out to be when you find out you are pregnant, the feeling of isolation can be sudden and agonizing. When hiring a doula, you’re not only receiving the personal care of a hands-on teammate in your birthing journey, you are also DSC01327choosing an expert in community, local resources, birth education, knowledge of primary care givers specific work, and access to birth related evidence, articles, and, yes, even a postpartum sounding board. The doula will, in essence, be your trail guide for navigating the rough and unknown waters of this new chapter.

It is time, now, that we stop isolating ourselves as mothers. Let’s remind our world that we have been supporting each other proudly and strongly for…well…since the dawn of humankind. We do not need to do it alone. It may feel too daunting a task going to these mothering circles full of strangers, organizing birth class dinners at your house, or even seeing a therapist to get the necessary prescriptions to aid you. What if, in lieu of uncertainty of the support you need, you could Call. Your. Doula.

We can support this adventure every step of the way. We are here, so that you can be here and present through the whole process.

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Now that I have you convinced of the awesomeness of unconditional education and no-judgement support during your birthing years, let me illuminate the steps necessary to finding your perfect doula.

  1. Ask a friend: Ask around for a connection or connect with the doulas in your area by using the ultimate doula search engine: Doula Match  
  2. Interview a few: Find the right candidate by sitting in the energy of several different people.  Remember, you are hiring for a job, so the right fit is important. Birth is a vulnerable experience, so pick someone who will make you feel completely safe, who makes you feel confident, and someone by whom you and your birth partner feel empowered.
  3. Ask all the questions: Make sure you understand their vision of care, fees, and schedule and those align with what you had in mind for your birth vision. After all, it is your birth, the team you hire should complement it in every way with encouragement and advice that makes you feel informed. Do you want a doula just for prenatal education and birth? Do you know you’ll need postpartum care? Do you even know what that means? Does this person have the resources for all of that?
  4. Contract: You should always enter into a contract with your doula. That way there is an expectation of care that is agreed upon by all parties. This agreement is key, as mentioned above, it will be the catalyst for your new life as a mother.
  5. Get excited: Your doula should help you feel connected to birth classes, books, and other materials to prepare you for your upcoming experiences and all outcomes!

We all need the help. It is up to us to choose, in this modern world, just what our helping hand will look like. Most of us consider this calling a service to womankind alike. I am here to let you know it’s out there. I am writing to speak aloud that we are everywhere. We are your friends, neighbors, sisters, mothers, co-workers and colleagues, gym members, professionals, and tradeswomen.nature.jpg

We are your village, and we are here for you.

Kristy is a doula, massage therapist, energy worker and mom of 2 in Virginia.

 

10 Reasons why your kids are like law school roommates from Hell

As I transition into this season of my life where I spend more of my day surrounded by children than adults, I have noticed some striking similarities between my darling young children and another group of people with whom I was privileged to spend a good number of my days as well. Wait for it… law students.

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Now, you may think “whoa, whoa, whoa my kid is definitely not a blood-thirsty litigator-to-be or self-righteous mumbler of constitutional convictions!”  I hear you. But truly, neither are most law students.  Actually, based on my (dare I say, experienced?!) observations, law students and young kids share some pretty similar day-to-day living habits. And really, this list just makes me laugh out loud.

10 Reasons why your kids are like law school roommates from Hell:

1. They attempt to use words in discussion that they don’t really understand yet.

2. They try to pass off pajamas as proper clothes. (Particularly to school.)

3. They pass out in random places, at random times.

4. They try to steal, and subsequently lose ALL your notes.

This includes lists, calendars, and pretty much anything else in paper form.

5. They start arguments over the smallest issue for no apparent reason.

6. They seem to exist entirely on snack food.

And leave said snack food in ALL the couches.

7. They say they “want to read” with you and then bolt after the first few pages.

8. They unapologetically raid your groceries.

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9. They continue to debate an issue ad nauseum long after a decision has been reached.

10. They can, without fail, think of 998 other things that urgently need doing before homework.

In reality, I had two super-fab law-school roommates who are now both super successful #lawyermoms and (unlike myself) fully understood the words they used and did NOT pass out in random places. But let’s be honest, we were all kind of like this all “knew someone”

Keep laughing friends, Monday is already partway through! Cheers to your week (perhaps with your littlest roommates) from REAL AS A M*THER!

fullsizeoutput_658Christiana is a Navy wife and mother of 3, attorney and former realtor, world traveler, home renovator and decorator, yogi, fitness enthusiast, and recipe and fine wine explorer.

Photo credit: Tara Liebeck Photography

Dr. Annie Answers: Breastfeeding 101

Happy World Breastfeeding Week! Given the celebration of lactation we are in, I wanted to get out a quick and dirty, insider basics style guide to breastfeeding for mamas to be or current lactaters. It’s not comprehensive – for more details, please check out La Leche League, Kelly Mom and/or get a lactation consultation or talk with your own provider! These are just some hard-won tips of the trade.

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On demand means on freaking demand

Breastfeeding is not easy, people. I have lots of family doctor and OBGYN mommy friends who have ALL said at one point or another, “this was so much harder than I though it would be!” … and of all people we should know what to expect! Some people certainly have an easier go of things than others – a challenge rather than the literal blood, sweat and (so many) tears battle other mamas fight through. But if it’s possible to get your baby that “liquid gold”, the health benefits are innumerable for you and babe alike. Also… No shaming here for the mamas who truly can’t make it work! Breast is best, but fed is a damn close second.

1) Initiation

Starting breastfeeding off right begins at birth. This is a super important part of breastfeeding going well with less difficulty. Many hospitals around the country have signed on to the “Baby-Friendly Hospital” guidelines to help mom and baby get an optimal start to breastfeeding and bonding, which is FANTASTIC! This includes (see Baby Friendly USA for more info) 10 items the hospital must comply with to show they are on board with supporting breastfeeding.

Probably the most important of all is recommendation #4: “Help mothers initiate breastfeeding within 1 hour of birth”.

This goes along with another important recommendation that isn’t always included in hospital protocols: The Magical or Golden Hour. Babies should be delivered and immediately placed naked, skin-to-skin with mom and kept that way for at LEAST 1 hour after birth. That means no bath first (there is actually very good evidence your baby should NOT be bathed in the hospital at all to keep their healthy skin flora), no shots, no eye ointment, and assessments done ON MOM unless there is an urgent medical concern that requires otherwise for the first hour of life.

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Sweet Mimi in her Golden Hour

This is not the favorite policy of many Labor and Delivery floors because it delays some of the tasks needed to wrap up post-delivery care. As much as I love and hugely appreciate my L&D RN friends, this efficiency concern gets a big ol

The Magical Hour is profoundly helpful in establishing proper physiology, bonding and strong initiation of latch and breastfeeding and should be protected. It is truly magical. Most babies will, completely independently, literally crawl up mom to the breast and latch themselves properly with practically no intervention. Check out the YouTube video and hundreds of others if you don’t believe me.

There are, unfortunately, sometimes medical emergencies that make this not possible. That’s ok too! Do as close to this as you can. Mom can’t do skin-to-skin? Dad/partner/birth partner can do it. Baby needs to be monitored more closely? Get mom or dad touching them as soon as it’s medically safe. Once you can, do skin-to-skin for as many hours of the day as you can to catch up. Some wonderful providers have even started doing skin-to-skin in the OR for their cesarean birth patients when it is safe. Do your best!

2) After The First Latch, Lube it Up

After you get that initial magical latch in, the real fun starts. Bring in and use nipple oil (I prefer coconut oil, some use lanolin or compounded ones with both) after EVERY feed. Warm it gently between your fingers and slather it on there. Wipe off any excess gently with your breast pad before the next feed – but no need to wash off.

Whichever your choose (if you can, buy a small one of each and figure out which you like best), try to pick an organic one – we’re talking about some of the very first things to go into your baby’s mouth and gut. Spring for the best.

3) Ask for Help

If you don’t have a doula to personally help you, ask for help from the birth center. Most hospitals now have staff lactation specialists who can come help you. DON’T pass this up!!! Unless you’re an ultra experienced mom of multiple babes or lactation nurse yourself, have them check you out. Get comfortable with what to look for in a good latch and have them demonstrate with you and your actual baby several different positions.

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upside down side lying position to sooth baby for photo shoot… not super highly recommended

 

If you don’t have access to one right away, there is guaranteed to be an experienced nurse on the floor who can help and then schedule your lactation consult for after discharge. La Leche League website is a great place to find local support and resources for follow up.

4) Fuel Up

You’ll need to eat and drink a LOT for your body to make enough good milk. You should aim for 3-4 liters of water or other hydration daily. Keep a LARGE water receptacle by you at all times. Make sure your support person knows to refill when low. If you’re thirsty, you’re already over a quart of water low.

Breastfeeding burns up to 800 calories a day in the early days. As you’re starting out, you’ll want to eat like a teenage boy doing two-a-day practices in the middle of a growth spurt. All of a sudden, the crazy guy who speed-eats 100 hot dogs will seem somewhat reasonable. Go for it. If you want to be “healthier”, focus on getting in LOTS of fat and protein and limiting stuff with chemical additives or added sugar. Yes fat. You’ll burn it off later – don’t worry. No dieting of any kind until after 6 weeks when your milk is established. period.

5) Forget All Else

This is the last of the basics I’m gonna throw at you. For the first month (or two) of your baby’s life, breastfeeding should be your only task. If people want to come over? Great! they have to be people who 1) you’re ok with seeing your boob flopping around and 2) be willing to do chores with 3) no actual promise of holding or even touching the baby. Let everything else go – you eat, sleep and breastfeed.

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or not sleep…

Breastfeeding on demand (which will feel like the full 24 hours of the day) is the best way to make sure your milk comes in and your baby has enough. Almost no one truly does not make enough milk if they initiate feeding on demand without formula (or nosy know-it-all in-law) interference. Let your baby’s health care provider guide you on whether there’s enough milk getting in. Your job isn’t to guesstimate volume of milk, it’s to put a boob in the baby’s mouth every time they seem hungry. TheMilkMeg sums it up:

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Happy Feeding Mamas!

Dr. Annie is a family doctor and mom of 2 with 1 on the way with 25 months personal breastfeeding experience and lots more hours helping others. Please add your questions and personal tips to comments below! Let’s help each other this week and all weeks!

Friday Faves: Rainy day “bored games”

If you’re like many of us East Coasters here lately, there are only so many interesting muddy puddles to be found in a rain-filled summer like ours.  With the weekend forecast looking something like this for um, the ENTIRE coast… we thought some of you parents out there might be in need of some rainy-day entertainment for the kids.

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 So,  here is our list of favorite rainy day family “bored” games when the weather takes you and your littles indoors, again.

Kristy’s picks

Chutes and Ladders

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This classic game is simple enough for the youngest players and nostalgic fun for the whole family. If you have a competitive guy, like I do, they’ll have so much fun laddering up to take the win!
 And, um, consider yourself warned if you have more than one competitive guy (or girl)…

Hedbanz

This game has us using our brains, laughing, and teaching our kids how to ask relevant and out of the box questions. We love it for the laugh factor, and the fact that there are moving parts that can be delegated amongst all the kids.

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One kid is on timer, one divvies out the winner’s coins, and the oldest plays the games. Our little one has the job of the main “yes, no, or maybe” regulator which adds an extra element of fun while teaching her how to spell and understand the word that is in play.

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Annie’s Picks

I’m not afraid to say that I may be a bit of a board game traditionalist. These oldies but goodies keep us (and more importantly) the kids coming back time and time again.

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Candyland

Everyone still plays this game for a reason. There are simple instructions for the youngest players,  bright colors, matching, and a little healthy family competition.  (The health of said competition may depend, however on your sibling situation…) “WHY DO I ALWAYS GET THE ICE CREAM?!?!” You know the feeling. We all do.

Uno

Another classic. UNO is awesome for one, because it is a card game with NO board to take up space in avalanche that is your board game cabinet. You’re welcome.

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UNO is also super educational and can easily be played at whatever level suit your child’s abilities. Players take turns matching one of their cards with the color or number card shown on the top of the deck, and first player out of cards wins. You can write your own rules with customizable wild cards that older kids love, too. 

Christiana’s Picks

I will just come straight out and say that both of my picks here are for NON-competitive games. As a mother to fiercely competitive brothers who turn life’s most mundane daily activities into a competition, some days I really just don’t need another “I WON!!” in my life. With that in mind…

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Hoot Owl Hoot

Hoot Owl Hoot is an adorable, award winning cooperative matching game that encourages players to work together instead of compete against each other to win.  I wasn’t sure if my boys would go for it, but BEHOLD! They love it. 

Our family has fun working together to “fly all the owls back to their nest” and our middle child loves the suspense of moving the sun toward the dawn as we race to the finish. As a bonus, this game can be played at two difficulty levels so it can grow with your children. Highly recommend!

Wooden Dominoes

I love the look and feel of this sweet wooden domino set. Our kids love matching, playing and building with these, and the illustrations keep even our little 18 month old engaged.

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These sets are durable, fun, and great for teaching animal names, as well as counting, hand-eye coordination, and word recognition. Perfect for a rainy day!

Oh, and muddy puddles aren’t all that bad either. 😉 Happy summer showers, friends!

 

 

Pregnant, MD: What’s Safe in Pregnancy Myth vs Fact, Part 1

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Photo Credit: Fiona Margo Photography

Hey mamas and mamas-to-be! There is a lot of confusing and alarmist information out there on the interwebs about the safety of lots of things everything in pregnancy. We all want to be safe, but also to not be deprived of allofthethings for 9+ months. This post is a quickie guide to set the record straight on some of the most common questions we pregnancy providers get. This, like all my posts, are not ever meant to replace the personal guidance of your own health care provider – when in doubt, as them! I’m breaking this down on the following very non-scientific scale:

Myth – Mostly Myth – Kind of Fact – Mostly Fact- Fact

No Coffee – Myth

Our family lived in Portugal when I was in Kindergarten and first grade, so that was about the time I started drinking coffee. No joke. So, when I was learning about pregnancy, you better believe I looked up all the information on this topic! I can’t tell you how many people I have talked to – even other doctors – who are under the impression people have to stop drinking all caffeine the moment they conceive. That’s just cruel.

My actual face if you told me not to drink coffee while pregnant.

The truth is, The Cochrane Review looked at the research and the best studies have shown no difference in pregnancy outcomes with moderate caffeine intake. What’s “moderate caffeine intake”? About 200mg caffeine daily. That’s one tall Starbucks brewed coffee or an espresso drink with 2 shots. Strong black tea has about 50mg per cup and regular or diet soda (bad for other reasons….but) about 35mg. Energy drinks vary widely – if you want to look up your specific fave bev, check out Caffeine Informer.

No Hot Tubs – Mostly Fact

This one is legit. Studies have shown that raising your core body temperature can increase the risk of miscarriage in early pregnancy and other complications later on in pregnancy. This is true whether it’s a high fever from being sick or you are in a hot tub, sauna, hot yoga, or even hot bath or shower at home.

Does this mean you can’t take a quick hot shower ever? No! You can go in any of these warm environments for a little while. What’s a little while? As soon as you feel hot, break a sweat, or of course if you feel light headed at all, leave and cool off immediately. If you can’t trust yourself to make that judgement, avoid altogether.

No Hair Treatment – Mostly Myth

The old types of hair treatments for dying and perming had toxic chemical derivatives which were potentially dangerous, especially in first trimester of pregnancy.

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Definitely got my hair did before these pics.

Newer dyes should be free of these chemicals and are ok. Highlights that aren’t applied to your scalp are also fine – just stay in a well-ventilated area because your breathing can be more sensitive during pregnancy. Perms and straightening treatments again vary – ask your salon if they offer safe, natural alternatives to the older more harsh treatments. More info HERE on American Pregnancy’s Website.

No Nail Polish – Mostly Myth

You can get your nails did with no worries as long as the salon uses good hygiene practices. One of my favorite midwives from my training at UCSF, Judith Bishop, wrote a great summary HERE on this. Any kind of polish and even fake nails are ok. Beware though – the chemical smells might make your sensitive nose and stomach unhappy!

No Cheese – Mostly Myth

The key here is *pasteurized*. You can get Listeria, a dangerous bacterial infection that can cause miscarriage, from unpasteurized dairy products. Pasteurized cheeses that are within their expiration dates and have been properly stored are fine. Even soft cheeses. Most restaurants should be able to tell you if their cheese is “raw” or pasteurized – if they can’t skip it.

appetizer assorted bowl cheese

No Lunchmeat – Kind of Fact

This again is due to Listeria concern. You should avoid lunch meat unless it’s been heating to steaming in the microwave, stovetop or oven. Not sure how you feel about warm lunchmeat, but this preggo is NOT for it! Opt for grilled chicken, tuna salad (no more than 2 servings per week though) or other choice if you don’t like warm sliced meat.

 

No Fish – Kind of Fact

Speaking of tuna…. The main concern with seafood is about mercury. Check out and print yourself THIS PDF from American Pregnancy if you want a quick guide to which fish are “highest mercury” aka, avoid entirely or just “high mercury” aka have no more than 2 small servings weekly or lower and you can enjoy at will.

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Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

What about sushi?? So, cooked sushi is always ok as long as you are paying attention to mercury issues. Raw sushi *theoretically* should all be flash frozen based on USDA safety regulations and therefore should NOT have the parasites that are of concern in pregnancy. However, you are putting your trust in the sushi fish purchaser and preparer in this care, so approach with caution.

 

 

 

 

No Strenuous Exercise – Mostly Myth

There are no strict guidelines regarding exercise in pregnancy because this is highly variable as to what is safe and normal for YOU. There are elite athletes who’s “norm” is to run 10 miles or lift hundreds of pounds of weights on the regular. There are couch potatoes who get winded walking up a single flight of stairs.

Seriously, though… Exercising in pregnancy is actually key to having a healthy pregnancy, easier delivery, and – get this – fewer stretch marks! The main guide here is how the exercise makes YOU feel. Yes, that’s right, you have to listen to your body. This is not the time to “push through” and override your body telling you it is hot, too winded or  overworked. You will need to be more cautious with yourself because your blood flow is altered, your body shape is changing and your muscles, ligaments and tendons will be affected by relaxin hormone eventually.

No Sex – Mostly Myth

OK, think about it. If having sex while pregnant was dangerous, do you really think humans would have survived this long? A lot of pregnant woman have their libido skyrocket thanks to increased blood flow to the lady parts (though if you don’t that’s nothing to worry about). It is ok and GOOD to have sex if you want to in pregnancy. Get. It. On.

A few words of caution though… If you have pain or bleeding during sex, stop. Have your doctor check you and tell you if it’s safe to continue having intercourse during your pregnancy. And if you’re pregnant and single – you need to be ultra careful about not contracting an STD. They can cause severe birth defects, miscarriage or stillbirth if contracted while you are gestating. Safe sex – good. Unsafe sex – bad.

No Smoking – Fact

This includes ALL smoking. Smoking cigarettes and being exposed to second-hand or even third-hand (if you smell it even though no smoke is around, that’s third-hand smoke) can cause complications in pregnancy. If you are smoking when you conceive, talk to your provider right away about how they can help you quit. If people around you are smokers, same goes. It is NOT sufficient for them to just go outside. If your sensitive sniffer can smell the smoke, you’re being exposed. 

What about pot? It’s legal now and stuff, and doesn’t it help with appetite? NO, not safe in pregnancy. Marijuana has been shown to increase rates of ADHD, anxiety and other cognitive disorders in children who were exposed in utero. Stay away.

No Alcohol – Mostly Fact

Saved the most controversial for last! So, here in the USA, all of the official guidelines from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Academy of Pediatrics, etc… go along these lines, “There is no amount of alcohol known to be safe in pregnancy”. So, pregnancy providers will tell you to abstain completely from the time of ovulation if you might conceive through birth.

The Royal College of OBGYNs (Britain’s version of ACOG) takes a slightly more relaxed tone, saying “The safest approach is not to drink alcohol at all if you are pregnant, if you think you could become pregnant or if you are breastfeeding. Although the risk of harm to the baby is low with small amounts of alcohol before becoming
aware of the pregnancy, there is no ‘safe’ level of alcohol to drink when you are pregnant”. None of the large studies done recently showed negative effects on the baby or child with having a few drinks per week. However, the risk of preterm birth with alcohol exposure and of the devastating fetal alcohol syndrome makes pregnancy providers approach this with significant caution.

I know you are looking for a straight forward “yes you can have a glass of wine now and then” or “no, alcohol is truly dangerous”. We don’t have that yet. As a health provider, I follow the lines of saying, no amount is safe. As a woman physician, I know a whole lot of doctors who have read the studies and comfortably go ahead and have a drink now and then in the later parts of pregnancy. Ultimately, you’re in charge of making that decision for yourself and your unborn. Think about whether the anxiety when your kid seems hyper at age 3 that maybe they have subtle effects because you had a glass of wine at that dinner party is manageable vs the benefit you’ll really get from said glass of wine. You should for SURE never get drunk or even tipsy – that’s a no-brainer.

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Photo Credit: Fiona Margo Photography

What else?

This is why I called this Part 1… Please, comment away with questions, Myths you want busted, funny examples of crap your mother in law told you was unsafe in pregnancy! Part 2 will be based on your input. Whatcha wanna know??

Dr. Annie is a married mom of 2 with 1 more on the way (bump captured by Fiona Margo in the above pics, if you’re in the PNW look her up!!) and family physician in California.