Baby Blues or Something More?

Getting Real with Shadra Bruce

blueHaving a child is a joyous occasion. There is so much excitement over a new baby, and everyone expects the new mother to be overcome with happiness. Unfortunately, having a baby isn’t all rainbows and sunshine…it is a huge adjustment.

So much happens to a woman when she becomes a mother! She transitions from an individual who was only responsible for herself, to becoming someone who is entirely responsible for keeping another human being alive. Combine that with a wide range of hormones, anxiety anxiety over how to care for the new baby, and a number of different stressors, and it’s no wonder new mothers are exhausted. Some women may even feel that they are losing themselves in the label of “mother,” Some may wonder if they exist only to feed and change the small, often crying child that is now theirs.

Baby Blues or Postpartum Depression?

Many people, including doctors, will write off these feelings as “baby blues.” Some mixed emotions can be expected after giving birth, but a depressed mother is often assured that her conflicting feelings will pass shortly. When they don’t, the depression can get worse.

Postpartum depression is something to be taken seriously. There is nothing wrong with a woman who senses that with the gain of a child there is a sense of loss of the way life was. A mother can love her child deeply and still have conflicting emotions and self-doubt. But if you are feeling overwhelmed or feel like you might want to harm yourself or the baby, or if the feelings of sadness are so overwhelming you cannot function, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. You can start by learning more about Postpartum Depression – dads and partners should read this too!

The Importance of Talking Back to your Baby

MomsGetReal Contributor Kristin Hackler

“Wow, it’s chilly today. Don’t you think so, little guy? I’ll bet it’s in the mid fifties, maybe lower. What’s that? Is that a red bird? What do we call those red birds? A cardinal! And there’s Mrs. Cardinal! I wonder what they’re up to today…”

talk to your babyConversing with an infant tends to sound less like a discussion and more like crazy lady chatter to the outside observer, but this was how I would talk with my son during his first few months of life as we strolled around the neighborhood. Odd lines of poetry, observations and nursery rhymes were just as likely to come out of my mouth as random sounds and spontaneous words. Part of it was the lack of sleep — I didn’t get more than an hour-and-a-half straight during those first six weeks – but the other reason was because somewhere, at some point, I heard that babies needed to hear their parents talking as much as possible, as early as possible.

I was surprised, however, when I found out how truly important this really is.

Stimulating the Growing Brain

A child’s brain grows to 90 percent of its adult weight during the first three years of life. During this time, all of the talking, reading, singing and interacting you do with your baby literally turns on their brain cells.

By talking to your baby, you’re actively setting the foundation for their future vocabulary and literacy skills. And even if they haven’t yet figured out babbling or seem to ignore you as you sing and recite to them, all of that verbal activity is making a huge difference. In fact, the more a parent talks with their child starting from the day they are born, the more likely that child is to succeed in school later on.

Talking Their Language

Despite all of the encouragements to talk with my baby as much as possible, however, I remember being particularly worried about the effect of talking to him in “baby talk.”

It was my thought that if I spoke to him like an adult, he would learn to speak like an adult and we could avoid all that silly sing-song language in the meantime. But on this one, I was dead wrong.

Speaking with long vowels and in varying pitch, usually accompanied by exaggerated facial expressions, can actually help a baby learn language more quickly. The sing-song language and use of short, simple sentences helps them hear the words you’re using more clearly, and the goofy faces and funny sounds helps to keep their attention. Just think about when you’ve tried to learn other languages. Did you understand more when the teacher spoke slowly and in an engaging manner, or when you tried to hold a conversation with a fast-talking native speaker?

Another very important point that I learned about baby talk is that speaking back to your child in their own abbreviated language – “ba ba la da dee da” – in no way hampers their growing language skills. In fact, it helps them learn about pacing and tone, and teaches them how people take turns when holding a conversation. And perhaps most importantly, it lets them know you’re paying attention to them and that you’re interested in what they have to say.

Break Out the Books!

While all this talking is certainly helping your child’s brain grow and make all-too-important neural connections, reading is by far the most important thing you can do with your child, hands down.

According to the National Research Council, the larger a child’s vocabulary is, the greater their tendency to become a proficient reader, which in turn helps them form a solid foundation for later learning.

I had no idea that my newborn would care if I read to him or not, but multiple studies over past years have shown that it’s never too early to start reading to your baby. From simply enjoying the sound of your voice to eventually pairing the images on the page with the words you’re saying, reading is as much of a bonding experience as an educational one. So instead of plopping down in front of the television at night, curl up together in your favorite pair of reading pajamas and break open a good book. It’s one of the best and most long lasting positive impacts you can make on your little one.

So whether you babble in baby talk or chat softly about random thoughts, pour through poetry or read a couple pages of your latest novel to your newborn, every moment spent interacting is vital not only to your child’s future education but to the bond you’re forming every day with your precious little one.

Kristin Hackler writes about parenting, family and home life for eBay.com, a popular source for the entire spectrum of childcare supplies – from cribs and bedroom furniture to pull up diapers (available here). Kristin is also a freelance journalist and author of a children’s book.

Want Your Baby to Sleep? Appease the Senses!

Getting Real With Shadra Bruce

The second you started telling people you were pregnant you probably heard something like, “Say goodbye to sleep!” Or “You better get your sleep in now!” It’s true that babies are notorious for waking up frequently throughout the night, and there is some truth to what these experienced parents are telling you.

The first few weeks after a baby arrives are going to be rough: Just succumb to that fact now. Newborn babies need to eat every few hours to thrive and there is nothing you can do about it. However, once they head into their first or second month, they start to get used to day and night and you have a chance to finally get more than three hours of sleep at a time. You can increase these odds by creating a sleep-inducing environment for your new baby.

Make it Dark

 If you want your baby to sleep through the night, he needs to understand when night is. Just like you, his circadian rhythm will begin to associate light with day and dark with night. That being said, most babies need the room to be completely black to really sleep. If he can see even a little bit of light creeping in the room, then there is too much to distract him and keep him awake. Blackout drapes and shades are a must in a baby’s room. They block out any streetlights and will keep your baby sleeping past the crack of dawn. The Shade Store sells many choices of blackout roller shades to coordinate with your nursery decor. Plus, this style of shade does not have loose strings so it is safe to install in your nursery because there is no strangulation risk.

Keep it Warm

Sometimes babies just wake up frequently because they are too cold. To help prevent this, make sure your baby is bundled up nice and cozy for bedtime. Since you can’t exactly put a loose blanket in your baby’s crib due to suffocation risks, you will want to get a wearable blanket. The Halo brand sells SleepSacks that you zip on your child to keep him warm. If your baby is still swaddling age (which is okay until he can roll over), Halo even sells some SleepSacks with Velcro swaddle wings.

Appease the Senses

You’ve already covered sight and touch, but what about smell and sound? Yep, both senses play a big role in your baby’s slumber abilities. Lavender essential oil is a handy little tool that can help your little one sleep more soundly. It uses the concept of aromatherapy to help him relax. All you need to do is get a little bottle of the oil (sold at the Vitamin Shoppe) and put a single drop on one corner of your baby’s sheets when you put him down. One bottle will last you a long time.

As far as sound is concerned, the first rule of thumb is to always have noise on when your little one is sleeping. That way he won’t wake up easily to the regular sounds that occur in your home. Some babies sleep well with the help of a sound machine; Marpac is a great choice. Its sound machine is not the cheapest option, but it is well built and will last for many years. That’s a good thing because when you see how well it makes your baby sleep, you will never want to give it up.

Image sources:

Photo by Documentally via Flickr

Photo by fraew via Flickr

Photo by luispabon via Flickr

A Black Friday Shopping Survival Kit for New or Soon-to-Be Parents

Getting Real With Shadra Bruce

While my best advice for Black Friday is to stay home and skip the chaos, especially if you’re expecting or have a newborn, if you do have to go out, here’s a Black Friday Shopping Survival Kit for New or Soon-to-Be Parents:

The hype around Black Friday tends to be gift-centric, which makes sense with the upcoming holiday. Yet, statistics collected by BIGinsight regarding Black Friday in 2012 show that almost 80 percent of shoppers used the opportunity to score deep discounts on non-gift items. Parents with a recent newborn or a baby on the way may like the idea of saving hundreds on necessary baby items, but facing the crowds just before or after a birth could be daunting. To make the experience more pleasant, create a Black Friday shopping survival kit with the following tips:

Do Your Homework

woman shopping at home appliance supermarketKnow what you need and where to get it. You probably have had a baby shower and it’s now time to fill in the gaps. Make a list of all the items you’d like for your baby, including furniture, blankets, clothing, toys, and practical things like diapers and bottles. Don’t limit your list to immediate needs—if you can get something for a few dollars, it’s worth storing for future use. Match your list to ads for deals on those items. To save time, you can use the Black Friday Shopping app from Reinvent. The app lets you browse ads from 1,200 retailers, making it easy to compare prices and plan which stores to hit on the big day.

Store-Specific Apps and Websites

Retailers like Macy’s are leveraging the mobile trend to bring extra value to customers on Black Friday. Using the Macy’s mobile shopping app, you can get an early peak at Black Friday sales, make a shopping list and see the location of specials within your local store. Other retailers may offer perks through their shopping apps, so make sure you check in with your favorite stores before hitting the road on Friday. Store websites also are a good place to get information about Black Friday deals. While online make use of free shipping and coupon codes for a percentage off your entire purchase to stock up on baby necessities like diapers or baby formula.

Think Outside Old Navy

Shopping for baby needs on Black Friday is likely to take you to places other than traditional retail outlets like Old Navy or Babies R Us. Pay close attention to drug store advertisements, for example, and make sure you sign up for customer loyalty programs with Walgreens and CVS prior to the Thanksgiving holiday. A loyalty card with either company gains you access to discounts and rebates and lets you stock up on rewards points. During Black Friday, both stores offer cash-back rewards that allow you to earn money off your next purchase, which is a great way to save on medicines, baby food, baby supplies and diapers.

Carry-ons for Momma and Baby

Whether you’re expecting a new arrival soon or your baby is already in tow, plan to use a carry-on for your Friday outing. A pregnant mother may require snacks or beverages during the shopping trip, and you won’t always be in a place that offers either. If a baby’s on board, make sure you have a change of clothes, prepared bottles, diapers and wipes, and hand sanitizer. An easy-to-maneuver and comfortable stroller will keep your baby calm as you shop, and you’ll probably want to have at least two adults along to ensure someone keeps an eye on the baby at all times in the bustling crowd.

5 Great Ways to Let Kids Help with Baby Shower Planning

Getting Real With Shadra Bruce

Planning a baby shower can be a lot of fun, but it can also be a lot of work. Throw into the mix your own children’s insatiable need for attention and you can see how the stress level can rise quickly. Keep the kids from stressing you out while planning an event, like a baby shower, by including them in the planning. Pre-teens and teenagers are often excited by the arrival of a new baby, and being included in the baby shower planning for a new sibling or relative can help them begin to form a bond before the baby is even born.

Ask for Their Input

Mother on Daughter on ComputerSimply bossing your kid around in order to make your baby shower chore list shorter is not what we mean by including them. Sincerely show them you want to do this job together and you care about their ideas concerning the event. When you listen to their ideas and take them into consideration, you are conveying to them a sense of connection and importance that will help build their confidence and their respect for you as a parent.

Picture Hunt

Photos of the mom-to-be can add a special touch to a baby shower when they are used as part of the decorations. However, hunting for those photos is often time consuming. Thanks to Facebook and Instagram locating and obtaining pictures is much easier than it was in the past. And who knows Facebook and Instagram as well as your kid? Send your child on a picture hunt for photos of the mom-to-be during her pregnancy or pictures that are somehow related to her pregnancy.

Mommy Photo Collage

Let them assist in creating a photo collage of the pictures collected. A photo collage is a not only a cool decorative touch to the shower, but also becomes a cherished keepsake for the new parents. Your child will feel very special knowing that they were part of creating this lovely gift.

Shower Games

The best part of a baby shower is the games. You really can’t pick a bad baby shower game, so even the worst control freak could loosen up a little here, let their child pick a few games and be in charge of gathering materials. If you plan on having your child attend the shower as well, let them lead one of the games they helped put together. This feeling of inclusion will not only keep them occupied, but will also prove you trust them with a rather grown-up responsibility.

Baby Shower Favors

Another fun way to include the kids is to let them choose the favors and put them in charge of handing them out during the shower. You can help your child pick adorable baby shower favors at Party Pail. This is a great way to include a shy child in your event, because it will give them a chance to interact with others in a social setting, without being too overwhelmed.

Making A Difference With Breast Milk

MomsGetReal Contributor Kylie Burgener, Prolacta Bioscience affiliate and mother of a toddler

When I became a mother, I thought I was prepared for anything. We’d been trying for over two years before I finally got pregnant. I had read books, followed a healthy diet, set up an adorable nursery, and purchased a vast array of accessories for my new baby boy.

preemie wikimedia commonsWhat I wasn’t ready for was the medical team bundling my tiny new baby out of the delivery room, giving a vague explanation about his breathing and taking my husband with him. It’s difficult to be prepared for that kind of a situation.

For the next four days, I stayed by my baby’s side in the NICU as he was treated for a minor lung condition. I think one of the hardest parts of the NICU experience is feeling like there is nothing you can do for your baby.

One of the only things you can be involved in at first is providing breast milk. Extremely premature infants (those weighing less than 2 lbs 12 oz at birth) need every advantage when it comes to their nutrition. Their preemie stomachs can only hold tiny amounts of liquid at a time, and in some cases, a concentrated fortifier is added to their mother’s milk to ensure they get the added protein, minerals, and calories they need to survive.

Often, the fortifiers prescribed are made from cow’s milk, which is not ideal for these tiny infants. Research has shown that, among the many other benefits of breast milk, when given to micro-preemies exclusively, it can prevent the dangerous intestinal disease NEC. The only 100% human milk-based human milk fortifier currently available is made by Prolacta Bioscience. It is called Prolact+ H2MF.

The only way for premature infants to get the benefits of a 100% human milk-based diet is through the generous donation of

breast milk from moms like you all over the country.

Prolacta’s affiliated milk banks collect the milk, which is then sent to Prolacta for testing pasteurization and formulation into human milk fortifier, or standardized donor milk products sometimes used when mother’s milk is not available.

If you are a healthy, nursing mother interested in donating breast milk to premature infants in need, begin by finding the milk bank that works for you. Prolacta-affiliated milk banks can be found here.  These milk banks allow busy new moms to donate from the comfort of home with no cost to themselves. Many of them also donate dollars for ounces of breast milk to great causes like the Susan G. Komen Foundation and the Make-a-Wish Foundation.

My experience in the NICU was short, but it left a deep impression on me. Helping preemies win any battle or gain any advantage is a cause that I am very passionate about. To learn more about neonatal nutrition to breast milk donation, visit the Prolacta Bioscience homepage.

 

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

Throw a Trendy, Memorable Baby Shower in a Snap

Getting Real with Shadra Bruce

Nora Ephron said that “if pregnancy were a book, they would cut the last two chapters,” but that doesn’t have to be the case. If you have a relative or loved one who’s expecting, you can help make the last stretch of pregnancy more memorable with a creative, captivating baby shower. You don’t have to go over-the-top to make an impression, you just need a solid theme, simple supplies and a fun attitude.

Dreamy Theme

Storks, birds and bees are so passé. A shower theme should reflect the parents’ taste or personality, not look like a generic ode to stereotypes. If the parents are into environmentalism and green living, choose “new growth” as a theme and hand out potted herbs as favors. If they’re sports fans, why not choose a “home run” theme and get specially made jerseys from a company like Fans Edge? If the mommy-to-be is an artist or musician, make a “little Picasso” or Beatles-themed party. Deck the walls with berets, mini instruments, musical notes or band posters.

Unconventional Location

Tea parlors and floral living rooms aren’t the only places a shower can take place. A destination baby shower can be as fun as it is useful. If you want to show the new mom the time of her life, throw the baby shower at a spa, a restaurant that can cater to her cravings, or even a hotel bar (during the day) like the swanky W resorts. A shower can take place anywhere, as long as the location’s management signs off on the festivities. If friends and family chip in, the cost won’t overwhelm.

Activities Galore

Baby showers are notorious for diaper-related raffles and uncomfortable games about body functions and weight gain. Don’t be that kind of baby shower. Parents.com suggests some unconventional baby shower games that guests might actually enjoy:

Name That Baby Tune

Google songs with the word “baby” in them (this isn’t hard, plenty of songs have the word baby wedged in somewhere). Then make an iTunes mix of the song without the lyrics. Create an answer sheet for the guests, play each song clip for ten seconds, and see who can get the most correct.

Preggers Twister

Heidi Murkoff, author of “What to Expect When You’re Expecting,” created this game, so you know it’s good. You will need: a game of Twister, wrist weights and a fanny pack for all the participants. Corale the able-bodied adults, use fanny packs to secure the pillow around their waist, and place weights in the pillow. Once they’re all suited up and ready to play, the guest-of-honor gets to squeal with delight as she watches her non-pregnant friends attempt to maneuver with the extra weight and bulk.

Personalized Favors

You don’t have to hand out puppies and iPads to every guest, but you can score an “A” in heartfelt gifting with creative party favors. Browse Partypail.com baby shower favors or Martha Stewart Baby Shower Ideas online for more specific ideas. Make sure to select something that matches your theme and color scheme.

For an outgoing group, rent a photo booth and set silly, themed costumes outside for the guests to wear (wacky hats, boas, etc). Make sure mommy-to-be poses with everyone. Print the photos out and place them in frames for guests before they leave. Friends and family will love to hang onto this memory to reflect upon as the baby grows up.

Photo credits:

“Mommy’s little major leaguer” Flickr image by Kelly K

“Get ready to parrrrrty, new mom style.” Flickr image by Key Foster

“See? Everyone loves this idea.” Flickr image by Simon Cumming

Five Best Apps for New Parents

In this technological driven age, new parents are faced with an assortment of anxieties and issues — whether caused from rise of disinformation, the development of new health issues, the increased danger of child predators, or simply the increasing speed of daily life — that the parents of the past may not have encountered. Luckily, however, the very technology that is responsible for some of the new anxieties and issues that modern parents face, is also responsible for helping parents combat these anxieties and issues. Below, for instance, are five of the best Apps available for new parents:

Nibaneba Baby Diary

Many-BabiesThis app enables new parents to track and log every activity of their baby including, but not limited to, diaper use, breast/bottle feeding times, weight and length growth, sleeping patterns, and both vaccination history and schedules.

Baby Watch

Baby Watch, though simple, acts as a baby monitor that will call whatever phone you choose any and every time your baby wakes up so you can listen in, from any location, to your baby to determine if its a false alarm or emergency.

Parent Education New Baby Care

This app provides new parents all the information and education — everything from how to dress, bath, and play with you baby — they need in easily accessed and read how-to guides that are based on the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Units) literature.

Child Growth Watcher

Calculating in both US and Metric measurements, Child Growth Watcher tells your child’s growth based on data from US CDC. You can see what percentile your child is in and also determine the overall health of your child in comparison to other children in the same age bracket.

WebMD Baby

WebMD Baby is an essential app containing more than 400 articles, 598 tips, 70 videos and 5 tools for any new parent who wants immediate health and wellness information that aligns with the child’s exact age, and — perhaps most importantly — the information it provides is both edited, updated and physician-approved.

With these five apps, new parents can now successfully use the very technology that has triggered an array of anxieties and issues unknown to parents of the past to combat those anxieties and issues. These five apps not only improve the lives of new parents living in this fast moving technological age, but they also improve the lives of their children.

 

Kandace Heller is a freelance writer from Orlando, Florida. In her free time, Kandace enjoys reading, writing and going to the beach. Kandace found information from  California cryobank useful while writing this article.

8 Things I Wish I Knew Existed When I Was Pregnant

MomsGetReal Guest Contributor Stacey Stanbery

preggoWhen I was pregnant with my daughter, I was surprised at all the changes that took place in my body. The love and joy I felt at her first kicks were stronger than I’d ever imagined. And so was the back pain! By sharing stories with the other mommies at the park and surfing the internet, I’ve since then come across literally hundreds of products that I had no idea existed just two short years ago. Here are some of the coolest products that I wish I knew about when I was pregnant.

Bra Extenders

I always expected to need to expand my waistbands as my belly grew, but I didn’t count on my bra size getting bigger. I went from a 34C to a 40DD in a matter of weeks! For those in between stages when I needed a slightly bigger bra but didn’t want to buy new lingerie, a bra extender would have been great– they increase your band size by up to 2 inches.

Sea Bands

I was lucky during my pregnancy, because my morning sickness was fairly mild and I was able to keep it at bay with peppermints and saltine crackers. But Sea Bands would have been great for those tough days. They are simple wrist bands that stimulate an acupuncture point that reduces nausea without using drugs.

Belly Bands

As my daughter grew bigger and bigger, so did the strain on my lower back. Belly bands provide support around your growing belly to keep the strain off your back muscles and keep you comfortable during your pregnancy.

Holo Mattress

The Holo Mattress is something I really wish I’d known about! It’s an air mattress with a hole to accommodate your belly. It can be used on the beach, in the pool, or on top of your bed to allow you to find a comfortable sleeping position that is safe for your baby.

Pregnancy Pillows

During my pregnancy, I insisted on making do with bed pillows stacked between my knees or under my legs for comfort. A pregnancy pillow would have been much better, as they are body-sized and provide support for your legs and entire back as sleeping becomes more difficult.

Groin Supports

I’ve heard this is less of a problem if you carry high, but between the swelling and my daughter riding low through much of my late pregnancy, I often felt like everything was just going to fall out the bottom! Groin supports are just what they sound like: support for your pelvis to help fight that sinking feeling.

Grocery Delivery

Pregnant women shouldn’t have to pack bags of groceries up two flights of stairs. Grocery delivery services are becoming more and more widespread, and you can order your groceries online and have them delivered right to your door. This is even more helpful if you are on bed rest or activity restrictions.

Weekly Pregnancy Planner

With the explosion of smartphones and associated apps on the market, you can find all kinds of programs that will allow you to track your pregnancy week by week, learning how big your baby is and what important parts are developing. You can even share the big news on Facebook! What a fun way to celebrate your coming new arrival.

I wish I would have known these products existed during my pregnancy. My little girl is happy and healthy, but when her siblings come along, I’ll be watching out for these convenient and comforting items.

Stacey Stanbery is an avid mommy blogger and loves sharing her experiences with the world. Learn more about maternity compression clothing at rupreggers.com.