Mommy Blogger Wakes from First Trimester Coma

 
Though I would like to say that my brief hiatus from the blogosphere was due to me being fabulously industrious elsewhere, the truth is… I haven’t been industrious anywhere. In fact, the past two months, I have been fabulously fatigued, wildly uncreative… and basically sick as a dog. Yes, we have decided (God willing) to head down the baby road again…at the ripe “advanced maternal age” of 37 (I love that term… umm, not really). Therefore, I shall sheepishly admit that the title of today’s post could aptly read, “I haven’t been blogging… because I was in bed.”  Zzzz….
 
Interestingly enough, I used to think that I was pretty tough… navigating the Naval Academy, SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape) School, and caged water dunkers. I used to fly daily in the backseat of an F/A-18F… with student pilots executing 7.5 G maneuvers in every possible direction. Ironically, that never made me sick. However, one raw meat smell in the middle of my first trimester? Bluh! Ugh. What do I get from that story? … A) Men might like to think that they are macho doing their (presumably) manly jobs and manly things…however…B) the truth is… women endure a ridiculous amount of physical pain and discomfort with pregnancy and child rearing compared to their counterparts.  Now before I go too far, I must remember that my husband has been a dear Father and caretaker during this time. Nevertheless, I might be questioning the pain threshold of those who hold the XY chromosome, and I am still sticking to my guns with the theory that women do “draw the short straw”” in the grand scheme of reproduction. Of course, that is a modern day woman’s interpretation. I could imagine that my Grandmother would rather read that we are doing what we are meant to do, or perhaps we are “taking one for the team”. Hoo-ray!
 
Fortunately, the sheer joy of childbirth typically induces a euphoric phenomenon, known as “baby amnesia” or selective memory, for most women. Once that precious, little bundle of joy pops out… the nausea, constipation, and intense pain of pushing is forgotten. What a blessing! However, then you decide to do it again…and oh sweet goodness. The memories and reality of the first trimester come roaring back. Oh, how we forget.  And now, by the way, you are chasing a toddler, or two older children…or perhaps you are at work, trying to hide the fact that you feel perfectly and hideously awful…yet your household and family responsibilities have not changed. Are you exhausted yet? I am.
 
Yes, I think my advanced maternal wisdom has given me a new perspective on the amazing sacrifices that women make every day…and no offense to my Fighter friends, but that fresh perspective begins with a whole, new definition of TOUGH.  Now…bring on that baby-nesia!
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Favorite Diapers, Best Diapers, The Business of Diapers: The Diaper 411

Although I do not proclaim to be a diaper expert (who would really want that title anyway?)… I have compiled some data on this “dirty little industry” for Kim’s Finds, and I would like to share some of the findings.  You see, buying diapers is a big deal to families everywhere, as the #1 or #2 single largest expense in a new baby’s budget. Therefore, you… the consumer…deserve to be armed with information about how this whole diapering business works.

Did you know?

  • The diaper industry is pretty much cornered by two companies: Procter & Gamble and Kimberly Clark. Oligopoly Alert!!
  • Luvs are made by the Pampers manufacturer Procter & Gamble for a target market of Moms who prefer a cheaper, older style of diaper without elastic waist band.
  • Costco’s Kirkland diapers are made by Huggies manufacturer Kimberly Clark. They are technically an older generation Huggies.
  • Wal-Mart, Target, Kroger, Albertsons, and other national stores negotiate with PG and KMB for a version of their private label diapers each year. Therefore, the diapers you buy at Sam’s Club, Walmart, or Target may be an older KMB diaper, PG diaper, or a regional generic brand.  This means that the manufacturer and quality of the diapers change each year, so don’t waste your time reading out-dated Mommy reviews on private label diapers.
  • Pampers and Huggies premium and supreme brands do represent the leading edge of diaper research & development. However, we are talking about poop & pee catchers here….so if your baby doesn’t leak using a cheaper brand, then buy the cheaper brand. By going with a generic or store brand, you can save about 10 cents a diaper, or nearly $200 a year.
  • For private label/store brand diapers: retailers will intentionally put their own higher profit margin private diapers at eye level and scatter lower margin name brands to the top and bottom of the shelves.  Thus, front and center does not mean “the best”, or even “the cheapest”…it means “the most money for us”.
  • Baby stores, such as Babies R Us and Buy Buy Baby, intentionally make you walk past their high margin items to get to the diapers and baby food section. They know that you could be tired, frazzled parents who don’t have time to price compare. You just know that your baby is out of diapers, and he is also getting too big for his infant car seat. You think, “Sweet! I’ll just grab a seat on my way out, and we can check that off our list!” By the way, online diaper retailers do this too. They would love nothing more than for you to pay $60 more for your car seat… because you are pleased to have 2-day diapers on your doorstep (Diapers.com is not a price leader in diapers for this reason, as well).
  • Amazon.com purchased Quidsi Inc., owner of Diapers.com, for $500 million in November 2010. In the longer term, this basically consolidates online retailing of diaper products (bad for the consumer). However, in the shorter term, Amazon is offering some pretty good deals to lure customers into diaper subscriptions (see below).
  • Wal-Mart sells 30% of the disposable diapers purchased in US each year, so you can imagine that the “Bully of Bentonville” has ensured that Wal-Mart is the price leader in diapers.
  • 60% of people who buy diapers also buy beer (yes, the classic “data mining” example). So do not think it is by accident that beer…and chips (for frazzled parents) are frequently placed next to diapers in the Supermarket.
  • Diaper manufacturers have profited greatly from delayed potty training practices in the US.
    • In the 1950s, almost 100% of children wore cloth diapers and 95% of children were potty trained by 18 months.
    • In the 1980s, approximately 50% of children wore cloth diapers, while 50% wore disposable diapers. 50% of  children were potty trained by 18 months.
    • Today, roughly 90-95% of children wear disposable diapers and only about 10% of children are potty trained by the age of 18 months.
    • Today, the average age for potty training is about 30 months, with the age ranging from 18-60 months.
  • Training pants, or Pull-Ups, are big money makers for diaper manufacturers. Not only do they generously extend the life cycle of the consumer, they are also 35% more expensive per unit than regular diapers (about 15 more cents per diaper), with margins greater than 20%. Thus, a budget conscious parent might consider using training pants only at night, or once their child has mastered using the toilet fairly well.

Opaque Pricing

  • PG and KMB do a masterful job in making grocery store aisle “per diaper cost comparisons” just about impossible. They put (ridiculously) odd numbers of diapers into their various packs and sizes…allowing only the parent with a calculator and an obscene amount of patience the ability to properly price compare.

Deals on Diapers:

  • Sign up online for manufacturer’s coupons to be sent to your home. Then carry them in a coupon holder that stays in your purse, or mail the coupons to your online diaper retailer (for instant reductions).
  • Consider buying a warehouse membership at Costco, Sam’s Club, or BJ’s simply for the benefit of buying large boxes of diapers and wipes. Use the store coupons whenever possible.
  • Join Amazon Mom and save 30% on select diapers and wipes when you sign up for Subscribe & Save. This includes the standard 15% Subscribe & Save discount plus an additional 15% discount exclusively for Amazon Mom members, plus FREE Two-Day shipping. My husband and I also like that when you join Amazon Mom, you receive FREE Two-Day Shipping with Amazon Prime for the first 3 months of your membership (for all Amazon products). Your Amazon Prime benefits can then be extended up to one year from the date you joined Amazon Mom by spending $25/month in the Baby Store (includes diaper purchases).

Helpful Tips for New Parents:

  • Before you buy a Warehouse-sized box of diapers for your newborn, try a few different brands. Then price compare by dividing the price of a pack by the # of diapers inside.
  • Sizing (for new parents): some babies go through tremendous growth spurts through diaper sizes 1 and 2, so plan carefully (especially if you are purchasing warehouse sized boxes of diapers).

Finally, here is some additional diaper information for new parents (compiled from various sources):

Best Diapers for Newborns
(tailored to your baby’s needs)

Pampers Swaddlers – softer brand

Pros:
These are what many hospitals use
Three sizes fit babies up to 18 pounds
Extra padding in back (great for inactive “Back is Best” babies)
Fold-down section for navel area
Cons:
More expensive than store-brand diapers
Not available in larger sizes

Huggies Lil Snugglers – better for bigger eaters/leakers/breastmilk poop-up-the-backers

Pros:
Swaddlers are softer, however Huggies Lil Snugglers worked better for our big baby (with big pees and runny breastmilk poops)
Elastic strap in back keeps in the “runny mess” (especially for breastfed infants)
You can sign up for Huggies coupons to be sent to your home
Cons:
More expensive than store-brand diapers

Best Diapers for Older Babies (best for leaks)

Huggies Snug and Dry (Little Movers are documented to be terrible for leaks!!)
Pampers Little Cruisers (high end choice, pricey but works well)
*Budget Choice: Kirkland Brand (Costco)

Eco-Friendly Disposable Diapers (an oxymoron?)
Earth’s Best TenderCare
Do you care about helping the environment, but you just can’t commit to cloth diapers? Well this brand can offer an opportunity for a compromise (for an extra 10 cents per diaper). These environmentally friendly disposable diapers are not treated with chlorine bleach and are partly made with renewable resources, such as corn and wheat. Personally, putting corn and wheat on my baby’s bum bum does not help me feel too much better about filling up the nation’s landfills with diapers. They are still diapers.

Best Overnight/12 hour diapers

Huggies Overnights – These are a God-send for a healthy peeing baby.  By 7 months old, our breastfed daughter was taking in who knows how much milk…and would wake up soaking wet by 3 or 4am.  Aaah! Bring on the Overnites… which are well worth 40 cents each.  In addition to issues cause by heavy volume, you might also have a little leaker. Whatever the cause… skinny legs?  a side flopper? or a crib scooter?  You will be glad to have your child wearing Overnites when the leaks get to be too much, too often.

Pampers Baby Dry – These diapers are really thin, yet 10-12 hours later your baby’s diaper remains packed (but not leaky). The tabs on these diapers are also extremely flexible, expanding and contracting as baby sleeps. The Pampers brand also has a strong, powdery baby-type scent, so if you do not desire the smell, then you might want to skip the fancy Pampers brands.

Best Cloth Diapers
BumGenius One Size (approx. $16-18 each)

Pros:
Easy to put on
Absorbent insert material
Snap-down front to adjust size
Cons:
Fasteners wear out over time
May not work for heavier babies

Pregnancy: Is It Safe to?

This topic is one of the most popular pages on www.kimsfinds.com, so I thought I would include it in my blog… to expand its web footprint. Moreover, the “plain list format” seems to be especially helpful to second and third time Moms looking for a quick, pregnancy refresher.  You don’t have to click-through 30 links (and 30 ads), you don’t have to re-read “What to Expect?” (all 587 pages), and you can copy and paste anything that you might need to reference later (what fish can I eat?).

Finally, please consult a physician for specific questions pertaining to your individual pregnancy. The following list is a compilation of government sources and generally accepted guidelines for a maintaining a healthy pregnancy.

Is It Safe To?

Drink Alcohol
No. There is no known amount of alcohol that is safe to drink during pregnancy. Therefore, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and U.S. Public Health officials agree that it is best to avoid it entirely.  Nevertheless, if you must have a few sips of wine here and there to satisfy your sacrificial well-being (key word: sips) then so be it. Just be especially careful during the first trimester.

Coffee/Caffeine
A little bit. Caffeine can pass through the placenta and affect fetal heart rate and respiration, so pregnant women should definitely limit their consumption. Thankfully, up to 300mg of caffeine a day is generally considered to be okay…though research studies vary on the exact amount (for reference, an 8-ounce cup of coffee has about 150mg, a 12-ounce can of soda has 35 to 50mg, and an 8-ounce cup of black tea has about 40mg).

Sushi
Do not eat raw/rare sushi or shellfish.  You can eat cooked sushi (look on the menu for maki rolls, such as a California Roll or a dragon roll with cooked eel and avocado. However, make sure that you are dining in a restaurant that you trust (with cleanliness and good food preparation standards).

Fish
(quick tip: copy and paste this “fish” section and email, or text, it to yourself for easy access while dining at a restaurant or visiting the seafood counter)

Avoid
: Shark, swordfish, king mackerel, fresh tuna, tilefish, mahi-mahi, grouper, amberjack, and fish from contaminated waters

Eat sparingly (6 oz. or less per week)
: Canned (or packaged) albacore tuna and freshwater fish caught by family and friends

Eat carefully (up to 12 oz. per week): 
Shellfish, canned (or packaged) light tuna, smaller ocean fish, farm-raised fish, and store-bought freshwater fish

Eat freely
. Salmon (opt for wild or organically farmed), sea bass, sole, flounder, haddock, halibut, ocean perch, pollack, cod, and trout

Cheese
Pregnant women (due to their suppressed immune systems) are 20 times more likely to contract listeriosis, a bacterial infection and food-borne illness that can be found in unpasteurized soft cheeses (and other unpasteurized dairy products), hotdogs, and lunch meat… unless cooked. Listeria infections during pregnancy can result in premature delivery, miscarriage, severe illness, or death of the baby.

Cheeses made in the U.S. must be made from pasteurized milk (this process kills the listeria organism), so they are considered safe. Imported soft cheeses may be problematic: Brie, Camembert, feta, goat, Montrachet, Neufchatel, and queso fresco. Listeria may also be found in unpasteurized semi-soft cheeses, such as asiago, blue, brick, Gorgonzola, Havarti, Muenster, and Roquefort.

Bottom line with cheese….Cheddar, mozzarella, cream cheese, and cottage cheese = GOOD.  Yummy soft, imported cheeses that you can’t pronounce = UNKNOWN.

Hot Dogs
Hot dogs must be thoroughly cooked, or reheated, prior to consumption.

Deli Meats
Deli meats must be broiled in the oven or heated to a steaming hot temperature in a pan or microwave.

Jogging
Yes, jogging is permitted with your doctor’s approval, as long as you are not a high risk pregnancy (preeclampsia, placenta previa, bleeding, preterm labor, etc.). It is generally recommended that you keep the distance to < 2 miles/day, preferably level terrain.

Mountain Biking
It depends. Riding a mountain bike can be risky, even when not pregnant, so there is always the potential for injury. As you move into your third trimester, you also would not want to bump around on your bike and prematurely separate the placenta or induce premature labor. Nevertheless, a benign trail ride on a hard tail bike may be just the low impact exercise that you are looking for early on in your pregnancy.

Weight Lifting
Light weight training can a healthy way to stay fit during pregnancy. However most Doctors recommend that you use lighter weights (3 – 10 pounds) and you will not want to lift while lying flat on your back, as your enlarged uterus will rest on your vena cava, restricting proper blood flow (like a squished water hose).

Exercises to Avoid
Downhill skiing, cross-country skiing >10,000 ft, waterskiing, diving or jumping into pools, horseback riding,  bicycling (where a fall is likely), sprinting, thrill riding (roller coasters), and scuba diving.

Exercises (that everyone should do during pregnancy)
Swimming, walking at a brisk pace, cycling on a stationary bike, rowing machine, pregnancy yoga, pregnancy calisthenics, relaxing stretching routines.

Air Travel
International travel is generally considered safe until 35 weeks, and domestic trips are fine through 36 weeks.  “No later than flying rules” vary from airline to airline. The second trimester might be the best time to plan a vacation (your nausea and fatigue have usually subsided and your belly and “cankles” are not in full glory yet). Just be sure to choose an aisle seat to facilitate frequent bathroom trips. You will also want to wear loose clothing (tight jeans across your femoral artery are not going to work), and you will want to stand and stretch often to keep your blood flowing (to avoid blood pooling). Finally, program your OB’s number into your cell phone for those just in case questions.

Artificial Sweetners
There is no data to suggest that artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame or Splenda, cause harm to babies in utero. However, many experts still caution against them, recommending that you choose healthier beverages like water and juice. In my opinion, “if there is a doubt, there is no doubt”. So if you are suspicious about the chemical side effects of artificial sweeteners, then I would recommend stocking up on Sparkling Mineral Water for your pregnancy.

Cold Medications
There are some generally approved medications for treating cold and flu symptoms during pregnancy, such Tylenol Sinus, Robitussin, Dimetapp, Drixoral, and Chloraseptic throat spray. (Sudafed should be avoided during the first trimester).  However, please check with your Doctor before taking any type of medications while pregnant. Also, for the FDA list of drugs and their risk categories for pregnant women, click HERE.

Pain Medications
Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is typically recommended, if needed. However avoid aspirin and ibuprofen (Advil, Aleve, Motrin), as they can affect fetal circulation.

Please check with your Doctor before taking any type of medications while pregnant. For the FDA list of drugs and their risk categories for pregnant women, click HERE.

Allergy Medications
Continue allergy shots with your doctor’s supervision, however don’t begin new medicines for the first time now. Chlortrimatron, Benadryl, and Claritin are believed to be safe, though my opinion is “If you do not absolutely need medication, then don’t take it”.

Herbal Medicines
Don’t take herbal medicines unless prescribed by your doctor.  There is not enough information known about their safety.

Cleaning Products
Most cleaning products, including bleach, are typically safe if used carefully. However, make sure there is good ventilation in the area where you are cleaning, and wear gloves to protect your skin. Always read the labels before use and avoid mixing chemicals, such as ammonia and bleach, which can produce toxic fumes.

Painting and Finishing Furniture
Avoid unnecessary chemicals and fumes, let someone else do the nursery painting (and by all means, avoid stripping or chipping paint from a home built before 1978 to avoid lead exposure).  Also, if you must assist, limit your nursery makeover duties by going outside often, or working in well-ventilated rooms.

Changing the Cat’s Litter Box
No. Someone else needs to change the litter box while you are pregnant. Cat feces can transmit toxoplasmosis, a parasitic infection that can cause birth defects.

Manicures and Pedicures
Manicures are okay, however bring your own instruments from home if you are serious about reducing infection risk and steer clear of nail salons with a strong chemical odor. If you do your nails at home, open a window or apply polish in a well-ventilated area.

Coloring Your Hair
While research suggests that coloring your hair during pregnancy is safe, I would schedule all hair appointments after your first trimester (major fetal organ development is complete by then).  You might also want to consider getting highlights, as opposed to full color, simply to reduce the overall chemical exposure to your body.

Hot Tubs and  Saunas
Avoid hot tubs and saunas while you are pregnant. Studies show that water >105 deg can be damaging to developing cells and embryos. Additionally, hot water or hot steamy air can cause you to overheat…which increases your heart rate, reduces blood flow to your baby, and potentially can put the baby under stress.

Hot Baths (at home)
This one was tough for me because I like my bath water hot (105-110 deg hot)!  However, most OBs agree that you should keep your bath water to < 100 degrees (around your own body temperature).

Massage
You generally should be safe if you use a masseuse trained in prenatal massage. Just make sure you’re propped up on your left side (lying on your right side can obstruct flow of your vena cava, the vein that drains the entire lower half of the body), or ask for a maternity table, which has a hole in the middle for your belly.

Daily Skin Care Regimen
Did you know that what you put on your body can affect your baby as much as what goes into your body? Yes, skin care products are filled with topical ingredients that do get absorbed into the bloodstream.  Products to avoid: Retinoids, Retin-A, Salicylic acid (especially when taken orally, or in a facial peel or soak), Beta hydroxy acid, and other prescription acne medicines.

Facials
Simple home facials and all natural ingredient spa facials are generally safe. However, I would skip professional facials that use a galvanic current, herbal facials during your first trimester (who wants to smell gardenia and rosemary when you are nauseated?), and peels containing glycolic acid.

Perfumes
Perfumes are generally thought to be safe for topical use. However, you may find that you have become strangely averse to your signature scent and other strong perfumes during pregnancy. Therefore, you might consider using a lightly scented lotion during this time. Many pregnant women are drawn to citrus scents, chamomile, or lavender…typical spa-type aromas that bring about a sense of tranquility and relaxation.


Birth Order: Have You Read to Your Younger Children Lately?

We have all heard about the power of birth order, and who can’t come up with plenty examples of anecdotal evidence? Everyone knows a “responsible” oldest child, a “free-spirited” baby of the family, or an “often overlooked” middle child.  We have several friends with three or more children, and get togethers can often provide (inadvertent) illustrations of this family dynamic. It goes something like this…the questions of the day revolve around the eldest child’s activities…while the baby receives Mom’s cuddles, warm smiles, and constant attention.  The middle child sweetly dribbles juice and grilled cheese down his shirt.  No one is really paying attention to the dribbling, though. The irony of this story… is that none of our friends would intentionally advocate treating their children differently.  It just happens…in every family. No child is loved more. No sibling is more special than the others. The eldest child simply hits his or her milestones first (which is exciting), and the baby requires extra attention. Therefore, the second born is often overlooked.

Researchers are quite fascinated with the subject…as birth order psychology transcends cultural boundaries and has endured for generations. Yes, throughout history (even when large families were the norm), eldest siblings have dominated the professions of law, medicine, politics, and engineering. More than half of all Nobel Prize winners and U.S. presidents have been first borns (despite coming from families with 5-15 children). Furthermore, every astronaut to go into space, thus far, has been either the eldest child in his or her family, or the eldest boy. And let’s not forget the laundry list of super macho, first born movie stars, including Clint Eastwood, John Wayne, Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis and all of the actors who have played James Bond. Coincidence? Probably not.

Nevertheless, birth order theory can be turned on its head, depending on age gaps, gender differences, and other factors during the formative years (relocation, divorce, remarriage) …yet, it does seem to play a role in shaping us into adults.  However, how significant is the impact? Let’s look at a few research studies (warning: this part is a bit dull & scientific, however stick with me…the info is quite fascinating):

  • In June 2007, a group of Norwegian researchers released a study showing that firstborns are generally smarter than siblings who come along later, enjoying a three-point IQ advantage over the next eldest (on average). The second child, subsquently, scored a point ahead of the third. This may not seem like much at first, however a 3 point IQ spread translates to about a 15 point difference on the SAT (a 705 Math score may gain admission to a desired University while 690 falls just short, or it could be the difference between an A- grade average and a B+). The method: these epidemiologists analyzed data on birth order, health status and I.Q. scores of 241,310 18- and 19-year-old men born from 1967 to 1976, using military records. After correcting for factors that may affect scores, including parents’ education level, maternal age at birth and family size, the researchers found that eldest children scored an average of 103.2, about 3 percent higher than second children (100.3) and 4 percent higher than thirdborns (99.0). The group cited that since gender has no effect on IQ scores, they would expect the same results with data from females.
  • While most attribute differences in income level to factors such as socioeconomic class, education level, and even luck… Dalton Conley, New York University professor of sociology and public policy, says in his book The Pecking Order: Which Siblings Succeed and Why, that the concept of inequality starts at home. Conley’s study concludes that “economic and social inequality among adult siblings is not the exception, but the norm. Over half of all income inequality is within families, not between them. And it is each family’s own ‘pecking order’ that helps to foster such disparities” (examples: Bill vs. Roger Clinton, who spent a year in jail for a cocaine conviction; and Jimmy vs. Billy Carter, known for his alcoholism, embarrasing public interviews, and advocacy on behalf of the state of Libya).
  • Dr. Frank Sulloway, a behavioral scientist at University of California, Berkeley and author of the book Born To Rebel: Birth Order, Family Dynamics and Creative Lives, says firstborns are more similar in personality to firstborns in other families than they are to their own younger siblings. Similarly, youngest children are often more similar to the youngest child in another family than his or her own elder siblings. He says this occurs because the family is not as much a “shared environment” as a set of niche roles that provide siblings with different outlooks. Is your spouse a fellow first-born? Or fellow baby of the family?
  • A group led by Tiffany L. Frank, a doctoral candidate at Adelphi University in Long Island, N.Y., found that first-borns tend to be more intelligent (scoring higher on IQ tests), while younger siblings get better grades and are more outgoing. Frank and her colleagues surveyed 90 pairs of siblings in high school, asking them to report their grades and rank themselves against their siblings on academic performance, work ethic and intelligence. The team then verified the students’ reports and checked the results against academic records and test scores. The result? The first-borns had higher test scores in math and verbal skills, while the later born children had better grade point averages in English and math. The study concluded that first-borns probably have higher intelligence levels, due to one-on-one attention from their parents. While the younger siblings have higher GPAs, due to mentoring from their older siblings and motivation provided by the need to be more competitive than their older counterparts. Younger sibs might also be more open to new experiences because they’ve witnessed the challenges that their older siblings have overcome, offering them more security in overcoming similar obstacles.
  • Finally, in February 2008, a Brigham Young Economics Professor, Joe Price (using data from the American Time Use Survey, a federal government study involving 21,000 people) reported that first born children get about 3000 more hours of quality time with their parents between ages 4 and 13 than the next sibling receives while passing through the same age range. This data averages out to about 20-30 more minutes of quality time per day. Additionally, younger children also watch significantly more TV programming than their older sibling while passing through the same age ranges.

So what can parents do with this information?  Well, first of all, we can be mindful that on average results are defined as “general trends” that can be found in many families… but not all families. However, trends often point to the truth… and survey after survey shows that parents are typically “gung-ho” in reaching developmental milestones with their first child, however they are admittedly less enthusiastic with the second. In the BYU study, many parents attributed the quality time difference to “laziness” or a “lack of energy” on their part. Parents stated that they were much more likely to pop in a video to occupy later siblings, rather than reading a book. Dr. Price himself admitted to not reading as much to children 2-4 (as he did with his first), so this is clearly a natural pattern. Nevertheless, many parents were “shocked by the results” of the study. They had no idea that such disparity could exist within their own families…particularly since most considered themselves “equal opportunity” parents.

And so… Dr. Price has now encouraged parents to spend more quality time with their younger children, if possible.  Some other ways to encourage younger siblings…consider letting your second (or third) child say the evening prayer, or be in charge of paying the waiter at dinner, or read a book to the family, or be allowed to go to the park with Dad all by himself this weekend.  3000 hours can be a lot of quality time to make up!

Air Travel with Baby, Toddlers, and Young Children

We just returned from another fun week traveling with a toddler (seriously), and I would love, love, love to inspire you to do the same…time and finances permitting, of course. You see, having children does not mean that you are destined for a life stuck at home, and you don’t have to be Sir Edmund Hillary or Jane Goodall to be up for a fun, family adventure.

Naturally, the task gets more difficult as you have more kids; however, I would like to think that despite all the extra gear and fuss, traveling with your children is (almost) always worth it…for everyone. So how do you find creative ways to get everyone out of their familiar surroundings and into a new, exciting part of the world?  For our family, creativity often comes in the form of how we finance travel. We tag along with my husband on regular business trips and use credit card miles whenever possible. Last week, while in Minneapolis, MN… we printed online coupons for the Mall of America aquarium, the Minnesota Zoo, and the Minnesota Children’s Museum. We also actively seek hotels with kitchenettes and/or free breakfast (the savings for this can really add up with older children). Also, if you are truly budget limited, creativity can also mean “traveling locally” with your kids, simply to offer them new learning experiences. I can tell you that fish, sharks, and all the animals of the zoo can come alive for your little ones with just a day’s visit.

So, the next time that your spouse suggests that you fly out (with the kids) to see family in California… do it! With a little bit of preparation…and a good checklist, you can travel anywhere. With that, you might expect that a former Naval Aviator would be “really into Checklists”… so here is one that I have compiled and recently revised for all ages (also found on Kim’s Finds). Keep in mind, this list was originally inspired by multi-leg, cross country flights with a baby (so it is fairly comprehensive). Feel free to adapt for your needs and shorter, one leg flights.

Kim’s Packing Checklist for Air Travel with Baby (and older kids)

  • Diapers – One for each hour in transit, plus extras in case of delays
  • Wipes – bring more than you think you will need, a medium sized pack, can be used to wipe hands and messy faces, too
  • Diaper rash cream – baby’s bum-bum may need some extra TLC for the flight
  • Diaper pad – to put under your baby during diaper changes, the lavatory changing tables that fold down from the wall are ridiculously small and probably haven’t been cleaned in months
  • Plastic Ziploc-type Bags – for spit-up clothes, poop clothes, dirty washcloths, dirty diapers, sticky feeding spoons, etc.
  • Ziploc bag with disposable sanitizing wipes (especially during cold and flu season) – whether you prefer Clorox, Babyganics, or generic wipes…I always wipe down the area before baby is seated…arm rests, tray tables, anything she might touch. When traveling alone, you will have to do this step once baby is seated in your lap…or not at all, if you are really rushed.
  • Small bottles of Hand Sanitizer – I like Babyganics hand sanitizing foam, with no alcohol.
  • Blankets (for baby) –  I bring (2) thin receiving blankets for multiple uses: to lay your baby on the seat, cover your baby, cover yourself while nursing, to shade baby from sunlight or a neighbor’s reading light, to make a play mat for the airport floor during long layovers, and much more.
  • Washcloths – for spit-up, nursing coverage, solid food clean-up.
  • Tissues – Runny noses everywhere! Can also be tucked away into your pocket for other uses.
  • Extra pacifier (if your baby uses one) – you may also want to pack some pacifier friendly wipes, if you just can’t handle airplane germs on your baby’s binky.
  • Something Old, Something New (small toys and books) –  I recommend bringing your child’s favorite (small) toys and books in a small, ditty bag…to keep them all together.  You may also want to visit the Dollar Store before your flight to stock up on some new items for the trip. Suggestions for Baby: a colorful hanging toy with many arms, a favorite textured toy, a small OXO spatula to chew on. Suggestions for toddlers: airplane books (Airplanes by Byron Barton, Airport by Byron Barton, Amazing Airplanes by Tony Mitton and Ant Parker), finger puppets, a collapsible hand puppet (Elmo is our favorite), small hand-held books, a travel size magna doodle, an iPad with toddler apps. Suggestions for older kids: thin, light books, a deck of cards, a favorite coloring book, a travel magna doodle, a handheld DVD player, an iPad with educational (interactive) apps, load a card with fun digital photos (you will already have your camera for viewing). Suggestions for “You were just rushed on to the plane with no opportunity to access toys”: barf bag puppets, “Where is thumbkin?”, “I spy” with the Sky Mall or airline magazine, ask your attendant for a cup, ice, and a straw, suggest that your toddler buckles the lap buckles (again and again), challenge them to unzip your jacket, sing a song, etc.
  • Clothes, socks, and booties or shoes – bring (2-3) changes, especially if your baby is prone to spitting up. Leaks can also happen with greater frequency, due to the constant sitting/squishing the diaper around on your lap. Also, if your baby likes to rub or pull their socks off, I recommend wearing pants with feet on the plane.
  • Formula, water, and juice if appropriate. (tip: put apple or fruit juice in a bottle to “back-up” your ascent & descent nursing/formula feeding plan). Bottom line: you want to keep baby swallowing during the climb-out and approach phases of the flight.  Also, not sure about what you are allowed to bring onboard? TSA’s web site states, “When traveling with your infant or toddler, in the absence of suspicious activity or items, greater than 3 ounces of baby formula, breast milk, or juice are permitted through the security checkpoint in reasonable quantities for the duration of your itinerary, if you perform the following: Separate these items from the liquids, gels, and aerosols in your quart-size and zip-top bag; Declare you have the items to one of our Security Officers at the security checkpoint; Present these items for additional inspection once reaching the X-ray. These items are subject to additional screening. You are encouraged to travel with only as much formula, breast milk, or juice in your carry-on needed to reach your destination. You are allowed to bring gel or liquid-filled teethers, canned, jarred, or processed baby food in your carry-on baggage and aboard your plane.”
  • Extra bottles, nipples, and sippy cups if needed for multiple children.
  • If nursing, a Breast pump (if you use one, remember baby may not eat regularly during travel) and a nursing pillow – I used a “My Best Friend” inflatable, travel pillow and loved it! My older, heavier baby was hard to hold in nursing position properly, so this durable “blow-up” pillow was a life saver on multiple cross country trips (my husband grew up in Montana). This pillow also gave her a comfortable place to sleep during long layovers (You may not need this for shorter, one leg flights).  Also, consider putting all things “feeding” into your breast pump’s backpack. This will help consolidate food/juice/formula items for TSA…and if all else fails, just start talking about “breast stuff” and they should move you right on through the line.
  • Baby food and snacks – bring your child’s favorite solid foods.  TSA allows enough baby food for a day’s trip, including juice (leave extra time to go through security). The brand “Plum Organics” makes great foods in squeezable pouches. Other not-too-messy snacks for the plane: puffs, yogurt melts, Cheerios, or whole wheat bread in a ziploc bag….all to get your little one chewing during cabin pressure changes! For older kids, bags of veggies (cucumbers, carrots), chilled grapes, pretzels, raisins, Craisins, peanut butter crackers, orange wedges, apples dipped in lemon juice, etc. make great non-sugary snacks.
  • Baby pain reliever, Saline Nose Solution, and supplies for treating minor injuries – Prevent leaks by packing medicines and toiletries in plastic bags.
  • Sling or front carrier – this works great while boarding the plane (after you have checked your stroller in at the gate, especially if you are traveling alone with your baby)
  • Car seat for safer travel by car or plane – use the straps to wear it like a backpack, or bring your car seat/stroller travel system, if you are not concerned with too much bulk
  • Collapsible stroller – we use a cheap umbrella stroller for longer, cross country trips that do not require a lot of stroller use. However, for one leg trips, or for trips that will require a lot of stroller use…bring your favorite stroller. Just make sure to cover it with some type of bag (black grease will otherwise find its way to your canvas hood and seat. Trust me on this one!)
  • Energy-boosting snacks for You if traveling alone with baby, you may not have time for a food stop during a short layover.
  • Change of clothes for You – don’t think it can’t happen to you…baby’s inner ear is extremely sensitive, and they can puke all over you faster than you can say, “Bluh!”. Also, put each of baby’s outfits into individual plastic bags so you don’t have to hunt for small socks, etc… and consider buying “mesh packing cubes”, if you travel often. We use Rick Steve’s packing cubes; they keep items separate yet together inside of a backpack (one cube is all toys, one clothing, one blankets & burp cloths, etc. Ditty bags can also be used for this purpose.
  • Camera, battery charger, and an extra memory card.
  • Cell phone and charger – Take the phone number of your baby’s healthcare provider in case you have questions while you’re on the road.
  • Diaper Bag – You might want to consider transferring your typical diaper bag to a rolling carry-on bag. I do this when traveling alone with baby, so that I can roll the “diaper bag” behind the stroller vs. having a heavy diaper bag on one arm and a heavy baby on the other. Ouch, my arms hurt just thinking about that! Packing cubes can help organize items inside of a bigger bag.
  • Special Treats: these include “emergency items” that can be brought out to ease a meltdown situation….cookies, puffs, or lollipops to lick (while supervised), a new toy, a DVD player or iPad with Baby Einstein movies or an Elmo app… you get the picture.

Other Tips:

  1. Car Seat, or No Car Seat?  If you need a car seat at your destination, then you can bring it and “Gate Check” it just prior to boarding (for a lap baby without a ticket). Otherwise, my husband and I usually look for creative ways to not have to bring a car seat. We rent a car seat when we rent a car at our destination, or we borrow one from family members (or their friends). Also, when traveling to big cities (ie. NYC), we…(admittedly)… put our baby in our laps and pray for safe taxi rides and subway trips. Of course, that’s not very PC…the FAA (and many others) will tell you to buy an extra ticket for your 18 month old, keep them safely strapped into their car seat for two flights, and all will be well….but that’s not really how it works.
  2. Infant ticket, or no ticket?  Call me frugal, however we enjoy taking full advantage of the “Children under 2” travel free pass. With that said, we always try to make friends with the airline employees and request a seat change for a “full row” (depending on the plane configuration).  This almost always works. If not, then I wait until we have boarded the plane…and then I shamelessly ask someone to switch seats (which works well when my husband and I are traveling together).
  3. When to plan your flight? Flights that are earlier in the day are less likely to be delayed. Otherwise, with a younger baby, you might consider booking a flight during nap time. With toddlers and pre-schoolers, I would suggest a flight time after wake-up, or following a morning nap, if possible.
  4. What to wear?  Dress comfortably, of course, however that doesn’t mean that you should roll the family straight out of bed and directly to the airport. Just as with a job interview, people are more likely to be helpful if you (and your kids) are dressed respectably.   I am not suggesting that we return to the 1960’s, wearing our Sunday best, however a little bit of effort in this department can go a long way.
  5. When to board?  If there are two of you, you might consider sending one aboard early (to ensure plenty of room for your carry-on luggage, to wipe down the area with sanitizing wipes, and to “set up” for takeoff…placing snacks, books, and sippy cups in the seat pockets for the climb out)….and one to stay back with your child.  Toddlers, especially, will appreciate the extra time to walk, play, and explore the airport, as a child should not be expected to sit and sit for hours without needing to move around. If you are alone, I would board early to set up shop and get baby comfortable with their surroundings.
  6. Prepare children for air travel and involve them in the trip planning. Before your trip, read books about airplanes to toddlers or preschoolers. Visit a local airport. Get your child excited about flying and teach them about all of the phases of the flight.
  7. Prepare your fellow passengers, if you anticipate some crankiness from your children. If you know that your child did not have a nap prior to your flight, or if they have been sick, etc. then consider addressing those around you with something like this…”There might be some crankiness today, however please know that I will do my best to quiet things down for you.  I appreciate your understanding.”  Most likely, the folks around you will be much more tolerant of any crying fits or “I need to move around now” meltdowns.
  8. Finally, when all else fails…just remember….there are 6.75 billion people in the world. Just about everyone (at some point) has traveled or will have to travel with young children.

Discipline Tips for Every Parent

I attended a very informative panel on childhood discipline last week, and I wanted to share some of the highlights with you. This is such an important topic, yet many parents  do not have time to access the quality discipline resources that they need. So here it goes…another condensed, Cliffs Notes style peek… into DISCIPLINE.

What is the end goal for your child? (input your own answer)

  • To be an accountable, respectful, responsible adult with compassion for others
  • To be a responsible, caring, God-loving adult
  • To graduate from high school with a good balance of academic and emotional intelligence
  • To be a blessing to others

Overarching Discipline Principles

  • Model character. Remember that discipline starts with you and how you are modeling character to your children
  • Feed yourself morally, mentally, physically, and spiritually. Your heart must be in the right place to properly discipline your children, so do everything that you need to do to prepare yourself for the task (spend time alone, exercise, do fun things with your girl friends or guy friends, take vacation time away from work, engage in a book club or bible study, pursue your favorite hobbies, etc.) Ask others to help you achieve this goal.
  • Discipline is not about control. You are not “controlling” your child like a puppet, so that others will think better of you at family gatherings and in the grocery store. You are modeling, teaching, and shaping your child toward your end goal.
  • Be consistent. Many parents complain that certain discipline practices “just don’t work” with their children… when in fact, it is often the parent’s inconsistency with applying disciplinary action that is the culprit.
  • Mean what you say.  One panelist told a story that during play dates, she would often tell her daughter “5 more minutes” and then proceed to talk with her friend for 20 more minutes. So, one day her daughter was overheard telling the same play mate “Oh, don’t worry. Mommy doesn’t really mean 5 minutes”. She realized that she was modeling bad behavior, inadvertently teaching her daughter that “I can say one thing and then do whatever I want”.
  • Try not to discipline in anger. Too often we discipline our children in anger.  We yell “No!”, “Stop that!”, and “1,2,3!”…or we scoop up our little ones with alarming haste, without teaching them the behavior, or action, that is desired. So though frustration is normal for parents; do not hesitate to take a “Mommy or Daddy Time-Out”… take a deep breath and collect your thoughts before correcting undesirable behavior.
  • Children often act out in public. Why do they do this? Well, typically they do not have your attention, they are in a foreign environment, and they are also pushing their boundaries to see what you will do in front of others. Thus, try your best to forget about “what other people are thinking”…and correct your child as you would at home. If they are having a temper tantrum, remove them from the situation and talk to them as calmly, and as privately as you can.
  • Children must learn self-control; they are not necessarily born with it. Children have all the bundled-up emotions that you do…yet they cannot control them as you do (and should not be expected to do so, especially at a very young age).
  • Discipline takes time and effort, however it is worth it. Applying consistent discipline early (during the pre-school years) will make the older years much better.

Temper Tantrums

  • Remove your child from the situation. Separate children from one another, from their toy, etc. and inspect for bodily injury (if required).
  • Talk to your child privately, if possible. Do not “shame them” in front of others, making it about your embarrassment.
  • Get down on their level, look them in the eyes, and listen to them. Tell them to “respond to you in words”, not by whining or crying.
  • Try your best not to dismiss your child’s reaction, or label their feelings as silly, or insignificant. Most children take years to learn self-control, and remember…their world is still very small. Gaining proper perspective is a life-long process.
  • Applying different techniques to different children in the temper tantrum department is okay. One panelist mentioned that she “runs to” her oldest son during a meltdown because dramatic reactions are not typical for him. However, she noted that her response to her second eldest daughter is much different…she uses a more passive approach because her reactions are typically “explosive”. Often she will tell her daughter that she can go to her room to calm down before anyone will discuss a matter with her.

Using Time Outs

  • Remember that Mom, or Dad, may need a time out before anyone else involved.
  • Give proper warning prior to any time-out event (ie. We don’t hit in this house. If you hit your sister again, you are going into a time-out).
  • Countdown to the time-out. Don’t yell it from the other room. Get down to your child’s level, speak calmly, and let them know that a time-out is coming.
  • Consider one minute of time-out for each year of the child’s age. Time-outs are typically not effective before the age of two.
  • Time-outs should always take place in the same spot (if possible) and not in a child’s sleeping environment.
  • Use a timer in plain view of the child (a cooking timer or alarm clock works well).
  • Leaving the designated time-out spot re-starts the clock.
  • Parents should not interrupt the time-out, though let them know that you are present and watching.
  • Talk with your child after the time-out. What were they doing? What were they feeling? What is a better reaction? What are your expectations for them?

What do you do when your child is tired, or sick?

  • Who teaches their child this… Work hard, however it is okay to slack off when you are tired, or sick.
  • God doesn’t say “Do unto others, as you would have done to you…unless you are tired, or sick”.
  • So why do we make so many excuses for our children’s behavior when they are tired or sick?
  • Giving children too much slack for being tired, or sick, will encourage whining and will only make their excuse matrix more intricate down the road.
  • However, don’t set your child up for failure. Use preventative techniques to encourage good behavior during “high probability” bad behavior times (the 4 to 6pm hours, or before bedtime)
  • Set up play dates, crafts, special activities, or other distractions to help ward off whining during typical tired times.

Are you always on “Repeat”?

  • Are you constantly saying “No”, “Stop that”, or “Don’t do that”?  Are you inadvertently de-sensitizing your child to bad behavior? Instead of saying no, no, no…consider telling your child what they should be doing with their fork, or their food, etc.
  • Consider using certain words for different situations. One panelist, a Mother of 5, said that she “role plays” scenarios with her children. Therefore, when she says “STOP!!”…she means it. The children freeze, and she assesses. It could signal grave danger (a speeding car, impending doom, etc.)
  • Remember to consistently point out good behavior, as much, or more, as you do bad behavior. For example… “Thank you for saying please”, or “That is so nice of you to share your toy with Billy. Mommy and Daddy like it when you do that.”

Be grateful for “Learning Opportunities”… big and small

  • Big example:  Shortly after a trip to CVS, the panel Moderator discovered that her young son had stolen a chocolate bar. What a blessing it was to have the opportunity to teach him that stealing is wrong.
  • However, it also reminded her that she should view smaller (nuisance-type) discipline moments in the same way. Take every opportunity that you can to teach your children right from wrong.

Incentive Systems

  • You can create incentives for good behavior, while still avoiding carrot and stick bribery.
  • Let your children know that certain behaviors are expected in your household. However, good behavior that goes above and beyond can result in a fun “incentive”, or reward.
  • Consider using sticker charts, jars of marbles, or checklists to encourage good behavior. The “reward system” is up to you, however remember that the best incentives are free. So, don’t buy a bunch of toys and trinkets (that will eventually clutter your home). Consider “time rewards” like an afternoon at the park with one parent, or a trip to see your (local) Grandmother without their siblings.

Other Practical Tips

  • Set expectations. One panelist gave this example: Before a trip to Target…I tell my kids this….”We are going to Target to buy Bobby a birthday present and to buy groceries. So do not ask me for anything else. No toys, no candy, no balloons… nothing else”. Now they know what to expect.
  • Be creative. If a discipline practice is “running its course” or is not working as desired, then try something else.
  • Follow through with consequences (ie. remove your child from the grocery store during a temper tantrum if you have indicated that you would do so. Leave the cart, and come back later.)
  • Don’t make a mountain out of a mole hill; pick your battles.
  • Don’t make meal times, or bed time, a battlefield.
  • Physical touch is often effective in getting your child to focus on a certain behavior, rather than yelling from upstairs, or from the kitchen, etc. If you want them to put away their toys…go into the playroom, pat them on the back, sing a song… and get them started on their way to a clean floor.
  • For the highly opinionated child, offer choices….you may wear one of two outfits tomorrow. Or pick one of these lunch options. Give them a feeling of  control.
  • Work hard to be on the same page as your spouse, and other care givers, when it comes to discipline.
  • Be flexible with your discipline. When taking away privileges for older children, hit them where it hurts (rather than worrying about equal punishments for siblings). For your son, it may require restricting use of the Wii, or their Nintendo DS…while your daughter may value something else more, like a cell phone.
  • Often discipline issues can be better managed if you are more organized (and thus, less frustrated). Plan ahead as much as you can.  Pack lunches and school supplies the night before. Consolidate your laundry days. Prepare meals on the weekend and put them in the freezer. Prepare a checklist (with pictures) for your child, in the early years, to help them get ready on their own.
  • Establish “House Rules” so that behavioral expectations are very clear (Examples: No biting, no hitting, no lying, no stealing, no throwing, no yelling, no jumping on furniture, etc.). Enforce the “House Rules” with consistency, and teach your children that bad behavior has consequences. Bad behavior will not be tolerated. End of discussion.

Hope you found some of this information helpful….I know that I did!

When Mama Ain’t Happy, Ain’t Nobody Happy! Social Unrest, Ben Bernanke, and Other Ramblings About Global Inflation and Angry Mamas

Much of my day might be spent changing poopy diapers and teaching my daughter how to say “please” and “thank you”… however that’s not to say that my thoughts and opinions can’t change the world. Just look at the massive, global unrest going today…this is not business as usual.  The anger… this time… is coming from a grassroots level. And the source of frustration is not an isolated incident.

Of course, no one likes corrupt governments and tyrannical monarchies. However, real uprisings are triggered by exasperation and desperation. And if there is a common thread among all the countries in turmoil right now… it is that their people are out of work and are struggling to put food on the table. And when a nation’s babies don’t have food on the table, Mama ain’t happy. And when Mama ain’t happy… ain’t nobody happy! We’ll come back to this…

Now, Fox News would like you to believe that North Africa and the surrounding countries are rioting because they desperately want to align with US political values, demanding “Human Rights”, “Reform and Liberalization”, and “Democracy”. What do I think? No, not really. People around the world are protesting because they see their governments and rulers living like fat cats…while they struggle just to get by…to have their basic needs met.  Protests in Libya began in February when demonstrators, fed up with delays, stormed a housing project that the government was half-heartedly funding and building. A basic need for shelter was the straw that broke the camel’s back. In Yemen, protesters are calling for their leader, Saleh, to be ousted, though he has ruled Yemen since 1978. So why the unrest now?  The younger, Shiite generation is buried in poverty and threatened by a water shortage. Again, basic needs not met. Demonstrators who forced Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak from office recently cited numerous grievances about police corruption and abuses. Yet, many Egyptians will attest that the issues that really ignited the uprising were high unemployment, low wages and high food prices. Consumer price inflation in Egypt rose to 18 percent annually (prior to the ousting of Mubarak), up from 5 percent in 2006.

So back to Mama (yes…I am picturing Tyler Perry’s Madea right now with a baseball bat in hand saying, “I’m not bitter. I’m maaaaad as hell!”). And yes, while the phrasing of this blog may be a bit tongue-in-cheek, I do think that global leaders can draw some insight from the concept. Though young men may hold the immediate security threat in the streets, if we focus on the things that make Mama happy FIRST…the world might be a better place. So here is a suggestion to our world leaders from one lowly Mommy blogger…1) Ditch the rhetoric, 2) Stop threatening the world with your country’s oil and natural resources, and… 3) Get this inflation thing under control.

A recent news story about inflation in China tracked Mr. Ma’s fruit and vegetable shop, a few blocks from the Lama Temple in Beijing. In recent months, the prices of Ma’s products have soared. Eggs have gone from 7 yuan (US$1.07) to 10 yuan per kilogram (a 43% increase). Tomatoes have almost doubled in price, and cabbage, a Chinese diet staple, has tripled! In Uganda, the annual food price for February 2011 rose to 8.9 per cent, from 3.6 per cent in January 2011 (up 5.3% in one month)…thus, a kilogramme of bread costs Shs3,000, up from Shs2,300 in November 2010, a litre of cooking oil goes for Shs6,500, from Shs4, 000, a kilo of rice costs Shs2,500, up from Shs2,000 while a kilo of meat cost Shs7000, up from Shs5000.

In the United States, many of us are fortunate enough to absorb high food costs by decreasing our discretionary spending. However, lower income households do not have this option. So where does that put us as a nation?  Well, I can buy a government subsidized double cheeseburger at McDonald’s for $1…yet one, healthy bell pepper at my local grocery store costs $2.79. A simple head of broccoli? $2.49, or $3.99 for organic.  A head of cauliflower? $3.99.  And we wonder why Americans struggle with obesity? Ugh! I am sure that you all could come up with examples from your own recent shopping experiences, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to get better soon. Just this week Kimberly-Clark, Heinz, Nike, and Kraft Foods all announced upcoming price hikes. So, we can expect to pay 3-7% more for Huggies diapers, 7% more for toilet paper, and 20% more for Maxwell House coffee (okay…ick! On the MHC. However you get the point…and I haven’t even touched upon  the Incredible Shrinking Packages, or the “hidden” recession price hikes). And fuel? Anyone in California want to start this discussion? The sad thing is… you won’t get much sympathy from your friends in Europe. Leading the world’s top three most expensive gas countries:  1. Netherlands — $8.83/gal  2. Denmark — $8.73/gal  3. Germany and Greece — $8.52/gal.

So what to do with all this angst? Well, first I might suggest that we establish a new global organization called M.A.B.B…. or Mothers Against Ben Bernanke (or maybe M.A.G.I., Mothers Against Global Inflation, can be our back-up). The first order of business?  To identify our cause….because 99.999999% of mothers out there are too busy to care about what the Fed is doing. Nevertheless, that doesn’t change the fact that every time Ben and his buddies print more money, they are simultaneously taking it out of your wallet and your child’s piggy bank (this includes the piggy banks of kids around the world, too….since many currencies are pegged to the dollar). To make matters worse, the banks that are given this money (in today’s dollars that are worth more) will then probably buy a bunch of Government bonds and loan it back to you… charging interest (in addition to making risky trades with their basically free money to make even more money).  It’s all very confusing, I know. And I also know that every, single member of the Fed is a million times smarter than me…however, I still think that their policies benefit “the greater system” and not “the greater good”.  The distribution of wealth in this country is becoming alarmingly skewed.

So though my nap-time ramblings might be worth about 2 cents (in today’s dollars), I do have a tender heart for the world’s people struggling to buy food and put fuel in their vehicles….and that is why they are protesting.  Though “Democracy” is a nice buzz word to throw around in the media, nations have be rocked to the core to take to the streets in the kind of numbers we’re seeing.

And who lies at the core of most families? Umm? Mom. Someone once said, “True merit, like a river, the deeper it is, the less noise it makes”.  That is how I view everyday Moms doing everyday things around the world. While men might be the face of revolution and change (soldiers and police pointing their guns and politicians wielding their fists)…I can’t help but to think that women across the globe are mightily, yet quietly, channeling their discontent, influencing those around them, and shaping nations as we speak.

Protecting Our Children from Pornography and Predators: Internet Safety for Kids

Imagine this… your Grandparents have just been asked to define pornography and the adult media industry. “Oh my”, your Grandmother says, “That is hardly a polite subject”. She blushes. “However, if I must define it…well… pornography is something that only a handful of… umm…shady-type people might seek in a dark store, or a theater, with XXX all over it, usually late at night… and mostly on the weekends, of course. Children would never be allowed near such a place”. Wow, things have changed.

You see, while the major film studios, television networks, and record labels are all mandated by Federal legislation to restrict or ban minors’ access to adult material. No legislation has passed restricting the internet. Therefore, adult content is everywhere; and it is infiltrating our marriages and our families at an astounding rate….24 hours a day…7 days a week. And much to the dismay of the “Greatest Generation”, pornography is more accessible than ever to children, especially when parents are not involved with their kid’s online activities…or simply, when they do not understand the controls necessary to protect their families from pornography and predators.

Now, I understand that this is not the easiest subject matter to talk about with your kids, or anyone for that matter. However, the thought of my daughter seeing even one millisecond of the trash that we are talking about makes my stomach turn, so let no parent be in denial about the prevalence of internet pornography. Though Al Gore, and other politicians, often omit the likely origins of web technologies from their speeches, pornography is a multi-billion dollar mega-industry that has been on the leading edge of at-home media, internet proliferation, and e-commerce for two decades.  The technology behind VCRs? Driven by demand for adult movies in the home. Early internet adoption? Required a hookup, a computer, and someone who was willing to tinker with new technology. It’s no wonder that young men were the vast majority of early internet users and pornography sites were at the top of the world wide web “hit lists”.  E-commerce? Adult content sites were among the first to initiate credit card transactions online, to integrate live video streaming into browser windows, and to establish fee-based membership clubs.

And if there is any doubt remaining about the magnitude and reach of the pornography industry today (in addition to the prevalence of online predators), here are some additional, alarming statistics:

  • 9 out of 10 children between the ages of 8 and 16 have viewed pornography on the Internet, in many cases unintentionally (London School of Economics January 2002).
  • The average age of the first Internet exposure to pornography: 11 years old.
  • The adult industry says their web traffic is 20-30% children under 18 (NRC Report 2002, 3.3).
  • 1 in 5 children (10 to 17 years old) receives unwanted sexual solicitations online (Youth Internet Safety Survey, U.S. Department of Justice, 2001).
  • 76% of victims in Net-initiated sexual exploitation cases were 13-15, 75% were girls. “Most cases progressed to sexual encounters” – 93% of the face-to-face meetings involved illegal sex (Journal of Adolescent Health, November 2004).
  • The total porn industry revenue for 2006: $13.3 billion in the United States; $97 billion worldwide (CNBC, 2009).
  • 28,000 Internet users are watching porn every second.
  • $3,075 is spent every second on adult material (CNBC, 2009).

So what are parents to do? How can you protect your children?

Internet Safety Tips for Parents:

  1. Become computer literate and be actively and regularly involved in your children’s online experiences.
  2. Place computers in high-traffic areas, not a child’s room.
  3. Use screening software (Net Nanny Parental Controls, PureSight PC, and CYBERsitter are a few popular brands).
  4. Don’t allow children to spend long periods of time on the computer, especially at night.
  5. FACEBOOK: If you allow your child to have a Facebook profile, regularly check their postings, photos, and friends list. Read unfamiliar messages. Set guidelines that you must be a full access friend, or else you may resort to online reputation monitoring services such as SafetyWeb or SocialShield, which can help you find out what your teen is posting online without your having to friend them in Facebook (of course, this can be used as leverage, if nothing else). If you are unfamiliar with the security controls of Facebook, click HERE for a Parent’s Guide to Facebook.
  6. Help children understand that online users may not be who they claim to be, or who they seem to be. Get to know your children’s internet friends. Talk openly about inappropriate web sites, and the temptation for other kids to seek attention by showing others how to access inappropriate sites.
  7. Tell children to report anything they come across online that seems strange or makes them uncomfortable, especially if they are ever asked personal questions or invited to personal meetings.
  8. Tell children to report to you suggestive, obscene, or threatening e-mail or bulletin board messages. Forward copies to your ISP (Internet Service Provider) and insist they help deal with the problem.
  9. Be concerned if children mention adults you don’t know, become sensitive, or appear to have inappropriate sexual knowledge.
  10. Do not shy away from discussing this topic with your children, even if pornography is a sensitive, or hurtful, issue within your own marriage. Separate the two and protect your children. They need your guiding hand.

Internet Safety Rules to Set With Your Kids:

  1. Never give out personal information online, such as your name, address, school name or address, or parents’ or teachers’ names or addresses.
  2. Never create online profiles, without parental knowledge.
  3. Never visit chat rooms or join an IRC (Internet Relay Chat) without permission.
  4. Never go to private chat rooms or meet online friends in a private online setting.
  5. For younger children, never go to new Web sites without permission.
  6. Never respond to rude or offensive e-mail, instant messages or postings.
  7. Agree to establish security controls for Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and other social media outlets, with a parent present.
  8. Talk to your teens about the reputation implications of inappropriate photos and comments on social media sites. Future college admissions, job applications, and other opportunities can be adversely affected by one “silly” adolescent submission.
  9. Post your household’s “Internet Safety Rules” by your computer.
  10. Expect real consequences when the Safety Rules are broken.

Motherhood is Making Me Fat!

Okay, okay. okay…enough already with the litany of excuses for over-eating and not exercising. However, hear me out (this is meant to be light and satirical). Although it really isn’t funny, or ironic, when you feel like a swollen version of yourself… or when you have a closet full of clothes…that you can no longer wear. For me, I have never struggled so much with weight in my entire life (as I have as a Mom), and I think I can make a pretty good case for why that might be (though this doesn’t actually solve the problem…does it?)

So, how does Motherhood make you a bigger you?  Let me count the ways…

  1. Eating is a stress response: Maybe it is just me…however I think that being a Mom is both wonderful…and stressful. Trying to balance work and personal aspirations, while spending quality time with family…is stressful. Staying up half the night with a sick child….is stressful. Having a messy house….is stressful. Overeating is a very common reaction to stress. Could you pass the Cheez-Its, please? It’s been a long week.
  2. Mothers of young children gravitate towards prepared foods because they are short on time. Yes, mothers seem to spend every minute of their day tending to everyone else’s needs; therefore, it is simply more convenient to grab higher-calorie, prepared foods than to take the time to wash, slice, dice, and cook whole foods. Also, Moms can often rationalize eating higher-calorie foods as “treats”, or special indulgences that they deserve for a long day or sacrifices made.
  3. Mothers are tired and over worked. How about this common scenario? When the kids are put to bed, and you do get a few free moments to yourself…who wants to work out? You are drained and tired… and all you really want to do is crash out in front of the TV, or curl up with a good book.
  4. Who has the time and extra money for joining a gym with daycare? Ah, the excuses are adding up. However, most families are trying to find ways to cut expenses these days, not add $600-$1000 per year in family gym or YMCA memberships.
  5. Grazing is fun. Do you find yourself “grazing” all day? Just grabbing a little bit of food here and there. Finishing off your child’s mac n cheese, sampling baby food pouches, or bringing a bag of kettle corn with you to the computer while you scroll through Facebook updates? I’ve never done any of that.
  6. Losing that last 5-10 pounds of baby weight can be tough, especially while breast feeding. While studies do show that breast feeding women typically lose weight more rapidly than their formula feeding counterparts (Dewey et al 1993, Bradshaw & Pfeiffer, 1988, Kramer et al 1993), the body does store extra fat during pregnancy for nursing. Therefore, a woman’s last 5-10 pounds of baby weight can be difficult to lose. Additionally, I have a theory that nursing women focus too much on the message that they are “burning 500 extra calories per day” (and include that in their mental accounting for calorie intake). yet, they do not account for all of the time that they are sedentary in a nursing chair. Quick calculation: a newborn nurses 8-12 times in 24 hours for 20-45 minutes. Therefore, a new Mom is sitting still for roughly 5 hours per day when she would otherwise be active. Don’t get me wrong, I am Pro-Lactation. However, I would like to point out that the “lose weight with your milk factory concept” probably isn’t quite as efficient as lactation specialists would like you to think.
  7. Who wants to take their baby outside in the summer heat or winter cold? The weather is an easy (and often valid excuse) for new Moms not getting outside to exercise. However, proper layering and sun-shading can often do the trick. Some rules of thumb: babies should receive all the layers of an adult, plus one (for cold weather); some also reference the 90/20 deg rule for extreme temps, depending on your child’s health (are they vaccinated? Were they premature? Between 20-40 deg keep time out short, frost bite can develop in 5-10 minutes); for sun, the AAP says keep babies <6 months out of direct sunlight, and apply sunscreen every 2 hours to children > 6 months.
  8. Drive-thru windows are just too convenient for busy Moms. Many frazzled Moms have zero time between coming home from work and jetting off to soccer practice in the evenings. And now you can order pouches of apples and cartons of milk to go with a Happy Meal. So why not hit the drive thru? You might even order a diet Coke for yourself, however the truth is that you will probably also grab a $1 McDouble and some delicious french fries, which is not exactly helping your Mommy figure.
  9. Motherhood made you more humble and less vain. It is truly a blessing to experience growth and maturity as a Mom. Life does not revolve around you…and yeah… it feels good!  You might also feel liberated by not caring about your personal appearance so much. Your hair is in a pony tail? Who cares. You look like a slob at the grocery store? Oh well. And those stretchy, fleece pants that you lived in all winter?  Unfortunately, they are masking your 10 pound weight gain. Apparently vanity can be a pretty powerful weight loss tool!
  10. Your husband was already making you fat before the kids arrived. When you were single, you used to eat cereal for dinner, now you feel compelled to fix meat (and lots of it), potatoes, and some other side dish; you like grazing, he likes big meals (so now you partake in both); you like soup for dinner, he likes soup for an appetizer; you like steamed broccoli, he likes broccoli coated in Velveeta; you like sushi, he likes fried fish n chips; you like cheese pizza, he orders the Italian Meat special; you prefer to not eat after 7pm, he brings chips n salsa to the couch at 10:30pm; and finally… food can be a sixth “love language” for many husbands. Does FOOD=LOVE in your house? Well, unfortunately, it might be making you BOTH fat.


The Cliffs Notes Sleep Guide (0-36 months):

How Much Sleep Does Your Child Need? (click on the chart)

Newborns:

  • Newborn babies typically sleep about 18 hours a day, but may sleep as little as 14 hours
  • A tight swaddle will help babies feel warm and secure, as if they are snoozing away in the womb.
  • Babies should sleep on their back.

One Month:

  • Most infants will still awaken every 2-4 hours during the night for feedings. To attempt to lengthen the sleep periods during the night, it is recommended that you feed your infant every 2-3 hours during the day.

Two Months:

  • Most infants are still awakening every 3-4 hours. Sleep patterns are highly variable, and the duration of sleep is not related to the amount or kind of feeding.
  • Fight the urge to talk or play during nighttime feedings or diaper changing.
  • If your baby is sleeping a lot when you want him or her awake — or vice versa — encourage wakefulness during the day while also allowing your baby to have distinct sleeping periods. You also can rouse your baby for the late-night feeding at a time that suits your sleep schedule. For instance, if your baby gets sleepy after the 7 p.m. feeding and sleeps until 2 a.m. before feeding again, wake the baby to feed at 11 p.m. and then put him or her down to sleep until an early morning feeding at 5 or 6 a.m. It may take a few nights to establish this routine, but it will happen if you’re consistent.

Four Months:

  • Typically, by age 3 months or so, babies have started to develop more of a regular sleep/wake pattern and have dropped most of their night feedings. And somewhere between 3 and 6 months, experts say, most babies are ready for sleep training and are capable of sleeping through the night (a stretch of five or six hours).
  • What is “Sleep Training”?  Where do I begin? Well, first…let me mention several very popular books on the topic.

T. Berry Brazelton’s “Touchpoints”

Gary Ezzo’s “On Becoming Babywise”

Richard Ferber’s “Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems”

Tracy Hogg’s “Secrets of the Baby Whisperer”

Harvey Karp’s “The Happiest Baby on the Block” (*The Five S’s, see below for details)

Jodi Mindell’s “Sleeping Through the Night”

Elizabeth Pantley’s “The No-Cry Sleep Solution”

The Sears family’s “The Baby Sleep Book”

Marc Weissbluth’s “Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child”

Okay, now that you have at least heard of these books, you can nod your head, or say “uh huh” on the phone, when your friends start talking about “BabyWise” or “The 5 S’s” (see below for details). However, I suspect that you probably do not have time to read entire books on infant sleeping, so I am going to give you the cliffs notes version. In a nutshell, here are 5 major methods of sleep training.

The full “Cry It Out Method”. You let your baby cry herself to sleep without comforting her (also known as the extinction method).

The modified “Cry It Out Method”. You let your baby cry but reassure her at regular intervals (also known as graduated extinction), without picking her up or removing her from the crib.

Soothing bedtime routines. You establish routines that help your baby wind down then turn out the lights and don’t respond to any crying. Example routines are: taking a warm bath, reading to your baby, singing to them softly, saying prayers, etc.

Parent education. Before your baby arrives or right after, you learn about infant sleep and how to help your baby establish healthy sleep habits, such as putting her to bed sleepy but awake.

Scheduled awakenings. This rarely used tactic involves waking your baby before she would normally get up on her own. The awakenings get fewer and further between as you progress, until finally they’re phased out altogether.  My opinion on this is method is that you “Never Wake a Sleeping Baby”, unless you have to go somewhere, or unless she is older and napping into the evening. My cut-off was always 6pm for a late nap wake-up to ensure a smoother put-down that night.

What method do I recommend?  A common sense combination of “all of the above”, adjusted for your individual child.

Six Months:

  • If your baby now sleeps for nine or ten hours at night, it means he’s figured out how to settle back to sleep — a sign that you’re raising a good sleeper.
  • If your baby isn’t yet sleeping at least five or six hours straight, you’re not alone. Many babies still wake up at night for feedings in the 6- to 9-month stage — though most are ready for night weaning if that’s what you choose. But babies this age don’t necessarily wake up because they’re hungry.
  • We all wake up several times every night for brief periods of time. And as adults, we put ourselves back to sleep each time — so quickly we don’t even remember it in the morning. If your baby hasn’t mastered this skill, he’ll wake up and cry during the night even if he’s not hungry.

Nine Months:

  • Infants may resist going to sleep due to separation anxiety. If this occurs, a favorite toy or possession may prove helpful. It is also not unusual for a child this age to awaken at night. This is usually related to teething or rapid achievement of developmental milestones.
  • It is helpful to develop a consistent bedtime routine. Experiment to see what works best. A warm bath, a massage, rocking, a story or lullaby, soft music, and a breast or bottle feeding will all help your child to relax and put them in a bedtime routine.
  • At this age, most babies sleep pattern are fairly typical. After the first 1-2 hours of deep sleep, your baby will move into a stage of lighter snoozing. This pattern of deep and light may occur up to four to six times per night. During the lighter phases of sleep your child may open his eyes, look around, or cry for you. Go to your baby, touch them and make sure they are okay, reassure them that you are still around; however it is suggested that you don’t pick them up. It is also suggested that you don’t turn on the light, rock the baby, or walk with her. Handled properly, this period of exasperating nighttime awakenings should last no more than a few weeks.

12 Months:

  • Nap time may be more of a struggle, due to separation anxiety and excitement from play. If this occurs, a favorite toy or possession may prove helpful. It is also not unusual for a child this age to awaken at night. This is usually related to teething or rapid achievement of developmental milestones.
  • Some time between 12 months and 18 months, you may want to consider consolidating day time sleep to one nap. This can often result in more quality sleep for the 1.5 year old and can be easier to work into busy adult schedules.

18 Months-42 months (1.5 – 3.5 years):

  • Your child is ready to move from a crib to a toddler bed between 18-42 months, depending on your circumstances (your toddler’s size, a second child, etc.). Of course, you’ll need to move your toddler to a bed when he’s simply too big or too active to sleep in a crib anymore. And once he’s potty-trained, she will need to be able to get out of bed to use the toilet.
  • However, don’t be too quick to push aside the crib either. Toddlers often do not have the self-control and maturity to remain within the boundaries of a toddler bed. So test out your “big boy” or “big girl” bed, however just as a potty training gone awry can revert back to diapers, you can always put your child back into his or her crib.

Is your Child Still Not Sleeping Through the Night?

  • Try your best to maintain a consistent bedtime and routine.
  • Be aware of limiting “Sleep Onset Associations”. Basically, this means that your child has learned to fall asleep by being rocked, held, or nursed …and now requires these same conditions (and Mom or Dad!) to fall asleep again.  Of course, with a new baby, cuddling and rocking can help them move past their light sleep phase into a deeper one. However, for toddlers and older children, these associations lie at the root of most sleeping issues for the first several years. Think about separating feeding and cuddling time from “lights out” bed time.
  • Provide “transitional objects” like blankies, lovies, or stuffed animals to ease the pain of separation from you at bedtime.
  • The strategy of putting your child to sleep later with the hope that he will sleep longer generally backfires. When children are cranky, tired, and overstimulated at night (by lights, TV, sound, etc.), it can be even more difficult for them to settle down for the onset of sleep.

 

End Note (by request)…*What are the 5 S’s?

In a nutshell, Dr. Harvey Karp developed the “five S’s system” to help weary parents calm crying babies. Some babies will need all five, others just a few to help induce what he calls the “calming reflex.”

Swaddling – Tight swaddling provides the continuous touching and support the fetus experienced while still in Mom’s womb.

Side/stomach position – You place your baby, while holding her, either on her left side to assist in digestion, or on her stomach to provide reassuring support. Once your baby is happily asleep, you can safely put her in her crib, on her back.

Shushing Sounds – These sounds imitate the continual whooshing sound made by the blood flowing through arteries near the womb. This white noise can be in the form of a vacuum cleaner, a hair dryer, a fan and so on. The good news is that you can easily save the motors on your household appliances and get a white noise CD which can be played over and over again with no worries.

Swinging – Newborns are used to the swinging motions that were present when they were still in Mom’s womb. Every step mom took, every movement caused a swinging motion for your baby. After your baby is born, this calming motion, which was so comforting and familiar, is abruptly taken away. Your baby misses the motion and has a difficult time getting used to it not being there. “It’s disorienting and unnatural,” says Karp. Rocking, car rides, and other swinging movements all can help.

Sucking – “Sucking has its effects deep within the nervous system,” notes Karp, “and triggers the calming reflex and releases natural chemicals within the brain.” This “S” can be accomplished with breast, bottle, pacifier or even a finger.