Archive for the ‘ Babies ’ Category

Even Baseball Players Take Paternity Leave

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014

The New York Mets are—and I say this with all the love and frustration of a lifelong fan—a woeful team that even the most optimistic among us expect to have a lousy year. So, of all the players on the team, why is second baseman Daniel Murphy taking heat from sports commentators? Because he missed the first two games of the new season, taking a paternity leave to be there for the birth of his son.

Yes, you read that right. Two games. To be at the birth of his son. And here’s what that oh-so-lengthy absence left some well-known sports-radio personalities saying, according to the New York Daily News:

“Assuming the birth went well, the wife is fine, the baby is fine, 24 hours and then you get your ass back to your team and you play baseball.”

And from another: “One day [off] I understand. And in the old days they didn’t do that. But one day, go see the baby be born and come back. You’re a Major League Baseball player. You can hire a nurse to take care of the baby if your wife needs help.”

For dads, how long to take off after baby’s birth can be a tough call. Despite the fact that the Family and Medical Leave Act guarantees up to 12 unpaid weeks of leave for men and women alike, not many fathers take more than a few days off when their little one arrives. There’s pressure from employers to contend with, and the self-imposed pressure (real or imagined) of wanting to be seen in the best light at work, not to mention cultural forces about men’s roles to content with. And, of course, unpaid leave is an economic pressure for nearly everyone and an impossibility for many—major-league ballplayers excluded.

To slam Murphy’s two-game leave as treasonous is absurd. Here’s what he had to say to ESPN about the brouhaha, referring to his wife and his desire to be there for her:

“It’s going to be tough for her to get up to New York for a month. I can only speak from my experience — a father seeing his wife – she was completely finished. I mean, she was done. She had surgery and she was wiped. Having me there helped a lot, and vice versa, to take some of the load off…. It felt, for us, like the right decision to make.”

While he was away, I am sure Murphy was thinking of his team often and even missing them, just as he will be thinking of his newborn back home as he dedicates himself to his team for the remainder of the season. Finding the right work-life balance is no easier for a multimillionaire baseball player than it is for you and me, and we all feel torn between our commitments to our families, our jobs, and ourselves.

I struggled with these issues as well. Taking two weeks off when each of my daughters was born was a no-brainer. But now, as my wife heads back to work after her own five-month maternity leave, I am on the threshold of a longer paternity leave—five weeks, starting Monday. Making the decision to take the time off involved a lot of intense discussions with my wife and internal soul-searching about what is most important to me and how I want to spend and remember this time in my life. Stepping back, even for a few weeks, from a job that is busy and that means a lot to me, is scary, and it remains something that is never easy.

Far from criticizing Murphy’s leave, we should be celebrating it. The more of us who take time to be with our families, the better it is—for ourselves, our kids, and our wives or partners. And the more men who take paternity leave, the better it will be for all new fathers, because over time, it will become normal and expected, not something to criticize or even remark on. Especially seeing athletes do it, those most manly of professionals, will hopefully encourage others to do the same. Yes, there are occasionally things that are more important than supporting the team. Instead of criticizing, let’s look to a future in which taking time to be with our kids is the norm, not the exception, and in which a mere two days is laughably short.

See you in May. Until then, I’m off daddying.

Murphy and his wife named their newborn Noah. Try our Baby Name Finder to discover the perfect name for your newest addition!

Baby Names: How to Pick a Great Name
Baby Names: How to Pick a Great Name
Baby Names: How to Pick a Great Name

Image: New York Mets Daniel Murphy and wife Victoria Tori Ahern attend the Aces, Inc. All Star party at Marquee on July 14, 2013 in New York City via Shutterstock.

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How Has Autism Affected Your Friendships?

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014

There are so many important issues surrounding autism: early detection. Proper diagnosis. Early intervention. Research-proven treatment. Bullying. Nutritional complications. Safety. At Parents, we’ve covered them all. But there was one angle we hadn’t addressed, and it was the impact the diagnosis has on friendships between parents. Writer Jamie Pacton (at right in photo) pitched us a moving essay about her own story: Ever since eighth grade, she and her best friend Ashleigh (at left) had been on parallel tracks, and even ended up living in their hometown after marriage and getting pregnant at precisely the same time. They each gave birth to a son within four days of one another. But that’s where the similarities ended, because Jamie’s son, Liam, would go on to be diagnosed with autism, and Ashleigh’s would not.

The strain this put on their relationship was immense. It took Jamie quite some time to come to terms with Liam’s diagnosis and all it entailed, and she found herself increasingly jealous of the kind of mothering experience Ashleigh was having. Ashleigh, meanwhile, was often at a loss for words–or the right words–when trying to discuss Liam’s challenges. If you read her touching, honest essay, you’ll learn how she and Ashleigh handled it.

It obviously resonated with parents, because Jamie has heard from many who are in a similar situation. One mom tracked down Jamie’s email to thank her for the article and let her know how much she could relate. She described how, when trying to get out of a reunion with college friends, she tearfully burst out, “I don’t want to see how well your kids are doing and resent you! I’m sorry!”

Thankfully, Liam, who is nearly 6 and nonverbal, is making huge strides of late. He went to the zoo last week and for the first time, he didn’t need a stroller–he was able to walk through the whole zoo, he rode a pony and a train, and was engaged with the animals. And in another first, in January he used his Yes/No board to answer two questions he’d never answered before: “Do you love your Mommy?” “Do you love your Daddy?” I think you know what the answers were, and what it meant to Jamie and her husband.

For ways to help friends understand Autism, download Autism Speaks Family Support Took Kit.

A Test for Autism Risk: Head Lag
A Test for Autism Risk: Head Lag
A Test for Autism Risk: Head Lag

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Expert Advice for Parenting in the Digital Age

Friday, March 28th, 2014

When Fisher Price introduced its iPad Baby Bouncy Seat late last year, many parents (and concerned citizens like myself) wondered, have we gone too far? But not long before companies were dangling iPads above babies’ heads, parents were creating twitter handles for their newborns and 10-year-olds were posting “duck-face” selfies on Instagram. With all of this digital-age craziness going on, how does a parent know where to draw the line?

Earlier this week, New York Public Radio rounded up a panel of experts for a program called Parenting in the Digital Age in hopes of advising confused parents on what’s acceptable when it comes to mixing kids and technology.  Read on for their advice for your family.

For babies, toddlers, and preschoolers. “There’s no evidence that screen time is helpful for babies,” says Dr. Susan Linn, the co-founder of The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, which has challenged companies like Disney for their “educational” Baby Einstein videos and Fisher Price for the iPad Bouncy Seat. Linn says kids under three should avoid all screen time and for children aged three to five, it’s best to stay below the two hour limit suggested by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

At the same time, Joel Levin, the founder of MinecraftEdu, a games-based education nonprofit and father of two girls under nine, thinks that technology can be valuable to kids. His oldest daughter started playing games on the computer when she was five. “When I played with my daughter, I was amazed with the thought processes she had. She learned to spell her first word using the game,” he says. However, he adds, it’s important that you don’t turn technology into a babysitter and, although it can be difficult, don’t use it as a crutch when the kids are bored or fussy.

For elementary school kids and tweens. Wendy Kelly, a third grade teacher at the low-tech Rudolf Steiner School in New York City, recommends the same rules that her school enforces: no technology before fourth grade. Kelly admits that this can be a challenge but suggests that parents talk their child’s friends about setting the same screen time boundaries. “What one child does has an effect on everyone so we ask parents to encourage crafts and books instead of movies, television, and video games.” Whether you introduce your kids to technology in kindergarten or wait until fourth grade like Kelly, all the panelists agreed that you have to monitor the content kids are consuming. “If you feel your kid is watching something that is inappropriate, turn it into a teachable moment and have a discussion about why she shouldn’t be watching it before you take it away,” says Levin. He also says it’s helpful to watch your kids play with their devices to find out why they’re drawn to certain games so you can encourage those certain skills when screen time is over. Lastly, try to carve out time for your kids with your family outside of screen time. It’s just as important as setting a time limit for technology, says Linn.

No matter how strict your screen time policy, one thing that is for certain: is that kids are around surrounded by more technology than ever before. It’s up to parents to make sure they instill the values and self-control needed to navigate the new digital world.

Click here for tech-free craft and activity ideas. 

Digital Devices and Children
Digital Devices and Children
Digital Devices and Children

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

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How a “Perfect” Life Can Include Down Syndrome and Cancer

Monday, March 10th, 2014

In the April issue of Parents, we explore the world of special needs–a world we’re all living in, diagnosis or not, now that children of all abilities are integrated into our communities more than ever. We’ll be covering this topic in many ways over the coming weeks. Today, we hear from a mom named Beth Herrington, who has two 3-year-old daughters with Down syndrome and has a truly remarkable story.

At one point, I thought I had the perfect life. I was married to the perfect man, we had four perfect children, and were looking forward to the birth of our perfect fifth. On July 9, 2010, at 6:37 p.m., I learned what true perfection was. That was the day Chloe Beatrice Herrington was born. (Here’s a recent photo of her.)

Chloe was born with Down syndrome. Her diagnosis at birth took us by surprise, and led us on a journey that few would choose in their lifetime. When Chloe was only 2 weeks old we met a family that had recently adopted a baby girl with Down syndrome from Ukraine. They had adopted the baby through an organization called Reece’s Rainbow. With a little research, I soon discovered the desperate plight of children born with Down syndrome in many foreign countries: Most are put into orphanages at birth and fail to thrive. When they turn 4 years old, they age out of the orphanages and are sent to mental institutions, where they are hopelessly neglected. They never get the chance to know the love of a family.

Chloe’s birth gave us new direction. Our eyes were opened. Loving her expanded our hearts and gave us a special love for children born with disabilities. We knew this child we held in our arms, just like the four who had come before her, was perfect! And we knew in our hearts that our family was not yet complete. After months of soul searching, and scouring the Reece’s Rainbow web site, a picture of a baby girl with Down syndrome caught our eye. Eighteen months later we were on a plane heading to the Ukraine on a rescue mission we called Operation Olivia!

My husband and I spent 7 weeks in the Ukraine bonding with Olivia and finalizing her adoption. While we were there my sister, who was caring for other children, alerted me that Chloe was not feeling well. A checkup with the pediatrician included blood work with concerning results–Chloe had a very low platelet count. The doctor told us that we did not have to rush home, but that as soon as we came back from Ukraine they wanted to do a bone marrow biopsy on Chloe.

We came home with Olivia a few weeks later–fearing the whole time that we were about to jump head-first into a battle that no parent ever wants to fight. Our worst fears were confirmed: Chloe’s bone-marrow biopsy revealed that she had leukemia.

Chloe spent the next nine months in a Kaiser Hospital isolation room fighting to survive Leukemia and very aggressive chemotherapy. And fight she did! Turns out that kids with Down syndrome have awesome cancer fighting genes! (They actually do: There is a genetic mutation found only in children with Down syndrome that increases their risk of developing certain types of leukemia–and crazily enough, that very same mutation is responsible for helping children with Down syndrome respond so well to the cancer-fighting treatment plans! Also, the relapse rate of children with Down syndrome is significantly lower that that of the typical child who has gone through the same treatment.) In May of 2013 she walked out of that hospital cancer-free; this is what she looked like during treatment.

Early on my journey as Chloe’s mom, I connected with a blogger/photographer and fellow Down syndrome mom named Kelle Hampton. We became Facebook and Instagram friends and she was a great source of love and support for me during Chloe’s cancer journey. Last year on her blog, Enjoying the Small Things, she shared a project she was working on with the Infantino and Step2 companies, which make toys and products for babies and young children. They were planning a photo shoot to promote their products and asked parents to write an essay about how their child has taught them to look beyond a disability. What sparked my interest was that they were looking specifically for child models with special needs. The campaign was called “Everybody Plays” and Kelle Hampton was going to be the photographer. I wrote a quick essay about Chloe, how she inspired us to adopt her sister Olivia, and how, through her fierce battle with leukemia, she inspired thousands across the world to live their lives to the fullest. I attached a photo and hit Send.

A few months later I received a phone call from Kelle and a representative from both companies informing me that Chloe was among the 50 children selected to participate in the photo shoot–and as the grand-prize winner, we were flown to San Diego for a two-day, all-expenses-paid trip. We met Kelle and representatives from Infantino and Step2 companies. During our two days there we were moved by the beauty surrounding the event and the stories behind every child there. I’m sure I can speak for all parents there when I say the experience was one that will never be forgotten. For two days we laughed, cried, and spent hours watching our children just be children. There were no stares, no stereotypes, and no disabilities. There were just children in their perfect ways teaching all of us how EVERYBODY PLAYS!

Today both Chloe and Olivia are happy, healthy 3-year-olds. They are attending preschool and continue to thrive. Every day they amaze us with their abilities. Every day they make us smile. And every day they make us aware that true perfection dwells in them.

Over the last 2 years, through both our adoption and cancer journeys we have experienced an outpouring of love and support from family, friends, our local Down syndrome community, and from strangers far and wide. Thank you all from the bottom of our hearts. And thank you, Chloe and Olivia, for showing us how really perfect life can be.

Life With Down Syndrome
Life With Down Syndrome
Life With Down Syndrome

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Breastfeeding vs. Formula: Let’s Call A Truce

Thursday, March 6th, 2014

Baby Feeding: Breastfeeding vs. Formula

Reading the flurry of recent online commentary about the new study that shows that the benefits of breastfeeding may not be as powerful as we think, reminds me of the way I feel whenever I read a story that reports that marathon running isn’t necessarily so fantastic for your health: Gotcha! Though I enjoy exercise, due to banal body reasons I will never cross a finish line after logging 26.2 miles. And “marathon running is bad for the heart” headlines, no matter how inflamed they may be, give me a wee bit of pleasure.

So it seems to be for those who write about breastfeeding. Put it in its place!  Take it down! The Ohio State University study, published online in Social Science & Medicine, appears to have been well-designed without any conflicts of interest. It found that among children age 4 to 14 years, there was no difference between those who were nursed versus those given formula on outcomes, such as body mass index, asthma, hyperactivity and math ability.

And that’s really great news—a relief, really, since even nursing moms need to supplement with formula sometimes. I nursed my younger two daughters until a little after age one, right in sync with what the AAP recommends. My oldest daughter received pumped breast milk until 6 months, and formula after that, and I can say with her teacher’s blessing that she’s not at risk of being crushed in math. In other words, there’s really no difference among my three girls now, though I do emphasize now. As babies, my oldest had more ear infections, and was much more prone to infections, in general, than my younger two. Is it because of the breast milk? Well, we’ll never really know, she was also born premature, but research does show that breast milk passes along immunities that help prevent ear infections, respiratory infections, and diarrhea. Not to mention breast milk is easier to digest than formula (and gas never makes for a happy baby) and, most importantly, reduces the risk of SIDS. Those are benefits not to be dismissed.

It’s time to rephrase our thinking that if a study finds that formula is good, it must mean that breastfeeding isn’t worth the cracked nipples and plugged milk ducts. A step forward for formula doesn’t have to result in a step backward for breast milk. And I would suggest to anyone who thinks that way to do what I do when I feel envious of my marathon-running pals: Sweat it out in a spin class.

To keep track of your baby’s feeding schedule, download our care charts for breastfeeding or formula feeding.

Common Breastfeeding Myths
Common Breastfeeding Myths
Common Breastfeeding Myths

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