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Monday, May 12th, 2014
In the New York City neighborhood where I live, the streets are busy on the warm spring days just before the first Sunday in May. All stereotypes about rude New Yorkers to the contrary, it is a friendly place and it is common for people to wish one another happy Mother’s Day here. Even complete strangers say it to me, often when my kids are nowhere around.
I like to think I have recovered fairly well from the physical assaults of pregnancy. We are long past the sleepless nights of babyhood in our house and the tricycle is on its way to being a rusty garden ornament. So what is the giveaway? I look down…maybe it is my abs? I like to think not. Perhaps it is something else. My breasts? No, it’s been years since I nursed my babies, although they certainly were perkier before those midnight feelings. Hmmm…perhaps it is something more subtle?
In poker they call it a tell–the little unconscious signs that give you away. When it comes to motherhood I bet I have a thousand tells. Like the dark circles that cropped up below my eyes during the first sleep-deprived flush of new motherhood and never entirely left. Or those little lines that radiate from the outer corner of each eye. They’re called age lines but I know mine are a direct result of sun damage from Saturdays on the soccer field and hours spent squinting by the side of my in-laws’ swimming pool, doing duty as the designated water watcher for my sons and their cousins. Maybe it’s the little grey hairs that I’ve sprouted of late…it is just a coincidence that they came about just as our older son started to text and Snapchat and find his way around both the social and physical world with more freedom? The scruffy nails come from loads (and loads) of laundry–a thousand pairs of pants turned right-side out, pockets emptied.
But it might also be the laugh lines on my cheeks, born of many good times with the kids. Or the soft spots on my cheek, the lucky recipient of literally thousands of goodnight kisses. Or the happiness our boys bring me that radiates however subtle and not just on that rare day when I get breakfast in bed.
I know some women take issue with the rampant tossing about of “Happy Mother’s Day.” It can be a painful holiday, one that is all the more upsetting when a total stranger thinks every passing woman is a parent. So I am careful with my greetings myself, always mindful not to assume. But when another woman–a total stranger–has the sixth sense to read my signals, whatever they may be, I always wish her Happy Mothers Day right back. Anyone who knows how much I relish this little thank you also, I am sure, needs one herself.
Now about those abs…check out this advice about helping get them back in shape post-pregnancy:
What’s your parenting style? Find out here.
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Monday, January 6th, 2014
Digging in to the fourth season of my favorite soap opera for fancy folks, PBS’s Downton Abbey, which premiered last night, I was reminded of how very happy I am to be living in 2014 instead of 1922. Seeing the misery in the Grantham/Crawley crew 6 months after baby George’s birth made me think of that other much happier nonfiction family, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and their own baby George.
Let’s take a look at some key differences between the two famous Georges, HRH Prince George of Cambridge and the baby George Crawley born to Downton’s Lady Mary and her late husband. (You’d have to be living under a rock not to know what befell poor Matthew but stop reading now if you’re putting off Season-4 viewing for a future binge-watch.)
For one thing, HRH George can look forward to a long, healthy life. A boy born in Downton George’s day had a life expectancy of only 56 years, whereas life expectancy at birth for males in England is now hovering at a robust 80. In Downton’s era thousands were still dying of tuberculosis. So let’s hear it for progress, specifically vaccines and good hygiene practices, which have fought back so many infectious diseases.
Consider the progress that has been made in other areas of parenthood: The Duke was by Kate’s side when she gave birth; had he been able to get to the hospital in time, poor Matthew undoubtedly would have been banished to an anteroom or sent down to the pub.
Then there’s breastfeeding. The Duchess is reportedly breastfeeding her son. Not so sure about Mary. All the fun and memorable moments of Downton babycare seem to be left to the chilly Nanny West, who tells Mr. Barrow that he isn’t allowed to touch the baby without her permission. (Who can blame her, given that the influenza pandemic was only just winding down.) The Duke and Duchess, on the other hand, have said they want to be hands-on parents, and although they apparently have Will’s childhood nanny helping out, the fact that Will drove his little family home from the hospital himself signals an active role for everyone’s favorite royal father.
But far and away it’s the conditions for women that are most troubling in this comparison. The Duchess graduated from university, whereas in Downton days, only about a quarter of students of higher education were women. And yes, the Duke and Duchess had a boy, but had their child instead been a daughter, the newly published Succession to the Crown Act of 2013 altered the rules of succession to the throne so that male heirs can no longer kick women out of place in the line for the throne. Poor Lady Mary is out of luck there as well. Baby George inherited two-thirds of the estate while Mary inherited only one-third. The baby and Lord Grantham thus have the controlling interest. Wait ’til little Downton George gets wind of that–imagine how hard it must be to discipline a majority shareholder! Maybe a lot like disciplining a future king?
George isn’t the only regal name for a baby boy. Check out our baby name finder for more inspiration.
Plus: Nanny West not really your style? Learn how to choose a good nanny in this video:.
Image courtesy of PBS.
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Monday, December 9th, 2013
Fisher-Price sparked controversy recently with its new product, the Newborn-to-Toddler Apptivity Seat, an activity seat that comes with an iPad holder, along with traditional bat-at toys and a mirror. Free iPad apps are also available for developmental, soothing, and early learning during Baby’s seat time.
While this “apptivity” seat seems like an easy way to distract and educate a baby, the American Academy of Pediatrics discourages screen exposure for babies under 2. Studies have shown that children younger than 2 who watch television and videos may have expressive language delays, and children younger than 1 who watch a lot of television alone have a significantly higher chance of speech delays.
Fisher-Price is a company we rely on for great kids toys, so why would it put out an educational product that goes against the AAP’s recommendation? “We strive to provide thoughtful features and solutions for parents that we’ve identified through their needs,” Kathleen Alfano, Ph.D. and senior director of child research at Fisher-Price, told ABC news in a statement.
It’s clear that the company isn’t on a mission to hinder Baby’s development — it’s just trying to sell a product in a competitive market.
Let’s not forget that parents have complete control over their parenting choices. “We know the Apptivity Seat isn’t for everyone. We want to give parents options, which is why we have over a dozen infant seats from which they can choose,” Alfano says. And of course, parents can and should limit their baby’s screen time, whether they have this particular product or not.
Regardless of the AAP’s recommendations, parents are, realistically, going to pass their phones or iPads to their babies to distract or engage them from time-to-time. No one needs to feel guilty about doing this in moderation – it’s 2013 and screens are nearly impossible to avoid. But you might want to steer away from products that encourage extended screen-time and opt for a more traditional toy or product.
If a parent is going to buy this product or one like it, they should consider this: Person-to-person interaction with babies is fundamental to their development. Allowing an iPad to replace human interaction with digital engagement for extended periods risks denying your baby of the excitement of the real world around him. So whether it’s in an “apptivity” seat or elsewhere, we can all try to use digital distractions less, and human ones more.
Find infant activity gear on Shop Parents and keep track of your baby’s development with our Milestone Tracker.
Image via Fisher-Price
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Tuesday, November 12th, 2013
I couldn’t believe when I heard the news out of the UK–a new program backed by Sheffield University is actually bribing new moms to breastfeed their babies. It works like this–if you breastfeed for the first six weeks, you get 120 British pounds (roughly $190) worth of store credit at supermarkets and popular stores, and if you continue breastfeeding up to six months, you get an additional 80 pounds ($127) worth. I know a lot of you will disagree with me, but this is one of the worst healthy mom/healthy baby ideas I’ve heard in a while.
Nobody’s denying the benefits of breastfeeding are great, and that we need to educate more moms on those takeaways. But we do need to acknowledge that not all women can breastfeed. According to Time, “Dr. Amy Evans, a pediatrician and medical director of the Center for Breastfeeding Medicine in Fresno, CA, says that as many as five percent of all women have underlying medical conditions that prevent or seriously hinder lactation.” Five percent–that’s five in a hundred. One in twenty. Think of how many moms on your Facebook feed or in the local mommy group that would be. Add to that all the moms whose workplaces make it nearly impossible to continue breastfeeding after a certain amount of time, and those whose babies have food allergies making breastfeeding incredibly difficult, and you’ve got quite a few moms who, due to no fault of their own, can’t breastfeed.
We need to stop punishing those moms (sorry, no store vouchers for you!) and start trusting women to do what’s best for their families in their own unique situations. The saying “breast is best” is only true when it’s possible and practical for the mom and her family. It’s one thing to invest time and money in helping women learn how to properly breastfeed (a service that’s severely lacking for the vast majority of moms), and a completely different thing to villainize those who go a different route. I’ve seriously had it with misguided advocates who essentially liken formula-feeding to child abuse—who do they think they are, judging other moms without knowing their lives?! (Besides, I know tons of healthy, happy, smart, educated, and successful adults who were exclusively formula-fed . . . so even if formula’s not the best, it can’t be that bad, can it?!)
Here’s my recommendation: Instead of bribing moms to breastfeed, try spending that money on more education and lactation support. I think we’d see the numbers of breastfed babies going up (for the right reasons!) and we’d avoid slamming a lot of moms who are just doing the best they can for their little ones.
TELL US: Do you buy into this program, or do you think it’s crazy to pay moms to breastfeed?
Check out our favorite breastfeeding helpers.
Image of woman trying to breastfeed via Shutterstock.
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Thursday, October 10th, 2013
Talking to your kids is so important, especially when they’re young. Asking them open-ended questions, instead of saying a basic “yes” or “no,” will open up the doors to good conversation. But you don’t have to wait until your kids are in grade school to start chatting. Respond to your baby when she babbles. Speech and language skills develop at a rapid fire pace during an infant’s first three years of life, and babies develop best when exposed to a variety of sounds. In fact, your little one can recognize the basic sounds of their native language by the time he’s 6-months-old.
Slate.com recently published a story about the Thirty Million Words Project, a trial project started by Dana Suskind, a pediatric surgeon who performs cochlear implant operations on hearing-impaired children at the University of Chicago Medicine. She created the Thirty Million Words Project to support low-income families after noticing a trend in her patients’ recovery six years ago: children from affluent families chattered away after surgery while those from low-income families struggled. As part of the trial, pediatric hearing specialists visit the homes of low-income mothers every week in Chicago’s South Side. A small electronic device is attached to the shirt of a participating child to record the number of words that are heard and spoken (not including TV sounds), plus the amount of back-and-forth conversation between her and her mother. Suskind’s staff then work with the mothers on ways they can communicate effectively with their children, reduce the amount of TV time, and increase the amount of reading, which helps build vocabulary.
Dana Suskind’s admirable crusade made me think about my own childhood conversations with my parents. My mom cooked almost daily, and we sat around the dinner table and laughed about what happened at school that day. Like the Thirty Million Words Project curriculum, my parents avoided directives (or simple, direct commands), and encouraged my brother Scott and me to express ourselves. I have vivid memories of Scott shushing me to stop interrupting at the table. Unlike many parents in my neighborhood, my dad regulated my brother’s Madden NFL video game obsession because he was afraid my brother wouldn’t be able to interact properly with his peers. While my brother turned out fine, his friends often spoke and acted like they lived in a video game.
So the next time your babe points to a box of Cheerios in the supermarket, engage in some activities with her. Even if your conversation doesn’t make sense, you’re still building the foundation of her vocabulary, which will only continue to expand as she grows. And before you know it, she’ll be starting preschool, so all of that talking, reading, and interacting will give her a head start in the classroom.
Image of father playing with baby via Shutterstock
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