Thursday, June 30, 2011

Funny and Unique Hostess Gifts

One of the great benefits of being a mom is that it becomes easier to meet other moms. You may make a new friend at a baby yoga class, local coffee shop, or just walking around the neighborhood. This new friend may invite you to dinner parties and other festivities at her house, at which she may be the only person you know.

I am not comfortable in these situations. I find it awkward to strike up conversation with strangers, especially when many of them already know each other. However, one thing I have learned is that bringing an interesting hostess gift or party snack can serve as a great conversation starter. It also really starts you off on the right foot with other partygoers, as they immediately know that you have a sense of humor.

Here are some funny and interesting items that you may want to consider for your next hostess gift:

  • Nautical Wine Sweaters
    I just can't help but look at this little army of wine bottles dressed in sailor sweaters and laugh. It is a ridiculous but cute way to bring a bottle of wine to a party.

  • Bumble Bee Honey Pot - I have this and absolutely love it. You can pair it with some local honey and/or tea for a unique gift.

  • Bud Vase Set
    This unique and inexpensive way to bring flowers is perfect for parties that scientists or people with medical backgrounds will be attending. The rack looks remarkably like a test tube rack seen in many laboratories. You only need 5 stems of flowers. Put food coloring in the water and select unique flowers to make this really special.

  • Pot Clip - This clip attaches right to the rim of your pot. The spoon rests in the hole until you're ready to use it again, so any dripping goes back in the pot. This is a great way to keep counters clean and avoid having a messy spoonrest. Everyone will want to know where you got it!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Surprise, Charlie Sheen! Denise Richards adopted a baby girl!

According to reports, Denise Richards has adopted a baby girl. Unlike many other celebrities, including Angelina Jolie and Madonna, she chose to adopt an American child. It is wonderful to see a child, born right in this country, adopted into a home with so many resources. I used to work with children who were "in the system" awaiting foster placement or adoption, and it was very sad to see the ones who never were adopted and spent their childhoods in group homes.
However, I do hope that Charlie Sheen and Denise Richards are able to remain civil, and that he will not have a negative influence on baby Eloise. He is the father of the other 2 children, so it is reasonable to expect that he will come into contact with the baby, but I hope that he continues to receive proper treatment and becomes a positive male role model for all 3 girls.

The Spoiled Little Baby List of Suggestions to Keep Your Baby Safe From Older Siblings

One of the most frightening parts of bringing a new baby home is the fear of the response of older siblings. How will they react? What if they hate the baby? What if they love the baby too much and smother her? How will I keep my baby safe from older siblings? These are all valid fears. After all, children - especially very young ones - have a limited understanding of danger and risks to newborn babies.

Depending on your other child(ren)'s age(s), you can take some precautions and safety measures to help ease the transition (and your mind). Here I will share some ideas that have worked for myself and friends who have been through the adjustment of adding to their broods. Some may be more appropriate for preschoolers and school-age children, who have a better cognitive understanding, while others may be useful for all ages. So, here goes:

The Spoiled Little Baby List of Suggestions to Keep Your Baby Safe From Older Siblings

  1. Teach your child this rule: "Only grown-ups pick up babies."

  2. Talk to your child about touching the baby, and explain that everyone has germs that can make little babies sick. This is why we need this rule: "Only touch the covered parts." This is easy for even a 2 year old to remember (worked for mine, with occasional reminders), and will help to keep their hands off of the baby's hands, face, etc.

  3. Consider installing a baby gate on your baby's door (once he or she is sleeping in a crib) or on your own door if baby will be sleeping in your room. This is appropriate if you are worried about your child sneaking in unsupervised and possibly picking up or harming baby.

  4. Keep all balls and other toys that your child typically throws or kicks in the garage. This will eliminate any potential for baby to accidentally be hit by an errant throw.

  5. Teach your child this rule: "Babies only drink milk. They have no teeth so they can't eat." This will help to discourage your child from trying to share food or drink with his or her sibling.

Just one reason why car seat safety measures are so important

I was saddened to read this story about a 10 month old who was killed yesterday in a car accident: Baby girl dies in Lake Wheeler Road accident - Traffic - The mother was driving her SUV around a curve and overcorrected, overturning the vehicle and sending it into a ditch. Perhaps the saddest part of this is that the tragedy could possibly been prevented. The baby was in a car seat that was not fastened into the car properly, and the straps holding her were too loose. Plus, the window was wide open. When the car turned, the baby was ejected out of the window and the SUV rolled onto her.

This story is awful, and I apologize to those of you pregnant women who may be reading this and weeping. However, let's use this as a reminder to follow all car seat safety rules and commit to keeping our babies safe. It takes a little bit of time to attend a car seat check at your local hospital or fire department, but it is worth it to make sure that your infant is secure and as safe as possible in a vehicle.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Did the Extreme Couponing show cause a crackdown on super coupon users?

Reading this post from SmartMoney Magazine makes me wonder if the Extreme Couponing show, which highlights coupon users who game the system and get large quantities of items for free, gave retailers a jolt that has now caused a crackdown on coupon policies. Recently, many retailers have changed coupon policies and added limits on number or quanitity of particular coupons that can be redeemed. Last weekend, I loaded up my Coupon Organizer with the Sunday coupons and got ready to hit up Harris Teeter for their coupon special, where they would double coupons up to $1.98 in face value. Unfortunately, I mentioned this to my friend, who keeps more updated on coupon policies at local stores. She informed me that they, too, had recently changed their policies. In the past, they would double or triple (depending on the sale) all coupons up to a specified value. Recently, though, they changed their policy and will not double or triple and coupons that state "Do not double" on them. After talking to my friend, I looked at my stack of planned purchases and realized that most of the coupons were not eligible for doubling. Needless to say, I went to the pool instead of the grocery store.

Who knew that Kmart was doing so much to help a major charity?

I was pleasantly surprised to see the headline "Kmart Marches Into 28th Successful Year of Helping America's Babies". I had no idea that Kmart and the March of Dimes had such a longstanding relationship. Over the course of 28 years, Kmart has raised $98.7 million for the organization, which goes toward prevention of birth defects, prematurity, and infant mortality.

Kudos to Kmart. Even with some of its own financial struggles, it has still managed to be a good corporate citizen and raise funds for a major foundation.

On a side note, I do not support the March of Dimes in many of their fundraising techniques. A couple years ago, a coworker of my husband suffered a stillbirth, and we wanted to do something to honor the baby. We made a donation to the March of Dimes in her name. Within 2-3 weeks, our mailbox was inundated with requests for donations from charities, including many we had never even heard of. There were an average of around 10 requests per day. Now, we have been giving to charities such as the Muscular Dystrophy Association for years, and never had this type of onslaught. It was pretty clear that the March of Dimes had sold their mailing list.

Since then, we have been receiving regular requests for donations from the March of Dimes almost monthly, though we have never donated another penny (and don't plan to). Some of these requests are marked with red "Second Request" stamps. This really angers me. It seems to be a trick designed to prey on the elderly, who may think it is a bill or a commitment they have made. This tactic is dishonest and fools people into making a donation.

For these reasons, I do not donate to the March of Dimes, though they do good work and provide important programs. I just can't support their tactics.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Mariah Carey's twin baby pictures are finally posted!

Well, sort of. Today, Mariah Carey posted a picture on Twitter of baby girl Monroe Cannon at 7 1/2 weeks old. The problem was, the little diva had her hand up to block the camera! All we can see in the shot are a big tuft of dark hair, pink houndstooth blanket, and of course, this spoiled celebrity baby's luxe nursery. This photo was a tease that I am hoping means that a real photo shoot is soon to come. As one of the biggest (and most beautiful) pop stars of all time, and given the fact that Nick Cannon is has an adorable baby-face, it is not surprising that so many people are waiting to see these babies. There has already been an uproar about the unusual choice of names (Monroe and Moroccan). I hope that, when photos are finally released, we do not see a rehashing of the rumors surrounding Suri Cruise that suggested she was adopted, or those surrounding Jayden Federline that said he has fetal alcohol syndrome. For once, I hope that the public can truly be happy for a celebrity who has had a healthy baby (or 2, in this case), and not start hurtful rumors about an innocent baby.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Follow up to whooping cough and pertussis vaccine post

In a post yesterday, I talked about the importance of vaccinating infants and their caregivers against whooping cough (pertussis). The timing was quite amazing, as today the CDC released new guidelines recommending that pregnant women receive the vaccine in the 3rd trimester, or late in the 2nd trimester. According to the CDC panel, pregnant women and other individuals in the household should all receive the pertussis vaccine to help to create a "cocoon" that will shield the newborn from contracting whooping cough until he or she is old enough to receive the vaccine.

The vaccine for pertussis is given as part of the DtaP shot given at 2, 4, and 6 months. But before the final dose, at 6 months, infants are most at risk of dying from pertussis. That's right, "whooping cough", which sounds so benign, is actually deadly for young infants. Please follow the CDC's advice and make sure that you and your family receive this vaccine. It could save your own baby, or someone else's.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Personalized Beach Towels: A Fun and Practical Children's Gift

I love the quality and softness of these beach towels. My daughter was sent this one as a gift from out-of-state relatives:

It was an extra special present because it came with her name embroidered on it. I loved it because it is very practical, especially since we love to spend a lot of time at the pool in the summer. Aside from the one pictured, there are also many other options to choose from. This list includes some of my favorites:

Truck Towel

Jumbo Shark Towel

Flying Dinosaurs Towel

We have put the towel through the wash many times now and it still has not faded. I am also impressed with the embroidery, as it has not come unwoven or bled into the fabric. Overall, I think it is a great product.

When you are overwhelmed by the crunch of Cheerios on the floor and dirty dishes in the sink...

...just read this cute poem, to remind yourself of what is really important. The author is unknown, but he or she clearly knew something about prioritizing responsibilities when you are a parent.

On Judgement Day

If God should say

"Did you clean your house today?"

I will say

"I did not. I played with my children....and I forgot."

Congratulations on keeping the baby's gender a secret...oh, and on having the baby too!

I am so excited for some friends who just had their first baby yesterday! They are a great couple and I am sure will make great parents. But, it has been a long 9 months for me. No, I was not a surrogate for this couple. I did not have to deal with the discomfort and other symptoms of pregnancy. Nope, the thing that just drove me crazy was not knowing the baby's gender until the birth!

Yes, I know that the gender is not a big deal. What is between the legs is not as important as whether the baby is healthy. But in an age where we have so much availability of immediate access to information and instant gratification, it is unusual to have to be patient and wait in anticipation for months for an answer to a question. This was very hard for me to do, probably harder than I expected. And really, waiting to find out the gender to go on a shopping trip for the little one is hardly something worth stressing over. But the excitement just built in me. It was so fun to wonder whether they would have a little boy or girl. One day, I was sure I could picture them with a boy. The next, I was sure they were having a girl.

Of course, they happily announced yesterday that they gave birth to a baby boy. It was very exciting news, which of course would have been equally exciting if it were a girl. But since the baby's gender was a surprise, I think among our circle of friends the birth was more anticipated. When we received word of the baby's birth, it was like we were all let in on a big, important secret.

My point in this long-winded explanation is that keeping the baby's gender a secret can be fun, especially in an age where most parents-to-be rely on an ultrasound to tell them the gender by 20 weeks. Though we kept the gender a secret for our first born up until my baby shower, we did find out, and went through the whole pregnancy knowing that it would be a girl. In hindsight, it would have been very tough not knowing, but it would have been even more fun to keep the gender a secret even from ourselves. If you are thinking about this option, I don't think you will regret it. Some people may impatiently give you a hard time, but in the end it will be a fun surprise for everyone!

Does your school-age child have asthma?

The "Everyone Breathe" grants program is now open for applications. You are eligible to apply if you are the parent or guardian of a child in grades K-12 who has asthma. Winners receive a $2,500 savings bond for their child, and a $5,000 for their child's school to implement asthma education and care related activities. The deadline for the application is July 29, 2011, so you have about a month to put something together. Writing and putting together a grant proposal can be stressful, but as long as you are diligent about following the directions, it is not nearly as intimidating as it sounds. If you learn about the grant here and end up submitting a successful application, please let me know. This is a great program, and I would love to know that I made a difference in the life of children with asthma!

Whooping Cough Making a Comeback- Why you need to vaccinate your baby

This post from a hospital blog provides some important details on the number of Whooping Cough cases and their increase across the country as parents forgo vaccinations: Whooping Cough Making a Comeback. The message is clear. 1) If you are an adult and are a parent, teacher, grandparent, or other caregiver, you should get a booster shot, even if you were vaccinated as a child. 2) This is one of many illnesses making a comeback because of the Jenny McCarthy-caused paranoia about vaccinnations. Vaccinate your child- so you don't put yours or mine at risk!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Caring for your infant's mouth and understanding teething

This article, reviewed by the Faculty at the Columbia University College of Dental Medicine, provides some great information about teeth development and formation in infants, as well has advice on how to care for your baby's mouth and teeth as they start to come in:
Your Infant's Mouth Article Infants Colgate® Oral Care Information Infants & Children
It also includes some tips on purchasing and monitoring pacifier use. One important safety tip that every parent and caregiver should know: Never fasten a pacifier on a string or necklace around a child's neck- he or she could accidentally be strangled.

Help babies with a quick vote

Have you ever heard of Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia? Neither did I, before I discovered this group. CDH is a birth defect that causes the diaphragm to not close properly, shifting organs and causing a host of problems for babies. The condition is very rare, but leads to devastating outcomes and many surgeries for the babies. Information about one CDH baby's heartbreaking story and about how to vote in an online contest to raise money to help these babies and their families is located here.

Creating a quick, authentic Italian tomato sauce

My husband and I had quite a laugh the other night. He was searching through recipes online and somehow came across a recipe for "Real authentic Italian tomato sauce". Considering that he and I are both of Italian descent (him directly, me a few generations ago) this was intriguing. He then proceeded to tell me the list of ingredients. Oregano and marjoram were included, and no basil or parsley! What??? What kind of self-respecting Italian came up with this recipe? Please, if you come across this recipe or a similar one, run far away!

To make a really authentic Italian-style tomato sauce, you need:
Chopped Onion
Olive Oil
Tomatoes (either fresh or crushed tomatoes in a can)
Fennel Seeds
Black Pepper
Crushed Red Pepper
*Sugar if desired

Start by browning the garlic in olive oil. Then add your onions, then tomatoes and all of the other seasonings to taste. If you like a meat sauce, brown your sausage or other meat separately before adding it to the sauce. That's it! Making a red sauce is one of the least complicated things there is. AND it is perfectly freezable- I suggest making a large pot, seasoning to your desired taste, and freezing some for later use. When you are ready to make some macaroni, just empty the frozen sauce into a pan and add a small amount of water. Or freeze the sauce in plastic containers and all you will have to do is add some water and put it in the microwave.

This makes a quick and easy dinner when you are in a hurry. You just need to put on some water to boil and make your favorite kind of pasta, and dinner is ready! If you have a child who does not like tomato sauce, it is very easy to separate out some pasta before adding the tomato sauce to serve him or her plain pasta with butter and/or grated cheese.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Target recalls more booster seats

Target announced this week that it is recalling more booster seats. These seats were sold under the Circo brand and cost around $10-13. They are blue and green and have a white strap. The seats can come unbuckled, so they are not considered safe for children.

As you can see in a previous post, I purchased one of these seats when my daughter was around 2. However, I never felt comfortable putting her in it. We did not have a problem with the buckle detaching, but the seat did not feel very sturdy. As you can see, we ended up giving the seat to her doll. She uses it to feed her doll, or to put the doll in to join us at the dinner table.

While this is a creative use of the recalled product for now, it ultimately needs to be returned to Target. The store is giving a full refund to all who purchased the product. These need to be off the "after-market" to prevent a well-intentioned parent from purchasing a used one and putting their child in it, only to have the buckle open the child fall to the floor. Please take these recalls seriously.

Strollers as a status symbol? WTF?!

Have you ever seen Paris Hilton's custom pink Bentley? As with many things in this culture of excess, it seems that manufacturers and retailers just keep coming up with new and innovative ways to make high-end items even more expensive. Creating a custom, pricier option of one of the most expensive cars in the world is one way to do it. Creating an endless supply of new lines of upgraded strollers is another.

The main function of a stroller is to safely transport a baby or child from one place to another. A secondary function is of course as a storage vessel for diaper bags, bottles, or other items. Some strollers have unique features such as iPod hookups and speakers or one-handed folding, but in general they all have wheels and are designed to hold an infant.

Despite the uniformity of their functions, strollers are available at a variety of price points. If you are very trendy and feel that a custom stroller is important, then by all means get a Bugaboo. If you are looking for a high-quality product and not as concerned with having something that no other mother on your block does, then there are many other excellent options for you to choose from. All of which will, at some point, be pooped on, drooled on, and have milk spilled on them.

Thank goodness for daycares with internet cameras!

I was always 100% against the daycare idea. Actually, even after putting my own children in daycare, I am still not sure I love the idea of my children spending more time with strangers all day than they do with me. It is hard to drop off a child every day and know that the only precious time you will enjoy with him or her that day is during the morning rush to get ready for work and school, and in the evening during the dinner, bath, and bedtime routine.

I have been very fortunate to never be in a position where I could not be home with my infant in the early months. My earliest exposure to the daycare experience was when my son was 6 months old and started part-time daycare so I could ease back into my work routine. Even at 6 months, it was hard to leave him. He was still receiving breast milk, so my days were a complicated mess of pumping and preparing bottles in the morning, dropping off my baby and hoping he didn't cry when I left, getting in the car and hoping I didn't cry when I left, getting through the work day in between pumping sessions, heading back to daycare at the end of the day, and rounding out the night with feedings, bottle washing, baths, and bedtime.

Dropping my infant off was difficult, but I know that it could have been worse. At 6 months, I already had a handle on his personality, and he had become somewhat predictable in his behavior. Some friends who had to return to work and start their infants in daycare at 6 weeks old were not so lucky. They barely had a chance to bond with their babies before handing them off. Knowing that I was better off than some mothers at least made the inital days of daycare more tolerable.

The absolute best part of the experience of putting my baby in daycare, though, was that I chose a daycare with webcams. These cameras are on a secure, password-protected site, and allow parents to watch their children all day. Our daycare had 2 cameras in each classroom, 1 of which was over the cribs in the infant room. This allowed me to watch my little guy all day, including checking on his sleeping and eating habits. Of course, it decreased my productivity at work, but for the sake of my mental health it was worth it. The daycare charged slightly higher rates than others in the area, most likely due to the cost of the camera service, but it was well worth it for the peace of mind.

One day, my son was sitting on the floor playing with some toys. He was tired, but fighting it because he wanted to play. Eventually, I received a text from a friend who worked at the daycare telling me to check the camera and be prepared to laugh. There was my son, sprawled in the middle of the carpet, sleeping soundly with the toys strewn all around him. It looked like he had a hard night of partying and was passed out drunk. Of course, I was able to grab a screen shot of this and save the picture to share with him when he gets older and wants to know all about his early days in daycare.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Protecting your infant or toddler from driveway and outdoor hazards

I was unnerved this morning to read the stories of 2 young California toddlers who died over Father's Day weekend after being run over by their fathers, in their driveways, in separate incidents. One was an 18 month old toddler who was walking, and the other was an 11 month old who was crawling and apparently not yet walking. The also brings up memories of a similar story last fall in North Carolina in which an 18 month old girl was run over by her father in the driveway as he attempted to connect his SUV to a trailer.

None of these fathers were charged as of yet, and all signs are that each incident was in itself a tragic accident. In all 3 cases, none of the fathers knew that their children were outside, and the adult inside the home was unaware as well. This is the ultimate tragedy for all of these families- especially the fathers, who are likely blaming themselves.

Every situation was different, and I don't know how the children in each incident were able to go out into their driveways unnoticed. However, I can understand how it happened. My daughter was around 18 months old and had never opened a door on her own. One morning, my husband and I were in the kitchen with her, and she walked away toward the front door. I heard what sounded like the door opening and went running- and there she was, out the door and walking on the front lawn. It was a frightening experience, but also a good wake up call. That day, I went right out and purchased a Home Safety Kit, including child proof door knob covers for every exterior door in the house, to prevent her from making another surprise escape.

Try as you might, you can't always anticipate and protect your child from every possible danger that exists. However, there are things that you can do to help prevent this type of tragedy from occuring in your own home, including:

  • Create a safe baby room or area in your home that includes outlet covers on all electrical outlets, window locks and window coverings too high for baby to reach on all windows, and baby gates on any doorways. Adjustable Locking Straps can be used for any glass doors or lazy susan type cabinets. In this space, tether all furniture to the wall with Anti-Tip Furniture Straps and keep only baby-safe toys in reach. This way, if you have to put your toddler down for a minute to run to the bathroom or tend to another child, you know you are putting them in the safest place possible.

  • Purchase childproof door knob covers. These are fairly inexpensive, but will prevent little hands from being able to open a door and sneak out unnoticed.

  • Install outlet covers on all of the electrical outlets in your home as soon as your baby is mobile. Even a crawler can get to an outlet if you turn your back for just a second.

  • Regularly inspect your home for safety issues. Crawl around on the floor so you can see everything from child height.

I hope that, when reading the stories of these awful tragedies, you do not assume that these families did not have safety mechanisms in place to keep their children in the house. Sometimes, despite every precaution, unsafe situations occur and accidents happen. The absolute best way to know that your baby or toddler will not slip out of the house and into the path of a moving vehicle is to ensure that he or she remains in your sight, or that of another responsible adult, at all times.

On a positive note, the family from North Carolina who lost their daughter to a driveway accident decided to honor her memory by working with the Ronald McDonald House to donate funds to create a waiting room for families of children in pediatric intensive care at the children's hospital that treated her. Though they have suffered this immense loss, they are working to raise awareness and help other families who are coping with injured or sick children. I hope that it is helping them to heal. I also pray that no other family ever has to suffer a driveway tragedy.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Advice on preparing your child for a sibling

One of the most stressful components of preparing for the birth of your second child is preparing the older sibling for the arrival of a new baby. Despite what is shown on TV, not all kids are excited to become a big brother or big sister. Like you, they fear the unknown, and depending on their age they may have a very limited understanding of what is about to happen. There are some things you can try to help prepare your child for a sibling. Some ideas may work for some children and not others. Of course, you know your child's personality better than anyone, so take a look at this list and try some of the ideas that you think he/she may respond well to.

  1. Read books or watch videos about childbirth. Even at a very young age, my oldest understood and enjoyed watching birth videos on Discovery Health.

  2. Look through baby pictures of your older child with him/her, especially those that were taken right after birth or in the hospital. I created a photo book for my child that included the messy pictures taken of her right at birth, as well as pictures of various family members holding her soon after she was born.

  3. Take your child on a tour of the hospital where you plan to give birth. Most hospitals regularly arrange tours of their labor and delivery units. Since your older child will likely be in the care of friends or relatives while you are in the hospital, this will give him/her a chance to see exactly where you and the new baby will be.

  4. Review baby names together. My oldest named her younger sibling "Elvis". It certainly was not the name we ended up giving him, but it did give her something special to share with everyone.

  5. If you are comfortable doing this, allow your child to be part of the final baby name decision. Consider narrowing your name choices down to 2 that you like, and allowing the big brother or big sister to choose the name and tell the family.

  6. Purchase a realistic baby doll and use it to allow your child to practice the rules to follow in interacting with a baby (such as "touch only his/her feet", "don't try to pick him/her up", etc.). You can also use the doll to help your child practice ways in which he/she can help you take care of the baby (such as handing you diaper rash cream or diapers from the diaper stacker or changing the changing pad cover.

  7. Practice sharing. Depending on your child's age, this may include inviting children over for play dates and helping your child learn to share his toys.

Unfortunately, there is no magic formula that will make your older child instantly adore his/her sibling without any rivalry or jealousy, but rest assured that eventually they will grow to love each other. Hopefully these tips will help to ease the transition as your family expands.

Where can I buy items listed on the Spoiled Little Baby Diaper Bag Checklist?

Previously I posted a checklist of the things that I think everyone should carry in their diaper bag. Here are some suggestions of unique products to purchase for your diaper bag as you complete the checklist. The photos below include links in case you would like to purchase any of the items.

  • Pacifiers

  • Diaper cream

Burp Cloths

  • Blanket or nursing cover

  • Disposable changing pads

  • The Spoiled Little Baby Checklist of Things Every Diaper Bag Needs

    Here is a checklist of the things that I think everyone should carry in their diaper bag when going on daily adventures with your baby. Print it out and use it to make sure that you have everything you need before taking your infant on that first trip out of the house.

    • Diapers (3-5 )

    • Wipes

    • Plastic grocery or garbage bags (for dirty diaper disposal)

    • Pacifiers (2, so you have an extra clean one; if baby uses pacifiers)

    • Diaper cream

    • Burp Cloths (2)

    • Bottles (2 clean ones; if baby is bottle-fed)

    • Formula (enough for 3 bottles; if baby is bottle-fed)

    • Blanket or nursing cover (for breastfeeding on-the go; if baby is breast-fed)

    • Wrist or foot rattles, or other toy

    • Disposable changing pads (even if a cloth one came with your diaper bag, cleanup for very messy diapers is much easier with these)

    • Changes of clothes (2)

    • Bottle of water (for mommy; if you are breastfeeding, to keep hydrated)

    • Infant Hat (if weather is cold)

    • Pediatrician's phone number (in case of emergency)

    Can what you eat determine your baby's gender?

    I have seen several recent articles on the topic of gender selection through mom's diet. I have also seen several advertisements for pricey supplements or diet plans that claim to help you to choose your baby's gender. Though I don't think the supplements are a good idea, since they aren't regulated by the FDA and thus have not been proven to be safe for your baby, I am intrigued by the diet ideas. For example, eating more fish and meat is said to help you to have a boy. Even if gender selection using dietary methods is proven by scientists to be successful, I don't think it is something I would try. For me, having a healthy baby is what matters, and having a baby boy or girl are each fun and wonderful in their own way. I choose to leave the gender selection to a higher power.

    This article provides a great overview of the topic:
    INVESTIGATION: Can mom's diet determine baby's gender?
    The article is a few years old, and you can get more recent information by searching other sites, but I like the general information and critique that this article provides. If you do investigate and decide to try to select your baby's gender through your diet, please post and let us know if it works!

    Tuesday, June 14, 2011

    How to be a Mean Mother - Great Gift!

    I only wish I saw this before Mother's Day. It would have been my gift to myself. This is a great overview of motherhood that is very true. I am going to order it and keep it somewhere prominent. It could be a great source of strength when we get to the teen years and my children are telling me they hate me because I won't let them stay out all night or something.

    Birth Plan Advice

    Are you preparing your birth plan? Before you craft that perfect piece of paper, copy it in triplicate, and hand it off to the labor and delivery staff of your local hospital, here are some tips on creating the perfect birth plan. This advice is based on a combination of my own experience and that of other mommy friends.

    1. The most important rule of creating the birth plan: KNOW THAT IT IS LIKELY THAT EVERYTHING WILL NOT GO ACCORDING TO YOUR PLAN. Labor and delivery is an unpredictable process, and many factors will influence your care. It is going to be more important to the nursing and physician staff to ensure the health and safety of you and your baby than to follow your wishes. And really, wouldn't you prefer that they stick to that than making sure you have just the right song playing before the final push?

    2. Think carefully about whether you want to try an epidural or other pain management. Rather than listing "no pain meds" or "no epidural", try creating a list of the order in which you would like to try various pain management techniques. For example, you may want to start with controlled breathing, or laboring in a tub or shower (if allowed by your provider). If, as things progress, you find that you are in need of something else to manage your pain, maybe next on your list will be a birth ball or soothing music. Maybe you will want to include an epidural as a last resort, or maybe you won't. The important thing is to consider that labor is a progression of pain, and preparing yourself by thinking through different options will help you to cope with labor in a way that is comfortable for you. If you do plan on an epidural, rather than trying to get one as soon as you are dilated far enough, try to create a goal for the amount of dilation you want to get to before requesting one. Some studies have shown that it is better to labor longer and hold out on the epidural until you really need it, because the epidural may stall labor in some women. (For me, each labor has been the same. I have to suffer to a certain point with very slow dilation and nurses mentally preparing me for a c-section, and then getting the epidural kick starts everything and the baby is out rather quickly!)

    3. You may not end up with a vaginal birth. For some women, the idea of a C-section is so far from their mind that they fail to learn about it or prepare adequately for the possibility. In your birth plan, I suggest writing any special wishes in a section titled "In the event a C-section is medically necessary". This will help you to retain some control over the situation and mentally prepare yourself for this possibility.

    4. You may not hold your baby immediately. In the case of an emergency C-section, you will be unconscious and then brought to recovery. In a "typical" C-section, you will be undergoing surgery and not allowed to hold the baby until after recovery. If your baby is premature or any issues arise at birth, he or she may be whisked away for care. In your birth plan, it is helpful to designate where you want your significant other or labor coach to be in the event one of these circumstances is to arise. Should he stay with the baby (if allowed), or do you prefer that he stays with you? Do you want him to be the first person to cut the baby? Should he cut the umbilical cord (if allowed)?

    5. It is very rare that any woman ends up with exactly the labor and childbirth experience she envisioned. There are so many variables that come into play. A woman who one might consider "lucky" because she didn't have painful contractions and only pushed for 10 minutes may instead feel cheated by a shortened experience. A woman who wanted an elective C-section may be disappointed that they are not permitted by her provider. In my case, unforeseen factors including pre-eclampsia and a cord around baby's neck have impacted my experiences significantly. Just remember- there is no perfect labor and delivery, but any labor that results in a healthy baby boy or girl is truly a success!

    Free growth chart for your child

    The CDC is providing free growth charts for infants and children through age 5. You can print them yourself, if you have access to oversized paper and a high quality printer. Or you can order free growth charts in groups of 10. This is a great chart that includes information on what to expect at each year of age.

    Learn about your baby's milestones - great video

    CDC Video Player. Flash Player 9 is required.
    CDC Video Player.
    Flash Player 9 is required.

    This video was produced by the National Center for Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities. It will help you to recognize signs that your infant may not be developing appropriately. Early intervention for autism and other developmental disabilities is key, so I urge you to view this video and keep an eye on your child's milestones. While all babies and children develop at different rates, there are certain key milestones that are typically achieved by certain ages. If your child is not meeting these milestones, check with his/her pediatrician for advice.

    Monday, June 13, 2011

    Another stupid reason to name your child after a celebrity

    Today's headline - "Ohio State fans don't regret naming kids Tressel"- really had me in stitches. Apparently, there are around 20 children in Ohio who were named after the Ohio State coach. Unfortunately for those poor little Tressels, the coach is currently in the middle of a scandal, alleged to have violated NCAA rules. The parents interviewed for the story claim not to regret naming their children after the coach, but at this point, what else can they say? Does any child really want to hear that their parents no longer like the name that they bestowed upon them?

    There is a lesson here: be very careful in your reasons for a choice of name. Naming your child after a famous person can have terrible implications for the child someday. Just ask anyone who was named Nixon...

    Parenting is...becoming a master of the fine art of saying no

    While reading about something else on a news site, I came across a post called "The obesity epidemic: Can parents say 'no?'". I expected to see a criticism of parent groups who are trying to get rid of Ronald McDonald and Happy Meals because they claim that parents can't win the fight against all of the advertising money that is spent on marketing fast food to children. Instead, I found a blog post from some expert in something who claims that parents experience "'no' fatigue", which causes them to give in. I kept reading, waiting for the part where it becomes clear that the post is sarcasm, until I realized that this really was someone trying to justify the anti-McDonald's parent activism. To me, this is proof that anyone can invent a "theory" and try to use it to justify just about anything. "'No' fatigue" is probably one of the most ridiculous explanations I have heard to justify bad parenting. I'm sorry, but if your children aren't old enough to hold a job and earn money, or old enough to drive a car, then they aren't old enough to take themselves to McDonalds and buy a Happy Meal. Being a parent means saying "no" sometimes, setting limits, and knowing that your kids won't be scarred for life because you made them eat a salad instead of french fries. This is coming from a stressed, disorganized, working parent, who would love to take the easy way out and hit a drive through on the way home to grab dinner each night. But I am the parent, and it is my responsibility to encourage healthy eating habits and find a way to teach my children that fast food, just like any unhealthy food, is an acceptable occasional treat, but not a daily meal. Perhaps some of the parents directing their anger over their children's waistlines at McDonald's should instead consider taking a parenting class or two.

    Is it safe to buy a used breast pump?

    I have read articles showing a lot of debate on this issue, but this recent post from a pediatrician provides a great explanation of the issues involved. In a nutshell, she states that hospital grade breast pumps can be shared, but personal pumps should not be used by more than one person. Of course, despite this advice, women are going to continue to purchase used breast pumps. Electric pumps are very expensive, and hand-held are too time-consuming to be practical for regular use. When I was finished with my Medela Freestyle Breast Pump (which had cost somewhere around $300), I planned to throw it out, because I did not think anyone would want it. I was shocked to find out from a pregnant friend that she was looking for a used pump and that the same model I was looking to throw away was being sold by some women for $100. I ended up giving my pump to this friend, free of charge, with the promise from her that she would at least buy her own new attachments for hygiene purposes. Unless high-quality breast pumps become a much cheaper option, women are going to continue to buy them used. For those of you who choose to do this, I suggest that you also buy brand new attachments and hoses to avoid contamination as much as possible.

    Sunday, June 12, 2011

    Kudos to Dallas

    This has nothing to do with babies or pregnancy, but I just have to say - it is nice to see LeBron James get beat in Miami tonight. His antics and ego as portrayed in the media are a poor example to all young, aspiring athletes. And after 17 years in the NBA, it is nice to see Kidd finally get his championship.

    Friday, June 10, 2011

    Text4Baby - an innovative free program for new and expectant moms

    I really like the idea of the Text4Baby program. It provides free regular updates by text message on pregnancy and infant care. If you subscribe with your due date, it will give recommendations based on week of pregnancy or age of the baby.

    Some may wonder why this is a big deal. After all, there are countless websites that provide weekly newsletters for free via email that include this information. However, the place where this program really makes a difference is in low-income populations. Women who can't afford to pay for a computer or internet, but do spend their money on a pre-paid cell phone, can receive these messages with valuable information. This program really may go a long way toward reducing health disparities in babies born to women with limited resources.

    Love my babies!

    Two Strangulation Deaths Prompt Summer Infant to Recall Video Baby Monitors with Cords; Firm to Provide New On-Product Label & Instructions

    Two Strangulation Deaths Prompt Summer Infant to Recall Video Baby Monitors with Cords; Firm to Provide New On-Product Label & Instructions

    OK, I understand that this is very serious, and that the monitors needed to be recalled so that mothers can be given instructions on how to use their common sense and not place cords within babies' reach. But did we really need the photos to show a graphic representation of a doll being strangled by a monitor cord? Is it just me, or do you feel a little sick just looking at the pictures? It makes me think of crazy serial killers who maybe spent their childhoods finding new ways to "kill" their sisters' dolls. This just isn't right. It is very sad that babies were killed by these cords, but the pictures are entirely unnecessary.

    Effects of Radiation During Pregnancy

    Given the frightening disaster in Japan recently, it is no surprise that the impacts of radiation on developing fetuses and babies seem to be discussed everywhere. It seems that almost every pregnant woman I have talked to in the past several weeks has at least mentioned it as a concern. While I don't have all the answers on this, I do recommend that you view the CDC's fact sheet on the topic.

    If you are currently pregnant and living on the West coast, one of your primary concerns might be whether the possible exposure to radiation being faced right now in the U.S. is going to cause birth defects in your baby. One important piece of information that I can provide, direct from the CDC, should make you feel a little better:

    Most researchers agree that babies who receive a small dose of radiation (equal to 500 chest x-rays or less) at any time during pregnancy do not have an increased risk for birth defects. The only increased risk to these babies is a slightly higher chance of having cancer later in life (less than 2% higher than the normal expected cancer risk of 40 to 50%).

    Making new Mommy friends

    Maybe it is just me reliving my high school days, but why is it so nervewracking to make friends with other mothers? Though I love the idea of my children, even as babies, having social interaction and playing with new friends, preparing for a play date with a mom is more nervewracking than preparing for my first date with my husband! Maybe this is where the term "play date" came from. The first one is essentially like a first date. You and the other mom are getting to know each other, seeing if your children get along, seeing if your parenting styles mesh well together, etc. As with a first date, you are each hoping to not face rejection in the form of not being asked on another play date.

    Though it is hard not to worry about this situation (or prevent yourself from frantically cleaning out the playroom or scrubbing the garage floor if you are the host), having been through play dates that were wonderful, and others that were unsuccessful, I can tell you that it is not worth stressing about. As with a man on a first date- if you click with the other person, great. If not, move on. There are plenty of other fish (moms) in the sea!

    On one of my first play dates with a mother I had just met, we took our babies to play at a park. They were both old enough to walk at the time (maybe around 18 months old?), so I schlepped to the park with balls for them to chase, a sippy cup, snacks, and a blanket for them to crawl around and sit on. The other mother arrived with nothing. No drink for the child, no toys, nothing. As I stood puzzled for a minute she pointed to a large playground located in the park, where her son was already climbing up stairs that went so high my heart almost stopped. This is what she meant by "going to the park"! Not wanting to seem like the overprotective nervous mommy that I am, I let my baby girl start to climb up the stairs too. Unlike the other mom, though, I climbed up right behind her. When she headed to the slide, I grabbed her and rode down with her. Meanwhile, the other mom calmly stood by and watched her son play.

    Needless to say, this play date did not go well. The rest of the afternoon included more incompatibilities in parenting style. For example, we walked to the pond in the park to look at the ducks. My daughter and I looked and pointed at the ducks, while the other mom pulled food out of her pocket and gave it to her son so that he could feed the ducks right in front of the "Do not feed the ducks" sign. When we had both had enough of the park, we left, both said we had a great time- and never called each other again. To this day, I have not run into the mother or spoken to her. And that is OK. Sometimes you need to go out and try meeting new people, and just see what happens. The worst that can happen is that your kid had something special to do for an afternoon and you spent a little bit of time with someone you probably won't hang out with again. Since the play date described above, I have had many others and met some moms who I believe will be my lifelong friends. You never know- the first date can lead to a long-lasting and wonderful friendship that will benefit you and your child!

    Thursday, June 9, 2011

    Who loves polka dots?

    After recently seeing my little girl in an adorable polka dot dress, I am hooked on dots! She asked me to re-do her room with polka dots everywhere, and I was surprised to find that there is a lot of polka dot decor out there. Of course, we ended up compromising and selecting a decor that includes polka dots, butterflies, and other cute items, but she would have been just as happy to have dots everywhere. If you are thinking of creating a polka-dot themed nursery for your baby girl, here are some ideas to get you started.